The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East

ISBN 9780367235284
Published September 30, 2021 by Routledge
770 Pages 36 Color & 172 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This Handbook is a state-of-the-field volume containing diverse approaches to sensory experience, bringing to life in an innovative, remarkably vivid, and visceral way the lives of past humans through contributions that cover the chronological and geographical expanse of the ancient Near East.

It comprises thirty-two chapters written by leading international contributors that look at the ways in which humans, through their senses, experienced their lives and the world around them in the ancient Near East, with coverage of Anatolia, Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Persia, from the Neolithic through the Roman period. It is organised into six parts related to sensory contexts: Practice, production, and taskscape; Dress and the body; Ritualised practice and ceremonial spaces; Death and burial; Science, medicine, and aesthetics; and Languages and semantic fields. In addition to exploring what makes each sensory context unique, this organisation facilitates cross-cultural and cross-chronological, as well as cross-sensory and multisensory comparisons and discussions of sensory experiences in the ancient world. In so doing, the volume also enables considerations of senses beyond the five-sense model of Western philosophy (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), including proprioception and interoception, and the phenomena of synaesthesia and kinaesthesia.

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East provides scholars and students within the field of ancient Near Eastern studies new perspectives on and conceptions of familiar spaces, places, and practices, as well as material culture and texts. It also allows scholars and students from adjacent fields such as Classics and Biblical Studies to engage with this material, and is a must-read for any scholar or student interested in or already engaged with the field of sensory studies in any period.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables






Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason

Part I

Practice, Production, and Taskscapes

1 The Sense of Practice: A Case Study of Tablet Sealing at Nippur in the Ur III Period (c. 2112–2004 BCE)

Marian H. Feldman

2 Senses and Textiles in the Eastern Mediterranean: Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Ages (1550–1100 BCE)

Caroline Sauvage

3 New Sensory Experiences through Technological Innovation: The Usage and Production of Transparent Drinking Bowls in the Neo-Assyrian Palace

Katharina Schmidt

4 To Touch Upon: A Tactile Exploration of the Apadana Reliefs at Persepolis

Kiersten Neumann

5 Soundscapes and Taskscapes in the Ancient Near East: Interactions and Perceptions

Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Mireia López-Bertran

Part II

Dress and the Body

6 Adornment Practices in the Ancient Near East and the Question of Embodied Boundary Maintenance

Josephine Verduci

7 Dress, Sensory Assemblages, and Identity in the Early First Millennium at Hasanlu, Iran

Megan Cifarelli

8 Beyond the Flesh: Sensing Identity through the Body and Skin in Mesopotamian Contexts

Sarah J. Scott

9 A Sense of Scale: Proprioception, Embodied Subjectivities, and the Space of Kingship at Persepolis

Neville McFerrin

Part III

Ritualised Practice and Ceremonial Spaces

10 Temple Ritual as Gesamtkunstwerk: Stimulation of the Senses and Aesthetic Experience in a Religious Context

Irene Winter

11 Pure Stale Water: Experiencing Jewish Purifications Rituals in Early Roman Palestine

Rick Bonnie

12 Megaliths and Miniatures: Scale and the Senses in the Early Neolithic

Sarah Kielt Costello

13 Sensing Salience in the Landscapes of Egyptian Royal Living-Rock Stelae

Jen Thum

14 In the Light and In the Dark: Exhibiting Power, Exploiting Spaces in Early and Old Syrian Ebla, An Analysis of the Five Senses in an Early–Old Syrian Court

Frances Pinnock

15 The Ishtar Gate: A Sensescape of Divine Agency

Beate Pongratz-Leisten

16 The Jerusalem Temple: A Sensory Encounter with the Sacred

Christine Elizabeth Palmer

17 The Ancient Synagogue at Nabratein: The Acoustic Dynamics of Architectural Change

Paul V. M. Flesher

Part IV

Death and Burial

18 Sensing the Ancestors: The Importance of Senses in Constructing Ancestorship in the Ancient Near East

Nicola Laneri

19 Sensing the Dead in Household Burials of the Second Millennium BCE

Melissa S. Cradic

20 The Smells of Eternity: Aromatic Oils and Resins in the Phoenician Mortuary Record

Helen Dixon

21 The Sixth Sense: Multisensory Encounters with the Dead in Roman Egypt

Lissette M. Jiménez

Part V

Science, Medicine, and Aesthetics

22 Seeing Stars: Knowing the Sky in Mesopotamia

M. Willis Monroe

23 Sensory Experience in Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine

Ulrike Steinert

24 The Understanding of Intellectual and Sensorial Impairment in the Hebrew Bible

Edgar Kellenberger

25 The Distant Eye and the Ekphrastic Image: Thinking Through Aesthetics and Art for the Senses (Western | Non-Western)

Karen Sonik

Part VI

Languages and Semantic Fields

26 Language Technology Approach to "Seeing" in Akkadian

Aleksi Sahala and Saana Svärd

27 Metaphors of Perception Verbs in Ancient Egyptian: The Proximal Senses

Elisabeth Steinbach-Eicke

28 Metaphors of Sensory Experience in Ancient Egyptian Texts: Emotion, Personality, and Social Interaction

Camilla Di Biase-Dyson and Gaëlle Chantrain

29 Smellscapes in Ancient Egypt

Dora Goldsmith

30 Crossing Sensory Boundaries: From Vocabulary to Physical Experience

Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel

31 Open Your Ears and Listen! The Role of the Senses Among the Hittites

Richard H. Beal

32 To Hear and See in Hurrian

Dennis R. M. Campbell


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Kiersten Neumann is Curator and Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, USA, and has published numerous articles on topics pertaining to sensory experience, ritualised practice, and visual culture of the first millennium BCE, as well as museum practice, collections histories, and the reception of Assyrian and Achaemenid art.

Allison Thomason is Professor of History at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA. Her book, Luxury and Legitimation: Royal Collecting in Ancient Mesopotamia (2005), and her subsequent publications explore portable objects, dress, and sensory experiences in the ancient Near East.