The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East [1 ed.] 0367235285, 9780367235284

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The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East [1 ed.]
 0367235285, 9780367235284

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Editors’ Note
What Is Sensory Studies? The New “Sensory Turn”
How Does the Field of Sensory Studies Intersect With the Study of the Ancient Near East?
How Is this a New Compilation?
The Sections and Chapters in this Volume
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)
Learning and Practice
Sealing Practices and the Ur III Period
The Case of Nippur
The Sense of Sealing
2 Senses and Textiles in the Eastern Mediterranean: Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (1550–1100 BCE)
The Sensory Experience of Textile Production
Spinning and Weaving
Dyes and Dyeing
Sensory Experience of Clothing and Textiles
3 New Sensory Experiences Through Technological Innovation: The Use and Production of Transparent Drinking Bowls in the ...
Methodological Background
Glass and Its Transparency
Archaeological Contexts of Transparent Hemispherical Glass Bowls
4 To Touch Upon: A Tactile Exploration of the Apadana Reliefs at Persepolis
The Apadana of Persepolis
Touch of the Craftsmen
Touch Carved in Stone
Curating and Producing Interactions With Art
5 Soundscapes and Taskscapes in the Ancient Near East: Interactions and Perceptions
Work and Taskscapes
Music and Soundscapes
Approaching and Delimiting Work Songs
Sensing the Past: an Overview
Ancient Near Eastern Work Songs as Indicators of Multisensoriality
The Song of the Millstone
The Song of the Plowing Oxen
Two Songs to Soothe a Child’s Crying
Conclusion: Singing at Work in the Ancient Near East
Part II Dress and the Body
6 Adornment Practices in the Ancient Near East and the Question of Embodied Boundary Maintenance
The Data
The Grave Goods
The Iconography
7 Dress, Sensory Assemblages, and Identity in the Early First Millennium BCE at Hasanlu, Iran
Hasanlu in Period IVb (1050–800 BCE)
Assemblages and Phenomena
Sensorial Assemblages and Intersubjectivity
Senses and Power Dynamics
Accumulated Magnificence
Finger- and Toe-Rings
Head, Neck, and Body Beads
Armour Scale Pectorals
8 Beyond the Flesh: Sensing Identity Through the Body and Skin in Mesopotamian Glyptic Contexts
Things, Cognition, and the Haptic Sense
The Mesopotamian Body: a Sense of the Body, the Divine, and Stone
The Mantic Body and Clay
9 A Sense of Scale: Proprioception, Embodied Subjectivities, and the Space of Kingship at Persepolis
Introduction: Touch, Sight, and Productive Entanglements
Performative Inclusion: Mirroring, Reduplication, and Mimetic Slippage
Persuasive Stairways: Proprioception and Bodily Interrogation
Immanent Encounters: Scale, Mediation, and the Body of the King
Conclusions: the Space of Kingship
Part III Ritualised Practice and Ceremonial Spaces
10 Temple Ritual as Gesamtkunstwerk: Stimulation of the Senses and Aesthetic Experience in a Religious Context
Smell and Touch
11 Pure Stale Water: Experiencing Jewish Purification Rituals in Early Roman Palestine
Modern Mikva’ot and Western Modernity
The Archaeology of Ancient Jewish Ritual Baths
Sensing Stepped Pools
Getting Wet! Towards a Sensorial Experience of Stepped Pools
Changing Settings, Changing Sensorial Experiences
Ritual Bath AA209 in the Hasmonean Buried Palace, Jericho
The Southern Mikveh, Masada
Stepped Pool “Mkv1,” Magdala
Ritual Bath L1060, Gamla
12 Megaliths and Miniatures: Scale and the Senses in the Early Neolithic
Context: the Early Neolithic Period
A Sensory Perspective
13 Sensing Salience in the Landscapes of Egyptian Royal Living-Rock Stelae
Sensing the Stelae
Egyptian Geologics—and Geoaesthetics
Stelae at Konosso Island, Gateway to Egypt
Shouting From the Hilltops: the Nauri Decree Stela
The Medium Is the Message
14 In the Light and in the Dark: Exhibiting Power, Exploiting Spaces in Early and Old Syrian Ebla—an Analysis of the Five ...
In the Light: Exhibiting Power in Early Syrian Ebla
In the Dark: Exploiting Spaces in Old Syrian Ebla
Who Was There?
15 The Ishtar Gate: A Sensescape of Divine Agency
The Affect of Architecture and the Protective Powers of City Gates
City Walls and City Gates in Mesopotamia
Craftsmanship and the Affect of Monuments
Decorating the Walls and Infusing Them With Agency
Colour and Affect at Babylon
16 The Jerusalem Temple: A Sensory Encounter With the Sacred
Journey to the Temple
Musical Performance
Ritual of Sacrifice
Aromas of Worship
Feasting in Yahweh’s Presence
Sacred Space and the Dimming of the Senses
17 The Ancient Synagogue at Nabratein: The Acoustic Dynamics of Architectural Change
The Ritual of Scripture Reading and Translation
The Two Architectural Arrangements of Nabratein Synagogue 1
The Acoustics of a Scripture Reader’s Or a Scripture Translator’s Voice
The Acoustics of Synagogue 1a
Direct Sound
Location 1: the Impact of First Reflections On the Listener in Front of the Scripture Reader
Side Reflections, Step 1
Side Reflections, Step 2
Side Reflections, Step 3
Ceiling Reflection: Steps 1 Through 3
Location 2: the Impact of First Reflections On the Listener Behind the Scripture Reader
Location 3: the Impact of First Reflections On the Listeners to Each Side of the Scripture Reader
The Acoustic Zones of the Open-Centre Synagogue, Nabratein Synagogue 1a
The Acoustics of Nabratein Synagogue 1b
Listener at Four Metres
Listener at Seven Metres
The Acoustic Character of Nabratein’s Pre-Basilical Synagogue, Synagogue 1b
Conclusion: From the Open-Centre Synagogue to the Basilica Synagogue
Part IV Death and Burial
18 Sensing the Ancestors: The Importance of Senses in Constructing Ancestorship in the Ancient Near East
Senses and the Cult of the Ancestors in the Ancient Near East
The Power of Touch: Fragmentation, Manipulation, and Decoration of the Human Body as a Proxy for Ancestral Veneration
Don’t Open That Door! Residential Graves as Locales for Creating a Visual Reference for the Cult of the Ancestors
Do You Remember That Smell? Human Decay and the Use of Perfumes for a Sensorial Experience of the Dead Ancestors
Feasting With the Spirits of the Ancestors: Offerings and Lamentations During Postmortem Rituals
19 Sensing the Dead in Household Burials of the Second Millennium BCE
Research Questions, Data, and Methodology
From Flesh to Bone: the Funerary Sequence Approach
Case Study: the Funerary Sequence of Qatna’s Royal Hypogeum
