Category Archives: Articles

The Neo-Aramaic Verbal Root GŠQ ‘to Look’ and its Middle Iranian Origin

Mutzafi, Hezy. 2020. The Neo-Aramaic Verbal Root GŠQ ‘to Look’ and its Middle Iranian Origin. Le Muséon 133 (1-2), 1-12.

The Neo-Aramaic verbal root gšq ‘to look’, known since the 19th century to occur in the Christian NENA (North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic) dialects of Urmi and Salmas in Iranian Azerbaijan, has thus far remained without an established, or at least plausible, etymology. The etymology proposed in this paper considers gšq to be inherited from an earlier NENA layer, in which it was a denominative derivative of a noun akin to Mandaic gušqa ‘spy’, a Middle Iranian loanword. This etymology is buttressed by parallel cases in Neo-Aramaic and other languages of the world as regards semantic changes and affinities between the meanings ‘to spy’ and ‘to look’, as well as similar processes of word-formation in NENA, namely denominative verbs derived from borrowed nouns and inflected in the neo-pa”el verbal pattern.

The Name of the Camel

Redard, Céline, 2020. Le nom du chameau dans les langues iraniennes anciennes. In Damien Agut-Labordère & Bérangère Redon (eds.), Les vaisseaux du désert et des steppes: Les camélidés dans l’Antiquité (Camelus dromedarius et Camelus bactrianus). Lyon: MOM Éditions.

This book is available open access from the link above.

During the first millennium BCE, the dromedary and, more marginally, the camel began to impose their tall silhouettes on the roads of the Middle East and Egypt. Gathered in two workshops, in Lyon then Nanterre, sixteen archaeologists and historians have tried to assess this camel revolution. From Xinjiang to the Libyan Desert, the increasingly intensive use of the old-world camelids has indeed disrupted the fields of caravan transport but also agriculture, redesigning the trade routes, increasing the export capacities of oases, opening up previously isolated areas. Gradually becoming a critical agent of the economic systems of the desert or semi-desert regions, the camels remain at the same time associated with nomadic populations whose expertise is essential to breed and train these large animals.

Religious Imagery in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia

Shenkar, Michael. 2019. Religious imagery and image-making in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia. In Christiane Gruber (ed.), The image debate: Figural representation in Islam and across the world. London: Gingko.

The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World is a collection of thirteen essays which examine the controversy surrounding the use of images in Islamic and other religious cultures and seek to redress some of the misunderstandings that have arisen. Written by leading academics from the United States, Australia, Turkey, Israel and the United Kingdom, the book opens with an introduction by the editor Christiane Gruber, who sets the subject in context with a detailed examination of the debates over idols and the production of figural images in Islamic traditions. Twelve further articles are divided into three sections: the first deals with pre-modern Islamic practices and anxieties with image-making; the second addresses similar issues in Judaism, in Christianity during the Byzantine period, in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, and in Hindu and Buddhist contexts in South Asia; and the third brings the reader back to Islamic lands with five articles examining traditions of figural representation in the modern and contemporary periods.

Magic in Ancient Iran

Jong, Albert de. 2019. Iran. In David Frankfurter (ed.), Guide to the study of ancient magic (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 189). Leiden: Brill.

In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The abstract for Albert de Jong’s chapter:

Continue reading Magic in Ancient Iran

Canon of Ancient Iranian Art

Colburn, Henry. 2020. The canon of ancient Iranian art: From grand narratives to local perspectives. In Amy Gansell and Ann Shafer (eds.), Testing the canon of ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The canon of ancient Iranian art coalesced during the heyday of archaeological research in Iran during the 1950s and 1960s. Scholars sought to reconcile both excavated material from a series of type sites and unexcavated objects, with a sequence of historical and cultural phases from Proto-Elamite to Sasanian. Consequently, the canon has some notable weaknesses. First, the term “Iranian” can refer to geography or people, either of which excludes important material. Second, the periodization of the canon relies on Mesopotamian and Mediterranean history, which is not always a good fit for Iran. Third, the use of style to assign material to these periods relies on the problematic assumption that multiple artistic styles cannot coexist at the same time and place. This chapter argues that it is useful to adopt an approach that focuses instead on individual sites or micro-regions, thus better reflecting the richness and diversity of ancient Iranian art.

