[The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) brings you the fifteenth in a series of “Peer-Reviewed Article Reviews” in which we present a collection of journals and their articles concerned with the Middle East and Arab world. This series will be published seasonally. Each issue will comprise one-to-three parts, depending on the number of articles included.]
Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics (Volume 40)
Mapping Diversity in Classical Studies
By: David Konstan
Abstract: “Diversity” in the Classics has diverse senses. On the one hand, it refers to the desired balance in the profession with respect to gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and other socially acknowledged identities, which is still far from being achieved. On the other hand, there is the diversification of the discipline of the Classics itself, from its traditional focus on the intellectual achievements and political history of ancient Greece and Rome to a wider concern with what we may call the margins of the classical world. This article explores the necessary and fruitful interaction between these two aspects of diversity in the Classics.
A Decolonial Turn in the Humanities
By: Claire Gallien
Abstract: Not available
The Cultural Turn in the Study of Arabic Literature
By: Antonio Pacifico
Abstract: During the past few decades, the field of Arabic literary studies has witnessed an impressive growth and a phase of deep renewal that has involved both the objects of analysis and the methods used to examine them. Thus, by mapping the work done by several distinguished scholars, the present article sheds light not only on the main trends of the cultural turn existing today in the field, but also on its multiple histories and distinct practices. The article does not offer a normative perspective; rather, it deploys a diachronic approach in order to reflect on the most striking vulnerabilities and future directions in the field.
Redirecting Postcolonial Theory: Arab-Islamic Reason, Deconstructionism, and the Possibility of Multiple Critique
By: Youssef Yacoubi
Abstract: This article makes three central claims. First, it explores the extent to which critical revisions done on pre-colonial Arabic and Islamic Humanities by Mohamed al-Jābirī and Mohamed Arkoun may respond to a process of re-envisioning non-Western Humanities as part of the pedagogical and political concerns of postcolonial theory. Moving into Arkoun’s hermeneutic act of shattering the traditional boundaries of revelation, the second line of argumentation reinserts deconstructionism, seen as a nexus in interdisciplinary discourse between postcolonial theory and Arab-Islamic critique. The article concludes that reorienting an alternative notional framework for a sub-field across these two disengaged disciplines must compel a move towards “multiple critique.” The latter meshes the study of the Islamicate worlds and the analysis of their interconnected Western lineages by augmenting inquiries concerning medieval classical knowledges, while sustaining a theoretical resistance to Western ethnocentric Orientalism.
Re-Orienting Modernism: Mapping East-East Exchanges between Arabic and Persian Poetry
By: Levi Thompson
Abstract: This article argues for a new direction in comparative literary studies by analyzing close formal and thematic links between Arabic and Persian modernist poetry. It re-maps the history of modernist poetic development between the two Eastern traditions and advocates for a broader re-orientation of modernist studies. The article highlights foundational modernist innovations that occurred beyond the reach of Western influence, including the retention of several elements of premodern poetic forms based in the Arabic prosodic tradition. This includes the continued presence of the Arabic metrical foot (taf‘īlah) in both Arabic and Persian modernist poetry during the early decades of their growth.
From Cultural Translation to Untranslatability: Theorizing Translation outside Translation Studies
By: Brian James Baer
Abstract: This article discusses two recent influential conceptualizations of translation that arose outside Translation Studies: cultural translation and untranslatability. It addresses the ambivalence in both conceptualizations toward interlingual translation, or translation proper. As a metaphor, cultural translation tends to elide or mystify interlingual translation, while untranslatability impoverishes our understanding of interlingual translation by focusing on a discrete set of words, implying that everything but those words is easily transposable. The author advocates for a poor translation theory, one that refuses to let translation as abstraction become untethered from interlingual translation, while recognizing incommensurabilty to be distributed across natural languages.
Towards Holistic Medical Humanities
By: Nadia Hashish
Abstract: This article explores Medical Humanities, a relatively new field in literary theory which stresses the need to include the humanities into medical studies. Early twentieth-century scientific development gave rise to a conflict in medicine between a reductionist approach which explains human illnesses through biological concepts and a holistic approach which explains them through social and cultural factors. The article analyzes Ami McKay’s The Birth House, a novel about childbirthing, as an example that reflects the shift from reductionist modern obstetrics to holistic traditional midwifery, showing how midwives use childbirthing to advocate holism for female agency and body control.
New Directions in Disability Narratives: Cyborgs and Redefining Disability in Young Adult Literature
By: Yasmine Sweed
Abstract: This article explores the relationship between disability and technology in three young adult novels that redefine the dichotomy between the terms “disabled” and “normal.” The novels represent the next stage in the ongoing debate between the medical and social paradigms of disability, by adopting a hybrid approach that is sensitive to the pitfalls of both models. The article argues that the trend of new writings—which avoids stereotypical representations of the impaired body and instead portrays real people with diverse personalities, struggles, and lifestyles—can contribute to mapping new directions for disability narratives in the twenty-first century.
Anatolian Studies (Volume 70)
A landscape-oriented approach to urbanisation and early state formation on the Konya and Karaman plains, Turkey
By: Michele Massa, Christoph Bachhuber, Fatma Şahin, Hüseyin Erpehlivan, James Osborne, Anthony J. Lauricella
Abstract: This paper synthesises the data and results of the Konya Regional Archaeological Survey Project (2016–2020) in order to address the earliest evidence for cities and states on the Konya and Karaman plains, central Turkey. A nested and integrative approach is developed that draws on a wide range of spatially extensive datasets to outline meaningful trends in settlement, water management and regional defensive systems during the Bronze and Iron Ages. The significance of the regional centre of Türkmen-Karahöyük for a reconstruction of early state polities between the 13th and eighth centuries BCE is addressed. In light of this regional analysis, it is tentatively suggested that, during the Late Bronze Age, Türkmen-Karahöyük was the location of the city of Tarḫuntašša, briefly the Hittite capital during the reign of Muwatalli II. More assuredly, based on the analysis of the newly discovered Middle Iron Age TÜRKMEN-KARAHÖYÜK 1 inscription, it is proposed that Türkmen-Karahöyük was the seat of a kingdom during the eighth century BCE that likely encompassed the Konya and Karaman plains.
The formation of collective, political and cultural memory in the Middle Bronze Age: foundation and termination rituals at Toprakhisar Höyük
By: Murat Akar, Demet Kara
Abstract: Constructing and deconstructing public spaces in second-millennium BC Anatolia, the Near East and the Levant was not only a collaborative physical act but also involved deeply embodied ritual symbolism. This symbolism is materialised in the practice of conducting public foundation and termination rituals that unified individual memories in space and time, transforming the physical act into a collective memory: a process that contributed to the formation of political and cultural memory. The recent rescue excavations conducted by the Hatay Archaeological Museum at the hinterland site of Toprakhisar Höyük in Altinözü (in the foothills above the Amuq valley) add to the understanding of the practice of foundation and termination rituals during the Middle Bronze Age and how these moments may have contributed to the political and cultural memory of a rural community living away from the centre. The practice of foundation/termination rituals is archaeologically documented by caches of artefacts from votive contexts stratigraphically linked to the construction and termination of a Middle Bronze Age administrative structure.
TÜRKMEN-KARAHÖYÜK 1: a new Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription from Great King Hartapu, son of Mursili, conqueror of Phrygia
By: Petra Goedegebuure, Theo van den Hout, James Osborne, Michele Massa, Christoph Bachhuber, Fatma Şahin
Abstract: In this article, the authors present a first edition of the recently found inscription TÜRKMEN-KARAHÖYÜK 1, propose an eighth-century dating and explore some of the consequences of this date for the group of inscriptions mentioning Hartapu, son of Mursili.
The city of Hartapu: results of the Türkmen-Karahöyük Intensive Survey Project
By: James F. Osborne, Michele Massa, Fatma Şahin, Hüseyin Erpehlivan, Christoph Bachhuber
Abstract: The Türkmen-Karahöyük Intensive Survey Project (TISP) has identified the archaeological site of Türkmen-Karahöyük on the Konya plain as a previously unknown Iron Age capital city in the western region of Tabal. Surface collections and newly discovered inscriptional evidence indicate that this city is the early first-millennium royal seat of ‘Great King Hartapu’, long known from the enigmatic monuments of nearby Kizildağ and Karadağ. In addition to demonstrating this Iron Age city's existence, supported principally by (1) the site's size at the time and (2) the discovery of a royal inscription authored by Hartapu himself, TISP has documented the site's existence from the Late Chalcolithic period until the late first millennium BCE, with a maximum size reached between the Late Bronze and Iron Age periods, suggesting that the city was at its greatest extent and the regional political centre from at least the late second to the mid-first millennium BCE.
