Category Archives: Books

The Iranian Plateau during the Bronze Age

Meyer, Jan-Waalke, Emmanuelle Vila, Marjan Mashkour, Michèle Casanova & Régis Vallet (eds.). The Iranian plateau during the bronze age: Development of urbanisation, production and trade. Lyon: MOM Éditions.

The book compiles a portion of the contributions presented during the symposium “Urbanisation, commerce, subsistence and production during the third millennium BC on the Iranian Plateau”, which took place at the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée in Lyon, the 29-30 of April, 2014. The twenty papers assembled provide an overview of the recent archaeological research on this region of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The socio-economic transformation from rural villages to towns and nations has prompted many questions into this evolution of urbanisation. What was the impact of interactions between cultures in the Iranian Plateau and the surrounding regions (Mesopotamia, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Indus Valley)? What was the overall context during the Bronze Age on the Iranian Plateau? What was the extent and means of the expansion of the Kuro-Araxe culture? How did the Elamite Kingdom become established? What new knowledge has been contributed by the recent excavations and studies undertaken in the east of Iran? What was the influence of the Indus Valley culture, known as an epicentre of urbanisation in South Asia? What are the unique characteristics of the ancient cultures in Iran?

While the urbanisation of early Mesopotamia has been the subject of much debate for several decades, this topic has only recently been raised in respect to the Iranian Plateau. This volume is the product of an international community from Iranian, European, and American institutions, consisting of recognised specialists in the archaeology of the Iranian Bronze Age. It provides an overview of the latest research, including abundant results from current on-going excavations. The current state of archaeological research in Iran, comprising many dynamic questions and perspectives, is presented here in the form of original contributions on the first emergence of towns in the Near and Middle East.

Dynasties of Persia and figurative art

Compareti, Matteo. 2019. Dinastie di Persia e arte figurativa. Bibliografia ragionata per/un millennio e mezzo di iconografie iraniche. Bologna: edito da Paolo Emilio Persiani.

Dinastie di Persia e arte figurativa – Scopo di quest’opera è quello di fornire una bibliografia quanto più aggiornata e circostanziata possibile sulla produzione artistica persiana dall’epoca antica fino all’arrivo dei turchi selgiuchidi. Il testo si presenta quindi come una rassegna relativa a un periodo di tempo molto lungo, dalla metà del I millennio a.C. circa alla fine del I millennio d.C. Il volume – probabilmente tra i lavori più esaustivi per ciò che riguarda lo studio della civiltà e dell’arte persiana – può essere collocato tra le pietre miliari del settore. Obiettivo principale è quello di agevolare un’indagine quanto più documentata possibile della fase tardo-antica dell’arte iranica, con particolare riguardo all’epoca sasanide, secondo alcuni una sorta di “età dell’oro” persiana.
L’iconografia occupa un ruolo privilegiato all’interno della rassegna in senso ampio e onnicomprensivo, senza però sottrarre importanza a quelli che sono gli elementi di fondo mesopotamici e – a partire da una certa epoca – ellenistici, determinanti per la formazione della cultura iranica antica.
Saggio di natura storico-artistica, il lavoro di Compareti è eclettico e minuzioso anche per quanto concerne l’utilizzo delle fonti scritte (mesopotamiche, classiche, medio-iraniche, siriache, cinesi, islamiche, ecc.) atte a proporre identificazioni e letture altrimenti estremamente ardue. Lo studio è preceduto da un’introduzione del noto iranista e islamista Gianroberto Scarcia, da sempre attento testimone di ogni aspetto culturale prodotto in terra d’Iran.

The end of Middle East history

Bulliet, Richard. 2020. The end of Middle East history and other conjectures (Mizan Series 3). Harvard University Press.