Pre-interment Phase: Navigating the Burial Chamber
Interment Phase: Inhumation and Disturbance
Scents and Sensibility
Post-interment Phase: Body Curation and Representations
Discussion: Corporealities and Sensing the Dead at Qatna
Sensing the Dead in Tomb 100 at Megiddo
Materializing Mourning: Burial Assemblages
Sight and Light
Altered Minds
Discussion and Conclusions
20 The Smells of Eternity: Aromatic Oils and Resins in the Phoenician Mortuary Record
Death and the Sense of Smell
The Phoenician Evidence
Smelling in Phoenician?
Buried in Myrrh and Bdellium
Aromatics in Phoenician Mortuary Contexts
Myrrh (Commiphora Myrrha): Phoenician Mr; Akkadian Murru; Hebrew Môr; Greek Σμύρνα
Bdellium Or Bdelium (Commiphora Mukul): Phoenician Bdlh; Akkadian guḫlu/ budulḫu; Hebrew Bedolaḥ; Greek Βδέλλιον
Cedar (Cedrus Libani): Phoenician ʿṣ (?), Akkadian Erēnu, Hebrew ʿeren/ ʿerez, Greek Κέδρος
Other Aromatic Woods
Other Oleo-Resins and Scented Oils
Smells of Life, Smells of Death
21 The Sixth Sense: Multisensory Encounters With the Dead in Roman Egypt
Seeing the Dead: Shrouds and Portraits
Sensing the Dead: the Mummified Body
Engaging With the Dead: Ritual Interactions
Experiencing the Dead: Tombs and Catacombs
Death in a New Light: Portraits and Torches
Part V Science, Medicine, and Aesthetics
22 Seeing Stars: Knowing the Sky in Mesopotamia
Astronomy and Astrology in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamian Observation in Later Sources
The Mechanics of Observation
The Language of Observation
Amāru: “To See”
Naṣāru: “To Watch”
Tāmartu: “Appearance”
“Seeing” in Mathematics
Sources of Observations
Neo-Assyrian Observational Reports
Late Babylonian Astronomical Records
Observation and Thought Collectives
23 Sensory Experience in Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine
Cuneiform Medical Texts and the Art of Diagnosis: Perception and Interpretation
Modes of Sensory Perception in Mesopotamian Medical Diagnosis
Auditory Perception
Smell and Taste
Kinaesthesia and Interoception
The Senses and Mesopotamian Therapeutics
24 The Understanding of Intellectual and Sensorial Impairment in the Hebrew Bible
Links Between Sensory Studies and Disabilities
Evaluations of the Intellect
Aspects of Sensorial Deficits Beyond Intellectual Impairment
Multisensorial Festivals: Chances for Repetition
Ambiguous Aspects of the Sense of Touch
Conclusion: Power and Disability
25 The Distant Eye and the Ekphrastic Image: Thinking Through Aesthetics and Art for the Senses (Western/non-Western)
Confronting the Legacy of Fine Art and Disinterested Aesthetics
The Distant Object: Constructing the Modern System of the Arts
The Distant Eye: Disembodied Aesthetics and the Denigration of Sensual Pleasure
Ancient and Non-Western Art and Aesthetics: Other Ways of Sensing and Seeing
The Intimate Eye: Aesthetics and Art for the Senses in Mesopotamia
The Intimate Image: Ekphrasis and the Sensuous (And Affective) Body
Part VI Languages and Semantic Fields
26 Language Technology Approach to “Seeing” in Akkadian
Semantic Fields
Data and Preparations
Analysing the Collocates
barû, Ḫiāṭu, and Ṣubbû
Discussion of the Results
27 Metaphors of Perception Verbs in Ancient Egyptian: The Proximal Senses
Introduction and Preliminary Considerations
The Perceptive Research History
Perception in the Works of Lakoff and Johnson
The Structuring of Metaphorical Mappings
Property Selection Processes
The Distant Senses and Their Metaphorical Extensions
Metaphors of Sight
Metaphors of Hearing
The Proximal Senses in Egyptian: Prototypical and Metaphorical Meanings
Prototypical Meanings of the Proximal Senses
Prototypical Meanings of Touch
Prototypical Meanings of Smell
Prototypical Meaning of Taste
Metaphorical Meanings of the Proximal Senses
Touch Domain
Smell Domain
Taste Domain
Final Comment and Conclusion
Appendix A. List of Egyptian Text Examples
Appendix B. Glossing Abbreviations
28 Metaphors of Sensory Experience in Ancient Egyptian Texts: Emotion, Personality, and Social Interaction
Theoretical Bases: Emotion Research, Historical Semantics, and Sensory Studies
Emotion and Metaphor
Historical Semantics: Metaphor and Semantic Change
Sensory Studies
Research Questions
Visual Stimuli
Shade and Luminosity
Physical Beauty
Tactile Stimuli
Heaviness and Lightness
Discussion and Conclusion
1. What Kinds of Sensory Phenomena Are Used to Depict Specific Emotions and Temperaments?
2. Can Lexemes of Emotion and Temperament be Distinguished Semantically From Each Other? Do Compounds Play a Role Here?
3. Do These Terms Exist in Complementary Distribution With Each Other? Are there Relationships of Synonymy, Antonymy, ...
4. Are Diachronic Forces of Language Change at Work? If So, What Effect do they Have?
5. What Is the Role of Genre in the Appearance and Use of Emotion Terms?
29 Smellscapes in Ancient Egypt
Why Smell?
Smell and the City
Ancient Smellscapes
Methods, Difficulties, and Goals
Smellscapes in Ancient Egypt
Smell of the Palace
Smell of the Temple
Smell of a Garden
Smell of the House of Life
Smell of Streets
Smell of Stables
Smell of Private Houses
Smell of Lower-Class Housing
Smell of Middle-Class Housing
Smell of Upper-Class Housing
Smell of Workshops
Smell of Festivals
Smell of a Banquet
30 Crossing Sensory Boundaries: From Vocabulary to Physical Experience
Tracking Sensory Dimension in Akkadian Vocabulary: a Methodological Approach to Vocabulary
Identifying the Semantic Value of Vocabulary
The Multisensory Dimension of Akkadian Vocabulary
Material, Substances, and Their Sensory Descriptions
Linking Words and Experience: the Ritual Scene as a Case Study
The Ritual Scene: Presencing the Divine With Sensory Effects
Sensory Metaphors and Physical Experience in Ritual
31 Open Your Ears and Listen!: The Role of the Senses Among the Hittites
32 Hearing and Seeing in Hurrian
Hearing in Hurrian
ḫaž- and Šalġ- in the Hurro-Hittite Bilingual
ḫaž- in Other Contexts
ḫaž- With Patient = Utterance
ḫaž- With Patient = Oblique Reference to “Word”
ḫaž- With Speaker as Patient
šalġ- “To Listen”
ḫaž- and Šalġ- in the Same Context
Verbs of Seeing
for- “To See”
am- “To Look Upon, Gaze Upon”
ši- “To Witness, Observe, Examine”

Citation preview

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East

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 taskscapes; 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. 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.

