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Archaic Bookkeeping
Early Writing and Techniques of Economic Administration in the Ancient Near East
Hans J. Nissen, Peter Damerow, and Robert K. Englund
University of Chicago Press, 1993
Archaic Bookkeeping brings together the most current
scholarship on the earliest true writing system in human
history. Invented by the Babylonians at the end of the
fourth millennium B.C., this script, called proto-cuneiform,
survives in the form of clay tablets that have until now
posed formidable barriers to interpretation. Many tablets,
excavated in fragments from ancient dump sites, lack a clear
context. In addition, the purpose of the earliest tablets
was not to record language but to monitor the administration
of local economies by means of a numerical system.

Using the latest philological research and new methods
of computer analysis, the authors have for the first time
deciphered much of the numerical information. In
reconstructing both the social context and the function of
the notation, they consider how the development of our
earliest written records affected patterns of thought, the
concept of number, and the administration of household
economies. Complete with computer-generated graphics keyed
to the discussion and reproductions of all documents referred
to in the text, Archaic Bookkeeping will interest
specialists in Near Eastern civilizations, ancient history,
the history of science and mathematics, and cognitive

front cover of Diplomacy by Design
Diplomacy by Design
Luxury Arts and an "International Style" in the Ancient Near East, 1400-1200 BCE
Marian H. Feldman
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Art and international relations during the Late Bronze Age formed a symbiosis as expanded travel and written communications fostered unprecedented cultural exchange across the Mediterranean. Diplomacy in these new political and imperial relationships was often maintained through the exchange of lavish art objects and luxury goods. The items bestowed during this time shared a repertoire of imagery that modern scholars call the first International Style in the history of art.

Marian Feldman's Diplomacy by Design examines the profound connection between art produced during this period and its social context, revealing inanimate objects as catalysts—or even participants—in human dynamics. Feldman's fascinating study shows the ways in which the exchange of these works of art actively mediated and strengthened political relations, intercultural interactions, and economic negotiations. Previous studies of this international style have focused almost exclusively on stylistic attribution at the expense of social contextualization. Written by a specialist in ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology who has excavated and traveled extensively in this area of the world, Diplomacy by Design provides a much broader consideration of the symbolic power of material culture and its centrality in the construction of human relations. 


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Disembodied Souls
The Nefesh in Israel and Kindred Spirits in the Ancient Near East, with an
Richard C. Steiner
SBL Press, 2015

A reevaluation of the concept of the soul based on the latest evidence

Biblical scholars have long claimed that the Israelites “could not conceive of a disembodied nefesh [soul].” Steiner rejects that claim based on a broad spectrum of textual, linguistic, archaeological, and anthropological evidence spanning the millennia from prehistoric times to the present. The biblical evidence includes a prophecy of Ezekiel condemning women who pretend to trap the wandering souls of sleeping people. The extrabiblical evidence suggests that a belief in the existence of disembodied souls was part of the common religious heritage of the peoples of the ancient Near East.


  • A re-examination of the evidence for and against disembodied souls in the Hebrew Bible
  • A new look at the nature and behavior of disembodied souls in the Hebrew Bible
  • A new study of the meaning and sociolinguistic background of the Katumuwa inscription

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The Early History of the Ancient Near East, 9000-2000 B.C.
Hans J. Nissen
University of Chicago Press, 1988
Hans J. Nissen here provides a much-needed overview of 7000 years of development in the ancient Near East from the beginning of settled life to the formation of the first regional states. His approach to the study of Mesopotamian civilization differs markedly from conventional orientations, which impose a sharp division between prehistoric and historic, literate, periods. Nissen argues that this approach is too rigid to explain the actual development of that civilization. He deemphasizes the invention of writing as a turning point, viewing it as simply one more phase in the evolution of social complexity and as the result of specific social, economic, and political factors.

With a unique combination of material culture analysis written data, Nissan traces the emergence of the earliest isolated settlements, the growth of a network of towns, the emergence of city states, and finally the appearance of territorial states. From his synthesis of the prehistoric and literate periods comes a unified picture of the development of Mesopotamian economy, society, and culture. Lavishly illustrated, The Early History of the Ancient Near East, 9000-2000 B.C. is an authoritative work by one of the most insightful observers of the evolution and character of Mesopotamian civilization.

