Faculty Books

Water Histories and Spatial Archaeology

This book offers a new interpretation of the spatial-political-environmental dynamics of water and irrigation in long-term histories of arid regions. It compares ancient Southwest Arabia (3500 BC-AD 600) with the American West (2000 BC-AD 1950) in global context to illustrate similarities and differences among environmental, cultural, political, and religious dynamics of water. It combines archaeological exploration and field studies of farming in Yemen with social theory and spatial technologies, including satellite imagery, Global Positioning System (GPS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping. In both ancient Yemen and the American West, agricultural production focused not where rain-fed agriculture was possible, but in hyper-arid areas where massive state-constructed irrigation schemes politically and ideologically validated state sovereignty. While shaped by profound differences and contingencies, ancient Yemen and the American West are mutually informative in clarifying human geographies of water that are important to understandings of America, Arabia, and contemporary conflicts between civilizations deemed East and West.


Rural Archaeology in Early Urban Northern Mesopotamia

This book presents the results of the extensive excavation of a small, rural village from the period of emerging cities in upper Mesopotamia (modern northeast Syria) in the early to middle third millennium BC. Prior studies of early Near Eastern urban societies generally focused on the cities and elites, neglecting the rural component of urbanization. This research represents part of a move to rectify that imbalance. Reports on the architecture, pottery, animal bones, plant remains, and other varieties of artifacts and ecofacts enhance our understanding of the role of villages in the formation of urban societies, the economic relationship between small rural sites and urban centers, and status and economic differentiation in villages. Among the significant results are the extensive exposure of a large segment of the village area, revealing details of spatial and social organization and household economics. The predominance of large-scale grain storage and processing leads to questions of staple finance, economic relations with pastoralists, and connections to developing urban centers.


Texts and Contexts

This volume assembles scholars working on cuneiform texts from different periods, genres, and areas to examine the range of social, cultural, and historical contexts in which specific types of texts circulated. Using different methodologies and sources of evidence, these articles reconstruct the contexts in which various cuneiform texts circulated, providing a critical framework to determine how they functioned.


Following the Man of Yamhad

Legal texts recording the purchase or exchange of entire settlements are among the most important cuneiform tablets discovered at Old Babylonian/Middle Bronze Age (Level VII) Alalah. Following the Man of Yamhad is the first book-length study of these legal texts and the socio-economic practice that they document. The author explores the nature of the alienated settlements, the rights enjoyed by their owners, the underlying system of land tenure, and the larger political context in which the transactions occurred. The study is supported by extensive collations and up-to-date editions of relevant legal and administrative texts. Its conclusions will be of interest to anyone working on the history, society, and economy of the Bronze Age Near East.


Communities of Style

Communities of Style examines the production and circulation of portable luxury goods throughout the Levant in the early Iron Age (1200–600 BCE). In particular it focuses on how societies in flux came together around the material effects of art and style, and their role in collective memory.


Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art

Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art concentrates on the visual, material, and built aspects of the Ancient Near East from the fourth millennium BCE to the Hellenistic period. Presenting innovative theoretical approaches to Ancient Near Eastern art history, this volume will be of value to scholars of the Ancient Near East, as well as to those interested in contemporary art historical and anthropological approaches to visual culture.


Mapping Archaeological Landscapes from Space

Mapping Archaeological Landscapes from Space offers a concise overview of air and spaceborne imagery and related geospatial technologies tailored to the needs of archaeologists. Leading experts including scientists involved in NASA’s Space Archaeology program provide technical introductions to five sections: Historic Air and Spaceborne Imagery, Multispectral and Hyperspectral Imagery, Synthetic Aperture Radar, Lidar, Archaeological Site Detection and Modeling.

Each of these five sections includes two or more case study applications that have enriched understanding of archaeological landscapes in regions including the Near East, East Asia, Europe, Meso- and North America. Targeted to the needs of researchers and heritage managers as well as graduate and advanced undergraduate students, this volume conveys a basic technological sense of what is currently possible and, it is hoped, will inspire new pioneering applications.

Particular attention is paid to the tandem goals of research (understanding) and archaeological heritage management (preserving) the ancient past. The technologies and applications presented can be used to characterize environments, detect archaeological sites, model sites and settlement patterns and, more generally, reveal the dialectic landscape-scale dynamics among ancient peoples and their social and environmental surroundings. In light of contemporary economic development and resultant damage to and destruction of archaeological sites and landscapes, applications of air and spaceborne technologies in archaeology are of wide utility and promoting understanding of them is a particularly appropriate goal at the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.​


The Textual Criticism of Sumerian Literature

The occurrence of textual variation is a significant but frequently neglected aspect of the study of Sumerian literary compositions. The correct evaluation of textual variants and the proper understanding of how and why they occur is essential to producing reliable editions of such texts. Such explorations also provide invaluable evidence for the written transmission of Sumerian literary works and a wealth of data for assessing aspects of Sumerian grammar. Drawing from a detailed analysis of the different types of textual variants that occur in the numerous duplicates of a group of ten compositions known collectively as the Decad, this book aims to provide a much needed critical methodology for interpreting textual variation in the Sumerian literary corpus which can be applied to editing and analysing these compositions with improved accuracy.