A desolate landscape? Mobility and interaction in the chora of Klazomenai during the Early Iron Age
By: Elif Koparal, Rik Vaessen
Abstract: Over the past two decades or so, excavations at Klazomenai have unearthed a wealth of information about the Early Iron Age, showing it to have been a thriving settlement at this time. Accordingly, it is intriguing that systematic surveys in the chora of Klazomenai have turned up very few sites that can be dated to this period. In this contribution, we discuss the implications of this discrepancy between the excavation data and the survey data in terms of the relationship between the settlement and its surrounding countryside. We argue that the lack of identified sites in the chora does not mean a lack of movement or that Klazomenai was an isolated spot in an otherwise desolate landscape. Furthermore, we discuss briefly how the developments that took place during the Early Iron Age ultimately led to the emergence of the polis at the beginning of the Archaic period. Our principal aim is to highlight the importance of the survey data, not only in terms of exploring the web of relations in which Klazomenai was tangled during the Early Iron Age, but also for highlighting in more detail the diversities that existed in ancient Ionia
Rural hinterlands of the Black Sea during the fourth century BCE: expansion, intensification and new connections
By: Jane Rempel, Owen Doonan
Abstract: This paper takes a holistic approach to the data for rural hinterlands in the Black Sea region in the fourth century BCE to reveal pan-Black Sea patterning, importantly including the southern coast and the territory of ancient Sinope. During a period of dynamic mobility and prosperity, the rural hinterlands of Greek settlements around the Black Sea expanded in ways that demonstrate significant regional commonalities in terms of increased settlement, intensified agricultural infrastructure, new connections via road and path networks and the inclusion of dependent territories beyond the traditional chora. Decisions to expand rural territory and intensify agricultural production were taken at the local level, but this patterning demonstrates that such developments were also a response to the dynamics of Black Sea economic and political networks. The associated increased density of occupation and connectivity in these rural hinterlands made them key facilitators of social networks, creating stronger ties between Greek settlements and other local communities, and ultimately enmeshing a more diverse group of people within Black Sea networks.
Caracalla and the divine: emperor worship and representation in the visual language of Roman Asia Minor
By: Dario Calomino
Abstract: This paper discusses the visual language adopted in the cities of Asia Minor to represent the emperor Caracalla in the years 214–216, which he spent travelling between the Anatolian region, Egypt and the Near East. The focus of this study is the imagery designed to express his relation with the divine through the overlapping representations of the emperor as a devotee and peer of the gods, and as a divine being. The first part of the study compares Rome to Asia Minor to show divergences as well as possible links between provincial and metropolitan media, discussing local and imperial responses to the emperor governing from the Roman East. The second part focuses on the imagery introduced in Asia Minor to represent the worship of the living Roman emperor and his cult-image in particular, providing insights into the creation of extraordinary visual patterns that remained unique to the reign of Caracalla.
An agro-pastoral palimpsest: new insights into the historical rural economy of the Milesian peninsula from aerial and remote-sensing imagery
By: Toby C. Wilkinson, Anja Slawisch
Abstract: Examination of a number of satellite and aerial images of the Milesian peninsula has allowed the mapping of a large number of apparently ancient linear features across the landscape. These are here interpreted, for the most part, as relicts of agro-economic field systems of unknown date, but most plausibly established during the Archaic, Hellenistic or late antique periods and perhaps used for centuries after, before the economic decline of the region in the second millennium AD. While earlier survey work has noted the existence of terracing and rural divisions at certain points in the landscape, the new remote-sensing data have provided an unprecedented large-scale insight into the extent and variety of forms of division, as well as documenting the stripping of macquis overgrowth by modern farming practices, which has, on the one hand, exposed these ancient landscapes but also, on the other, poses a threat to their preservation. The extent of the linear features suggests a high degree of land use on the peninsula at certain points in the past. Further investigation of these important features has the potential to provide critical insights into the economic history of rural and urban Miletos over the last 2,000 to 5,000 years.
Arabica (Volume 67, Issue 4)
Sinless, Sonless and Seal of Prophets: Muḥammad and Kor 33, 36-40, Revisited
By: David Stephan Powers
Abstract: In his article, “Between History and Exegesis: the Origins and Transformation of the Story of Muḥammad and Zaynab bt Ǧaḥš,” published in Arabica, 65/1-2 (2018), p. 31-63, Andreas Görke argues that the reference in Kor 33, 37 to Muḥammad’s marriage to the former wife of a man named Zayd “seems to refer to an historical event” and that later exegetical expansions of the episode are based on an “historical kernel.” He adds that these exegetical expansions were modeled on the encounter between David and Bathsheba in II Samuel 11-12 and that the connection between the Islamic and biblical episodes stands at the beginning of the Muslim “preoccupation” with v. 37. Building upon Görke’s scholarship, I show how the early Muslim community created a plausible Sitz im Leben for the episode; establish with greater precision the starting point of the Muslim “preoccupation” with the connection between Muḥammad’s marriage to Zayd’s former wife and David’s marriage to the wife of Uriah the Hittite; and suggest that the qurʾānic treatment of the episode contains a seed of what would become the doctrine of ʿiṣma or the impeccability of prophets. Finally, I propose that the important question for historians is not the event to which the episode purportedly refers but rather the larger geo-political context for the emergence of the qurʾānic proclamation that Muḥammad is ḫātam al-nabiyyīn or the Seal of Prophets. To this end, I seek to shift the scholarly gaze from a domestic crisis in the household of Muḥammad in Medina ca AH 5 to early Christian polemics against Islam and its Prophet and to Byzantine imperial ideology.
Arabic as a Language of the South Asian Chancery: Bahmani Communications to the Mamluk Sultanate
By: Meia Walravens
Abstract: A growing body of literature on trade and cultural exchange between the Indian Ocean regions has already contributed significantly to our understanding of these processes and the role of language and writing within them. Yet, the question remains how Arabic correspondence played a part in communications between South Asian powers and the rulers in the Red Sea region. In order to begin filling this lacuna, this article studies epistolary writings from the Bahmani Sultanate (748/1347-934/1528) to the Mamluk Sultanate (648/1250-922/1517) during the second half of the ninth/fifteenth century. The contextualisation and discussion of three letters render insight both into the (up to now unstudied) issues at play in Bahmani-Mamluk relations and into the nature of these Arabic texts.
Monks, Monasteries, and Muslim Scribes: Three Parchment House Sales from the 4th/10th-Century Fayyūm
By: Naïm Vanthieghem, Lev Weitz
Abstract: This article presents editions of three Arabic parchment deeds of sale from the 4th/10th-century Fayyūm Oasis belonging to two monks, Babā Banīla and Babā Buṭrus, of the Dayr al-Qalamūn monastery. The transactions recorded in our documents are mundane in and of themselves. But put together they offer bits of insight into Christian society in rural medieval Egypt, the notarial practice of provincial Muslim scribes, the relationship between monastic and Islamic legal institutions, and the important but little-attested Dayr al-Qalamūn.
Ars Orientalis (Volume 50)
Contemplating the Face of the Master: Portraits of Sufi Saints as Aids to Meditation in Seventeenth-Century Mughal India
By: Murad Khan Mumtaz
Abstract: During the 1640s, a unique turn in imperial Mughal patronage reconfigured Muslim devotional painting in India. At this time, two of Emperor Shah Jahan’s children entered a Sufi order under the guidance of their sheikh, Mulla Shah. Jahanara Begum—the emperor’s favorite daughter—became a central patron of Sufism in North India, commissioning paintings of living Muslim saints, including portraits of her master. Before her entry into Sufism, scenes with Muslim mystics tended to be either allegorical or historical, often conceived to reinforce the Mughal claim to divinely ordained kingship. After her initiation, many such portraits developed a meditative function. This paper explores the writings of three disciples of Mulla Shah — Jahanara Begum, her brother Dara Shikoh, and Tavakkul Beg—to frame an underlying function of devotional portraits. I demonstrate how Sufi practitioners used portraits of saints as portals that facilitated meditative visualization or, in some cases, communication with the supernatural world.
Dead Sea Discoveries (Volume 27, Issue 3)
Is There a Negative Polarity Item דבר in DSS Hebrew?
By: Adina Moshavi
Abstract: A negative polarity item (NPI) is a word or expression that occurs grammatically in negative clauses and a variety of other types of clauses such as interrogatives and conditionals, but not in ordinary affirmative sentences. Examples from classical Biblical Hebrew include the pronoun מאומה “anything” and the semantically-bleached noun דבר “a thing,” which has been produced from the ordinary noun דבר “word, matter, action” by the process of grammaticalization. This paper examines the noun דבר in the non-biblical DSS with the purpose of determining whether it is used as there as an NPI, as in Biblical Hebrew, or as an ordinary semantically-bleached noun, as in Rabbinic Hebrew. The results show that the diachronic development of דבר in the DSS appears to be at an earlier stage than classical Biblical Hebrew, despite the later dating of the scrolls. This finding is explained as a special kind of pseudo-classicism.
Negative Polarity in כל Constructions in Qumran Hebrew
By: Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, Jacobus A. Naudé
Abstract: The Hebrew quantifier כל is used both as a universal quantifier (equivalent to English all) and as a distributive quantifier (equivalent to English each, every). In Qumran Hebrew, as in Biblical Hebrew, the quantifier כל occurs in four syntactic constructions depending upon the type of noun phrase that follows it in order to indicate nuances of individuation and specificity in addition to universal and distributive quantification. In contexts in which these constructions occur within the scope of negation, the quantifier assumes negative polarity (none, nothing, any in English). In this article, we identify the syntactic contexts and constructions in which negative polarity is licensed and we describe and analyze the constructions of כל with negative polarity. We also compare the negative polarity licensing exhibited in Qumran Hebrew with Biblical Hebrew and demonstrate that some of the features of negative polarity in Qumran Hebrew differ from those in Biblical Hebrew.
