All posts by Arash Zeini

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.

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 Some more information is available from the author’s website. The author has also tweeted about this book, which I unrolled here.

Volume in Honour of Professor Anna Krasnowolska

Volume 14 of Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, an special issue in Honour of Professor Anna Krasnowolska, has been published, and the articles seem to be freely available at the above link. The issue contains a number of relevant and interesting articles among which one relates to Zoroastrianism:

Daryaee, Touraj. 2019. Honey: A Demonic Food in Zoroastrian Iran? Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis 14. 53–57.

Lucan’s Parthians in Nero’s Rome

Nabel, Jake. 2019. Lucan’s Parthians in Nero’s Rome. Classical Philology 114(4). 604–625.

For an epic that recounts the horrors of civil war, Lucan’s poem refers with surprising frequency to an enemy far removed from the realm of Roman power: the eastern kingdom of the Parthians, a vast empire beyond the Euphrates ruled by the Arsacid royal family. No other foreign polity figures so prominently. The Parthians are said to have unleashed the strife between Caesar and Pompey by killing Crassus, the only man capable of suppressing the rivalry between the two commanders (1.98–108). They escape vengeance …

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

Silk Roads

Whitfield, Susan (ed.). 2019. Silk roads: Peoples, cultures, landscapes. California: University of California Press.

The Silk Roads continue to capture the imagination of the public, and, in 2014, a section of the land routes was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Yet there was no single “Silk Road.” Instead, a complex network of trade routes spanned Afro-Eurasia’s mountains, plains, deserts, and seas. From silk to spices, religion to dance, traffic in goods and ideas was crucial to the development of civilizations through rich cultural interactions and economic activity.
Centered around the dramatic landscapes of the Silk Roads, this beautiful volume honors the great diversity of medieval Afro-Eurasian cultures. Each section—from steppe to desert to ocean—includes maps, a historical and archaeological overview and thematic essays by leading historians worldwide, as well as sidebars showcasing objects that exemplify the art, archaeology and architecture of the Silk Roads.

Source: Silk Roads by Susan Whitfield – Hardcover – University of California Press

The author of numerous books and articles on the Silk Roads and China, including Life Along the Silk Road and Silk, Slaves, and Stupas, Susan Whitfield is a scholar, curator, writer, lecturer, and traveler of the Silk Roads.

The Deccan Sultanates

Flatt, Emma. 2019. The courts of the Deccan Sultanates: Living well in the Persian cosmopolis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, courtliness was crucial to the political and cultural life of the Deccan. Divided between six states competing for territory, resources and skills, the medieval and early modern Deccan was a region of striking ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. People used multifaceted trans-regional networks – mercantile, kinship, friendship and intellectual – to move across the Persian-speaking world and to find employment at the Deccan courts. This movement, Emma J. Flatt argues, was facilitated by the existence of a shared courtly disposition. Engagement in courtly skills such as letter-writing, perfume-making, astrological divination, performing magic, sword-fighting and wrestling thus became a route to both worldly success and ethical refinement. Using a diverse range of treatises, chronicles, poetry and letters, Flatt unpicks the ways this challenged networks of acceptable behaviour and knowledge in the Indo-Islamicate courtly world – and challenges the idea of perpetual hostility between Islam and Hinduism in Indian history.

Source: The Courts of the Deccan Sultanates | Cambridge University Press

Emma J. Flatt is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The Scythians

Cunliffe, Barry. 2019. The Scythians: Nomad warriors of the steppe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brilliant horsemen and great fighters, the Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south – the Chinese, the Persians and the Greeks – and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from the steppe.
Relations with the Greeks around the shores of the Black Sea were rather different – both communities benefiting from trading with each other. This led to the development of a brilliant art style, often depicting scenes from Scythian mythology and everyday life. It is from the writings of Greeks like the historian Herodotus that we learn of Scythian life: their beliefs, their burial practices, their love of fighting, and their ambivalent attitudes to gender. It is a world that is also brilliantly illuminated by the rich material culture recovered from Scythian burials, from the graves of kings on the Pontic steppe, with their elaborate gold work and vividly coloured fabrics, to the frozen tombs of the Altai mountains, where all the organic material – wooden carvings, carpets, saddles and even tattooed human bodies – is amazingly well preserved.

Source: The Scythians – Barry Cunliffe – Oxford University Press

Barry Cunliffe is Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford.

A typological study of Voice Onset Time

Hussain, Qandeel. 2018. A typological study of Voice Onset Time (VOT) in Indo-Iranian languages. Journal of Phonetics 71. 284–305.

The stop consonants of Indo-Iranian languages are categorized into two to maximum five laryngeal categories. The present study investigates whether Voice Onset Time (VOT) reliably differentiates the word-initial stop laryngeal categories and how it covaries with different places of articulation in ten languages (two Iranian: Pashto and Wakhi; seven Indo-Aryan: Dawoodi, Punjabi, Shina, Jangli, Urdu, Sindhi, and Siraiki; and one Isolate: Burushaski). The results indicated that there was a clear VOT distinction between the voiceless unaspirated and voiceless aspirated stops. The voiceless unaspirated stops showed shorter voicing lag VOTs than voiceless aspirated stops. Voiced unaspirated, voiced aspirated, and voiced implosive stops were characterized by voicing lead VOTs. In the voiceless unaspirated and aspirated categories, palatal affricates showed the longest voicing lag VOT due to the frication interval of this stop type. In contrast, voiceless unaspirated retroflex stops were characterized by the shortest voicing lag VOT. There were no clear place differences in the voiceless aspirated, voiced unaspirated, voiced aspirated, and voiced implosive categories. The findings of the current study suggest that VOT reliably differentiates the stop consonants of all the languages that contrast two (voiceless unaspirated vs. voiced unaspirated: Pashto and Wakhi) or three (voiceless unaspirated vs. voiceless aspirated vs. voiced unaspirated: Burushaski, Dawoodi, Punjabi, and Shina) laryngeal categories. However, VOT does not consistently distinguish the stop consonants of languages (Jangli, Urdu, Sindhi, and Siraiki) with contrastive voiced unaspirated, voiced aspirated, and voiced implosive categories.

Special Issue: Marking 50 Years of Research on Voice Onset Time

An Introduction to Avestan

Cantera, Alberto & Céline Redard. 2019. Introduction à l’avestique récent. Sociedad de Estudios Iranios y Turanios.

Cette introduction à l’avestique récent a pour but de fournir un outil d’apprentissage aux étudiants et à toute personne intéressée par l’avestique. Le livre est composé de 4 parties: 1. 17 leçons constituées en général de 5 sous-parties : a. phonétique, b. morphologie nominale et / ou verbale, c. syntaxe, d. vocabulaire (à mémoriser et d’aide à la lecture), et finalement e. exercices avec à chaque leçon un extrait de manuscrit pour habituer l’apprenant à lire dans l’écriture originale; 2. Un glossaire avestique-français; 3. Les tableaux de morphologies nominale et verbale apparaissent à nouveau en fin de volume pour faciliter une vision d’ensemble, l’apprentissage et la recherche d’une forme à élucider; 4. le corrigé des exercices.