The End of Middle East History and Other Conjectures is an unapologetic collection of imaginative essays from thought-provoking Middle East scholar Richard W. Bulliet. Not your ordinary think pieces, this volume collects for the first time Bulliet’s Big Bang–Big Crunch theory of Islamic history and his illuminating conception of the “Muslim South.” Speculations range from future political events to counterfactual histories of how reversal of the outcome of a 1529 battle might have profoundly altered history. After fifty years of posing and answering daring historical questions, Bulliet happily tackles an array of conjectures on subjects as diverse as the origin of civilization, the end of Middle East history, and future interpretations of the twentieth century.

Source: The End of Middle East History and Other Conjectures — Richard W. Bulliet | Harvard University Press

Rome, Persia, and Arabia

Fisher, Greg. 2019. Rome, Persia, and Arabia: Shaping the Middle East from Pompey to Muhammad. London and New York: Routledge.

Rome, Persia, and Arabia traces the enormous impact that the Great Powers of antiquity exerted on Arabia and the Arabs, between the arrival of Roman forces in the Middle East in 63 BC and the death of the Prophet Muhammad in AD 632.

Richly illustrated and covering a vast area from the fertile lands of South Arabia to the bleak deserts of Iraq and Syria, this book provides a detailed and captivating narrative of the way that the empires of antiquity affected the politics, culture, and religion of the Arabs. It examines Rome’s first tentative contacts in the Syrian steppe and the controversial mission of Aelius Gallus to Yemen, and takes in the city states, kingdoms, and tribes caught up in the struggle for supremacy between Rome and Persia, including the city state of Hatra, one of the many archaeological sites in the Middle East that have suffered deliberate vandalism at the hands of the ‘Islamic State’. The development of an Arab Christianity spanning the Middle East, the emergence of Arab fiefdoms at the edges of imperial power, and the crucial appearance of strong Arab leadership in the century before Islam provide a clear picture of the importance of pre-Islamic Arabia and the Arabs to understanding world and regional history.

Rome, Persia, and Arabia includes discussions of heritage destruction in the Middle East, the emergence of Islam, and modern research into the anthropology of ancient tribal societies and their relationship with the states around them. This comprehensive and wide-ranging book delivers an authoritative chronicle of a crucial but little known era in world history, and is for any reader with an interest in the ancient Middle East, Arabia, and the Roman and Persian empires.

A New Approach to the uštauuaitī Gāϑā

Kellens, Jean. 2019. Lecture sceptique et aventureuse de la Gâthâ uštauuaitī (Études Avestiques et Mazdéennes 6). Paris: de Boccard.

On the subject of this booklet, I ended my contribution to the Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism, published in 2015, but written in 2011, by expressing my conviction that the time had come to imagine new methods of approaching the Gâthâs and I have indeed tried it in my 2011-2012 (Kellens 2013a) and 2012-2013 (Kellens 2014a) course on the Gâthâ ahunauuaitī. I am trying to continue the experience with uštauuaitī (Yasna 43-46).

Ceramics and the Archaeological Achaemenid Horizon

Genito, Bruno & Giulio Maresca (eds.). 2019. Ceramics and the Archaeological Achaemenid Horizon: Near East, Iran and Central Asia. Napoli: Unior Press.

The book collects the proceedings of a workshop entitled “The Achaemenid Horizon in the Light of Ceramic Data: Production-related Issues and Cultural Interactions from the Ancient Near East to Central Asia” held at the Dipartimento Asia, Africa e Mediterraneo of the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” on January, 25th 2016. The idea was to organise a scientific colloquium to deal with the issue of the cultural interactions within the broad geographic area subject to the political control of the Achaemenid dynasty in the light of recent researches on the ceramic evidence from archaeological contexts both in “central” and “peripheral” territories of the Empire. The Organisers felt this was a particularly important task, since pottery production in this vast area during the Achaemenid period has always been an issue only partially known and, however, never addressed in a comprehensive way. Several reasons can be taken into account to explain this point. First of all the circumstance that the complex dynamics leading to the formation and to the development of the Achaemenid political and administrative entity, although quite well documented from an historical point of view, are in some cases somewhat evanescent if one tries to evaluate their material consistency on the field. In addition, the possibility to relate specific traces of the material culture to a cultural horizon clearly recognizable as “Achaemenid” seems to be an even more difficult task.
The workshop was conceived as a one-day colloquium having also the aim to develop a network to confront experiences, to share information, to open new research scenarios and to foster scientific cooperation.