Double Object Constructions in DSS Hebrew: The Case of ntn
By: Femke Siebesma-Mannens
Abstract: In this article an overview is given of the verbal valence patterns of the verb נתן in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Four patterns are distinguished for this verb: 1. נתן + OBJECT to produce; 2. + נתן OBJECT + RECIPIENT to give to; 3. נתן + OBJECT + LOCATION to place; 4. נתן + OBJECT + 2ND OBJECT to make into. All occurrences of the verb in the DSS corpus used, consisting of 1QHa, 1QS, 1QM, and 1QpHab, are discussed and divided into one of these patterns. This study shows that pattern 3 occurs most, followed by pattern 2, and that it can be argued that pattern 1 and 4 also occur in our DSS corpus, though the evidence is scarce. In some cases, translations, differing from the translations in the editions of the texts, are proposed that better reflect the verbal valence patterns used in the clause.
Verbal Argument Structure in the War Scroll
By: John Screnock
Abstract: This essay presents the results of an extended study of verbal argument structure in the War Scroll (1QM). I first establish a method based in generative linguistic theory. I then illustrate this method with a discussion of the argument structure of Qal יצא in 1QM and other Dead Sea Scrolls. Following this case study, I present the data from 1QM on verb argument structure—specifically, instances where 1QM adds evidence that is not covered in previous studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 1QM presents few developments from earlier Hebrew; I argue that such continuity is significant. I conclude with reflections on the implications of argument structure in 1QM for the study of ancient Hebrew.
The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Tiberian Reading Tradition: Shared Departures from the Masoretic Written Tradition
By: Aaron D. Hornkohl
Abstract: The most authentic portrait of Second Temple Hebrew is afforded by the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially by those texts actually composed in Hellenistic and Roman times. On salient linguistic points Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew agrees with the vocalization of the Tiberian reading tradition against the testimony of the written, i.e., consonantal, tradition of Masoretic Classical Biblical Hebrew material. This article presents a case study. On the one hand, these Dead Sea-Tiberian vocalization affinities are evidence of the relatively late character of their respective linguistic traditions and of the secondary character of the developments in the Tiberian reading tradition vis-à-vis the classical biblical written tradition. On the other hand, these same affinities demonstrate that the Tiberian pronunciation tradition is plausibly regarded as one that crystallized in the Second Temple Period, rather than in Byzantine or medieval times. Lastly, since joint Dead Sea-Tiberian reading departures from the classical biblical consonantal tradition constitute a tiny minority of their relevant linguistic data, most of which are characterized by historical continuity and/or linguistic heterogeneity of comparable historical depth, it is clear that the Second Temple crystallization of Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew and the Tiberian reading tradition in no way preclude their routine preservation of authentic Iron Age features.
When Linguistics and Literarkritik Meet: Revisiting the Periphrastic Participial Construction in the Temple Scroll
By: Molly M. Zahn
Abstract: This paper will revisit the frequent use of the periphrastic construction of a form of the verb היה + participle in the Temple Scroll (TS). As others have noted, TS preserves by far the largest number of cases of this construction in the Qumran corpus, and these cases overwhelmingly involve the yiqṭol of היה. The use of the construction has also been given compositional weight, serving as a source-critical indicator in prominent theories of the diachronic development of TS. This essay provides a detailed analysis of how the periphrastic construction functions in TS, compares that function to the use of the construction in other Qumran texts, and asks what, if anything, the construction’s distribution might be able to tell us about the processes by which the Temple Scroll was composed.
Register and Rhetoric: Linguistic Register and Rhetorical Technique in 4QMMT and the Damascus Document
By: Alec Kienzle
Abstract: Despite 4QMMT having been informally called a “Halakhic Letter” since its first publication, more recently some scholars have expressed skepticism as to the original genre of this text. This article aims to provide empirical and theoretical support for what one might call the orthodox position: that this text was in fact a letter originally. By means of a detailed linguistic comparison between 4QMMT and the Damascus Document, it will be shown that despite many surface similarities between these texts in terms of structure and rhetoric, they present extremely divergent grammars. This in turn raises a fundamental question: how could two texts likely produced by the same community be so different linguistically? It will be argued that the most plausible explanation is that these two texts were written in distinct registers in order to accommodate to distinct literary genres. While the language of MMT can reasonably be called closer to the contemporary vernacular, the Damascus Document seems to be patterned after the language of the higher register of biblical narrative. From here, sociolinguistic research will be employed in an effort to show that the epistolary genre reliably reflects a lower register across languages and cultures, thereby justifying the orthodox position with respect to MMT.
Thoughts on the Language of Sirach 36:1–22
By: Eric D. Reymond
Abstract: Certain words in the prayer of Sir 36:1–22 that appear to be secondary exhibit nationalistic and eschatological tones that are otherwise alien to the book of Ben Sira. These elements likely reflect the interpretation and reading of the text in the course of its transmission in the first millennium CE. In its present form, therefore, the nationalistic/eschatological themes are accented in a way that might not have been the case in earlier versions.
Iran and the Caucasus (Volume 24, Issue 4)
The “Mouthless People”: Some Remarks on the Shahr Yeri Statue-Stela Complex, Iran
By: Roberto Dan, Andrea Cesaretti
Abstract: This article proposes a general re-evaluation of the archaeological site of Shahr Yeri, the most striking feature of which is the presence of over five hundred of what we may call statue-stelae. Despite the fact that the site and the statue-stelae have been known since at least 1978 and are of great archaeological interest, they have been relatively little studied in the past. The goal of this paper is to present a general review of the site and the statuestelae identified there, unique both with regard to their number and their iconographic features.
Archaeological Evidence for Persian Elites in the Fifth Century B.C.
By: Ali Bahadori
Abstract: An analysis of a group of the administrative texts from the Persepolis Fortification Archive gives the impression that the Fahliyān region in northwestern Fārs was probably the heart of the territory in which the Patischorian tribe and Gobryas family were centered in the Achaemenid period. This article attempts to examine hypothetically the connection between archaeological remains discovered in the Fahliyān region with the Patischorian tribe. Above all, the monumental building excavated in Jenjān and the well-known rockcut tomb of Dā-u Dokhtar might have been a tribal seat and a tomb of Gobryas respectively. An argument on the possible connection between the seals used on the so-called Gobryas texts and the Gobryas family is also of especial significance with the interesting result that the stamp was a favorable type-seal for this family. Both of this evidence seems to suggest the Elamite and Greek personal trends of Gobryas, a fact inherited in his role in the political events of the age.
What is the Bundahišn?
By: Domenico Agostini, Samuel Thrope
Abstract: The Bundahišn (meaning primal or primordial creation) is one of the most important Zoroastrian texts. Redacted in the 9th century, though containing earlier, Sasanian material, the Bundahišn deals with a wide variety of topics ranging from spiritual and material creation to the resurrection of the body and the restoration of the world. This article will address a number of previously underexplored scholarly questions: What type of text does the Bundahišn constitute? To which genre does it belong? How does it relate to the literary context of its own era? In the attempt to answer these questions, the article will compare this Zoroastrian book with two contemporary Islamic and Jewish texts: the Epistles of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafā’ and Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer.
Coinage of Davit Bek, Leader of the Armenian Army in Kapan (1722-1728)
By: Alexander V. Akopyan
Abstract: This article is devoted to the Iranian copper coins of the 17th-18th centuries with the countermark “saber” (shamshīr) that were recently found in Armenia. Numismatic analysis shows that their production was carried out by Davit Bek, the leader of the Armenian army in Kapan in 1722-1728, after 1725 or 1726, when he received the right of anonymous coinage from Shah Ṭahmāsp II. The symbolism of the image chosen for overstriking Iranian coins is also discussed.
A Note on Tree Worship in the Zaza Folk Beliefs
By: Victoria Arakelova
Abstract: The article presents some historical evidence about the veneration of individual trees, primarily the juniper and the oak-trees, traditionally considered to be sacred in the Zaza culture, as well as generally groves and forests. Unfortunately, the once vast and rich forestal covering of the Zazas’ main habitat in Dersim (Tunceli), which was a proverbial phenomenon still in the beginning of the 20th century, has been almost totally exterminated as a result of the mistreatment by the Turkish government. The folk beliefs related to tree worship have also been considerably erased from the people’s memory, lingering on only among the elderly in the remote mountain villages as a dwindling echo of the past.
Two Passing Clouds: The Rainy Season of Mīrzā Bīdil and Amānat Rāy’s Persian Version of Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.20
By: Stefano Pellò
Abstract: This paper deals with a chapter of Amānat Rāy’s Persian verse translation of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, completed in Delhi in 1732-33, and a section of the Ṭūr-i maʿrifat by his poetic and philosophical mentor Mīrzā ʿAbd al-Qādir Bīdil (1644-1720), a mathnawīdescribing the monsoon in a hilly region of present day Rajasthan. The aim of our brief analysis is to introduce a debate on the poetics of physis in early modern Persian literary culture, in the context of a wider project on Bīdil and nature. Through a guided reading of the two authors’ description of the cloud (abr), its interactions with the Sanskritic literary practices and conventions, and the diverse intertextual ties, we show how the connected analogical and metaphorical procedures employed create two complementary ways of dealing with the phenomenology of (natural) existence.