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East

Edited by Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason

First published 2022 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2022 selection and editorial matter, Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-​in-​Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data Names: Neumann, Kiersten, editor. | Thomason, Allison, editor. Title: The Routledge handbook of the senses in the ancient Near East / edited by Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason. Description: Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge Taylor & Francis, 2022. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2021011731 (print) | LCCN 2021011732 (ebook) | ISBN 9780367235284 (hardback) | ISBN 9781032065663 (paperback) | ISBN 9780429280207 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Senses and sensation–Middle East–History. | Civilization, Ancient. Classification: LCC BF233 .R68 2022 (print) | LCC BF233 (ebook) | DDC 152.10956–dc23 LC record available at LC ebook record available at ISBN: 978-​0-​367-​23528-​4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-​1-​032-​06566-​3 (pbk) ISBN: 978-​0-​429-​28020-​7 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207 Typeset in Bembo by Newgen Publishing UK


List of figures List of tables List of contributors Acknowledgements Editors’ Note Map Introduction Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason

ix xv xvi xxii xxiii xxviii 1


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 and Early Iron Ages (1550–​1100 BCE ) Caroline Sauvage


3 New sensory experiences through technological innovation: the use 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






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 BCE at Hasanlu, Iran Megan Cifarelli


8 Beyond the flesh: sensing identity through the body and skin in Mesopotamian glyptic contexts Sarah J. Scott


9 A sense of scale: proprioception, embodied subjectivities, and the space of kingship at Persepolis Neville McFerrin



Ritualised practice and ceremonial spaces


10 Temple ritual as Gesamtkunstwerk: stimulation of the senses and aesthetic experience in a religious context Irene J.Winter


11 Pure stale water: experiencing Jewish purification 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 vi

297 320


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




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


429 451


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





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 Hearing and seeing in Hurrian Dennis R. M. Campbell






This volume includes images of skeletal human remains. 1.1 1.2

Scan of tablet UM 29-​15-​916 Ur III cylinder seal and impression, with two-​line inscription, “Aḫa-​nīšu, the servant of Nūr-​Šulgi” 1.3a Tablet UM 29-​15-​916 1.3b Reconstructed drawing of seal impressed on UM 29-​15-​916 1.4 Tablet sealed with the seal of En-​engar 1.5 Photograph of author holding CBS 8678 1.6 Reverse of tablet UM 29-​15-​893 1.7 Detail of corrected area on reverse of tablet UM 29-​15-​893 2.1a–​b Examples of dome-​shaped and biconical spindle whorls from Enkomi 2.2 Variation from thinner to thicker threads 2.3a–​d Spinning set from British Tomb 24 at Enkomi 2.4 Spindles from Ugarit RS 4.221[A]‌and RS 34.210 2.5 Pomegranate knobbed shaft 132 from Kition tomb 9 2.6a–​b Bone shafts from Tell Deir ‘Alla 2.7a–​b Decorated spindles from Megiddo 2.8 Representation of the king on the Ugarit ivory bed 2.9 The “Syrian” embroidered tunic, tomb of King Tutankhamun 2.10a–​b Textiles decorated with beads and bracteates, tomb of King Tutankhamun 2.11 Detail of an appliqué and embroidered panel with gold bracteates from a linen garment, tomb of King Tutankhamun 2.12 Canaanite jar from the Uluburun shipwreck filled with glass beads 2.13 Gold bracteates from the Aigina Treasure 3.1 Hemispherical, transparent drinking bowl 3.2 The principle of slumping a transparent glass blank over a dome-​shaped mould (slumping technique) 3.3 Carved ivory depicting Ashurnasirpal II holding a hemispherical bowl between his fingertips 3.4 Fragment of a rock crystal bowl with engraved design from the Burnt Palace, Nimrud 4.1 Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Lady of Sorrow), statue by Juan Prieto, Cordoba, Spain, 1719 4.2 Plan of Persepolis 4.3 Eastern façade of the Apadana 4.4 Close-​up of a tribute bearer from the eastern façade of the Apadana

19 22 25 25 27 28 29 30 37 37 39 39 39 40 40 40 41 43 44 44 45 64 65 66 67 78 80 81 84 ix

List of figures

4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16

Close-​up of a camel from the eastern façade of the Apadana Close-​up of a ram from the eastern façade of the Apadana Details from the eastern façade of the Apadana Sculptors’ mark on the eastern façade of the Apadana Vessels on the eastern façade of the Apadana Representations of clasped hands on the eastern façade of the Apadana Delegate on the eastern façade of the Apadana Grooms on the eastern façade of the Apadana Delegates leading animals on the eastern façade of the Apadana Lion and bull in combat on the eastern façade of the Apadana Ushers leading delegates on the eastern façade of the Apadana Central panel from the eastern façade of the Apadana, excavated in the Treasury, on display at the National Museum of Iran, Tehran 4.17 North side of the eastern façade of the Apadana 4.18 The Gallery of Cornelis Van der Geest, by Willem van Haecht II, 1628 4.19 Western interior face of the central flight of stairs of the eastern façade of the Apadana 6.1 Anklets in Egyptian iconography 6.2a–​b Burial 246, Ashkelon 6.3 Anklets on skeleton in Tomb 123, Tell es-Sa’idiyeh 6.4 Leg-​bones and feet of burial in Grave 411, Tell es-Sa’idiyeh 6.5 Figurine, Tel ‘Ira (A.42) 6.6 Gold pear-​shaped pendant from the Uluburun shipwreck 7.1a–​b Excavation photograph and contour plan of Hasanlu, Iran 7.2 Map of the ancient Near East showing location of Hasanlu 7.3 Graph showing the relationship between female and male identified burials and classes of artefacts and materials in Period IVb burials at Hasanlu 7.4 Hasanlu Period IVb burials showing distribution by sex/​age categories and relative wealth 7.5 Excavator’s drawing of Burial SK493a, Hasanlu 7.6 Excavation photograph of Burial SK448, Hasanlu 7.7 Examples of the long and ordinary copper-​alloy garment pins from elite women’s burials, Hasanlu 7.8 Garment fastening using two pins at shoulders 7.9 Excavation photograph and drawings of finger-​r ings 7.10 Sample bead types from elite women’s burials 7.11 Gold spreader bead from Burial SK448, Hasanlu 7.12 Drawing of headdress found under skull of SK59, HAS 59-​111 7.13 Composite photograph of HAS 64-​193 8.1 Early Dynastic cylinder seal impression in clay from Ur, Iraq 8.2 Tablets with seal impressions 8.3 Inlay of a woman wearing a cylinder seal and playing a flute from Nippur, Iraq 8.4 Rolling the cylinder seal 8.5 Unicorn and lynx from a Medieval manuscript 8.6 Modern impression of a cylinder seal from Iran depicting the goddess Ishtar welcoming a devotee 8.7a–​b (a) Cylinder seal from Ur made of lapis lazuli; and (b) modern impression 8.8 Liver tablet from Sippar x

