Category Archives: Books

Ancient Knowledge Networks

Robson, Eleanor. 2019. Ancient knowledge networks: A social geography of cuneiform scholarship in first-millennium Assyria and Babylonia. London: UCL Press.

This book is currently available as open access from the publisher's website.

Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.

Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria and Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.

Eleanor Robson is Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern History at UCL.

Persian Royal–Judaean Elite Engagements

Silverman, Jason. 2019. Persian Royal–Judaean Elite Engagements in the Early Teispid and Achaemenid Empire: The King’s Acolytes (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies). T&T Clark.

Jason Silverman presents a timely and necessary study, advancing the understanding of Achaemenid ideology and Persian Period Judaism. While the Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550–330 BCE) dwarfed all previous empires of the Ancient Near East in both size and longevity, the royal system that forged and preserved this civilisation remains only rudimentarily understood, as is the imperial and religious legacy bequeathed to future generations. In response to this deficit, Silverman provides a critically sophisticated and interdisciplinary model for comparative studies.
While the Achaemenids rebuilt the Jerusalem temple, Judaean literature of the period reflects tensions over its Persian re-establishment, demonstrating colliding religious perspectives. Although both First Zechariah (1–8) and Second Isaiah (40–55) are controversial, the greater imperial context is rarely dealt with in depth; both books deal directly with the temple’s legitimacy, and this ties them intimately to kings’ engagements with cults. Silverman explores how the Achaemenid kings portrayed their rule to subject minorities, the ways in which minority elites reshaped this ideology, and how long this impact lasted, as revealed through the Judaean reactions to the restoration of the Jerusalem temple.

Table of contents
List of Figures
Preface
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Into the Woods: Judaean Engagements with the Early Persian Empire
Part I.
Second Isaiah
Old Persian Creation Theology
Part II.
First Zechariah, the Temple, and the Great King
The Phenomenology of Dreams and Visions
Part III
The Great King, Local Elites, Priests, Temples, and Priests in the early Empire
The Great King and Local Elites in Early Persian Discourse
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Appendix: Table of Dates
Bibliography

Among Digitized Manuscripts

Lit, L. W. Cornelius van. 2019. Among digitized manuscripts. Philology, codicology, paleography in a digital world (Handbuch Der Orientalistik 137). Leiden: Brill.

Working with manuscripts has become a digital affair. But, are there downsides to digital photos? And how can you take advantage of the incredible computing power you have literally at your fingertips? Cornelis van Lit explains in detail what happens when manuscript studies meets digital humanities. In Among Digitized Manuscripts you will learn why it is important to include a note on the photo quality in your codicological description, how to draw, collect, and publish glyphs of paleographic interest, what standards (such as TEI and IIIF) to abide by when transcribing a text, how to write custom software for image recognition, and much more. The leading principle is that learning a little about computers will already be of great benefit.

Brill | Among Digitized Manuscripts

This book is open access, and you can download it from https://t.co/sOq9jDCkiW?amp=1. Some more information is available from the author’s website. The author has also tweeted about this book, which I unrolled here.

Archaeology of Empire in Achaemenid Egypt

Colburn, Henry P. 2019. Archaeology of Empire in Achaemenid Egypt. Edinburgh University Press.

A study of the material culture of Egypt during the period of Achaemenid Persian rule, c. 526-404 BCE

  • Provides a clear overview of the archaeological evidence for Achaemenid Egypt, including temples, tombs, irrigation works, statues, stelae, seals and coins
  • Demonstrates how different types of evidence, both textual and archaeological – including material of uncertain provenance – can be used to address a single historical question
  • Offers critical discussion of the dating criteria used by archaeologists for Egyptian Late Period material
  • Elucidates strategies used by the Persians to establish and maintain control of Egypt
  • Examines how these strategies may have affected the lives of people living in Egypt during the 27th Dynasty
  • Creates a new explanatory model for the introduction of coinage to ancient Egypt

Previous studies have characterised Achaemenid rule of Egypt either as ephemeral and weak or oppressive and harsh. These characterisations, however, are based on the perceived lack of evidence for this period, filtered through ancient and modern preconceptions about the Persians.

Henry Colburn challenges these views by assembling and analyzing the archaeological remains from this period, including temples, tombs, irrigation works, statues, stelae, sealings, drinking vessels and coins. By looking at the decisions made about material culture – by Egyptians, Persians and others – it becomes possible to see both how the Persians integrated Egypt into their empire and the full range of experiences people had as a result.

Empires of the sea

Wijk, Roy van. 2019. Contested hegemonies: Thebes, Athens and Persia in the Aegean of the 360s. In Rolf Strootman, Floris van den Eijnde & Roy van Wijk (eds.), Empires of the sea: Maritime power networks in world history (Cultural Interactions in the Mediterranean 4), 81–112. Leiden: Brill.

Empires of the Sea brings together studies of maritime empires from the Bronze Age to the Eighteenth Century. The volume aims to establish maritime empires as a category for the (comparative) study of premodern empires, and from a partly ‘non-western’ perspective. The book includes contributions on Mycenaean sea power, Classical Athens, the ancient Thebans, Ptolemaic Egypt, The Genoese Empire, power networks of the Vikings, the medieval Danish Empire, the Baltic empire of Ancien Régime Sweden, the early modern Indian Ocean, the Melaka Empire, the (non-European aspects of the) Portuguese Empire and Dutch East India Company, and the Pirates of Caribbean.