Classical New Persian samārō/ūγ ‘mushroom’
By: Garnik Asatrian
Abstract: The paper is devoted to the etymology of the Classical New Persian term for mushroom, samārō/ūγ, with some notes about other mycological terms in this language.
COVID-19: Threat and Response in Iran
By: Mansoureh Ebrahimi, Saikou Kawsu Gassama, Kamaruzaman bin Yusoff
Abstract: The present study aims to emphasize an empirical perspective on the global scope of the COVID-19 event. The focus is that of an investigator concerned with Iran’s security and specific services used to process civil interactions. Game Theory dynamics affect uncertainty, proxy wars and the complex geopolitics of the Middle East. This often requires key players to focus on security by any means at their disposal. The maintenance of Iran’s autonomy and political security all too often require opposition to circumstances and players even while under heavy sanctions. This study seeks to answer the following questions: 1. Was this event actually a threat from the west, specifically from the US? 2. Was there an internal criminal element operating in Iran? 3. What was the nature of Iran’s response politically and socially concerning the pandemic? These objectives initially concern scrutinizing the extent of terrorist or criminal violations identified by Western authorities regarding Iran’s hegemonic involvement, particularly in Iraq. Secondly, we examine impacts from the Coronavirus threat that changed Iran’s focus in response to the US politically, and on her ability to effectively manage the COVID-19 contagion internally. Thirdly, the epidemic’s effects on Iranians. The investigation draws on literature and facts to analyze these impacts. The pandemic threatened Iran’s social and political stability and served to further distance the government from its people. This is, therefore, treated as a serious condition with potentially exponential effects on national security.
Iranian Studies (Volume 53, Issue 5-6)
Ibn al-Malāḥimī on Zoroastrianism
By: Yoones Dehghani Farsani, Kianoosh Rezania
Abstract: The Kitāb al-muʿtamad fī uṣūl al-dīn by Maḥmūd b. Muḥammad Ibn al-Malāḥimī al-Khwārazmī (d. 536/1141) belongs to the Muʿtazilī theological works that present valuable insight into the intricate history of religions and their contacts. Recently, scholars have identified other manuscripts of this book which comprise passages absent in previously known manuscripts. The enlarged edition of 2012 now comprises the complete chapter on Zoroastrianism, of which only a short part was extant in the first edition. This article translates the whole chapter on Zoroastrianism, along with the vocalized Arabic original text, to make it more accessible to historians of Iranian religions. This translation is then followed by a discussion of the implications of this piece for the history of Zoroastrianism after Islam. After discussing the inner-textual structure of the text the inter-textual relations of this text are examined, along with al-Shahristānī’s account on Zoroastrianism. Through this comparison, it is shown that the major part of both texts most probably originates from the Radd ʿalā l-Majūs (Refutation of Zoroastrians) by Abū ʿĪsā al-Warrāq. In this way, the article shows that both al-Shahristānī’s and Ibn al-Malāḥimī’s texts are relevant for the history of Zoroastrianism in ninth-century Baghdad.
Translation of the Words of ʿAli b. Abi Tālib in Early Fourteenth-Century Iran: A Local Bilingual Network
By: Louise Marlow
Abstract: The late Ilkhanid period saw a florescence of intellectual and cultural production in northwestern and west-central Iran. This article argues that a regional network with its center at Isfahan contributed to this creativity through the production of translation-adaptations between Arabic and Persian. In a period of episodic sectarian tensions, especially in the wake of Öljeytü’s efforts to declare Twelver Shiʿism the official religion of parts of ʿIraq-e ʿAjam, this local network produced a set of five bilingual treatments of parts of the literary legacy of ʿAli b. Abi Tālib (d. 40/661). The article argues that the authors and copyists of these texts sought, through their focus on the figure of ʿAli and their exploration of the ambiguities facilitated by bilingual composition, to expand a non-sectarian middle-ground.
On the Road: The Life and Verse of Mir Zeyn al-Din ʿEshq, a Forgotten Eighteenth-Century Poet
By: James White
Abstract: Using newly discovered materials, this article introduces readers to the career and poetry of Mir Zeyn al-Din ʿEshq, a now forgotten poet who was connected to many prominent political and literary figures in India during the eighteenth century. The primary source for the research is John Rylands Library, Persian MS. 219, a holograph copy of the poet’s divān, which he presented to John Macpherson, acting Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William, in May 1785. The divān contains a considerable amount of contextual commentary which allows us to reconstruct Mir Zeyn al-Din’s biography and working practices, casting light on how his verse was produced and consumed. An Iranian émigré, he circulated throughout the Punjab, North India and Bengal, accompanying the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shāh Dorrāni on his Indian campaigns, participating in professional symposia with some of the leading literary personages of Delhi, Lucknow and Patna, and entering the ambit of colonialist British patrons in Kolkata.
Race, Slavery and Domesticity in Late Qajar Chronicles
By: Wendy DeSouza
Abstract: This article examines cultural attitudes on race and African slavery in late Qajar chronicles prior to abolition in 1929. In contrast to previous scholarship, Qajar textual sources reveal that elite cultural attitudes were relevant in structuring the social conditions of enslavement in Iran. Visual depictions and narratives about African eunuchs and concubines naturalized the violent acquisition and use of the Other. Slave narratives also bear witness to how such views of African corporeality determined the social worth of eunuchs and concubines in the domestic sphere.
An Oasis of Radicalism: The Labor Movement in Abadan in the 1940s
By: Nimrod Zagagi
Abstract: The history of the oil industry’s labor movement during the 1940s has often focused on the Tudeh’s ability to act overtly and rally the masses of workers. Thus, more often than not, the importance of union underground activity and the role played by the masses of ordinary oil workers during times of political and military repression, is overlooked. This article examines how the particular setting of the oil town of Abadan influenced motivations of oil workers and the dynamics between them and the Tudeh. As the article aims to show, these elements were an essential part in the ability of the labor movement in Abadan to remain viable and reemerge in force in the early 1950s as part of the oil nationalization movement.
Narrative Geometry in ʿAli Reza Gholami’s Divar (The Wall): New Developments in Iranian War Literature
By: Goulia Ghardashkhani
Abstract: Holy Defense Literature is the official term applied to a large body of prose and poetry published during and after the Iran–Iraq war (1980–88) as part of the Islamic Republic’s cultural policy to promote and maintain its Shiite and anti-imperialistic political and ideological agenda. Both the production and the critical reception of this body of work have since been gradually altered, resulting in a discrepancy between two mutually exclusive tendencies in the literary representation and interpretation of the Iran–Iraq war: the ideological and the realistic, the latter introducing a narrative alternative to the former. ʿAli Reza Gholami’s novel Divar (The Wall) (2015), however, can be read as an exception to this current creative and critical polarity. By openly renouncing any claim to any kind of truth, Gholami has rendered his highly technical literary creation into a narrative text that goes beyond the real to exert its undermining effect on the ideology of the Holy Defense. Drawing upon Andrew Gibson and Michel Serres, this article attempts to refashion the narrative geometry of Gholami’s novel to underline and elaborate on its destabilizing extra-textual meaning as well as its dialogical and dynamic literary effect.
Dialogues with the Dead: Necropoetics of Zahra’s Paradise
By: Fatemeh Shams
Abstract: What can the poetry chosen for epitaphs on graves tell us about the political and cultural development of post-revolutionary Iran and the politics of death and dying under the Islamic Republic? This article explores contemporary Persian epitaph poetry as a valuable medium for understanding the socio-political dynamics of Iranian society. By analyzing the epitaphs of the Iran–Iraq war martyrs, who are buried in Zahra’s Paradise public cemetery in Tehran (Behesht-e Zahra), a new nomenclature can be established for the religious, political and socio-cultural ideas underpinning death and the afterlife.
Structures in Crisis: A Narrative Approach to Asghar Farhadi’s Films
By: Aarón Rodríguez Serrano
Abstract: This paper proposes an exploration of the films of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. It employs a methodology based on textual analysis, focusing specifically on the structural design of his films and the focalization processes of his scripts. It shows how Farhadi’s work can be understood as a coherent research project with a uniquely solid model based on chronological linearity as a way to explore the violent breakdown of different emotional communities: families, marriages, groups of friends, etc. At the same time, it considers how all the focalization processes in his films are oriented toward two main concepts: knowledge (of the characters, but also of the audience) and pain (of living in a [narrative] world afflicted by meaninglessness).
The Family Business in Iran since the Islamic Revolution as a Mode of Coordination
By: Thierry Coville
Abstract: There has been very little research on family businesses (FBs) in Iran. Taking an institutional point of view, this article, based on a survey conducted in Iran, demonstrates that since the 1979 revolution FBs in Iran have been key intermediaries between political pressure from the top and societal trends from below. FBs in Iran since the revolution can be considered as a perfect mode of coordination reflecting “capitalism from below.” Based on unconditional support among the family members, they are perfectly adapted to the low-trust environment in Iran since the revolution. As a mode of coordination, the family business was also essential in protecting the modernization of Iranian society in promoting the role of women and the value of competency. It was also a mode of coordination which enabled FBs to protect their property rights which were threatened by a predatory state.
