Faculty Books

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).