Iran and the Transformation of Ancient Near Eastern History

Daryaee, Touraj, Robert Rollinger & Matthew P. Canepa (eds.). Iran and the transformation of ancient Near Eastern history: The Seleucids (ca. 312–150 BCE) (Classica et Orientalia 31). Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag.

The Seleucid Empire presided over one of the most pivotal and creative periods of Iranian history, a fact that has often been elided or misunderstood in both ancient and modern historiography. Iran and the Transformation of Ancient Near Eastern History examines the Seleucid Empire within the context of ancient Iranian history from an interdisciplinary standpoint and seeks to integrate it more fully into the history of Iranian empires. It brings together a wide variety of perspectives, including landscape archaeology, art history, cuneiform studies, as well as political, economic, maritime and religious history. This volume presents the contributions of the conference on the same topic organized by the editors of this volume, which took place on February 24th–25th 2020 at the University of California Irvine (Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Iranian Studies), the third in the series of the “Payravi Conferences on Ancient Iranian History”.


Khotanese and Tumshuqese Loanwords in Tocharian

Dragoni, Federico. 2023. Watañi lāntaṃ: Khotanese and Tumshuqese loanwords in Tocharian (Beiträge Zur Iranistik 50). Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

This work contains the first systematic investigation of the linguistic contacts between Tocharian A and B and Khotanese and Tumshuqese, four languages once spoken in the Tarim Basin, in today’s Xīnjiāng Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. The main part of the book is devoted to determining a corpus of reliable Khotanese and Tumshuqese loanwords in Tocharian: new borrowing etymologies are proposed, and some old correspondences are rejected. The discussion of the individual loanwords often involves a fresh examination of the text passages where they occur, and, in some cases, it offers lexical insights regarding a variety of neighbouring languages (Chinese, Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Gāndhārī and Old Uyghur). A detailed phonological, morphological, and semantic analysis of the corpus follows, with a view to determine the phonological correspondences, the relative chronology of the loanwords and possible historical scenarios of cultural exchange. One of the results of this investigation is that the influence of Khotanese and Tumshuqese on Tocharian was much more extensive than previously thought and it spanned over almost two millennia, from the early Iron Age until the extinction of the four languages at the end of the first millennium CE.

Table of Contents (PDF)

Federico Dragoni was born in Milan in 1992. After a BA in clarinet (Conservatory G. Verdi, Milan), he turns to Iranian Studies (BA Sapienza University of Rome, MA Freie Universität Berlin). In 2022 he obtains a PhD in Linguistics from Leiden University as part of the NWO-funded project «Tracking the Tocharians from Europe to China: a linguistic reconstruction» led by Prof. M. Peyrot. He is currently employed at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics as a postdoctoral researcher specializing in Iranian and Central Asian languages and cultures.


Textbook of Aramaic Ostraca from Idumea, volume 5

Porten, Bezalel & Ada Yardeni. 2023. Textbook of Aramaic ostraca from Idumea, volume 5. Dossiers H–K: 485 ostraca. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Since the early 1990s, about two thousand Idumean Aramaic ostraca have found their way onto the antiquities market and are now scattered across a number of museums, libraries, and private collections. This fifth and final volume of the Textbook of Aramaic Ostraca from Idumea completes the work of bringing these ostraca together in a single publication.

Volumes 1–4 published some 1,600 ostraca that gave us insight into agriculture, economics, politics, onomastics, and scribal practices from fourth/third-century BCE Idumea and Judah. The ostraca in volume 5 come from the same milieu, but the information they provide is entirely new and different. This volume presents 485 ostraca, including 99 land descriptions, 168 uncertain texts, and 218 assorted remains, scribal exercises, and forgeries, along with useful indexes and tables and a comparative list of entries. The land descriptions—which record local landmarks, ownership boundaries, and land registration—provide rich complementary material to the rest of the Idumean ostraca. The “uncertain texts” are fragmentary, in poor condition, or contain other abnormalities. As the TAO corpus becomes better understood and as imaging techniques improve, these texts will help to fill gaps in knowledge. The final section includes the remains of scribal practices and forgeries, important because they help to show the authenticity of the other two thousand pieces.