“We Deserve Better”: Ideologies of Deservingness and Status in the Interpretation of Chinese Goods in an Iranian Bazaar
By: Simon Theobald
Abstract: This article argues that even as Chinese imports occupy an increasingly large percentage of the space in Mashhad’s bazaars and marketplaces, such goods are interpreted not only as being of poor quality but, critically, as insufficiently “worthy” of the Iranian middle class who positioned themselves as “deserving better.” In attempting to assess why this is the case, the article suggests that such framing both reveals much of, and requires us to consider, the pivotal role of status in Iran. It holds that this concern for status is expressed at multiple levels: that of the family, as a class, and finally, of the nation. At each of these levels of expression, it is possible to trace different post-revolutionary social phenomena. These include the reification of the family as a moral unit, major shifts in the demographics of education and urbanization, the rise of a consumer culture and the perilous decline of the fortunes of the middle class, and, finally, imaginings of national exceptionalism. This article then uses such readings of Chinese goods as a window into middle class ideologies of worth and deservingness.
Iraq (Volume 82)
The Archaeological Landscape of the Neolithic Period in the Western Foothills of the Zagros Mountains: New Evidence from the Sar Pol-e Zahāb Region, Iran-Iraq Borderland
By: Sajjad Alibaigi, Abdoljabar Salimiyan
Abstract: A recent survey in the western foothills of the Zagros Mountains has located five new Neolithic sites. We present here the occupational features and finds of this period in the Sar Pol-e Zahāb region, along with an interpretation of their distribution and associated settlement patterns. Our research indicates that the visible distribution of Neolithic sites is highly influenced by geomorphological factors. All sites are located on natural outcrops or on the edge of alluvial plains. Many others have certainly been buried beneath layers of later sedimentation. All of the sites identified by our survey are small and of modest elevation, with cultural remains, particularly ceramics, similar to Neolithic sites such as Guran and Sarāb in the central Zagros region and Jarmo and Tamarkhan in Mesopotamia. Based on the ceramic evidence and the location of the region, between the central Zagros mountains on the east and Mesopotamia on the west, we suggest that this vast area maintained an integrated ceramic tradition, which suggests an overall cultural homogeneity of these areas during the seventh and early sixth millennia B.C. In other words, these recent discoveries indicate that similarities in Neolithic material culture in the Māhidasht, Kermanshāh and Hulailan plains with material culture of regions in Mesopotamia are not accidental or random but indicative of a large coherent zone with unique ceramic and cultural traditions (the patterned ceramic tradition of Sarāb-Jarmo), extending from Iraqi Kurdistan east into the central Zagros range. Regarding the lack of eighth and seventh millennium B.C. sites in the northern reaches of the Iranian part of the Zagros range, we may consider the pathway of Sar Pol-e Zahāb a primary route for transporting obsidian to upland areas of the central Zagros. This also suggests a lasting network of cross-regional communications, since archaeological discoveries prove this pathway was the main node connecting these two cultural regions for a long period of time.
The Later Prehistory of the Shahrizor Plain, Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Further Investigations at Gurga Chiya and Tepe Marani
By: Robert Carter, David Wengrow, Saber Ahmed Saber, Sami Jamil Hamarashi, Mary Shepperson, Kirk Roberts, Michael P. Lewis, Anke Marsh, Lara Gonzalez Carretero, Hanna Sosnowska, Alexander D'Amico, Wiktoria Sagan, Kris Lockyear
Abstract: The Shahrizor Prehistory Project has targeted prehistoric levels of the Late Ubaid and Late Chalcolithic 4 (LC4; Late Middle Uruk) periods at Gurga Chiya (Shahrizor, Kurdistan region of northern Iraq), along with the Halaf period at the adjacent site of Tepe Marani. Excavations at the latter have produced new dietary and environmental data for the sixth millennium B.C. in the region, while at Gurga Chiya part of a burned Late Ubaid tripartite house was excavated. This has yielded a promising archaeobotanical assemblage and established a benchmark ceramic assemblage for the Shahrizor Plain, which is closely comparable to material known from Tell Madhhur in the Hamrin valley. The related series of radiocarbon dates gives significant new insights into the divergent timing of the Late Ubaid and early LC in northern and southern Mesopotamia. In the following occupation horizon, a ceramic assemblage closely aligned to the southern Middle Uruk indicates convergence of material culture with central and southern Iraq as early as the LC4 period. Combined with data for the appearance of Early Uruk elements at sites in the adjacent Qara Dagh region, this hints at long-term co-development of material culture during the fourth millennium B.C. in southeastern Iraqi Kurdistan and central and southern Iraq, potentially questioning the model of expansion or colonialism from the south.
Sword Carry in the Art of Ashurnasirpal Ii: Displays of Divine Authority
By: Caleb T. Chow
Abstract: This paper explores the meaning behind the two methods of sword carry depicted in the iconography of Ashurnasirpal II. While the sword is regarded as a prestigious weapon tied to the owner's identity, the implications of how such an understanding of the sword in the Neo-Assyrian Empire might further delineate the underlying messages of the palace reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II remain unaddressed in secondary literature. As a result, through a combination of a cognitive analysis in regards to the significance of the sword's appearance in Neo-Assyrian texts and iconography as well as an analysis of visual formulas in the palace reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II as identified by Mehmet-Ali Ataç, this paper argues that the visual representation of the sword is intended to communicate not only the wielder's power and wealth but also the wielder's exercise or restraint of divine authority based on the carry method displayed.
A Consideration of Eastward Spread of the Samarran Phenomenon in the Light of New Evidence Along the Zagros Piedmont
By: Hojjat Darabi
Abstract: The Samarran phenomenon has been under discussion since the early 20th century. Over the past several decades, increasing evidence has indicated that it was geographically distributed in a very large area across the Near East. In this regard, the eastward spread of the Samarran phenomenon across the Iranian frontier was little known, because related finds had mostly been recovered in the 1960–70s. This article highlights the discovery of new evidence in the transitional zone that connects the Zagros highlands with the Mesopotamian lowlands. During recent surveys in the plains of Mehran, Meimak, Soumar and Sarpol-e Zahab, a number of sites were found. They yielded ceramics identical with those already reported from nearby late Samarran sites such as Chogha Mami, Songor A and Rihan I. Chronologically, surface materials indicate that these newly found Iranian sites should belong to the late phase of Samarran period, coinciding with the so-called Chogha Mami Transitional (CMT). As seen from the natural setting of the sites along streams, and due to the predominance of nomadic herders in this transitional zone, we may assume that transhumant herders played a role in the eastward spread of the late Samarran phenomenon via the river valleys and that the site's inhabitants might have been familiar with a primitive irrigation system. Furthermore, it is speculated that the cold dry climatic event of 8.2 kya might have resulted in an increased intensity of population in the lowlands. Nevertheless, the subsequent climatic optimum appears to have paved the way for the eastward spread of late Samarran/CMT elements. Regardless of what was the major trigger of such an expansion, however, intensive economic interactions of societies probably played a role in the very early sixth millennium B.C., when natural raw materials such as bitumen were imported from western/southwestern Iran to central/southern Mesopotamia.
Us Against Them: Ideological and Psychological Aspects of Ashurnasirpal Ii's Campaign Against Assyrian Rebels in Ḫalziluḫa
By: Ben Dewar
Abstract: This paper is a study of the rebellion against the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II in the city of Ḫalziluḫa in 882 bc, which is an unusual instance of a rebellion by Assyrians being recorded in the Assyrian royal inscriptions. This paper explores the significance of the rebellion from two angles: the ideological problem of rebellion by Assyrians, and the psychological impact on Assyrian troops of killing their fellow Assyrians. Within the ideology of the royal inscriptions, Assyrians did not normally rebel against the incumbent king, who was in all ways presented as a model ruler. It will be argued that Ashurnasirpal therefore made efforts in his inscriptions to stress that the Assyrian rebels in Ḫalziluḫa inhabited territory that had been lost to Assyria prior to his reign, and had become “de-Assyrianised” and “uncivilised.” It will be argued that a similar message was conveyed to the Assyrian soldiers through the ceremonies surrounding the creation of a monument at the source of the River Subnat, and that this message helped the soldiers to “morally disengage” from the act of killing other Assyrians, thus avoiding “moral self-sanctions” for an otherwise morally problematic act.
Two Old Babylonian Marriage Contracts From Isin
By: Mohannad Kh. J. Al-Shamari, Muzahim Al-Jalili
Abstract: Our study establishes that two tablets from the Iraq Museum are marriage contracts dating to the Old Babylonian period and in particular from the city of Isin. The dating formula of IM 201688 refers to a hitherto unpublished year name for Erra-imittī, who became king of Isin in 1868 BC. The event concerns the making of four large copper lions as a votive offering. This might have been done in preparation for a military campaign in connection with the rivalry between Isin and Larsa. The dating formula of IM 183636 is completely damaged. However, the text includes a witness described as a citizen of Isin. These two tablets are a very useful addition to the limited number of published OB marriage contracts and especially those from Isin. The tablets were written using formulaic legal expressions in Sumerian throughout with the exception of proper names. Both texts show a remarkably equal treatment of the two spouses in matters relating to compensation in the event of divorce.