85 85 85 86 88 88 89 89 90 90 91 92 92 94 96 128 130 131 131 132 133 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 154 155 156 157 158 159 168 169 170 170 173 176 177 181

List of figures

8.9 9.1

Tablet with incised entrails Persian usher taking the hand of a member of the Babylonian delegation on the eastern stairway of the Apadana 9.2 The lioness led by the Elamite delegation turns to roar at her cubs on the eastern stairway of the Apadana 9.3 Two incense burners stand before the enthroned king in a detail of one of the original central panels of the Apadana 9.4 Two guards stand atop the stairs on the inner face of a stairway leading into the Apadana 9.5 Plan of Persepolis 9.6 Courtiers traversing the north stairway of the east wing of the inner north balustrade of the Central Building 9.7 Two members of the Assyrian delegation direct rams in procession on the eastern stairway of the Apadana 9.8 Original central panel of the Apadana reliefs 9.9 View across the northern stairway of the Apadana 9.10 The king stands under a parasol on the western doorjamb of the southern doorway of the Central Building 10.1 Spouted vessel, Tomb PG 800, Ur 10.2 Display case with Early Dynastic period spouted vessels 10.3 Plaque showing spouted vessel in use, libation before the goddess Ninhursag (?) 10.4 Spouted vessel in use at ritual bathing (abhisheka) of Krishna, Rādharamāna temple,Vrindavan 10.5 Votive sculptures from the Square Temple, Tell Asmar 10.6 Modern impression of a marble seal, likely showing the god dNanna/​Su’en seated before a shrine 10.7 Plaque from Ishchali, adorned female (likely deity), Ishtar kititum temple 10.8 Detail, “Banquet” side of the so-​called “Standard of Ur,” Royal Cemetery 10.9 Gudea stele fragment, large drum played in a ritual context 10.10 Back of Gudea Statue B 10.11 Devotees receiving nectar from the bathing ritual of the deity Krishna, Rādharamāna temple,Vrindavan 10.12 a–​b (a) Fragment of cedar wood, Nimrud, (b) Devotional flowers for worship, India 10.13 Ur-​Namma stele fragment, showing Ur-​Namma pouring a libation before a seated deity presumably dUtu 10.14 Reconstruction drawing, Ziggurat and precinct of dNanna at Ur 11.1 Distribution map of stepped pools in the southern Levant 11.2 Rabbi Muntzberg and others inspecting the Southern Mikveh at Masada 11.3 Jericho, the Hasmonean Buried Palace, ritual bath and settling pool 11.4 Masada, Casemate room 1196, the Southern Mikveh complex 11.5 Magdala, stepped pool “Mkv3” 11.6 Gamla, ground plan of ritual bath L1060 and synagogue area 12.1 View of Göbekli Tepe, Enclosure D 12.2–12.5 Stone plaquettes from Göbekli Tepe 12.6 Miniature stone mask from Göbekli Tepe 12.7 Porthole stone, Göbekli Tepe

182 190 192 193 194 195 196 198 202 203 205 214 214 215 216 217 217 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 227 237 238 242 243 245 247 256 258 261 261 xi

List of figures

13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 13.9 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 13.17 13.18 13.19 13.20 13.21 13.22 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 14.15 14.16 15.1


The pinnacle of the Gebel Barkal, a ḏw w  b Relief from the Temple of Mut and a graffito on the exterior of the Gebel Barkal Map showing the locations of the First Cataract, where Konosso Island is situated, and Nauri Map of the First Cataract area with an inset of Konosso Island Konosso Island Konosso, or Sawabʿa The scene from the Year 7 Stela of Tuthmosis IV The scene from the Year 8 Stela of Tuthmosis IV The scene from Amenhotep III’s stela at Konosso Amenhotep III’s stela at Konosso View of Konosso from the south, as it appears in the Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien Frank Mason Good, View of Granite Rocks, Island of Philae, c. 1870 J. P. Sebah, Konosso. Les Rochers & Cataracte d’Assouan, second half of the 19th century Late 19th-​century photograph by W. M. F. Petrie, Konosso, with Tablets The Nauri Decree Stela of Seti I Line drawing of the lunette of the Nauri Decree Stela The two sandstone hills at Nauri Drone photograph looking eastward, showing the location of the stela on the hill, Nauri Line drawing of the layout of the Nauri Decree Stela The Nauri Decree Stela as seen from the bottom of the hill The location of the hills with respect to the course of the Nile The Nauri Decree Stela as seen from the river General plan of the Royal Palace G, Ebla Seal of the high official Ushra-​Samu Proposed reconstruction of an inlaid wall panel, depicting the king front-​facing and a procession of high officials turned towards him, Ebla Proposed reconstruction of the northern façade of the Court of Audience Group of drinking vessels from the Court of Audience Group of burners from the Royal Palace G General plan of the site of Ebla Schematic plan of Ishtar’s Cult Area Representative group of objects from one of the votive pits in Ishtar’s Cult Area Three vases with applied figures from one of the votive pits in Ishtar’s Cult Area Section of the votive pit in Area HH Group of bowls from the votive pit in Area HH Drawings of bowls from the votive pit in Area HH Three clay bowls with wick marks from the votive pit in Area HH Unbaked clay female figure from the votive pit in Area HH Unbaked clay female figure from the votive pit in Area HH Mark Rothko, “No. 3,” 1967

271 271 273 274 275 275 276 277 278 278 279 280 281 282 284 284 285 286 287 288 289 289 300 301 301 302 303 303 306 308 309 309 310 311 311 312 313 314 327

