Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East

Balatti, Silvia. 2017. Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East The Case of the Zagros in the First Millennium BC (Classica et Orientalia 18), Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.

Since Prehistory, communities principally engaged in herding activities have occupied the intermontane valleys and plains of the Zagros (Western Iran). Relations, tensions and cultural exchange between the inhabitants of the mountains and the Mesopotamian plains already occurred during the Bronze Age. These contacts increased in the course of the 1st millennium BCE, as is suggested by Near Eastern and subsequently by Greek and Latin sources which provide us with numerous new names of peoples living in the Zagros. The present volume investigates the social organisation and life style of the peoples of the Zagros Mountains in the 1st millennium BCE and deals with their relationships with the surrounding environment and with the political authorities on the plains.

Among these peoples, for example, were the ‘fierce’ Medes, breeders and purveyors of fine horses, the Manneans, who inhabited a large territory enclosed between the two contending powers of Assyria and Urartu, and the ‘warlike’ Cosseans, who bravely attempted to resist the attack of Alexander the Great’s army. The Southern Zagros Mountains, inhabited by mixed groups of Elamite and Iranian farmers and pastoralists, were also of key importance as the home of the Persians and the core area of their empire. Starting from Fārs, the Persians were able to build up the largest empire in the history of the ancient Near East before Alexander.

The interdisciplinary approach adopted in this study, which juxtaposes historical records with archaeological, zooarchaeological, palaeobotanical and ethnographic data, provides a new, holistic and multifaceted view on an otherwise little-known topic in ancient history.

 

Some stamp seals of Achaemenid date

Collon, Dominique & John Curtis. 2017. “Some stamp seals of Achaemenid date“, In Y. Heffron, A. Stone and M. Worthington (eds), At the Dawn of History: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honour of J.N. Postgate, 765-780. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns.

This paper discusses a collection of 17 distinctive bronze stamp seals. They are all plaques or tablets of bronze, more or less flat on both surfaces, and square or rectangular in shape. More than half of them have a distinctive ladder-pattern border around the decorated face of the seal. The designs are usually highly stylized but sometimes more naturalistic. These seals may be compared with a stone seal from Nimrud and a silver ring from Kamid el-Loz. They apparently date from the Achaemenid period, 5th-4th century BC, and probably derive mostly from the western part of the Persian empire.

Kings, Countries, Peoples: Selected Studies on the Achaemenid Empire

Amélie Kuhrt’s translation of Pierre Briant’s selected papers has just been published:
Briant, Pierre. 2017. Kings, Countries, Peoples: Selected Studies on the Achaemenid Empire. Steiner Franz Verlag.

Pierre Briant’s work focuses particularly on the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Kingdoms. For the first time a selection of articles, originally published between 1979 and 2008, is now available in an English translation. The essays, translated by Amelie Kuhrt, deal with a wide range of topics, from regional studies to more universal subjects. A thought-provoking introduction gives a deeper understanding of his thinking by sometimes adopting his conclusions and by occasionally questioning his ideas and presenting an alternative line of thought. Thus, Kings, Countries, Peoples gives us an insight into the evolution of Pierre Briant’s work.

Persepolis Administrative Archives

Annalisa Azzoni, Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, Mark B. Garrison, Wouter F. M. Henkelman, Charles E. Jones, and Matthew W. Stolper, “PERSEPOLIS ADMINISTRATIVE ARCHIVES,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/persepolis-admin-archive (accessed on 09 June 2017).

Persepolis Administrative Archives, two groups of clay tablets, fragments, and sealings produced and stored by administrative agencies based at Persepolis. The groups are named for their find spots: the Persepolis Fortification Archive  and the Persepolis Treasury Archive. Clay sealings found elsewhere in the fortification wall at Persepolis may stem from other, perhaps related, administrative documents.

Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition

Omarkhali, Khanna. 2017. The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts with Samples of Oral and Written Religious Texts and with Audio and Video Samples on CD-ROM. (Studies in Oriental Religions 72). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Public and academic interest in the Yezidis, their religion and culture, has increased greatly in recent years. The study of Yezidism has also made considerable progress in recent decades. Still, several lacunae in our knowledge remain, notably concerning many concrete aspects of the textual tradition. This book is a comprehensive study of the Yezidi religious textual tradition, containing descriptions of many hitherto unknown aspects of the oral transmission of Yezidi religious knowledge. It presents a detailed account of the ‘mechanisms’ underlying various aspects of the tradition. It shows how the religious textual tradition functioned – and to a certain degree still does – in its pre-modern way, and also describes the transformations it is currently undergoing, including the issues and processes involved in the increasing trend to commit religious knowledge to writing, and indeed to create a written Canon. The work contains several hitherto unpublished texts and the most comprehensive survey to date of the extant Yezidi sacred texts. It includes four maps, a glossary of terms and a list of Yezidi lineages, and is accompanied by a CD with an extensive collection of recordings of texts (208 minutes).
See here the Table of the Contents of this volume.