Excavations at the Darband-i Rania Pass, Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Report on the 2016 and 2017 Seasons
By: John MacGinnis, Kamal Rasheed Raheem, Barzan Baiz Ismael, Mustafa Ahmad, Ricardo Cabral, Amanda Dustin, Tina Greenfield, Guy Hazell, Achilles Iasonos, David Kertai, Andy Miller, Virág Pabeschitz, Mary Shepperson, Caroline Cartwright, Jan Čibera, Vesta Curtis, Joanne Dyer, Ewout Koek, Alberto Giannese, Peter Higgs, Abdulraqib Yusuf, Kate Morton, Lucia Pereira-Pardo, Lucas Proctor, Craig Williams
Abstract: This paper presents the results of the work of the new field initiative launched by the British Museum at the Darband-i Rania pass in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The pass is located at the northeastern corner of Lake Dokan, where, though now subsumed into the lake, the Lower Zab flows from the Peshdar into the Rania Plain. It is a strategic location on a major route from Mesopotamia into Iran, and control of both the road and the river must always have been important. The aim of the work, which commenced in autumn of 2016, is to explore a cluster of sites that commanded the pass, with a particular focus on the first millennium b.c. Excavation is being carried out principally at two sites: Qalatga Darband, a large fortified site at the western end of the pass, and Usu Aska, a fort inside the pass itself. The occupations of these two sites are predominantly Parthian and Assyrian respectively. Smaller operations have also been carried out at Murad Rasu, a multi-period site situated on a headland across the waters on the southern shore of Lake Dokan. The results have included the discovery at Qalatga Darband of a monumental complex built of stone and roofed with terracotta roof tiles containing the smashed remains of Hellenistic statuary. Other features indicative of Hellenistic material culture are Mediterranean-type oil-presses and Corinthian column bases and capitals. At Usu Aska remains are being uncovered of an Assyrian fortification of massive proportions.
Wine From Mamma: Alluḫarum-pots in 17th-Century BC Trade Networks
By: Kathryn R. Morgan, Seth Richardson
Abstract: New evidence allows us to demonstrate that a regional trade connected North Syria with both central Anatolia and Babylonia well into the 17th-Century bc. Archaeological evidence indicates that a specific type of vessel, the globular flask, was produced at Zincirli Höyük in the mid-17th century for the purpose of storing and transporting wine. The simultaneous appearance of these vessels as far afield as Kültepe and Sippar-Amnānum lines up with Late Old Babylonian attestations of alluḫarum-pots in 17th-c. texts from Sippar, Babylon, and Dūr-Abiešuḫ. These, we argue, must refer to the same vessels called aluārum in earlier Old Assyrian texts from Kültepe from the 19th century. Taken together, this evidence points towards the existence of a previously unsuspected trade network centered on the ancient Syrian state of Mamma that thrived in the decades between the collapse of the Old Assyrian Trade Network and the accession of Hattušili I. Through a dialogue between textual and archaeological materials, we are not only able to reveal the persistence of long-distance exchange for a century previously believed to lack it, but provide more context for the political transformations taking place at the end of the Middle Bronze Age.
An Architectural Analysis of the Sealand Building at Tell Khaiber, Southern Iraq
By: Mary Shepperson
Abstract: This paper analyses the architecture of the large fortified building excavated at Tell Khaiber in southern Iraq, the first known example of monumental architecture from the Sealand Kingdom. It examines the development of this highly unusual building, analyses the spatial properties and apparent functions of the structure, reviews possible architectural parallels, and considers what the architecture might reveal about Tell Khaiber's role in the context of the Sealand state. The outer form and organisation of the building indicate a fortified structure with a high priority afforded to defence. The interior of the Tell Khaiber building is divided between a smaller, earlier structure, enclosing conventionally arranged architecture with apparently executive and administrative functions, and a larger extension, densely packed with accommodation for a large number of personnel. When considered alongside textual sources on the Sealand state, which provide evidence about the geo-political context in which the Tell Khaiber building was constructed, it is possible to suggest the role such a building may have had in the development of the Sealand Kingdom. The form of the Tell Khaiber building may also be important in understanding the nature of the contested border between the Sealand Kingdom and its Babylonian neighbours.
The Royal Cemetery at Ur During the Second Half of the Third Millennium B.c.: Pottery Analysis Through the Use of Archival Data, a Case Study
By: Luca Volpi
Abstract: The Royal Cemetery at Ur, with its almost two thousand graves, is one of the most impressive archaeological settings in southern Mesopotamia. Although most of the graves have been assigned to the Early Dynastic Period, more than three hundred graves have been dated to a timeframe from the Late Akkadian Period to the end of the third millennium B.C. However, the precise dating of many of these graves is under debate because stratigraphic data are often lacking, and the material culture used for dating has mainly been cylinder seals and other small finds. Due to the poor quality of the data published by Woolley, pottery has rarely been used to establish chronological determinants that could be useful in dating the graves. Thanks to the Ur Digitization Project, the field records from the Ur excavations are now available online. Among them are the Field Notes, which often contain pottery drawings, reproduced to scale. This paper re-analyses some of the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur that have been dated to the final part of the third millennium B.C. This analysis is based on a typological approach to the pottery assemblages that allows revised chronological determinants for dating selected grave contexts.
Recycling Roman Glass to Glaze Parthian Pottery
By: Jonathan R. Wood, Yi-Ting Hsu
Abstract: Alkaline glazes were first used on clay-based ceramics in Mesopotamia around 1500 B.C., at the same time as the appearance of glass vessels. The Roman Empire used lead-based glazes, with alkaline natron glass being used only to produce objects of glass. Chemical analysis has had some success determining compositional groups for Roman/Byzantine/early Islamic glasses because of the discovery of major production sites. Parthian and Sasanian glass and glazed wares, however, have been found only in consumption assemblages, which have failed to inform on how they were made. Here we reanalyse compositional data for Parthian and Sasanian glazes and present new analyses for Parthian glazed pottery excavated at the early third century A.D. Roman military outpost of Ain Sinu in northern Iraq. We show that some Parthian glazes are from a different tradition to typical Mesopotamian glazes and have compositions similar to Roman glass. We propose that Roman glass was recycled by Parthian potters, thereby suggesting that as yet undiscovered Mesopotamian glass production centres ordinarily supplied glass for indigenous glazed pottery. Furthermore, if recycling glass to make glazed pottery was extended to indigenous glassware, this may provide an explanation for the paucity of Parthian and Sasanian glass in the archaeological record.
Islamic Law and Society (Volume 28, Issue 1-2)
“Why Study Uṣūl al-Fiqh?”: The Problem of Taqlīd and Tough Cases in 4th-5th /10th-11th Century Iraq
By: Youcef L. Soufi 1
Abstract: The function of uṣūl al-fiqh (legal theory) within classical Islamic law has been the object of protracted debate. Based on the writings of Abū Isḥāq al-Shīrāzī (d.476/1083), I propose that uṣūl al-fiqh served two pedagogical purposes within the Iraqi legal community of the 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries: first, to avoid taqlīd, defined as the subscription to a position without evidence; and second, to provide jurists with tools to assess the validity of a proof when they were confused about its merits. My analysis sheds light on uṣūl al-fiqh’s role in providing epistemological foundations for juristic reasoning. It also reveals that practical engagement on disputed legal matters (masāʾil al-khilāf) prevailed over uṣūl al-fiqh in the training of jurists. The consequence: uṣūl al-fiqh was a methodology of last resort.
Vernacular Legalism in the Ottoman Empire: Confession, Law, and Popular Politics in the Debate over the “Religion of Abraham (millet-i Ibrāhīm)”
By: Nir Shafir
Abstract: In the seventeenth century, Ottoman jurists repeatedly tried to stop Muslims from stating that they “belonged to the religion of Abraham.” A century earlier, however, the expression had been a core part of the new confessional identity of the empire’s Muslims. This article explores how the phrase changed from an attestation of faith to a sign of heresy through a study of a short pamphlet by Minḳārīzāde Yaḥyā Efendi. Minḳārīzāde argued that the use of the phrase is not permissible and addressed his arguments not to learned scholars, but to the semi-educated. I argue that Minḳārīzāde’s pamphlet provides a glimpse into “vernacular legalism” in action in the Ottoman Empire, that is, how semi-educated audiences received and understood legal debates and subsequently turned law into a space of popular politics.
Are Cryptocurrencies ḥalāl? On the Sharia-Compliancy of Blockchain-Based Fintech
By: Irene K. F. Kirchner
Abstract: The discussion of the sharia-compliancy of cryptocurrencies is shaped by the competing interests of legislators, the business and banking sector, private investors and, finally, religious scholars whose conclusions are diverse and often contradictory. This essay provides an overview of historical and modern Islamic conceptions of commodities and property, money, and contract of sale laws, and how they relate to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. In doing so, I respond to the most frequent concerns of Muslim scholars: the volatility and speculative nature of cryptocurrencies, security issues and, most commonly, the claim that cryptocurrencies are not ḥalāl because they have no intrinsic value. Finally, I show the consequences of different lines of argument for the sharia compliancy of cryptocurrencies in a case study of four cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, OneGramCoin, Steemit and Nexo.
