The History and Culture of Iran and Central Asia

Tor, Deborah & Minoru Inaba (eds.). 2022. The history and culture of Iran and Central Asia: From the pre-Islamic to the Islamic period. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press.

This volume examines the major cultural, religious, political, and urban changes that took place in the Iranian world of Inner and Central Asia in the transition from the pre-Islamic to the Islamic periods.

One of the major civilizations of the first millennium was that of the Iranian linguistic and cultural world, which stretched from today’s Iraq to what is now the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. No other region of the world underwent such radical transformation, which fundamentally altered the course of world history, as this area did during the centuries of transition from the pre-Islamic to the Islamic period. This transformation included the religious victory of Islam over Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, and the other religions of the area; the military and political wresting of Inner Asia from the Chinese to the Islamic sphere of primary cultural influence; and the shifting of Central Asia from a culturally and demographically Iranian civilization to a Turkic one. This book contains essays by many of the preeminent scholars working in the fields of archeology, history, linguistics, and literature of both the pre-Islamic and the Islamic-era Iranian world, shedding light on some of the most significant aspects of the major changes that this important portion of the Asian continent underwent during this tumultuous era in its history. This collection of cutting-edge research will be read by scholars of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Iranian, and Islamic studies and archaeology.


Iran and the Caucasus

The latest issue of Iran and the Caucasus (26.1) contains several interesting contributions.

Table of contents:

  • Preliminary Material (Editors)
  • Far away from Pārsa: Empire, Borders, and Ideology in Achaemenid Bactria (Marco Ferrario)
  • A Copper Statuette from South-Eastern Iran (3rd Millennium B.C.) (Nasir Eskandari, Mojgan Shafiee, Ali Akbar Mesgar, Federico Zorzi, &Massimo Vidale)
  • On the Emergence of the Iranian Apocalypse Between the Sixth and Seventh Centuries (Domenico Agostini)
  • Armeno-Iranica, Indo-Europaeica, and Gathica (Martin Schwartz)
  • An Etymological Note on YAv. mūra-: Is it Really “Idiot, Stupid, Foolish”? (Sara Belelli)
  • New Persian yādgār (Nadereh Nafisi)
  • The Ethno-Religious Contradictions as Threats to the North Caucasus Stability and Integration (Maxim Popov)
  • Review of Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Seleukos: Studies in Achaemenid and Hellenistic History, Ancient Iran Series, vol. 5: “UCI Jordan Center for Persian Studies”, 2018. 327pp (Yervand Margaryan)
  • Review of L’épopée caucasienne des Nartes. Cycles d’Ossétie, Traduits de l’ossète et commentés par Lora Arys-Djanaïéva et Iaroslav Lebedynsky, Paris: “L’Harmattan”, 2019. 325 pp. (Matteo De Chiara)


The Archaeology of Iran from the Palaeolithic to the Achaemenid Empire

Matthews, Roger & Hassan Fazeli Nashli. 2022. The archaeology of Iran from the palaeolithic to the Achaemenid Empire. London: Routledge.

The Archaeology of Iran from the Palaeolithic to the Archaemenid Empire is the first modern academic study to provide a synthetic, diachronic analysis of the archaeology and early history of all of Iran from the Palaeolithic period to the end of the Achaemenid Empire at 330 BC.

Drawing on the authors’ deep experience and engagement in the world of Iranian archaeology, and in particular on Iran-based academic networks and collaborations, this book situates the archaeological evidence from Iran within a framework of issues and debates of relevance today. Such topics include human–environment interactions, climate change and societal fragility, the challenges of urban living, individual and social identity, gender roles and status, the development of technology and craft specialisation and the significance of early bureaucratic practices such as counting, writing and sealing within the context of evolving societal formations.

Richly adorned with more than 500 illustrations, many of them in colour, and accompanied by a bibliography with more than 3000 entries, this book will be appreciated as a major research resource for anyone concerned to learn more about the role of ancient Iran in shaping the modern world.


Chogha Zanbil // چغازنبیل

مفیدی نصرآبادی، بهزاد. ۱۴۰۰. چغازنبیل: بافت شهری و جنبه‌های معماری در ایلام باستان. تهران: انتشارات دکتر محمود افشار.

Mofidi Nasrabadi, Behzad. 2022. Chogh Zanbil: Bāft-e shahrī va janbah-hā-ye meʻmārī dar Īlām-e bāstān [Chogha Zanbil: The Urban Environment and Architectural Features in Ancient Elam]. Tehran: Dr. Mahmoud Afshar Publication.