A unique collection of documentary sources for fourth/third-century BCE Idumea—and, by extension, Judah—this multivolume work will be a powerful resource for those interested in onomastics and social and economic history.


Neo-Elamite Grain Procurement

Gorris, Elynn. 2023. “Don’t Let the Boats Pass!” Neo-Elamite Grain Procurement in Times of Famine and Drought. Iranian Studies 56(3), 439-456.

This article is concerned with interregional trade dynamics between Elam and Mesopotamia in the early to mid-first millennium BC. During the seventh century BC, two great famines in the Neo-Elamite kingdom, of which climatological changes were a major cause, were documented in the textual records. An era of megadrought made grain procurement from the neighboring regions essential to feed the Neo-Elamite lowland population. This article further explores the impact of the two Neo-Elamite famines and “drought of the century” on the commercial and political mechanisms in the Upper Persian Gulf region.


Fulayj: A Sasanian to Early Islamic Fort in the Sohar Hinterland

Priestman, Seth, Nasser Al-Jahwari, Eve MacDonald, Derek Kennet, Kawther Alzeidi, Mark Andrews, Vladimir Dabrowski, Vladimer Kenkadze, Rosalind MacDonald, Tatia Mamalashvili, Ibrahim Al-Maqbali, Davit Naskidashvili & Domiziana Rossi. 2023. Fulayj: A Sasanian to Early Islamic Fort in the Sohar Hinterland. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 52 (2023): 291–304.

Fulayj fort: an oblique aerial view looking across the structure to the north‑east (photograph by Davit Naskidashvili)

Fulayj fort is located on the fertile al-Bāṭinah plain of Oman, 12 km inland from Ṣaḥam and 32 km south-east of the key urban centre and major medieval port of Sohar (Ṣuḥār). The chance discovery of the site by Nasser Al-Jahwari in 2012 provided an important breakthrough in our potential understanding of the late pre-Islamic and initial Islamic period occupation in Oman. Finds collected during the first survey of the site were inspected by Derek Kennet and identified as likely to be of late Sasanian or very early Islamic date. Following further recording in 2014, a broad, multidisciplinary archaeological investigation was launched in 2015. Two seasons were completed by a joint British-Omani team in 2015 and 2016. Following a break in operations, a third season of fieldwork was completed in 2022.1 These investigations have confirmed the initial dating of the fort and substantially enhanced our understanding of all aspects of its planning, construction, history of occupation, internal organization, nature of use, etc. It is possible that Fulayj formed part of a wider defensive military cordon protecting the commercial and agricultural potential of the fertile coastal strip and urban centre of the Sohar hinterland. These wider aspects will be returned to again for further consideration below.


Historia i Świat (12)

Issue twelve of Historia i Świat (2023) has been published. Contributions to this issue relate to Iranian archaeology.

  • Zohreh OVEISI-KEIKHA, Hosseinali KAVOSH: The Investigation of residential architecture in the Bronze Age. Tape Yal, Sistan and Baluchestan province, Iran
  • Sepideh JAMSHIDI YEGANEH: Cremation in Elamite period (Sukkalmah): Hirbodan site
  • Alireza ASKARI CHAVERDI: Achaemenid Settlement in Shiraz Plain: Tol-e Sefid Sadra
  • Morteza KHANIPOUR, Hamed MOLAEI KORDSHOULI: Cairn Burial of the historical period around Khansaar dam, Toujerdi district of Fars province, Iran
  • Ehsan KHONSARINEJAD, Reza RIAHIYAN GOHORTI, Sahar TAVAKOLI: Arrowheads in the cultural-historical property repository of the Administration of Cultural Heritage of Kerman. An Introduction

Notes on the Xorde Avesta V

König, Götz. 2023. Notizen zum Xorde Avesta V: Das Avesta-Pahlavi Ms. T12 betrachtet im Rahmen der historischen Veränderungen des Xorde Avesta. Berkeley Working Papers in Middle Iranian Philology 1(2). 1–32.