Sacred Killing

What is sacrifice? How can we identify it in the archaeological record? And what does it tell us about the societies that practice it? Sacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East investigates these and other questions through the evidence for human and animal sacrifice in the Near East from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic periods. Drawing on sociocultural anthropology and history in addition to archaeology, the book also includes evidence from ancient China and a riveting eyewitness account and analysis of sacrifice in contemporary India, which engage some of the key issues at stake. Sacred Killing vividly presents a variety of methods and theories in the study of one of the most profound and disturbing ritual activities humans have ever practiced.


Sacred Space and Sacred Function in Ancient Thebes

This volume presents a series of papers delivered at a two-day session of the Theban Workshop held at the British Museum in September 2003. Due to its political and religious prominence throughout much of pharaonic history, the region of ancient Thebes offers scholars a wealth of monuments whose physical remains and extant iconography may be combined with textual sources and archaeological finds in ways that elucidate the function of sacred space as initially conceived, and which also reveal adaptations to human need or shifts in cultural perception. The contributions herein address issues such as the architectural framing of religious ceremony, the implicit performative responses of officiants, the diachronic study of specific rites, the adaptation of sacred space to different uses through physical, representational, or textual alteration, and the development of ritual landscapes in ancient Thebes.


After Collapse

From the Euphrates Valley to the southern Peruvian Andes, early complex societies have risen and fallen, but in some cases they have also been reborn. Prior archaeological investigation of these societies has focused primarily on emergence and collapse. This is the first book-length work to examine the question of how and why early complex urban societies have reappeared after periods of decentralization and collapse.

Ranging widely across the Near East, the Aegean, East Asia, Mesoamerica, and the Andes, these cross-cultural studies expand our understanding of social evolution by examining how societies were transformed during the period of radical change now termed “collapse.” They seek to discover how societal complexity reemerged, how second-generation states formed, and how these re-emergent states resembled or differed from the complex societies that preceded them.


Diplomacy by Design

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.


The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth

=The composition, which the editors entitle the “Book of Thoth”, is preserved on over forty Graeco-Roman Period papyri from collections in Berlin, Copenhagen, Florence, New Haven, Paris, and Vienna. The central witness is a papyrus of fifteen columns in the Berlin Museum. Written almost entirely in the Demotic script, the Book of Thoth is probably the product of scribes of the “House of Life”, the temple scriptorium. It comprises largely a dialogue between a deity, usually called “He-who-praises-knowledge” (presumably Thoth himself) and a mortal, “He-who-loves-knowledge”. The work covers such topics as the scribal craft, sacred geography, the underworld, wisdom, prophecy, animal knowledge, and temple ritual. Particularly remarkable is one section (the “Vulture Text”) in which each of the 42 nomes of Egypt is identified with a vulture. The language is poetic; the lines are often clearly organized into verses. The subject-matter, dialogue structure, and striking phraseology raise many issues of scholarly interest; especially intriguing are the possible connections between this Egyptian work, in which Thoth is called “thrice-great”, and the classical Hermetic Corpus, in which Hermes Trismegistos plays the key role. The first volume comprises interpretative essays, discussion of specific points such as the manuscript tradition, script, and language. The core of the publication is the transliteration of the Demotic text, translation, and commentary. A consecutive translation, glossary, bibliography, and indices conclude the first volume. The second volume contains photographs of the papyri, almost all of which reproduce their original size.


The Archaeology of Syria

This book is the first comprehensive presentation of the archaeology of Syria from the end of the Paleolithic period to 300 BC. Although Syria has been the focus of intensive excavations for decades, no large-scale review of the results of these excavations has ever appeared until now. Syria is one of the prime areas of excavation and archaeological field work in the Middle East, and Peter Akkermans and Glenn Schwartz outline the many important finds yielded by Syria, before providing their own perspectives and conclusions.


The Quest for Immortality

This volume accompanies an exhibition of the same name, which includes artefacts from nearly 2000 years before the Christian era. Objects such as coffins, tombs, masks, jewellery, papyri, sarcophagi and monumental and small-scale sculpture reveal the reverence and awe with which the Egyptians considered the mystery of death. The essays in this book explore Egyptian art history, customs and worship, with specific focus on the Amduat, a book devoted to the pharaoh’s 12-hour journey to the afterlife. Additional writings detail the background of the collection and focus upon the role of art in ancient Egypt.


writings from the ancient world book cover

Volumes in Writings from the Ancient World provide teachers, literary critics, historians, general readers, and students direct access to key ancient Near Eastern writings that date from the beginning of the Sumerian civilization to the age of Alexander the Great. Volumes typically offer historical and literary background to the writings, the original text and English translation, explanatory or textual notes, and a bibliography.

The SBL Press WAW editorial board is led by series editor Theodore J. Lewis.


