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.