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Fighting for the King and the Gods
A Survey of Warfare in the Ancient Near East
Charlie Trimm
SBL Press, 2017

The most up-to-date sourcebook on warfare in the ancient Near East

Fighting for the King and the Gods provides an introduction to the topic of war and the variety of texts concerning many aspects of warfare in the ancient Near East. These texts illustrate various viewpoints of war and show how warfare was an integral part of life. Trimm examines not only the victors and the famous battles, but also the hardship that war brought to many. While several of these texts treated here are well known (i.e., Ramses II's battle against the Hittites at Qadesh), others are known only to specialists. This work will allow a broader audience to access and appreciate these important texts as they relate to the history and ideology of warfare.


  • References to recent secondary literature for further study
  • Early Greek and Chinese illustrative texts for comparisons with other cultures
  • Indices to help guide the reader

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Gods in Dwellings
Temples and Divine Presence in the Ancient Near East
Michael B. Hundley
SBL Press, 2013

In this book devoted exclusively to temples and perceptions of the divine presences that inhabit them, Michael B. Hundley focuses on the official religions of the ancient Near East and explores the interface between the human and the divine within temple environs.

Hundley identifies common ancient Near Eastern temple systems and examines issues that include what temple structures communicate, how temples were understood to function, temple ideology, the installation of divine presence in a temple, the connection between presence and physical representation, and human service to the deity.

Drawing on architectural and spatial theory, ritual theory, theories of language, art history, archaeology, sociocultural anthropology, and comparative studies, Hundley offers a single interpretive lens through which to view temple worship.


  • A close examination of temples in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hittite Anatolia, and Syria-Palestine
  • An interdisciplinary treatment of architecture, language, ritual, and art
  • A dual focus on how a deity's divine presence connects to space and art and how human service to the deity maintains the deity's active presence

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Life and Thought in the Ancient Near East
Louis L. Orlin
University of Michigan Press, 2007

Intended for readers seeking insight into the day-to-day life of some of the world's most ancient peoples, Life and Thought in the Ancient Near East presents brief, fascinating explorations of key aspects of the civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Asia Minor, and Iran. With vignettes on agriculture, architecture, crafts and industries, literature, religion, topography, and history, Orlin has created something refreshingly unique: a modern guidebook to an ancient world. The book also reaches out to students of the Ancient Near Eastern World with essays on decipherments, comparative cultural developments between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and language and literature.

In addition to general readers, the book will be useful in the classroom as a text supplementing a more conventional introduction to Near Eastern Studies.

"Well-written and accessible, Life and Thought in the Ancient Near East deftly connects the past with present experience by drawing out the differences between, for instance, modern churches and ancient temples, and frequently employing biblical references. This simplicity together with connecting contemporary to ancient experience makes the text ideal for freshmen and general readers."
---Marc Cooper, Professor of History, Missouri State University

Now Professor Emeritus, Louis L. Orlin taught in the department of Ancient Near Eastern History and Literature at the University of Michigan for more than thirty years. He is the author and editor of several books, including Assyrian Colonies in Cappadocia and Ancient Near Eastern Literature: A Bibliography of One Thousand Items on the Cuneiform Literatures of the Ancient World.