Source: Empires of the sea | Brill

The Archaeology of Afghanistan

Allchin, Raymond, Warwick Ball & Norman Hammond (eds.). 2019. The archaeology of Afghanistan from earliest times to the Timurid period. Edinburgh University Press.

Afghanistan is at the cultural crossroads of Asia, where the great civilisations of Mesopotamia and Iran, South Asia and Central Asia overlapped and sometimes conflicted. Its landscape embraces environments from the high mountains of the Hindu Kush to the Oxus basin and the great deserts of Sistan; trade routes from China to the Mediterranean, and from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea cross the country. It has seen the development of early agriculture, the spread of Bronze Age civilisation of Central Asia, the conquests of the Persians and of Alexander of Macedon, the spread of Buddhism and then Islam, and the empires of the Kushans, Ghaznavids, Ghurids and Timurids centred there, with ramifications across southern Asia. All of which has resulted in some of the most important, diverse and spectacular historical remains in Asia.

First published in 1978, this was the first book in English to provide a complete survey of the immensely rich archaeological remains of Afghanistan. The contributors, all acknowledged scholars in their field, have worked in the country, on projects ranging from prehistoric surveys to the study of Islamic architecture. It has now been thoroughly revised and brought up to date to incorporate the latest discoveries and research.

Table of contents

  • Notes on Contributors
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword, Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, Kabul Museum
  • Preface, Norman Hammond
  • Introduction to the first edition, Norman Hammond and Raymond Allchin
  • Introduction to the new edition, Warwick Ball
  • The Geographical Background, Sophia R. Bowlby and Kevin H. White
  • The Palaeolithic, Richard S. Davies
  • The development of the Oxus Civilisation north of the Hindu Kush, Henri-Paul Francfort, Bertille Lyonnet, Cameron Petrie and Jim G. Shaffer
  • The development of a ‘Helmand Civilisation’ south of the Hindu Kush, Jim G. Shaffer and Cameron Petrie
  • The Iron Age, Achaemenid and Hellenistic periods, Warwick Ball, Simon Glenn, Bertille Lyonnet, David W. Mac Dowall and Maurizio Taddei
  • From the Kushans to the Shahis, Warwick Ball, Olivier Bordeaux, David W. Mac Dowall, Nicholas Sims-Williams and Maurizio Taddei
  • From the Rise of Islam to the Mongol Invasion, Warwick Ball and Klaus Fischer
  • From the Mongols to the Mughals, Warwick Ball and Klaus Fischer
  • Conclusion, Raymond Allchin and Norman Hammond
  • Bibliography

Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture

Asutay-Effenberger, Neslihan & Falko Daim (eds.). 2019. Sasanidische Spuren in der byzantinischen, kaukasischen und islamischen Kunst und Kultur | Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture. RGZ 15, Bonn: Verlag Schnell & Steiner.

The Sasanian Empire (224-651 AD) spreads over areas of today’s Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Caucasus regions were also under its political influence. Many elements of Sasanian art and culture can be found in neighboring countries and cultures, such as Byzantium or the Christian Caucasus, and continued to live after the Sasanian fall in the Islamic dominions that developed on their former territory. To examine the continuing role and the survival of Sasanian art after the fall of the last Persian Empire, an international conference was held in September 2017 at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz. The contributions of scholars from different disciplines are published in this volume.

Art of Sogdian immigrants

Xu, Jin. 2019. The funerary couch of An Jia and the art of Sogdian immigrants in sixth-century China. Burlington Magazine, No. 1399 – Vol 161. 820–829.

Detail of decorative screen of the funerary couch of An Jia, Detail of decorative screen of the funerary couch of An Jia showing the portrait of a couple on the left side panel. © Burlington Magazine

The tomb of An Jia, leader of a Sogdian immigrant community in sixth-century Xi’an, northern China, contained a remarkable stone couch. Its form is Chinese but its decoration imitates gilt silverware imported by Sogdian merchants from Sasanian Persia, reflecting An Jia’s dual cultural identity.

Sasanian Persia and the Tabarestan Archive

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2019. Sasanian Persia and the Tabarestan Archive (Res Orientales 27). Bures sur Yvette: Groupe d’Etude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient.

  • James Howard-Johnston: «World War in Eurasia at the End of Antiquity»
  • Nils Purwins: «The Noble Ones of Eranshahr: Rank Titles and a Comparison with the Imperium Romanum».

The Tabarestan Archive (8th century)

  • Dieter Weber: «Pahlavi Legal Documents from Tabarestan. Two Claims and a Re-evaluation of Crop Yields: A Philological Study of Tab. 21, 22 and 24»
  • Maria Macuch: «Pahlavi Legal Documents from Tabarestan. Two Claims and a Re-evaluation of Crop Yields: The Juristic Context of Tab. 21, 22 and 24»
  • Rika Gyselen: «Les bulles de l’Archive du Tabarestan: quelques aspects matériels des scellements».

Taxing Achaemenid Arachosia: Evidence from Persepolis

King, Rhyne. 2019. Taxing Achaemenid Arachosia: Evidence from Persepolis. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 78(2): 185-199.