Endangered Iranian Languages

Gholami, Saloumeh (ed.). 2018. Endangered Iranian Languages. Reichert Verlag.

This edited volume brings together work by theoretical linguists and field linguists who share a strong commitment to the scientific documentation and investigation of endangered Iranian languages. Five chapters of this volume represent the contributors’ findings on endangered Iranian languages and dialects found both inside Iran as well as in other countries. Their work deals with a variety of topics, ranging from documentation methods to aspects of philology, morphology, phonology, syntax, and dialectology.

Table of contents:

  • Editor’s Preface
  • Mohammad Dabir-Moghadam: Non-Canonical Subject Construction in Endangered Iranian Languages: Further Investigation into the Debates on the Genesis of Ergativity
  • Donald Stilo: Dikin Marāei Tati of Alamut: an undocumented conservative Tati language
  • Brigitte Werner: Forms and Meanings of the Ezafe in Zazaki
  • Jaroslava Obrtelova & Ralhon Sohibnazarbekova: Steps being taken to reverse language shift in the Wakhi language in Tajikistan
  • Saloumeh Gholami: Pronomial clitics in Zoroastrian Dari (Behdīnī) of Kerman


Saloumeh Gholami, born 1979, is an Iranologist, author, and research fellow at the Institute of Empirical Linguistics at the Goethe University of Frankfurt. She is the founder of ISEIL (International Symposium on Endangered Iranian Languages) and the leader of various international projects on preservation and documentation of endangered cultural heritage.

Dependent Labor and Status in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Periods

Kleber, Kristin. 2018. Dependent Labor and Status in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Periods. In Agnès Garcia-Ventura (ed.), What’s in a name? Terminology related to work force and job categories in the ancient Near East, 441-465, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.

The article gives an overview of terms for workers, servile dependents and juridical statuses in Babylonia in the first millennium BC with a focus on the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods (ca. 620 – 330 BC).

Gender, Personal Adornment, and Costly Signaling in the Iron Age Burials of Hasanlu, Iran

Cifarelli, Megan. 2018. Gender, Personal Adornment, and Costly Signaling in the Iron Age Burials of Hasanlu, Iran. In Saana Svärd and Agnes Garcia-Ventura (eds.), Studying Gender in the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.

This article explores the role played by personal ornaments in the performance of gender, and in the construction and differentiation of gendered identities, in the early Iron Age (Period IVb) burials at Hasanlu, a site in Northwestern Iran. A small site situated beyond the limits of the Assyrian Empire and in the path of the advancing Urartian kingdom, Hasanlu was caught in, and ultimately lost to, the currents of regional conflicts by around 800 BCE. While certainly subjected to the actions of these larger scale entities, material and visual culture of Hasanlu cannot be understood through the application of the same theoretical and methodological approaches that illuminate the artistic and cultural production of hegemonic states.
A careful analysis of the entire cemetery shows that, compared to earlier burials at the site, the artifacts and ornaments in burials dating between an earlier destruction (ca. 1050 BCE) and the catastrophic destruction (ca. 800 BCE) evidence heightened gender differentiation, an influx of artifact types from regions to the north, and the introduction of military equipment and militaristic ornaments to a range of distinct, elite burial assemblages. These new elements can be interpreted as representing an ideological shift towards militarization at the site, but I will argue that the nature of these objects and the contexts in which they are found demand a methodological approach that looks more closely at the interplay between human choices and cultural norms, in the period leading up to Hasanlu’s catastrophic destruction. The shifts in the material culture evidenced in the Period IVb burials are the record of local, dynamic, and gender specific attempts to negotiate status and identity at the site, in an era of internal unease.


Arsacid Cities in the Hanshu and Houhanshu

Zanous, Hamidreza Pasha & Juping Yang. 2018. Arsacid Cities in the Hanshu and HouhanshuIran and the Caucasus 22 (2), 123–138.

In the reports of Chinese travellers submitted to the Emperors, they mentioned the places they had visited or heard of. Although some scholars have tried to identify these Chinese names as specific places in the Iranian Plateau and its bordering plains, their locations are still somewhat vague and debatable. This article discusses the place-names mentioned in Chinese sources and attempts to verify that they could have denoted the localities along the ancient Great Khorasan Road and other routes, which were once the main sections of the Silk Road. Among them, the route that Chinese traveller Gan Ying might have passed before he reached the western frontier of the Arsacid Empire will also be discussed in this study.

Empires and exchanges in Eurasian late antiquity

Cosmo, Nicola di & Michael Maas (eds.). 2018. Empires and exchanges in Eurasian late antiquity: Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250-750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Table of Contents is available on the publisher’s website.

Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity offers an integrated picture of Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppes during a formative period of world history. In the half millennium between 250 and 750 CE, settled empires underwent deep structural changes, while various nomadic peoples of the steppes (Huns, Avars, Turks, and others) experienced significant interactions and movements that changed their societies, cultures, and economies. This was a transformational era, a time when Roman, Persian, and Chinese monarchs were mutually aware of court practices, and when Christians and Buddhists criss-crossed the Eurasian lands together with merchants and armies. It was a time of greater circulation of ideas as well as material goods. This volume provides a conceptual frame for locating these developments in the same space and time. Without arguing for uniformity, it illuminates the interconnections and networks that tied countless local cultural expressions to far-reaching inter-regional ones.