List of figures

15.2 15.3 15.4

Mark Rothko, “Untitled,” 1968 Standard North American Stop Sign Sebetti figures from a doorway at the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh, Exhibition, I am Ashurbanipal, at the British Museum 15.5 Portion of the Reconstructed Processional Way, Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin 15.6 Reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate, Voderasiatisches Museum, Berlin 15.7 Astroglyphs on the wall of the Sin Temple at Khorsabad 15.8 Astroglyphic inscription on Lord Aberdeen’s Black Stone 15.9 Seleucid astrological tablet showing a lion (= Leo) standing on a winged dragon-​snake (= Hydra) with eight-​pointed star 15.10 Seleucid astrological tablet showing a group of seven stars (= Pleiades), a man in the moon holding a crouching leonine creature by the tail, and a bull in jumping posture (= Taurus) 15.11 Stamp seal impressed on a baked brick from the time of Nebuchadnezzar II 15.12 Drawing of the rock relief from Wadi Brisa, Lebanon, showing Nebuchadnezzar II stabbing a rampant lion 16.1 Artist’s reconstruction of the Temple Mount in the First Temple Period 16.2 Megiddo ivory inlay of a tribute procession before Canaanite ruler 16.3 Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III depicting prostration of Assyrian vassal Jehu 16.4 Ceremonial bowl for collecting and dashing sacrificial blood 16.5 Reconstruction of the Arad sanctuary’s Holy of Holies at the Israel Museum 16.6 Altar area of Tel Dan’s sacred precinct 17.1 Top plan of Nabratein Synagogue 1 17.2 Artist’s rendering of Nabratein Synagogue 1 17.3 Reconstruction of Nabratein Synagogue 1 17.4 Reconstruction of Nabratein Synagogue 1a 17.5 Reconstruction of Nabratein Synagogue 1b 17.6 Exponential decay of sound pressure by distance 17.7 Map of sound pressure around the head at one-​metre distance 17.8 Synagogue 1a schematic with the sound zones from the central position indicated 17.9 Synagogue 1b, with arcs indicating 4 metres, 5.5 metres, and 7 metres from Torah reader 19.1 Aerial image of House 12/​K/​15 marked with the locations of intramural burials, Megiddo 19.2 Plan of the Qatna royal palace showing the route from the Royal Hypogeum to Tomb VII 19.3 Excavation of Tomb 100 interior with contents in situ, Megiddo 19.4 Tomb 100: hand-arm-shoulder in articulation 19.5 Tomb 100: lamp balanced on jug 20.1 Inscribed marble sarcophagus fragment of an unknown king of Byblos 20.2 Anthropoid amphibolite sarcophagus of King Tabnit of Sidon 21.1 Elaborately painted shroud of Neferhotep, son of Herrotiou 21.2 Painted shroud of a child on display 21.3 Painted shroud of a child on mummified body 21.4 Painted portraits exhibiting strong luminescence in the near infrared

328 328 329 331 333 335 335 336

336 337 337 346 349 350 351 355 356 367 368 369 370 370 372 373 375 384 409 411 417 418 420 435 440 453 455 456 463


List of figures

25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 27.1–​27.2 27.3–​27.5


William Hogarth, The Battle of the Pictures William Hogarth, Time Smoking a Picture William Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty, plate 1 William Hogarth, The Laughing Audience William Hogarth, Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn Paintings of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep in their tomb at Saqqara The divine Hathor-​cow licks Queen Hatshepsut’s hand, Shrine of Hathor, Deir el-Bahari

538 539 540 541 542 589 591


17.1 17.2 17.3

Look-​up table for estimating the addition of two sound sources Total sound experience of listener 4 metres directly in front of speaker Table of direct sound and first reflections for the listeners at the four key locations of Nabratein Synagogue 1a 17.4 Total sound experience for listeners in two locations of Nabratein Synagogue 1b 19.1 Burial assemblage of Tomb 100 19.2 Burial assemblage (vessels) in Tomb 100 20.1 Select interpretations of the Phoenician, Punic, and Neo-​Punic title mqm ’ilm mtrḥ ‘štrny 26.1 Most prominent time periods, their word counts, and most common genres in our data for “seeing” in Akkadian 26.2 Summary of the semantic aspects of the Akkadian verbs, comparing Dicks (AD) and PMI 27.1 The five senses model 27.2 Selected examples of classifiers of perceptive verbs 27.3 THE MIND IS A BODY metaphor 27.4 Additional metaphors 27.5 Properties of the five sensory modalities 27.6 “to see” 27.7 “to hear” 27.8 Lexemes for haptic perception 27.9 Main verbal lexemes for olfactory sensation 27.10 UNDERSTANDING is TOUCHING metaphor

377 378 378 381 419 419 433 563 571 577 577 579 579 580 581 582 584 585 589



Richard H. Beal is Senior Research Associate on the Hittite Dictionary Project at the Oriental

Institute of the University of Chicago, USA, a project he has worked on since its inception in January 1976. After beginning Hittite at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, under James Muhly, he received his Ph.D. in Hittitology at the University of Chicago under Harry A. Hoffner and Hans Gustav Güterbock. He is author of The Organisation of the Hittite Military (1992) and many articles in academic journals. He is married to Assyriologist JoAnn Scurlock. Rick Bonnie is University Researcher in the Department of Cultures at the University of

Helsinki, Finland, and is associated as a vice-​team leader to the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires. He is the author of Being Jewish in Galilee, 100–​200 CE: An Archaeological Study (2019) and a co-​editor of The Synagogue in Ancient Palestine: Current Issues and Emerging Trends (2020). Dennis R. M. Campbell is an Associate Professor of History at San Francisco State University,

USA. His work focuses on the Late Bronze Age Near East with a focus on the Hurrians and Hittites. Previous publications have explored philological topics on the Hurrian language as well as historical research on the Hittites, Hurrians, and their place in the ancient world. Gaëlle Chantrain is currently a Post-​Doctoral Associate and Lecturer in Egyptology at the

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization of Yale University, USA, and post-​ doctoral researcher in absentia at the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS), Belgium. She completed her M.A. degree at the University of Liege, Belgium, where she was also a collaborator on the Ramses Project. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Louvain, Belgium, with a research fellowship from the FNRS. She has also held post-​doctoral positions at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and the Czech Institute of Egyptology of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Her main research interests are Egyptian philology, lexical semantics, classifiers studies, cognitive linguistics, and semantic typology. Megan Cifarelli is Professor of Visual Studies and Art History at Manhattanville College, USA,

and a Consulting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, USA. Her research focuses on applications of dress, gender, and archaeological theory to the visual and material cultures of the ancient Near East, particularly during the first millennium BCE . Sarah Kielt Costello is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Houston –​Clear

Lake, USA. She is a specialist in the visual culture of early Western Asia. She is co-​editor and