Textual Criticism

An introductionon to the goals and methods of textual criticism of the Bible, intended to give students of Hebrew the necessary tools to study the text. The principles of textual criticism are explained in terms of both their usefulness and their limitations, and are illustrated with examples from the Bible


Security for Debt in Ancient Near Eastern Law

Creditors have always sought the protection of the law to secure themselves against loss if the debtor cannot or will not pay the debt. This volume examines the legal instruments of security available to creditors in the earliest known legal systems, their use and abuse, and the ways in which the law sought to satisfy the differing interests of creditors, debtors, and society in general, with varying degrees of success. The book covers all the major legal systems of the ancient Near East, from Sumer to Ptolemaic Egypt, as well as comparative historical developments up to the present day. Twelve scholars have each contributed a study of their special period of expertise, while the general issues that arise from their research are discussed in a concluding chapter.


ugartic narrative poetry

More than 500 years before the Odyssey and the Iliad, before the biblical books of Genesis or Job, masters of the epic lived and wrote on the Mediterranean coast. The Ugaritic tablets left behind by these master scribes and poets were excavated in the second quarter of the 20th century from the region of modern Syria and Lebanon, and are brought to life here in contemporary English translations by five of the best known scholars in the field. Included are the major narrative poems, “Kirta,” “Aqhat,” and “Baal,” in addition to 10 shorter texts, newly translated with transcriptions from photographs using the latest techniques in the photography of epigraphic materials (sample plate included).


the study of the ancient near east in the 21st century book cover

The book presents the publication of papers delivered at a conference held in 1991 at Johns Hopkins honoring the centennial of the birthday of William F. Albright, on the subject of the future of ancient Near Eastern Studies in the 21st century CE. New ways of considering data, likely challenges to the field, and suggestions for new paths to follow are provided by scholars discussing a wide variety of ancient Near Eastern cultures, methods, and intellectual approaches.


Working against the traditional focus of archaeology on the urban and elite, this volume presents a set of studies that focus on rural settlements and rural life during the formation and early history of urban societies in both the ancient Near East and Mesoamerica. The papers discuss the role that villages played in the development of urban societies, the emergence and character of social complexity in rural communities, and the changes in those communities during periods of urbanization.


You Can Be a Woman Egyptologist

This booklet stresses the value of various academic studies (e.g., history, language, art, archaeology) as prerequisites for a career in Egyptology, by depicting real women whose careers provide inspirational role models. The first section is a text designed for use by elementary students and presents the career of Egyptology from a woman’s point of view. Both female and male students are encouraged to view Egyptology as a potential career choice. The second section provides the teacher with three lesson plans for classroom use. The lesson plans are aimed at exploring: (1) the processes involved in archaeology; (2) Egyptian art; and (3) the relationship between ancient Egyptian funerary practices and beliefs. Each lesson format includes a purpose or objective, materials, procedures, and conclusions.


Egypt's Dazzling Sun

The fully illustrated catalogue of a major exhibition organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art in collaboration with the Reunion des Musees Nationaux, Paris, Egypt’s Dazzling Sun is an exceptional contribution to scholarship on the art and history of the reign of Amenhotep III (1391-1353 BC), the pharaoh who called himself the “Dazzling Sun Disk.” Ruling in a period of unprecedented peace, Amenhotep III commissioned splendid temples and sponsored royal workshops in many media. His aesthetic and technical innovations resound in the styles of his direct descendant, Tutankhamen, and in Egyptian art of all centuries. Comprehensive essays along with discussions of 143 objects, drawn from collections in the United States, Europe, and Egypt, offer a remarkably complete view of this golden age of Egyptian art. A range of new research methodologies assist in unveiling the remarkable variety and superb quality of the best work of Amenhotep III’s reign.


The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years

Four lectures presented at a symposium sponsored by the Resident Associate Program, Smithsonian Institution on October 27, 1990. Speakers, and lecture titles, include: Hershel Shanks: “The Excitement Lasts: An Overview” ~ James C. Vanderkam: “Implications for the History of Judaism and Christianity” ~ P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.: “The Mystery of the Copper Scroll” ~ James A. Sanders: “Understanding the Development of the Biblical Text.” An 11-page Panel Discussion follows the lectures.


This book presents a detailed quantitative analysis of pottery from a 2000-year sequence of strata excavated at Tell Leilan in northeastern Syria, from the Ubaid period (ca. 4500 BC) to the mid-third millennium BC. Using statistical techniques and qualitative studies, the book sets forth a system of chronological periods and presents the characteristic pottery types of each, intended as a chronological framework for subsequent research in the region.


II Samuel

II Samuel completes P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.’s study of the book of Samuel. Based upon the introduction and commentary of his first volume, McCarter continues the discussion of textual and literary sources as they relate to a reconstruction of historical events.

A key issue for McCarter is accounting for the historical circumstances that led to the composition of the book of Samuel. In dialogue with major schools of thought pertaining to the origin and transmission of the book, the author offers his scholarly opinions on its composition. McCarter presents a unique new translation based upon the latest and most extensive textual sources available, including scrolls and fragments from Qumran. Furthermore, he resolves the complicated textual history of Samuel.