Journal of Cuneiform Studies (Volume 72)
The Royal Herdsmen of Ur: Compensation and Centralization in the Reign of Shulgi
By: Ryan Winters
Abstract: Centralization functioned on multiple complementary levels during the Ur III period. On the one hand, the royal government controlled vast herds of livestock, which it distributed for tending to herdsmen located in various provinces throughout the entire empire. On the other, it exercised direct control over land located in these provinces, which it then used to compensate royal workers in charge of tending these animals. This article studies the evidence for the royal herdsmen, their organization and activities, and their compensation through royal grants of real estate.
The Discovery of the Location of Malgium (Tell Yassir)
By: Ahmed Ali Jawad, Barhan Abd Al-Reza, Ali Jabarat Nasir, Ahmed Abbas As’id, Rients de Boer
Abstract: This article establishes that the ancient city of Malgium is located at modern Tell Yassir. The results of a survey of the site and its surroundings are given together with the publication of a number of new brick inscriptions belonging to early Old Babylonian kings of Malgium.
Perpendicular Lines and Diagonal Triples in Old Babylonian Surveying
By: Daniel F. Mansfield
Abstract: The tablet Si. 427 demonstrates that diagonal triples, or Pythagorean triples as they are now known, were used by Old Babylonian surveyors to construct perpendicular field boundaries accurately. This is the only known application of diagonal triples from this time, and one of the most complete examples of applied geometry from the ancient world.
Three New Multiplication Tables From the Louvre: AO 8900, AO 8901, AND AO 8902
By: Carlos Gonçalves
Abstract: AO 8900, AO 8901, and AO 8902 are three hitherto unpublished Old Babylonian mathematical cuneiform tablets containing multiplication tables. Their physical and textual characteristics suggest that they were produced in the same ancient context. What is remarkable about this small set of tablets is that, unlike most such tablets, two of them have colophons: in AO 8900 we find a month-and-day date, while in AO 8901 we find a damaged year name. These tablets are published here for the first time, together with a discussion of how the information about the year name in AO 8901 fits in what is known about the dating of Old Babylonian mathematics.
A Fragmentary Explanatory God List from Old Babylonian Nippur with a Thematic Connection to Lugale and An: Anum: A Glimpse into the Origins of Mesopotamian Hermeneutical Tradition
By: Jeremiah Peterson
Abstract: This article provides an edition of the previously unpublished Old Babylonian tablet fragment that may be part of an explanatory god list. With all due caution, it is possible to suggest that it provides a rare example of a god list with extended commentary from the Old Babylonian period with each preserved entry seemingly eliciting an explanation. The format is unique in that it occurs as running text without columned entry or any other topical demarcation, arranged according to divine name and its respective explanation or equivalent. Likewise, although the fragmentary state of this piece rules out any definitive interpretation, it is possible that it may refer to certain lines in the Ninurta poem Lugale.
Sumerian Cultic Songs from Old Babylonian Nippur with a Connection to the Temple Hymns
By: Jeremiah Peterson
Abstract: Several fragmentary Sumerian cultic songs from Old Babylonian Nippur, including one that seems to be for Ninurta (“Ninurta H”), contain enumerations of major cultic centers in southern Mesopotamia that are unmistakably reminiscent of the Sumerian Temple Hymns, as well as two hymns to King Shulgi. The following communication considers the potential parameters of intertexuality that may be involved with these texts. Such proximity to the corpus of cultic songs qualifies the Sitz im Leben of the Temple Hymns at Old Babylonian Nippur.
The Authorship of the Old Hittite Palace Chronicle (CTH 8): A Case for Anitta
By: Alwin Kloekhorst
Abstract: It is generally thought that the Old Hittite Palace Chronicle was composed by Muršili I (reigned ca. 1620–1590 BCE) and that the anecdotes featuring in this composition thus took place during the reign of his predecessor Ḫattušili I (ca. 1650–1620 BCE). Recently, Forlanini proposed that the text’s author was not Muršili I but rather Ḫattušili I, who tells about the times of his predecessor Labarna I (ca. 1680(?)–1650 BCE). In the present article it will be argued that both views are difficult to maintain. Instead, six arguments will be presented that rather indicate that the Palace Chronicle may have been authored by Anitta, king of Nēša (reigned ca. 1740–1725 BCE), and that the composition recounts the reign of Anitta’s father Pitḫāna, with some anecdotes even dating back to the times before Pitḫāna’s conquest of the city of Nēša, i.e. before 1750 BCE.
Journal of Islamic Studies (Volume 32, Issue 1)
Sufi Asceticism and the Sunna of the Prophet in al-Junayd’s Adab al-Muftaqir ilā Allāh
By: John Zaleski
Abstract: One of the central claims of early Sufis was the harmony of the Sufi path with the sunna of the Prophet Muḥammad. It remains to be explored, however, how early Sufis related to the sunna as an authoritative model. Focusing on the writings of al-Junayd al-Baghdādī (d. 298/910–11), in particular the understudied Adab al-Muftaqir ilā Allāh, this article argues that al-Junayd sought to resolve a tension between anti-ascetic aspects of the sunna and the ascetic practices undertaken by Sufis. By attributing appeals to anti-ascetic ḥadīths to the influence of the lower-soul (nafs), al-Junayd made room for Sufis to undertake practices, including celibacy, that ran counter to the widely accepted sense of sayings of the Prophet. In so doing, he intervened in ongoing discussions concerning the value of asceticism and sexual abstinence. Al-Junayd’s writings reveal a nuanced approach to the sunna, whereby Sufis must identify those aspects of the sunna that would help rather than hinder their spiritual path. His writings thus take us beyond the (correct) affirmation that early Sufis upheld the law and sunna and allow us to see how Sufis wrestled with the example of the Prophet and the meaning of his life and words for their path to God.
Ibn Khaldūn Between Legal Theory and Legal Practice
By: Mourad Laabdi
Abstract: Modern studies of Ibn Khaldūn (d. 808/1406) have covered several aspects of his thought including historiography, pedagogy, philosophy, economy, urbanism and, most recently, mysticism. However, there remains conspicuously little on the place of the law within his intellectual enterprise despite the fact that the law had played a central role in his career as scholar, teacher, and statesman. This paper reconstructs two expressions of his relationship with the law: his conceptualization of it as a scholar, and his practice of it as a justice administrator. It first examines Ibn Khaldūn’s legal training, writings and performance, with close attention to his role as a Mālikī chief judge in Mamlūk Egypt. Then, it probes his perspective on the development of Islamic law and its institutions through a systematic analysis of his account of fiqh and uṣūl al-fiqh in the Muqaddima. The paper concludes that Ibn Khaldūn’s narrative fulfills two main tendencies: to contribute a critical analysis of the history of Islamic law, and to represent this history in a novel fashion through his theory of society and culture (ʿilm al-ʿumrān).
Semantic Mapping of An Ottoman Fetva Compilation: EBUSSUUD Efendi’s Jurisprudence through a Computational Lens
By: Boğaç Ergene, Atabey Kaygun
Abstract: Fetva collections are important sources for Islamic legal history. However, few scholars have considered a particular collection of fetvas or the fetvas of an individual jurist as specific areas of legal and historical exploration. Instead, most researchers use fetvas selectively and instrumentally, that is in (at best) small groups, and in their explorations of various other topics. This article proposes computational methodologies that could characterize the contents of a 6,000-fetva corpus by an important Ottoman jurist, Şeyhülislam Ebussuud Efendi (d. 1574), to reveal its substantive composition and range. The article conceptualizes a previously uncharted textual space in a way similar to how a map depicts a geographical one. By doing so, it also provides insights into Ebussuud’s jurisprudential legacy and the major socio-legal concerns and anxieties in the Ottoman Empire during the sixteenth century.