List of contributors

contributor to Object Biographies: Collaborative Approaches to Ancient Mediterranean Art (2021), and Seals and Sealings in the Ancient World: Case Studies from the Near East, Egypt, the Aegean and South Asia (2018). Melissa S. Cradic received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, and is

Curator of the Badè Museum in Berkeley, CA, USA; Lecturer in the Department of History and Judaic Studies Program at the University at Albany, SUNY, USA; and NEH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, USA (2021–2022). Her research and fieldwork investigate ancestor commemoration, embodiment, and the social status of the dead after burial in household contexts of the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean. She has held fellowships at Harvard University, USA; W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, Israel; and University of Pennsylvania, USA. Camilla Di Biase-​ Dyson received her B.A. (Honours) and Ph.D. in Ancient History from

Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, specialising in Egyptology (2008). She then held post-​ doctoral fellowships at the Humboldt-​Universität in Berlin, Germany, within the Excellence Cluster TOPOI and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2009–​2012). She was Junior Professor for Egyptology at the Georg-​August-​Universität in Göttingen, Germany, from 2012–​ 2019; a research fellow at the Universität Wien, Austria, from 2019–​2020; and since April 2020 is Lecturer of Egyptology at Macquarie University, Australia. She works on Egyptian language, texts, medicine, and religion, from linguistics and cognitive perspectives. Helen Dixon is an interdisciplinary scholar of the ancient Mediterranean world specialising

in Phoenician history and culture in the first millennium BCE . Dixon holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan, USA, and enjoyed post-​doctoral appointments at North Carolina State University, USA, and the University of Helsinki, Finland, before serving as Assistant Professor at Wofford College, USA, and now, at East Carolina University, USA. Her research has evolved from archaeological excavation, museum study, and archive work in Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Greece, and focuses on how Phoenicians and their neighbours shaped and negotiated their social identities in both life and death. Marian H. Feldman is the W. H. Collins Vickers Chair in Archaeology and a Professor in the

Departments of the History of Art and Near Eastern Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, USA. She is the author of Diplomacy by Design: Luxury Arts and an ‘International Style’ in the Ancient Near East, 1400–​1200 BCE (2006) and Communities of Style: Portable Luxury Arts, Identity and Collective Memory in the Iron Age Levant (2014). Feldman has also co-​edited several volumes, including Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art (with Brian A. Brown; 2013), and is the author of several articles and catalogue essays. Paul V. M. Flesher is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming, where he

directs the American Heritage Center. He earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester, USA; an M.Phil. from Oxford University, UK; and a Ph.D. from Brown University, USA. Trained as a historian of ancient Judaism, his expertise lies in Targum translations and ancient synagogues. His books include The Targums: A Critical Introduction (with Bruce Chilton; 2011) and he edited the series Studies in the Aramaic Interpretation of Scripture for two decades. More recently, he was one of the editors of The Old Testament in Archaeology and History (2017). A past president of the


List of contributors

International Organization for Targumic Study, he currently serves as a Trustee of ASOR (the American Society of Overseas Research). Agnès Garcia-​Ventura is Ramón y Cajal Fellow at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,

Spain. Her main interests are gender and the historiography of Ancient Near Eastern studies. She is the co-​editor of several books, including Studying Gender in the Ancient Near East (2018) and Perspectives on the History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies (2020). Dora Goldsmith is an Egyptologist at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Her specific

area of research focuses on the sense of smell in ancient Egypt. Based on the written sources, Goldsmith investigates the ancient Egyptians’ perception of the world through the sense of smell and recreates their smellscapes. Her published works include “Fish, Fowl, and Stench in Ancient Egypt” (2019), and “The Smell of Mummification” (2019). Lissette M. Jiménez is Assistant Professor in Museum Studies in the School of Art at San

Francisco State University, USA. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies with an emphasis in Egyptian art and archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley, USA. Her research interests include museum and curatorial studies, postcolonial and decolonial museum theory, and ancient Egyptian art and archaeology, with a focus on Greco-​Roman period commemorative funerary practices and material culture. Edgar Kellenberger studied theology and the ancient Near East at Basel, Switzerland, and Paris,

France. He also serves as a research fellow at the University of Basel, with several publications about the Hebrew Bible, the ancient Near East, and disability studies. Nicola Laneri teaches Archaeology and Art History of the Ancient Near East at the University

of Catania, Sicily. Since 2003, he has been the Director of the Hirbemerdon Tepe Archaeological Project and since 2018 the Co-​director of the Ganja Region Kurgan Archaeological Project in western Azerbaijan. He is also the Director of the School of Religious Studies and of the Archaeological Museum at the University of Catania. He has published more than 100 scientific articles in journals and books, including recently The Hirbemerdon Tepe Archaeological Project 2003–​2013 Final Report: Chronology and Material Culture (2016), Archeologia della morte (2011), and the edited volume Defining the Sacred: Approaches to the Archaeology of Religion in the Near East (2015). Mireia López-​Bertran is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the Universitat

de València, Spain. Her main interest is art and iconography of the Iron Age Mediterranean from an embodied and gender perspective. More specifically, she specialises in Phoenician-​Punic archaeology and focuses on coroplastic artworks. Neville McFerrin’s work focuses on intersections between dress, perception, materiality, and

embodiment at the sites of Persepolis and Pompeii. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of North Texas, USA. M. Willis Monroe is a Research Associate in the Department of Asian Studies at the University

of British Columbia, Canada. His work focuses on the history of scholarship in the first millennium BCE of Mesopotamia, especially during the Achaemenid and Hellenistic periods. In particular he is interested in the ways in which astronomical and astrological knowledge intertwine xviii

List of contributors

on material objects through the use of complex structural and formatting schemes enacted by cuneiform scribes. Kiersten Neumann is Curator and Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University

of Chicago, USA, having earned her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Art and Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. Her research is grounded in theoretical approaches to ancient art, with a focus on sensory experience and visual culture of the first millennium BCE . Neumann has published numerous articles on topics pertaining to ritualised practice, built environments, and sensory experience in Assyria; museum practice, collections histories, and the reception of Assyrian and Achaemenid art; and curated the Oriental Institute Museum special exhibit, “Persepolis: Images of an Empire” (2015–​2017). Christine Elizabeth Palmer is on the faculty of Gordon-​Conwell Theological Seminary, USA,

where she teaches Hebrew Bible and leads archaeological study tours to Israel, Jordan, and her own native country of Greece. Her research focuses on ancient Israelite ritual at the intersection of text, material culture, and embodied experience. Frances Pinnock was Associate Professor of Archaeology and Art History of the Ancient Near