کتاب چغازنبیل: بافت شهری و جنبه‌های معماری در ایلام باستان شرح مفصلی از ساختار بناها در چغازنبیل از جمله زیگورات، معابد خدایان گوناگون، کاخ‌ها و دیگر فضاهای موجود در این محوطه را به دست می‌دهد. این اثر که پژوهش‌های پیشین نویسنده در این خصوص به زبان آلمانی را گرد آورده و آنها را به زبان فارسی ارائه می‌دهد، ملاحظاتی مفید نحوه سکونت و اقتصاد شهری و همچنین طراحی و برآورد حجم کارهای ساختمانی اجراشده را نیز شامل می‌شود. علاوه بر آن، زمینه‌های تاریخی، جغرافیایی و آیینی شکل‌گیری فضای شهری در چغازنبیل نیز به طرز مبسوطی به بحث گذاشته شده است. کتاب حاضر از حیث ارائه تصویری کامل از موضوع مورد بحث حائز اهمیت است.


Three Women from Elam

Rafiei-Alavi, Babak, Faranak Bahrololoumi & Sabine Klein. 2022. Three women from Elam: A revision of the Haft Tappeh metal plaque. BASOR 387, 171-180.

Top: new drawing of the metal plaque of Haft Tappeh, bottom: old drawing. (Drawings by B. Rafiei-Alavi, bottom drawing after Negahban 1991: Ill. 4)

The metal plaque of Haft Tappeh was found more than 60 years ago, and except for a few scenes on terracotta plaques and cylinder seals from both Elam and Mesopotamia with similar but not identical settings, it still has no known parallels in metal and remains a unique example of Elamite art. The present article is a study of this object from the heartland of the Elamite kingdom in the Khuzestan Plain. It revisits the scenic plaque and attempts to correct some of the misunderstandings regarding the identification of its iconography and symbology based on new photos, X-ray images, and lab analysis. The article also tries to place the plaque in its proper spatial and temporal context, using comparative methods and chemical and isotope analysis.


Ancient Indo-European Languages between Linguistics and Philology

Bianconi, Michele, Marta Capano, Domenica Romagno & Francesco Rovai (eds.). 2022. Ancient Indo-European languages between linguistics and philology: Contact, variation, and reconstruction (Brill’s Studies in Historical Linguistics, 18). Leiden: Brill.

Studying the Indo-European languages means having a privileged viewpoint on diachronic language change, because of their relative wealth of documentation, which spans over more than three millennia with almost no interruption, and their cultural position that they have enjoyed in human history.

The chapters in this volume investigate case-studies in several ancient Indo-European languages (Ancient Greek, Latin, Hittite, Luwian, Sanskrit, Avestan, Old Persian, Armenian, Albanian) through the lenses of contact, variation, and reconstruction, in an interdisciplinary and intradisciplinary way. This reveals at the same time the multiplicity and the unity of our discipline(s), both by showing what kind of results the adoption of modern theories on “old” material can yield, and by underlining the centrality and complexity of the text in any research related to ancient languages.


The fall of Babylon

Joannès, Francis. 2022. La chute de Babylone: 12 octobre 539 avant notre ere. Paris: Fallandier.

Le 12 octobre 539 avant notre ère, l’antique et splendide ville de Babylone tombe aux mains du roi perse Cyrus le Grand en à peine une nuit. Capitale déchue d’un empire qui s’étendait des rives de l’Euphrate à la Méditerranée et des monts du Taurus aux confins de l’Arabie, Babylone va devenir une cité de second rang pour le restant de son histoire.

Le nom et la localisation de Babylone, cité vieille de 4 000 ans, sont universellement connus. Mais qu’en est-il des événements souvent dramatiques qui jalonnent son histoire ? Sait-on que son magnifique empire n’était qu’un colosse aux pieds d’argile ? Et que le roi Nabonide, dernier souverain du pays « entre les fleuves », s’est révélé l’antithèse de son prédécesseur, le grand Nabuchodonosor ? Usurpateur, conquérant perdu dans les sables de l’Arabie, partisan du dieu de la Lune au détriment de Bêl-Marduk, le roi des dieux, chef du panthéon babylonien, Nabonide n’a sans doute pas bénéficié du soutien inconditionnel de ses sujets.

