Egypt Had Its Rosetta, But Mesopotamia Had Its Behistun - By Daniel Sheridan
Mesopotamian civilization lasted longer than the amount of time from its demise to the present; that means it continued for about two-thirds of the time human civilizations have existed.
Mesopotamia, today's Iraq, was mostly lost to history until the 1800s when archeologists brought it to light and deciphered its cuneiform writing.
We owe a great debt to ancient Mesopotamia. Our units of measurement, our math system based on the number 60 (60 seconds, minutes, and degrees), and our laws, find their origins in ancient Mesopotamia.
Ancient Egypt was brought to light when Champollion translated the Rosetta Stone. The stone contained a single text carved in three languages - Greek and two forms of Ancient Egyptian writing. The Greek portion was the key to deciphering the Egyptian.
Similarly, Mesopotamia had the Behistun inscription. Word's spell-checker doesn't recognize "Behistun," but it has no problems with Rosetta - a perfect illustration of Mesopotamia's lack of prominence when compared to Egypt. This inscription is carved in rock on the side of an inaccessible mountain in Iran.
In 1836, Henry Rawlinson (I have the complete historical works of his brother, George - history ran in the family!), climbed the mountain, copied the inscription, and made papier mache molds. He saw what he believed to be three different versions of one text, all in cuneiform, and he was right. In 1838, Rawlinson, and an Irishman, Edward Hincks, deciphered one of the languages – the Persian. From this, they, with the help of others, were able to translate the Elamite and Akkadian versions. The text was a royal inscription of Darius I.
Scholars could now translate ancient Sumerian, and, as a result, this ancient civilization was rediscovered by modern man.