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.

Table of Contents

  • The Archaeology of Early Iran: Perspectives from the past for the Present
  • Placing Iran: Land, Environment and Ecology
  • Approaching the past of Iran: A History of Archaeological Investigation
  • Peopling Iran: The Palaeolithic Period, 500,000-12,000 BP
  • Domesticating Iran: The Neolithic Period, 10,000-5200 BC
  • Early Social Complexity in Iran: The Chalcolithic Period, 5200-3200 BC
  • Iran’s First State? The Proto-elamite Horizon, 3200-2900 BC
  • People on the Move: Prehistoric Networks of Bronze Age Iran, 3400-1100 BC
  • Iran Beyond Borders: Bronze Age Societies of Eastern Iran, 3100-1250 BC
  • Elam in the World of Bronze Age Southwest Asia, 2900-1100 BC
  • Iran Imperial: Villages, Cities, States and Empires of the Iron Age, 1250-330 BC
  • Themes and Issues in the Archaeology of Early Iran

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.


Studies on the History of the Achaimenids

Wiesehöfer, Josef. 2022. Iran – Zentralasien – Mittelmeer Gesammelte Schriften, Teil I: Studien zur Geschichte der Achaimeniden. (Philippika – Altertumswissenschaftliche Abhandlungen). (Ed.) Robert Rollinger & Kai Ruffing. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Josef Wiesehöfer is one of the leading German-speaking historians of ancient history and is a world-renowned scholar, who has made outstanding achievements in his fields of research. In keeping with the diversity of his research interests, especially in the field of Iran and the Iranian Great Empires as well as the history of scholarship of the field, four thematically volumes of his “Kleine Schriften” are planned. These Kleine Schriften are intended to provide an insight into his scholarly work and contain a selection of the 250 scholarly articles Wiesehöfer has published to date in over 45 years of research.

Volume 1, edited by Robert Rollinger and Kai Ruffing, focuses on the history of the Achaimenid Empire and brings together 14 essays, some of which were published in more remote places. The contributions are indexed and Josef Wiesehöfer himself has added a short commentary on the progress of research. The following volumes will be devoted to Hellenism and the Arsacids, the Sasanian and finally the history of scholarship of the field.


Elephantine in Context

Kratz, Reinhard G & Bernd U. Schipper (eds.). 2022. Elephantine in Context: Studies on the History, Religion and Literature of the Judeans in Persian Period Egypt (Forschungen zum Alten Testament, 155). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

The Persian period has long been considered a »dark era« in Israel’s history. For this reason, research has mainly focused on how it is depicted in the Hebrew Bible. A spectacular discovery of archaeological relics and epigraphic sources was hence hardly noticed: the military colony located on the island of Elephantine in the Nile, on the border between Egypt and present-day Sudan. The basic approach of this volume, which documents a three-year Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft project, is to break with a research tradition focusing on the Judeans (Jews) mentioned in the Aramaic papyri from Elephantine and instead investigate the military colony in a broader historical context also documented by Demotic and Egyptian-hieratic evidence found at Elephantine. The studies presented focus on three main subject areas: society and administration, religion, and literature. They show that historically the island of Elephantine hosted a multicultural society with several interactions between the Egyptians and the other inhabitants, and that it was also an important administrative centre for the Persian authorities.


The Intersection of Gods and Kings in Achaemenid Iran

Tuplin, Christopher. 2022. The intersection of gods and kings in Achaemenid Iran. In: Eleni Pachoumi (ed.), Conceptualising divine unions in the Greek and Near Eastern worlds, 45-73. Leiden & Boston: Brill.

From the introduction of the chapter:

I start with two premises. First, among conceptions of divinity those around royal divinity have a strong claim to interest. Second, there is no evidence that the Achaemenid king was categorized or worshipped as a god in the imperial heartland. The (rather few) Greek sources that directly suggested this were wrong. (The ones that spoke of an isotheos king or skated round the issue in other ways are, of course, another matter.) But our business here is with intersections between king and divinity other than simple identification of the king as a god or attribution of his success to the help of a god. Is Achaemenid royal exceptionalism due not just to divine favour but to an inherent divine quality? There has been a growing tendency to perceive mitigations of the king’s human status, even in the heartland. I have discussed these matters in an earlier essay (Tuplin 2017). Here I elaborate on some material that appears more briefly there. I do so in three sections: (1) A tale of two statues. (2) Royal rhetoric in the heartland religious environment. (3) Image, light and daimōn: royal divine aura in Greek texts.


The Elamite Version of XPl?

Delshad, Soheil. 2022. An unpublished stone fragment in Achaemenid Elamite: The Elamite version of XPl? Arta 2022.001.

Description, edition, and identification of an inscribed grey limestone tablet in the reserves of the Persepolis Museum. The author argues that the fragment’s text belongs to the Elamite version of XPl. In addition, some problems of the Elamite version of DNb are discussed.


Individuals and Institutions in the Ancient Near East

Gabbay, Uri & Shai Gordin (eds.). 2021. Individuals and Institutions in the Ancient Near East: A Tribute to Ran Zadok (Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records 27). Berlin: De Gruyter.

This volume honors Ran Zadok’s work by focusing on his sustained interest in Mesopotamian social history. It brings together a rich array of scholarship on ancient names, deities, individuals, and institutions, from Persepolis to the Levant. Building on Zadok’s intellectual concerns, this book includes contributions that expand our understanding of the diverse tapestry of the peoples who inhabited the Ancient Near East.

Among the other interesting contributions, those in the first section of the volume (“The Persian Period”) stand in the discipline of studies related to the history of ancient Iran:

  • Matthew W. Stolper: Numbered Tablets in the Persepolis Fortification Archive
  • Caroline Waerzeggers: The Day Before Cyrus Entered Babylon
  • Stefan Zawadzki: Contribution to the Persian Nobility in Babylonia

See the full table of contents in publisher’s website.


Aspects of the memory of the Persian Wars

Proietti, Giorgia. 2021. Prima di Erodoto: Aspetti della memoria delle Guerre persiane (Hermes 120). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

This book concerns the memory of the Persian Wars in Athens, in relation to the Panhellenic scenario, from the immediate post Marathon to the so-called ‘First Peloponnesian War’ (461–446). It analyzes all the pre-historiographic forms of memory (poetry, inscriptions, monuments, topography, theater, rites, cults, festivals, public discourse) through which the Persian Wars were remembered and represented before Herodotus told them in historiographic form.

Filling a gap in current research, the book starts from the awareness that the Persian Wars as told in the Stories of Herodotus do not exactly correspond to factual history, but are instead the result of a multiform and stratified process of memorialization, which decade after decade has reshaped events in the light of present needs. Combining a philological approach to literary, epigraphic and archaeological documentation with a theoretical and methodological landscape influenced by cultural anthropology and memory studies, it reconstructs the images and meanings associated with each layer of this process, thus offering a sort of stratigraphy of the memory of the Persian Wars before Herodotus.