East at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. She is Co-​director of the Italian Archaeological Expedition to Syria (Ebla). She is author of nearly 200 contributions, including monographs and scientific articles. Beate Pongratz-​Leisten is Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Institute for the

Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), New York University, USA. Her recent books include Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism (2011), Religion and Ideology in Assyria (2015), and the co-​edited (with K. Sonik) The Materiality of Divine Agency (2015). She is also the author of Herrschaftswissen in Mesopotamien: Formen der Kommunikation zwischen Gott und König im 2. und 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1999); ina šulmi īrub: Die kulttopographische und ideologische Programmatik der akītu-​Prozession in Babylonien und Assyrien im I. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1994); and numerous articles on topics pertaining to the cultural, intellectual, religious history, and art history of Mesopotamia. Her current research focuses on myth as episteme for world-​making in image and text drawing on cognitive and narratology studies as well as studies in interpictoriality, intericonicity, intermediality, and multimodality. Anne-​Caroline Rendu Loisel is maîtresse de conférences in Assyriology at the University of

Strasbourg, France. She is a member of the epigraphical and archaeological mission at Eridu –​ Abu Shahrain (Iraq). Aleksi Sahala has a combined Master’s Degree in Language Technology and Assyriology from

the University of Helsinki, Finland. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. thesis “Contributions to Computational Assyriology” under the supervision of Saana Svärd and Krister Lindén. Caroline Sauvage is the NEH Associate Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies and the

Director of the archaeology centre and museum in the Department of Classics and Archaeology at Loyola Marymount University, USA. She specialises in the study of Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean textile technology and maritime trade.


List of contributors

Katharina Schmidt is an ancient Near Eastern archaeologist who received her Ph.D. from the

University of Munich, Germany. She is currently the Director of the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Amman, Jordan. A central focus of her research is glass and glass production in the Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. Sarah J. Scott received her Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of Pennsylvania,

USA, and worked on the Ur Seal Impression Strata for her dissertation. Her research focuses on the intersection of art and writing in fourth-​and early third-​millennium BCE southern Mesopotamia, and how cylinder seal imagery functioned in temple economies. She is currently a Professor in the Visual Arts Department at Wagner College, USA, where she teaches a range of courses encompassing the broader Mediterranean and Middle Eastern visual worlds. She employs an interdisciplinary approach with students as they explore themes dealing with narrative, semiotics and identity, and experience museums in New York City as an extension of the classroom. Karen Sonik is an art and cultural historian specialising in Mesopotamia. She earned her Ph.D. in

the Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, with a focus on the ancient Near East, and is currently Associate Professor of Art History at Auburn University, USA. Among her recent publications are Art/​ifacts and ArtWorks in the Ancient World (2021), Journey to the City: A Companion to the Middle East Galleries at the Penn Museum (ed. with S. Tinney, 2019), and The Materiality of Divine Agency (ed. with B. Pongratz-​Leisten, 2015). Elisabeth Steinbach-​Eicke, M.A., is a Doctoral Student at Humboldt-​Universität in Berlin,

Germany, and a Research Assistant at the Egyptological Seminar of the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Her main research focuses on the semantics of perception verbs in Ancient Egyptian. Ulrike Steinert is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Research Training Group 1876 “Early

Concepts of Humans and Nature” at Johannes Gutenberg-​University in Mainz, Germany. Her research and publications focus on the history of Mesopotamian medicine, women’s health, the Akkadian language, body and gender concepts, as well as on the study of metaphor and emotions. She is the author of a book on the body, self, and identity in Mesopotamian texts, entitled Aspekte des Menschseins im Alten Mesopotamien: Eine Studie zu Person und Identität im 2. und 1. Jt. v. Chr. (2012), and is currently preparing a monograph, Women’s Health Care in Ancient Mesopotamia: An Edition of the Textual Sources. Saana Svärd is an Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and the director of the

Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Much of her work focuses on women and gender in Mesopotamia. In recent years, her focus has expanded to adapting and developing approaches from social sciences, digital humanities, and linguistic semantics to gain new perspectives on cuneiform sources. Allison Thomason received her Ph.D. in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at

Columbia University, USA, in 1999. Since receiving her degree, she has taught ancient history in the Department of History at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA, where she currently serves as Professor and Chair. Her book, Luxury and Legitimation: Royal Collecting in Ancient Mesopotamia (Routledge 2005), explores the importance of portable objects in the Mesopotamian world. She has continued her study of human interactions with material culture


List of contributors

in numerous articles and book chapters on portable objects, dress, and sensory experiences in the ancient Near East. Jen Thum is Assistant Director of Academic Engagement and Assistant Research Curator at the

Harvard Art Museums, USA, where she works at the intersection of Egyptology and museum education. Her research has included a range of object-​based studies in museums and a dissertation on Egyptian royal living-​rock stelae. Thum is dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary conversations about the ancient world with students and the public alike. Josephine Verduci holds a Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

She has worked for several years on archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan, and published studies on Bronze and Iron Age adornment practices from across the eastern Mediterranean. She is the author of Metal Jewellery of the Southern Levant and its Western Neighbours: Cross-​Cultural Influences in the Early Iron Age Eastern Mediterranean (2016). Currently, she is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne and Research Fellow of the Australian Institute of Archaeology. Irene J. Winter received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology at Barnard College, USA,

her M.A. in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, USA, and her Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, USA. She has taught at Columbia, at Queens College CUNY, at the University of Pennsylvania, and at Harvard University, from which she retired in 2009 (all in the USA). She has lectured widely in a variety of contexts. Her principal scholarly interests have been the relationships between image and text, and the contextual grounds for understanding the role of imagery in ancient Mesopotamia. She has also participated in excavations in Iran and Iraq.



Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason would like to thank the entire staff at Routledge/​ Taylor & Francis who helped to produce this volume, most notably commissioning editor, Amy Davis-​Poynter, and senior editorial assistant, Elizabeth Risch. We extend our gratitude as well to Émilie Sarrazin, Ph.D. candidate in Egyptian archaeology at the University of Chicago, whose skilled work on the map in the front of the volume was invaluable. We would also like to acknowledge all of our wonderful colleagues at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and the Department of History at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for their support and encouragement throughout this ambitious project. We sincerely thank the many contributors and anonymous readers of the chapters for helping to shape the volume and their constructive suggestions. Finally, we thank our friends and family for supporting our efforts in producing such a large body of work, which was initially proposed in response to the member-​ organised sessions on the senses at the Annual Meetings of the American Society for Overseas Research in 2016–​2018.