The Coinage Reforms of Khusru II and the Revolt of Vistāhm

Tyler-Smith, Susan. 2017. The Coinage Reforms (600-603) of Khusru II and the Revolt of Vistāhm. (Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication 54). London: Royal Numismatic Society.

One of the most intriguing literary passages relating to Sasanian coins is in al-Tabari’s, famous History. A number of questions about his ‘evil conduct’ are put to the former king of kings, Khusru II, shortly after his overthrow in 628. One concerns Khusru’s methods of tax gathering and his harsh treatment of his subjects. Khusru’s reply is important to numismatists as it contains the comment that he ordered ‘the engraving of new dies for coins, so that we might give our orders for beginning the minting of new silver [drachms] with them’. Khusru adds that he gave this order ‘at the end of year thirteen [602/3] of our reign’. The meaning of this passage and the remarkable coinage reforms of the early seventh century are explored in depth.

Khusru II’s long reign and the numerous mints operating under him ensure that his drachms are the commonest in the Sasanian series. Over 90% of the enormous ‘Shiraz’ or ‘Year 12’ hoard was probably formed of Khusru’s coins dating between 591 and 602. A parcel of 562 coins from this hoard forms the springboard for the current study. This establishes the precise sequence of the types, the date of the introduction of the enigmatic apd legend and discusses the subsequent hoarding of Khusru’s coins. The latest mint attributions are discussed.

By contrast the coinage of Khusru’s contemporary and rival, the usurper Vistahm, is scarce. Its numerous varieties, from two mints, contrast with Khusru’s centralised minting system which produced a highly standardised, tightly controlled, coinage. Vistahm’s coins are the subject of a special study with all the known dies illustrated.

Zoroastrian afterlife beliefs and funerary practices

Hintze, Almut. 2017. “Zoroastrian afterlife beliefs and funerary practices“. In: Christopher M Moreman (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying86–97, London and New York: Routledge.

The Persian Gulf: Khark

Floor, Willem, & D. T. Potts. 2017. The Persian Gulf: Khark: The Island’s Untold Story. Mage Publishers.

 

The island of Khark was an important link in Persian Gulf navigation, supplying passing ships with water, victuals, and pilots for ships sailing to and from Basra. This was why the Arabs called Khark the Mother of Skippers (Umm al-Rubbaniyan). Through the ages, Khark has also been a place of pilgrimage: in Sasanian times, due to the presence of an early Christian church and monastery, and in Islamic times, because of the presence of the tomb of Mohammad al-Hanafiyya. In the eighteenth century, the Dutch made the island their center of trade in the Persian Gulf, and by the nineteenth century the island was dubbed the most important strategic point in the Persian Gulf, reason why the British occupied it twice. Although by 1900 the island had lost its strategic importance, it acquired it again after the 1950s, when the National Iranian Oil Company decided to make Khark its main terminal for the export of crude oil. Later, chemical factories were added to the island’s economic make-up. As a result, Khark s name is now better known around the world than it was ever previously, but the history has remained untold. This book tells the whole story, from the early archeological evidence and the Islamic and Safavid periods, to the Dutch projects in the eighteenth century and the British in the nineteenth century. And in the end, how the traditional way of life ended and industrialization began.

Manichaica and Sogdica from Russia

The latest issue of Written Monuments of the Orient (Institute of Oriental Manuscripts; Asiatic Museum; Russian Academy of Sciences), with two articles regarding the Middle Iranian Studies has been published:
Chunakova, Olga Mikhailovna, Federico Dragoni & Enrico Morano. 2017. A forgotten Manichaean Sogdian bifolio in Sogdian script. Written Monuments of the Orient 1(5). 3–25.
The present paper consists of the first edition, translation and commentary of a Manichaean Sogdian bifolio, whose photos are preserved in the Nachlass of Academician Carl H. Salemann at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, RAS (St. Petersburg). The present location of the bifolio is unknown. One joining fragment has been found in the Berlin Turfan collection during the preliminary work on this edition. Two relatively long portions of Manichaean didactic treatises are extant and do not correspond to any known text. The first (I) is a Lehrtext on the duties of Manichaean monks living in a monastery. The second (II) contains the fourth and part of a fifth question, followed by answers, of a catechetical text concerning the fate of the body and of the soul after death.
Benkato, Adam. 2017. Sogdian letter fragments in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, St. Petersburg. Written Monuments of the Orient 1(5). 26–39.
Among the Sogdian fragments from Turfan preserved in the IOM collections are a handful of epistolary texts. A new edition of these fragments is presented here as part of the author’s ongoing project on Sogdian letters from Turfan.

Achaemenid Visual Representations of Royal Figures

Erica Ehrenberg, “Achaemenid Visual Representations of Royal Figures,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/achaemenid-visual-reps (accessed on 16 May 2017).

Visual representations of Achaemenid kings, while indebted to established Mesopotamian iconographic conventions, betray distinct understandings of sovereignty. Royal reliefs, glyptic and molded bricks are highly modeled, a trait that has been attributed to the influence of Greek carvers but could readily have been a further development of Late Babylonian stylistic precedent.

 

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