Violence and the Mutilated Body in Achaemenid Iran

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2020. Violence and the Mutilated Body in Achaemenid Iran. In Garrett G. Fagan, Linda Fibiger, Mark Hudson, and Matthew Trundle (eds.), The Cambridge World History of Violence. Volume 1: The Prehistoric and Ancient Worlds. Cambridge.

Little thought per se has been given to women as agents of violence in antiquity, let alone to the role of the royal harem as the site of revenge-fuelled violence and murder. This chapter addresses this gap by exploring how royal women in the Persian Empire could be instruments of violence. While acknowledging the Greek obsession with this topos, it goes beyond the Western preoccupation with the harem as a site of Oriental decadence and attempts to put stories of women’s violence against women into its ancient Near Eastern context. It explores the mutilation of the body and is particularly focused on the Herodotean tale (which has genuine Persian roots) of the revenge mutilations of Amestris, wife of Xerxes I.

From Sardis to Marathon

Stronk, Jan P. 2019. From Sardis to Marathon. Greco-Persian Relations 499-490 BC: A Review. Part two: the Battle of Marathon and its Implications. Talanta 51, 77-226.

The Battle of Marathon in 490 bc, according to Plutarch fought on 6 Boedromiôn (in that year to be equated with September 12 in our calendar and at present still celebrated on that day at Athens), 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, of which the first part was published in Talanta 48-49 (= Stronk 2016-17), we follow(ed) various circumstances and actions involving the Achaemenid Empire (briefly described as Persia) and Greek poleis which ultimately led to the Battle of Marathon. As Persian sources remain largely silent on these occurrences, we shall scrutinise other sources available in order to try and draw a more comprehensive picture of the occurrences surrounding the Battle of Marathon than can be obtained from Herodotus’ account alone, which remains to this day the main literary source for most people. Simultaneously, we will have to look into the matter of how reliable Herodotus’ account really is. In this second part, we shall discuss the occurrences following the fall of Eretria, notably focusing on the Battle of Marathon and its implications.

Manichaean Sogdian Cosmogonical Texts

Morano, Enrico. 2019. Manichaean Sogdian cosmogonical texts in Manichaean script. In Chen Hao (ed.), Competing narratives between nomadic people and their sedentary neighbours (Studia Uralo-Altaica 53). Szeged.

The present paper gives a survey of the Sogdian fragments in Manichaean script of the Berlin Turfan Collection which deal with cosmogony.

Two Achaemenid toponyms on the canal stelae of Dareios I

Mahlich, Elena. 2020. Zwei achämenidische Toponyme auf den Kanalstelen von Dareios I. Arta 2020.001.

On the canal stelae erected by Dareios I, two residence cities of the Achaemenids are mentioned, which could not be identified beyond doubt until now. In this article, two new identification proposals will be made and explained. In addition, the journey of the Persian ruler mentioned in the stelae is reconstructed.

A Cylinder Seal with an Amorite Name from Tepe Musiyan, Deh Luran Plain

Zeynivand, Mohsen. 2019. A cylinder seal with an amorite name from Tepe Musiyan, Deh Luran plain. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 71, 77-83.

Cylinder seal and impression from Musiyan. Photographs by M. Zeynivand; drawing by Z. Qasemi.

The archeology of the Deh Luran plain was documented by the work of Frank Hole and his associates in 1960s and 1970s. While these investigations were mostly dedicated to the study of the village periods, the presence of early state formations on the plain was also documented by their surface surveys. Tepe Farukhabad was an exception, but because it was only a small settlement in the third and second millennia BCE, the excavations there did not yield fruitful results for this period. Based on their systematic surface study of Tepe Musiyan, Wright and Neely argued that during the third and second millennia BCE, this settlement played a central role in this strategic plain due to its location on the route from Susa to Der (Badra in Iraq). Recently, our team again surveyed the Deh Luran Plain. Our visit to Musiyan provided us with a cylinder seal discovered by one of the locals. The inscription reveals the owner as a person with an Amorite name who may have been present in Musiyan sometime during the early centuries of the second millennium BCE, contemporary with the end of the Šimaški period, which in Mesopotamia extends from late in the Third Dynasty of Ur until the early Old Babylonian period.