The end of the Kura-Araxes culture as seen from Nadir Tepesi in Iranian Azerbaijan

Alizadeh, Karim, Sepideh Maziar & Mirrouhollah Mohammadi. 2018. The end of the Kura-Araxes culture as seen from Nadir Tepesi in Iranian Azerbaijan. American Journal of Archaeology 122(3). 463-477.

By the late fourth to early third millennium B.C.E., Kura-Araxes (Early Transcaucasian) material culture spread from the southern Caucasus throughout much of southwest Asia. The Kura-Araxes settlements declined and ultimately disappeared in almost all the regions in southwest Asia around the middle of the third millennium B.C.E. The transition to the “post–Kura-Araxes” time in the southern Caucasus is one of the most tantalizing subjects in the archaeology of the region. Despite current knowledge on the origins and spread of the Kura-Araxes culture, little is known about the end of this cultural horizon. In this field report, we argue that the Kura-Araxes culture in the western Caspian littoral plain ended abruptly and possibly violently. To demonstrate this, we review the current hypotheses about the end of the Kura-Araxes culture and use results from excavations at Nadir Tepesi in Iranian Azerbaijan.

Linguistic Paradox and Diglossia

Houben, Jan. 2018. Linguistic paradox and diglossia: The emergence of Sanskrit and Sanskritic language in ancient India. Open Linguistics 4(1). 1–18.

What is it about?

“We know that Middle Indian (Middle Indo-Aryan) makes its appearance in epigraphy prior to Sanskrit: this is the great linguistic paradox of India.” In these words Louis Renou (1956: 84) referred to a problem in Sanskrit studies for which so far no satisfactory solution had been found. I will here propose that the perceived “paradox” derives from the lack of acknowledgement of certain parameters in the linguistic situation of Ancient India which were insufficiently appreciated in Renou’s time, but which are at present open to systematic exploration with the help of by now well established sociolinguistic concepts, notably the concept of “diglossia”. Three issues will here be addressed in the light of references to ancient and classical Indian texts, Sanskrit and Sanskritic. A simple genetic model is indadequate, especially when the ‘linguistic area’ applies also to what can be reconstructed for earlier periods. The so-called Sanskrit “Hybrids” in the first millennium CE, including the Prakrits and Epics, are rather to be regarded as emerging “Ausbau” languages of Indo-Aryan with hardly any significant mutual “Abstand” before they will be succesfully “roofed,” in the second half of the first millennium CE, by “classical” Sanskrit.

Why is it important?

The history of (classical) Sanskrit, of Prakrit, of the so-called “hybrid” Sanskrits, of Vedic poetry and prose, and of the related Avestan and old Persian languages is of central importance for the cultural history of ancient India, ancient Iran and Asia.

The Iranian expanse

Canepa, Matthew. 2018. The Iranian expanse: Transforming royal identity through architecture, landscape, and the built environment, 550 BCE-642 CE.  Oakland, California: University of California Press.

The Iranian Expanse explores how kings in the ancient Iranian world utilized the built and natural environment–everything from royal cities and paradise gardens, to hunting enclosures and fire temples–to form and contest Iranian cultural memory, royal identity, and sacred cosmologies over a thousand years of history. Although scholars have often noted startling continuities between the traditions of the Achaemenids and the art and architecture of medieval or Early Modern Islam, the tumultuous millennium between Alexander and Islam has routinely been downplayed or omitted. The Iranian Expanse delves into this fascinating period, examining royal culture and identity as something built and shaped by strategic changes to architectonic and urban spaces and the landscape of Western Asia. Canepa shows how the Seleucids, Arsacids, and Sasanians played a transformative role in developing a new Iranian royal culture that deeply influenced not only early Islam, but also the wider Persianate world of the Il-Khans, Safavids, Timurids, and Mughals

Two Job offers at the Ruhr-University of Bochum

The Center for Religious Studies (CERES) of the Ruhr-University of Bochum has advertised two positions for postdoctoral or doctoral research associates related but not restricted to Iranian Studies.

Continue reading Two Job offers at the Ruhr-University of Bochum

Ram horns as sacral royal regalia of Šāpūr II

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2018. Ram horns as sacral royal regalia of Šāpūr II. Istorìâ relìgìj v Ukraïnì: Naukovij šorìčnik 28(1). 17–29.

The work of Ammianus Marcellinus preserved valuable information on ancient Iran. Ammianus describes the arrival of šāhānšāh Šāpūr II (r. 309-379) under the walls of Amida, besieged by the Iranians. He informing that the king of Iran wore specific crown/helmet decorated with the ram’s horn. It seems that the helmet of the Sasanian monarch is associated with the person of Alexander of Macedon. In Iranian tradition the heroic picture of Alexander is based on the so-called Alexander Romance, also the Syriac legend of Alexander of Macedon, was written in the 6th century A.D. or in the first half of the 7th century A.D. The article analyzes the picture of Alexander in Pahlavi literature chronologically closer to the reign of Šāpūr II. The subject of research are also representations of Iranian kings with the ram’s horn. It must be accepted that teh specific decoartion of the helmet of Šāpūr II, described by Ammianus Marcelinus canot be anyhow associated with the person of Alexander but results from Iranian ideology of royal power.

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