Das „Xorde Avesta“ ist eine (in Handschriften und Drucken überlieferte) Sammlung von (größtenteils) kürzeren liturgischen Texten in avestischer Sprache (sowie in persischen und in indischen Sprachen) auf der Grundlage einer sie charakterisierenden, allgemein verbindlichen Struktur folgt. Diese Struktur zeigt typische Variationsmuster gemäß Klasse, Zeit und Ort der Handschrift. Im Rahmen von allgemeiner Struktur und partikularem Muster finden sich wiederum individuelle Differenzen in Material und in dessen Anordnung, die dafür verantwortlich sind, daß Xorde Avesta Handschriften fast immer Unikate sind (und vermutlich darum auch niemals im Rahmen der Hypothese der ‘Stammhandschriften’ diskutiert wurden). Die Hs. T12 aus der Mitte des 16. Jh. gehört zu jenen Handschriften des Xorde Avesta, die für unsere Rekonstruktion der Geschichte einer bestimmten Handschriftenklasse eine herausragende Position besitzen. Sie bildet zudem eine Schnittstelle von frühem iranischen Xorde Avesta (in Pahlavi) und der indischen Tradition, in die die Handschrift (wieder?) eingeführt wird.


The Image of the Iranian World in the Roman Poetry of the Republican and Augustan Ages

Babnis, Tomasz. 2022. The Image of the Iranian World in the Roman Poetry of the Republican and Augustan Ages. Cracow: Księgarnia Akademicka.

The present book is dedicated to the image of the Iranian world emerging from the extant Roman poetry written in the Republican and Augustan Ages. The scope of the source material stretches thus from the comedies of Plautus to the Ovidian exile poetry, covering over 200 years of the great development of Latin literature. My aim is to investigate which motifs were referred to by Roman poets, which patterns could be noticed in those texts, which elements were mentioned most often, what relations can be observed between these references and historical, geographical, social or religious realities, and finally, what the function of these references is within the scope of entire poems or parts of texts extracted from the works of a greater size. I am also interested in the “genealogy” of these motifs: their origin and way of exploitation by the poets of subsequent periods. I aim at examining how consistent the overall image created from references scattered throughout the works of various authors was and how it changed in the course of time.


Ezra: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

Eskenazi, Tamara Cohn. 2023. Ezra: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Yale: Yale University.

The book of Ezra is a remarkable testament to a nation’s ability to survive and develop a distinctive identity under imperial rule. But Ezra is far more than a simple chronicle; it constitutes a new biblical model for political, religious, and social order in the Persian Empire.

In this new volume, Tamara Cohn Eskenazi illustrates how the book of Ezra envisions the radical transformation that followed reconstruction after the fall of Jerusalem and Judah. The extensive introduction highlights the book’s innovations, including its textualization of the tradition, as well as the unprecedented role of the people as chief protagonists. The translation and commentary incorporate evidence from ancient and contemporaneous primary sources from Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Persia, along with new archaeological studies of Judah. With great care and detail, Eskenazi demonstrates how the book of Ezra creates a blueprint for survival after destruction, shaping a new kind of society and forging a new communal identity.


Iran, Volume 61, Issue 1 (2023)

The table of contents of the latest issue (61/1) of the journal Iran:

  • Ali Khayani & Kamal Aldin Niknami: More Early Bronze Age Seal Impressions from Chogha Maran, Western Central Zagros
  • Yasmina Wicks: Probing the Margins in Search of Elamite Children
  • Davide Salaris: The Equestrian Relief of Hung-e Azhdar: A Historical Memory for the Dynastic Lineages of Elymais
  • Esmaeil Sharahi, Hossein Sedighian & Meisam Nikzad: Excavation at Tahyaq – A Subterranean Rock-Cut Architecture Complex in Khomein, Markazi Province, Iran
  • Saeed Amirhajloo & Hossein Sedighian: Recent Archaeological Research in South Iran: Excavation at the Old City of Sirjan (The Site of Qal’eh Sang)
  • Marc Czarnuszewicz: Challenging Narratives of “Missionary” Ismaʿilism in Buyid Iran: Reconsidering the Sira of al-Muʾayyad fī al-Din al-Shirazi through Socio-economic Contextualisation
  • Denis Hermann & Fabrizio Speziale: Scientific Knowledge and Religious Milieu in Qajar Iran: Negotiating Muslim and European Renaissance Medicine in the Subtleties of Healing
  • Kioumars Ghereghlou: A Forgotten Money Heist: The 1746 Mission of Nadir Shah’s Chief Merchant in Russia Revisited