front cover of Power and Identity at the Margins of the Ancient Near East
Power and Identity at the Margins of the Ancient Near East
Sara Mohr
University Press of Colorado, 2022
Power and Identity at the Margins of the Ancient Near East rethinks the dichotomy between antiquated terms such as “core” and “periphery,” explores lived realities in the margins of central authority, and centers those margins as places of resistance and power in their own right.
The borderlands of hegemonic entities within the Near East and Egypt pressed against each other, creating cities and societies with influence from several competing polities. The peoples, cities, and cultures that resulted present a unique lens by which to examine how states controlled and influenced the lives, political systems, and social hierarchies of these subjects (and vice versa). This volume addresses the distinct traditions and experiences of areas beyond the core; terminology used when discussing empire, core, periphery, borderlands, and frontiers; conceptualization of space; practices and consequences of warfare, captive-taking, and slavery; identity- and secondary state–formation; economy and society; ritual; diplomacy; and the negotiation of claims to power.
It is imperative that historians and social scientists understand the ways in which these cultures developed, spread, and interacted with others along frontier edges. Using an intersectional approach across disciplines, Power and Identity at the Margins of the Ancient Near East brings together professionals from archaeology, religious studies, history, sociology, and anthropology to make new contributions to the study of the frontier.
Contributors: Alexander Ahrens, Peter Dubovský, Avraham Faust, Daniel E. Fleming, Mahri Leonard-Fleckman, Alvise Matessi, Ellen Morris, Valeria Turriziani, Eric M. Trinka

front cover of Predicting the Past in the Ancient Near East
Predicting the Past in the Ancient Near East
Mantic Historiography in Ancient Mesopotamia, Judah, and the Mediterranean World
Matthew Neujahr
SBL Press, 2012
This work provides an in-depth investigation of after-the-fact predictions in ancient Near Eastern texts from roughly 1200 B.C.E.–70 C.E. It argues that the Akkadian, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek works discussed are all part of a developing scribal discourse of “mantic historiography” by which scribes blend their local traditions of history writing and predictive texts to produce a new mode of historiographic expression. This in turn calls into question the use and usefulness of traditional literary categories such as “apocalypse” to analyze such works.

front cover of Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East
Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East
Martti Nissinen
SBL Press, 2019

A new, expanded edition of a classic reference tool

This volume of more than 170 documents of prophecy from the ancient Near East brings together a representative sample of written documents from Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt dating to the second and first millennia BCE. Nissinen's collection provides nonspecialist readers clear translations, transliterations, and discussions of oracles reports and collections, quotations of prophetic messages in letters and literature, and texts that reference persons with prophetic titles. This second edition includes thirty-four new texts.


  • Modern, idiomatic, and readable English translations
  • Thirty-four new translations
  • Contributions of West Semitic, Egyptian, and Luwian sources from C. L. Seow, Robert K. Ritner, and H. Craig Melchert

front cover of Remembering the Dead in the Ancient Near East
Remembering the Dead in the Ancient Near East
Recent Contributions from Bioarchaeology and Mortuary Archaeology
Benjamin W. Porter
University Press of Colorado, 2016

Remembering the Dead in the Ancient Near East is among the first comprehensive treatments to present the diverse ways in which ancient Near Eastern civilizations memorialized and honored their dead, using mortuary rituals, human skeletal remains, and embodied identities as a window into the memory work of past societies.

In six case studies, teams of researchers with different skillsets—osteological analysis, faunal analysis, culture history and the analysis of written texts, and artifact analysis—integrate mortuary analysis with bioarchaeological techniques. Drawing upon different kinds of data, including human remains, ceramics, jewelry, spatial analysis, and faunal remains found in burial sites from across the region’s societies, the authors paint a robust and complex picture of death in the ancient Near East.

Demonstrating the still underexplored potential of bioarchaeological analysis in ancient societies, Remembering the Dead in the Ancient Near East serves as a model for using multiple lines of evidence to reconstruct commemoration practices. It will be of great interest to students and scholars of ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian societies, the archaeology of death and burial, bioarchaeology, and human skeletal biology.


front cover of Royal Apologetic in the Ancient Near East
Royal Apologetic in the Ancient Near East
Andrew Knapp
SBL Press, 2015

A fresh exploration of apologetic material that pushes beyond form criticism

Andrew Knapp applies modern genre theory to seven ancient Near Eastern royal apologies that served to defend the legitimacy of kings who came to power under irregular circumstances. Knapp examines texts and inscriptions related to Telipinu, Hattusili III, David, Solomon, Hazael, Esarhaddon, and Nabonidus to identify transhistorical common issues that unite each discourse.


  • Compares Hittite, Israelite, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian apologies
  • Examination of apologetic as a mode instead of a genre
  • Charts and illustrations

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