Continue reading Ceramics and the Archaeological Achaemenid Horizon

Half-human and Monstrous Races in Zoroastrian Tradition

Agostini, Domenico. 2019. Half-human and monstrous races in Zoroastrian tradition. Journal of the American Oriental Society 139(4). 805–818.

Legends and stories about fabulous races that dwelt in India or in Africa circulated in Iran probably since the Achaemenid times. Unfortunately, scholarship on this topic has neglected some late Iranian and, especially, Zoroastrian sources, such as Draxt ī āsūrīg (The Assyrian tree), the Bundahišn (Primal Creation), the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg (The memorial of Jāmāsp), and the New Persian epic Šāhnāme. This article examines the aforementioned sources and discusses their accounts of five fabulous races from an Iranian, and especially Zoroastrian, perspective and through a comparative approach to some similar neighboring traditions.

This article is also available from the author’s academia page.

Music of a Thousand Years

Lucas, Ann. 2019. Music of a thousand years: A new history of Persian musical traditions. Oakland: University of California Press.

Iran’s particular system of traditional Persian art music has been long treated as the product of an ever-evolving, ancient Persian culture. In Music of a Thousand Years, Ann E. Lucas argues that this music is a modern phenomenon indelibly tied to changing notions of Iran’s national history. Rather than considering a single Persian music history, Lucas demonstrates cultural dissimilarity and discontinuity over time, bringing to light two different notions of music-making in relation to premodern and modern musical norms. An important corrective to the history of Persian music, Music of a Thousand Years is the first work to align understandings of Middle Eastern music history with current understandings of the region’s political history.

Source: Music of a Thousand Years by Ann E. Lucas | University of California Press

Ann E. Lucas is Assistant Professor of ethnomusicology in the Department of Music at Boston College, where she also teaches in the Islamic Civilizations and Societies Program. She is recognized for her work on music historiography of the Middle East.

A free open access ebook will be available upon publication of the book. Visit this link to find out more: www.luminosoa.org.

Gewaltsamer Herrschaftsübergang

Börm, Henning. 2019. Fragwürdige Ansprüche: Gewaltsamer Herrschaftsübergang im spätantiken Iran am Beispiel von Narseh und Bahrām Čōbīn. In Tilmann Trausch (ed.), Norm, Normabweichung und Praxis des Herrschaftsübergangs in transkultureller Perspektive (Macht Und Herrschaft 3), 187–224. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

[…] This chapter focuses on two cases in which men violently seized power during civil wars, examining which strategies were used to justify the breach of peace. The first case comes from 293 CE, when the Sasanian prince Narseh rebelled against his great-nephew Bahrām III; after his victory, he erected a monument in Pāikūlı̄ with an inscription in which he presented himself as a champion of the aristocracy who had led the resistance against an unlawful king. Only after the defeat of his opponents did Narseh raise his own claim to the throne. The second example analyzed in this chapter is the case of Bahrām Čōbı̄n, who did not belong to the royal family
and rebelled in 589 CE against King Hormizd IV. […]

The publisher offers a Table of Contents.

Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan (AMIT): Vol. 48

Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan (AMIT): Vol. 48, 2016 [2019], ed. by German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Tehran Branch of the Eurasia Department

The AMIT is the only German journal for archaeology and history of the Iranian-Middle Asian region; prehistory and early history, archaeology, history and art history of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian empires as well as the Islamic Middle Ages in Iran and Turan and neighbouring regions. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag.

See here the Table of Content of vol. 48.