Mamluk Studies Review (Issue 23)
Fifteenth-Century Arabic Historiography: Introducing a New Research Agenda for Authors, Texts and Contexts
By: Jo Van Steenbergen, Mustafa Banister, Rihab Ben Othmen, Kenneth A. Goudie, Mohamed Maslouh, Zacharie Mochtari de Pierrepont
Abstract: The Arabo-Islamic world of the later medieval period (thirteenth–sixteenth centuries) witnessed substantial transformations in the writing and reading of Arabic literary texts. For a long time, the study of these texts and of their diversity and changes was determined by the model of a “post-classical” literary field in fossilizing decline. In the twenty-first century, however, new trends in literary and historical scholarship have been disengaging from these old, but still widespread, negative paradigms. They have managed to replace a condescending insistence on what Arabic literary texts no longer represented, or could no longer do, for more critical appreciations of what they really were, did, and meant for contemporaries. This special journal issue brings together five articles that were written in the context of a collaborative research project that aims to remedy this challenging situation in current understandings of late medieval Arabic history writing. This project, funded by the European Research Council and entitled “The Mamlukisation of the Mamluk Sultanate-II (MMS-II): Historiography, Political Order, and State Formation in Fifteenth-Century Egypt and Syria,” runs for five years (2017–21) at Ghent University (Belgium). MMS-II is aiming to tackle this challenge by arguing with and beyond, instead of against or irrespective of, this historiographical production’s vexed interests and related subjectivities. The MMS-II project studies more specifically how not just fifteenth-century historians’ truth but also the political order of their courtly surroundings were constructed in textual practice. This introduction seeks to explain in more theoretical, programmatic, and empirical detail why and how MMS-II considers this textual relationship between history writing and dynamics of power to be a valid and valuable—yes, even a necessary—research perspective in the study of fifteenth-century Arabic historiography. It furthermore aims to explain how MMS-II research is unfolding in practice, and how this journal issue’s five articles tie in with this approach as well as with their wider context of fifteenth-century history writing. This introduction pursues these goals by first explaining how MMS-II considers the construction of political order, within the wider framework of a revaluation of the concept and reality of state formation in fifteenth-century Syro-Egypt. It then presents the texts of history with which MMS-II engages, focusing especially on sketching the current state of scholarship on these texts. Third, this introduction explains in more detail how MMS-II research takes up a particular position within that scholarship and aims to connect the study of history writing with that of state formation. Finally, the fourth part summarizes not just how the five articles in this issue of MSR fit into this research program, but also what they contribute to it, both individually and collectively.
The Historiographical Trajectory and Legal Status of a Rebellion: Anti-Sultan Jakam (d. 809/1407) and his Literary Representation
By: Clément Onimus
Abstract: The ninth/fifteenth century in Egypt and Syria began with a period of internal warfare (fitnah) that substantially disturbed the sultanate of Cairo. The death of Sultan al-Ẓāhir Barqūq in 801/1399 brought to the throne an eleven-year-old child, his son al-Nāṣir Faraj (r. 801–15/1399–1412), who proved incapable of ensuring the domination of the sultanic household. His enthronement provoked a long series of political struggles in Egypt and then Syria between the main warlords of the realm, among whom were the amirs Jakam min ʿIwaḍ, Sūdūn Ṭāz, Yashbak al-Shaʿbānī, Shaykh al-Maḥmūdī, and Nawrūz al-Ḥāfiẓī. These conflicts (which even Tamerlane’s invasion in 803/1401 did not suspend) ended a few years after Faraj’s tragic death, during the reign of Sultan al-Muʾayyad Shaykh (r. 815–24/1412–21).
Tales of Reverence and Powers: Ibn Ḥajar’s Narratives of Religious Charismatic Authority
By: Zacharie Mochtari de Pierrepont
Abstract: This article examines the ways in which Shihāb al-Dīn Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, the well-known ninth/fifteenth-century muḥaddith and chief Shafiʿi qadi of Cairo, organized the writing of his main historiographical work, the Inbāʾ al-ghumr bi-abnāʾ al-ʿumr, an annalistic chronicle covering a period between the years 773/1372 and 850/1446. It considers the Inbāʾ al-ghumr as a deliberately constructed set of narratives displaying various layers of meaning, going well beyond the mere description and documentation of Ibn Ḥajar’s own times. I will particularly focus here on the crafting of what will be called the religious and charismatic layer of the socio-political order that is presented in the Inbāʾ al-ghumr, anchored in the display of religious charismatic authority and leadership, namely—following Katherine Jansen and Miri Rubin—a layer which demonstrates authority by “preaching, creating and demanding new obligations, while at the same time evoking and associating with the sacred symbols of the shared religious culture.”
Professional Mobility in Ibn ʿArabshāh’s Fifteenth-Century Panegyric Dedicated to Sultan al-Ẓāhir Jaqmaq
By: Mustafa Banister
Abstract: The fifteenth-century rhetorician, litterateur, and belletrist-historian Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿArabshāh (791–854/1389–1450) is known as a biographer of the Central Asian warlord and conqueror, Amir Temür (r. 771–807/1370–1405), Tīmūr, or Tamerlane. Scholarly interest in Ibn ʿArabshāh concerns primarily his ʿAjāʾib al-maqdūr fī nawāʾib Tīmūr (The Wonders of destiny in the calamities wrought by Tīmūr) and his relationship to Timurid historiography. Seldom is Ibn ʿArabshāh himself approached as a participant in and product of the socio-political landscapes of fifteenth-century Syria (Bilād al-Shām) and Egypt in the context of the late medieval sultanate of Cairo. Through the cultural practice of historical writing Ibn ʿArabshāh, like many of his peers, sought to take advantage of new opportunities presented by the emerging political order during the successive sultanates of al-Ashraf Barsbāy (r. 825–41/1422–38) and al-Ẓāhir Jaqmaq (r. 842–57/1438–53) to acquire a patronage position either at the court of the new sultan or elsewhere in the religio-political networks of the time. This article, building on the previous life sketch of Ibn ʿArabshāh and his works established by Robert McChesney, adds a more nuanced layer to the picture by historicizing his panegyric for the sultan al-Ẓāhir Jaqmaq (d. 857/1453), Al-Taʾlīf al-ṭāhir fī shiyam al-Malik al-Ẓāhir al-qāʾim bi-nuṣrat al-ḥaqq Abī Saʿīd Jaqmaq (The Pure composition on the character of the King al-Ẓāhir the supporter of divine truth Abī Saʿīd Jaqmaq). Analysis of the latter text in relation to The Wonders of Destiny will demonstrate ways in which the author may have sought to instrumentalize the Pure Composition during a precise moment of political transformation. Examining the Pure Composition in the context of its creation helps identify and reconstruct some details of the social world in which Ibn ʿArabshāh operated and provides a window into the author’s attempts to expand and define his key relationships in the hope of securing a new patron or better position.
A Tale of Hybrid Identities: Notes on Ibn Taghrībirdī’s Textual and Authorial “Self-Fashioning
By: Rihab Ben Othmen
Abstract: The life trajectory of Ibn Taghrībirdī and his career has stirred considerable curiosity and interest among medieval historians and modern researchers. Through their biographical depictions and pointed analysis, they all endeavor to construct a comprehensive rendering of his various historiographical undertakings. Only a few decades after his death in 874/1470, a number of medieval historians began to trace his life-story and career, including al-Sakhāwī (830–902/1427–97) and al-Ṣayrafī (819–900/1416–95), who shed a critical light on his works. The subsequent generation of sixteenth-century historians, showed a more positive assessment of his achievement in the field. Under the pen of Ibn al-ʿImād al-Ḥanbalī, Ibn Taghrībirdī appears as one of the greatest historians of his time. Later, the 1792 publication of a first edition of his Mawrid al-Laṭāfah sparked renewed interest in him and his other works came to the attention of European scholarship through annotated editions and translations. To better ascertain the value of his historiographical works, several attempts to contextualize his writings were made in the twentieth century. Despite decades of extensive research on Ibn Taghrībirdī, few studies have evolved beyond treating his historiographical works as mere “containers of facts” or contextualizing the man and his oeuvre against a complex socio-political background. We are left with a wide-open lane for inquiry to bring a new impetus to his life-story and achievements in historical writing. To help plot a new way forward, the current article will question “dominant narratives” related to Ibn Taghrībirdī’s life and historiographical contributions. What we mean by “dominant narratives” in this context is the bulk of medieval, stereotyped representations and the modern assumptions that engage with his individual trajectory and career, and in which he was regarded as a member of the awlād al-nās or else as a semi-official court historian.
How to Make it in Cairo: The Early Career of Burhān al-Dīn al-Biqāʿī
By: Kenneth Goudie
Abstract: How it all went wrong for Burhān al-Dīn al-Biqāʿī (809–85/1406–80), a fifteenth-century Quran exegete and historian active in Cairo, has been well covered. Modern scholarship has discussed the downward trajectory of his later career from 868/1464, in which his embroilment in two controversies—respectively on the use of the Bible in tafsīr and the poetry of Ibn al-Fāriḍ—so eroded his position in Cairene society that he was forced to flee to Damascus in 880/1475. A third controversy—on the theodicy of al-Ghazālī—incensed the Damascene populace, and he died destitute in 885/1480. While charting his declining fortunes reveals much about the religio-intellectual environment in which he operated, these three episodes all date from after al-Biqāʿī had succeeded in securing himself a position in Cairo as the resident Quran exegete at the Ẓāhirīyah Mosque, and also as first the personal tutor of Sultan Jaqmaq and then as a confidant of Sultan Īnāl. The issue, however, of how it all went right for al-Biqāʿī is relatively overlooked. This article is aimed at two complementary purposes. First, it will provide an overview of how al-Biqāʿī sought to increase the social and cultural capital resources at his disposal to build and expand the social network that underpinned his career in Cairo and that subsequently crumbled under the weight of the later controversies. In doing so, it will outline in more detail al-Biqāʿī’s origins, before moving to discuss the key relationships—particularly his patron-client relationships—he established and how these facilitated his making his way in Cairo. Having done so, it will turn to its second purpose: namely, it will argue that the descriptive reconstruction of al-Biqāʿī’s life and career should be read against the interpretative frameworks employed by the authors of our sources, and that doing so leads to a deeper understanding of not only al-Biqāʿī himself, but of the social contexts in which he operated.