1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East

Edited By Kiersten Neumann, Allison Thomason Copyright 2022
    770 Pages 36 Color & 172 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    770 Pages 36 Color & 172 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    770 Pages 36 Color & 172 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

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    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



    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.

    "As our world is continuously forced by technological development to inhabit digiscapes of mono-sensory confinement, advances in archaeological science and field methods, as the Routledge Handbook of the Senses makes all too clear, enable scholars to empathetically probe the role of the senses in the lives of past humans. As an academic enterprise, this probing is indeed fascinating, provided that one does not forget that our own sensorium and phenomenological immersion can take us that far in understanding the role of the senses in antiquity. Both editors and contributors to this volume seem to be very careful about using the sensory as an analytical framework while basing their research on rigorously understood archaeological evidence... This hefty volume is masterfully edited... The volume is a veritable feast of valuable contributions all of which are worth reading." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    "The Handbook of the Senses shows how incorporating the study of the senses in research opens up new pathways of approaching and understanding people in past societies. It offers an excellent, inspirational overview of the current state of the field."  - Bibliotheca Orientalis