Francis Joannès, spécialiste de l’histoire de la Mésopotamie antique, mène l’enquête pour dénouer les fils de l’effondrement soudain de Babylone. Ce faisant, il nous décrit toute une civilisation, sa géographie, sa société et sa culture. Il fait revivre le roi Nabonide lui-même, tout comme ses sujets, notables urbains, hommes d’affaires, esclaves domestiques ou simples travailleurs au service des grands temples.


Alexander III between east and west

Degen, Julian. 2022. Alexander III. zwischen Ost und West: Indigene Traditionen und Herrschaftsinszenierung im makedonischen Weltimperium (Oriens et Occidens 39). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.

Die Faszination an Alexander III. (dem Großen) ist nach wie vor ungebrochen, obwohl mittlerweile zahlreiche biographische Darstellungen vorliegen. Ein kaum berücksichtigter Aspekt seiner Herrschaft ist das von ihm geschaffene Imperium, das sich über Makedonien, Griechenland und einen Großteil des Achaimenidenreichs erstreckte. Um das größte Imperium seiner Zeit zu schaffen, musste Alexander nicht nur auf dem Schlachtfeld erfolgreich sein, sondern sich gegenüber lokalen Vorstellungen von legitimer Herrschaft positionieren.

Julian Degen analysiert ein vielschichtiges und heterogenes Quellencorpus, das nicht nur aus der griechisch-römischen Alexanderhistoriographie besteht, sondern auch griechische Inschriften und altorientalische Texte umfasst. Durch die Einordnung dieser bislang vernachlässigten Quellen in den größeren Kontext des Imperiumsdiskurses des ersten vorchristlichen Jahrtausends kann Degen die teilweise nur schwer verständlichen Handlungen und Praktiken Alexanders vor neuen Hintergründen interpretieren. So betrachtet er Alexander nicht mehr als historisches “Einzelphänomen”, sondern stellt seine Herrschaft in den großen Zusammenhang imperialer Herrschaft, die durch ihn wesentlich dynamisiert und transformiert wurde.


Elephantine Revisited

Folmer, Margaretha (ed.). 2022. Elephantine revisited: New insights into the Judean community and its neighbors. Pennsylvania: Eisenbrauns.

The Judean community at Elephantine has long fascinated historians of the Persian period. This book, with its stellar assemblage of important scholarly voices, provides substantive new insights and approaches that will advance the study of this well-known but not entirely understood community from fifth-century BCE Egypt.

Since Bezalel Porten’s pioneering Archives from Elephantine, published in 1968, the discourse on the subject of the community of Elephantine during the Persian period has changed considerably, due to new data from excavations, the discovery and publication of previously unknown texts, and original scholarly insights and avenues of inquiry. Running the gamut from archaeological to linguistic investigations and encompassing legal, literary, religious, and other aspects of life in this Judean community, this volume stands at a crossroads of research that extends from Hebrew Bible studies to the history of early Jewish communities. It also features fourteen new Aramaic ostraca from Aswan. The volume will appeal to students and scholars of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Judaism, as well as to a wider audience of Egyptologists, Semitists, and specialists in ancient Near Eastern studies.


Iranica Antiqua, Volume 56

The table of contents of the latest issue (56) of the journal Iranica Antiqua:

  • RENETTE, Steve, KHAYANI, Ali, LEVINE, Louis D.: Chogha Maran. A Local Center of the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Central Zagros
  • YEGANEH JAMSHIDI, Sepideh: Correlation of Sealings and Content on Proto-Elamite Tablets. Four Unpublished Sealings in the National Museum of Iran
  • BRITE, Elizabeth Baker: Khorezm’s Dark Age in the 3rd to 6th Centuries CE
  • FATTAHI, Morteza, SHARIFI, Mahnaz: OSL Dating of Submerged Ancient Jareh Bridge-Dam (South-West of Iran)
  • YOUSOFVAND, Younos, NEISTANI, Javad: The Cobblestone Road of Mirorah. Evidence from the Late Sassanid and Early Islamic Centuries’ Road-Building in Western Iran (Luristān Province)
  • ASKARPOUR, Vahid, KHALILI, Mohaddese, MOTTAGHI, Neshat, SANGARI, Esmaeil, MOGHADDAS, Amirhossein: Bull Sacrifice at Esfanjān, a Case of Ritual Syncretism