Category Archives: Articles

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.

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.

Falcons and falconry in pre-modern Persia

Falcon with spread wings. Square tile from Persepolis.

Daryaee, Touraj & Soodabeh Malekzadeh. 2018. Falcons and falconry in pre-modern Persia, in Karl-Heinz Gersmann & Oliver Grimm (eds.), Raptor and human: falconry and bird symbolism throughout the millennia on a global scale, 243-258, Wachholtz Verlag.

Falcons and falconry have been part of the religious and ideological tradition of the Persianate world from remote antiquity to the pre-modern period. The falcon has been important as a symbol of royal ideology and political legitimation. Already from the earliest Zoroastrian hymns, the Avesta, to manuals on falconry in the nineteenth century, the importance of this bird and the sport is detailed. The earliest evidence of falconry in Persia dates back to the Sasanian era (3rd c. CE). In this article, the association of this sport with the nobility in both pre-Islamic and Islamic literature, art, and history is made clear.

The Persian Dictionary Sorme-ye Soleymānī

Shavarebi, Ehsan. 2018. The Persian Dictionary Sorme-ye Soleymānī (Early 11th/17th Century) and its manuscript in the library of the Oriental faculty of St. Petersburg State University (MS.O 174). Manuscripta Orientalia 24 (1). 61–67.

This article aims to study the manuscript of the Persian dictionary Sorme-ye Soleymānī (“The Kohl of Soleymān”) from the collection of the library of St. Petersburg State University (MS.O 174), which is the only known manuscript containing the full text of dictionary. In other available manuscripts of this dictionary, the prologue and epilogue of the text are missing. The importance of this manuscript is inclusion of the date of the dictionary’s composition as a chronogram in the epilogue. In addition to an analysis of the beginning and ending pages of the text, a critical edition of the prologue and epilogue of this manuscript is provided in the appendices.

Intercalary Months in Achaemenid Elamite Documents

Stolper Matthew W. 2018. Intercalary months in Achaemenid Elamite administrative documents from Persepolis. In C. Jay Crisosotomo, Eduardo A. Escobar, Terri Tanaka, & Niek Veldhuis (eds.), The scaffolding of our thoughts: Essays on Assyriology and the history of science in honor of Francesca Rochberg, 296–316. Leiden: Brill.

Surveys current evidence from the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the Persepolis Treasury Archives on intercalation: terminology, usage, attestations.


Bīsotūn and the French Enlightenment

Potts, Daniel Thomas. 2018. Bīsotūn and the French enlightenment. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 1–32.

This study examines a little-known case of Enlightenment knowledge transmission centred on the rock-cut monument of Darius I at Bīsotūn in western Iran. It discusses a report on the monument published by the cartographer and historian Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, which originated with the Decalced Carmelite monk Emmanuel de Saint-Albert (born Jean-Claude Ballyet); who transmitted it to Isaac Bellet, a doctor involved in secret negotiations in Constantinople; who in turn sent it to Louis, Duke d’Orléans, in Paris; who passed it on to d’Anville. The collison of scholarly interest, political service and scientific personality offers a fascinating case study of the Enlightenment ‘republic of letters’ in action.

The article is available on

Greco-Persian Relations 499-490 BC

Stronk, Jan P. 2016/2017. From Sardis to Marathon. Greco-Persian relations 499–490 BC: A review. Part one: Up to and including the fall of EretriaTalanta 48-49, 133-184.

The Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, which was commemorated at Athens on 6 Boedromion (and at present celebrated on 12 September), may be regarded as one of the defining moments in the history of the ancient polis of Athens. The battle was the culmination point of developments that started about the middle of the sixth century BC, but really took shape shortly after 500 BC. In this paper, which will be published in two parts, we shall follow various circumstances and actions involving the Achaemenid Empire (briefly described as Persia) and Greek poleis which ultimately led to the Battle of Marathon. As the Persian sources available in order to draw a more comprehensive picture of those occurrences at the end of sixth and the first decade of the fifth centuries BC relating to the Greco-Persian controversies than can be obtained from Herodotus’ account alone.His story remains to this day the main literary source for most People investigating the events in that period. In this first part, we shall discuss the occurrences up to and including the fall of Eretria. In the second part, due to appear in Talanta 51(-52), we next pay attention to the Battle of Marathon and its implications.

A Proposal for the Identification of the Sasanian commander Mermeróēs

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2017. A new proposal for the identification of the Sasanian commander Mermeróēs of Byzantine sources: Šāpur of Ray from Mehrān. In Mitko Panov (ed.), The Byzantine missionary activity and its legacy in Europe, 93–98. Skopje: Euro-Balkan University.

Šāpur of Ray, known also as Mermeroes in Procopius’ and Agathias’ narratives, was the spāhbed in the battles of Dara (June 530) and Satala (summer 530). In 542 he was dispatched by Xusrō I Anōšīrvān (r. 531–579) against the Byzantine fortress of Dara. In 548 Šāpur of Ray was sent at the head of a large army to relieve the fortress of Petra in Lazica, which was under siege by a combined Byzantine-Lazic force. He died of his illness at Mtskheta in the summer of 555. According to Ṭabarī at the time of Sukhrā’s fall, Šāpur of Ray was supreme Commander of the land (iṣbahbadh al-bilād). If we allow identification of Sukhrā and Siāwoš, the last commander of Iranian army with the title of Artēštārān sālār, then we must state that, after removing Sukhrā, Šāpur of Ray also held a high military rank until the military reforms of Xusrō I Anōšīrvān.

Their Evil Rule Must End!

Agostini, Domenico. 2017. Their evil rule must end! A commentary on the Iranian Bundahišn 33:17–28. In Hagit Amirav, Emmanouela Grypeou and Guy Stroumsa (eds.), Apocalypticism and eschatology in late antiquity: Encounters in the Abrahamic religions, 6th–8th Centuries, 21–41. Leuven: Peeters Publishers.