Editors’ Note

In this volume, transliteration and normalization of ancient languages are rendered in italics, except for Sumerian, which is in lower-case bold face. In addition, for the cuneiform script, sign names and logograms are presented in small upper-case letters and determinatives are in superscript lower-case. The following abbreviations are used: AAA ACL AfO AHw AJA AMD AMT ANEM AOAT ARA ARM BAe BAM BASOR BGH BM CAD


Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology (Liverpool, 1908–​1948) Applications of Cognitive Linguistics Archiv für Orientforschung Von Soden, W. 1965–​1981. Akkadisches Handwörterbuch. 3 Volumes. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz American Journal of Archaeology Ancient Magic and Divination Thompson, R. C. 1923. Assyrian Medical Texts. London: Oxford University Press Ancient Near East Monographs Alter Orient und Altes Testament Annual Review of Anthropology Archives royales de Mari (Paris, 1950–​) Bibliotheca Aegyptiaca Köcher, F. 1963–​1980. Die babylonisch-​assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen. 4 Volumes. Berlin: De Gruyter Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research Richter, Thomas. 2012. Bibliographisches Glossar des Hurritischen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz British Museum Gelb, I. J., et al., eds. 1956–​2006. The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Cambridge Archaeological Journal Dietrich, M., O. Loretz, and J. Sanmartín. 1995. The Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places. Münster: Ugarit-​Verlag Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. http://​​ (Los Angeles/​ Berlin) Converging Evidence in Language and Communication Research Culture and History in the Ancient Near East


List of abbreviations






Güterbock(†), H. G., and H. Hoffner(†), et al. 1980–​. The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Corpus der hurritischen Sprachdenkmäler Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (Berlin, 1863–) de Vogue, M., ed. 1881. Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum. Pars Prima: Inscriptiones Phoenicias Continens. Paris Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum (London, 1896) de Buck, A. 1961. The Egyptian Coffin Texts VII:Texts of Spells 787–​1185. OIP 87. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Laroche, L. 1971. Catalogue des textes hittites. Paris: Klincksieck Dresdner Beiträge zur Hethitologie Chassinat, E., ed. 1934–​1952. Le temple de Dendera. 5 Volumes. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale Digitales Zettelarchiv. Chassinat, E., ed. 1892–​1933. Le temple d’Edfou. 8 Volumes. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale Black, J. A., G. Cunningham, J. Ebeling, E. Flückiger-​Hawker, E. Robson, J. Taylor, and G. Zólyomi. 1998. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. Oxford. http://​​ Göttinger Orientforschungen Puhvel, J. 1984–​. Hittite Etymological Dictionary. Berlin/​New York: Mouton de Gruyter Tischler, J. 1977–​2016. Hethitisches etymologisches Glossar. Innsbruck: Institut fur Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck Friedrich, J. (†), A. Kammenhuber (†), et al. 1975–​. Kammenhuben. Hethitisches Wörterbuch. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag Reynolds, J. M., and J. B. Ward Perkins, eds. 1952. The Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania. Rome: Officine Apollon Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions Journal of the American Oriental Society Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt Journal of Cuneiform Studies Journal of Egyptian Archaeology Le Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes Journal of Near Eastern Studies Donner, H., and W. Röllig. 2002. Kanaanaische und aramäische Inschriften, Band 1: 5., erweiterte und überarbeitete Auflage. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Ebeling, E. 1919–​1923. Keilschrifttexte aus Assur religiösen Inhalts I. Leipzig: Hinrichs Otten, H., and Chr. Rüster. 1990. Die hurritisch-​hethitische Bilingue und weitere Texte aus der Oberstadt. Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazköi 32. Berlin: Gebr. Mann Kitchen, K. A. 1969–​1990. Ramesside Inscriptions, Historical and Biographical. 8 Volumes. Oxford: Blackwell

List of abbreviations



RA Ramsès RÉS






Dietrich, M., O. Loretz, and J. Sanmartín. 2013. Die Keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit, Ras Ibn Habi und anderen Orten: KTU3. Third Edition. AOAT 360. Münster: Ugarit-​Verlag Keilschriften aus Boghazköi (Berlin, 1921–​1990) Helck, W., E. Otto, and W. Westendorf, eds. 1972–​1990. Lexikon der Ägyptologie. 7 volumes. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Languages of the Ancient Near East The Loeb Classical Library Lepsius, K. R. 1849–​1859. Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien. 12 Volumes. Berlin: Nicolaische Buchhandlung Gardiner, A. H. 1937. Late Egyptian Miscellanies. BAe 7. Brussels: Édition de la Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth Gardiner, A. H. 1932. Late Egyptian Stories. BAe 1. Brussels: Édition de la Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth Lingua Aegyptia Münchner Ägyptologische Studien Nouvelles assyriologiques brèves et utilitaires Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis Oriental Institute Museum Publications Oriental Institute Publications Oriental Institute Seminars Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta Porter, B., and R. L. B. Moss. 1927–​1951. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings. 7 Volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale Ramses Online. http://​​ Académie des inscriptions et belles-​lettres. 1900–​1905 (Tome 1); 1907–​ 1914 (Tome II). Répertoire d’épigraphie sémitique, publié par la commission du Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum (Tome I: 1–​500;Tome II: 501–​1200). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie Grayson, A. K. 1987. Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia BC (To 1115 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Assyrian Periods 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Grayon, A. K. 1991. Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC I (1114–​ 859 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Assyrian Periods 2. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Grayson, A. K. 1996. Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC Part II (858–​745 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Assyrian Periods 3. Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press Frame, G. 1995. Rulers of Babylonia: From the Second Dynasty of Isin to the End of Assyrian Domination (1157–​612 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Babylonian Periods 2. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Frayne, D. 2008. Presargonic Period (2700–​2350 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Early Periods 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press


List of abbreviations


RIME 3/​1

RIME 3/​2 RIME 4


RINAP 3/​1

RINAP 3/​2




SAA 2 SAA 3 SAA 8 SAA 10 SAA 18


Frayne, D. R. 1993. Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334–​2113 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Early Periods 2. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Edzard, D. O. 1997. Gudea and His Dynasty. Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Early Periods 3/​1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Frayne, D. R. 1997. Ur III Period (2112–​2004 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Early Periods 3/​2. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Frayne, D. R. 1990. Old Babylonian Period (2003–​1595 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Early Periods 4. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Tadmor, H., and S.Yamada. 2011. The Royal Inscriptions of Tiglath-​pileser III (744–​727 BC) and Shalmaneser V (726–​722 BC), Kings of Assyria. The Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-​Assyrian Period 1. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns Grayson, A. K., and J. Novotny. 2012. The Royal Inscriptions of Sennacherib, King of Assyria (704–​681 BC), Part 1. Royal Inscriptions of the Assyrian Period 3/​1. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns Grayson, A. K., and J. Novotny. 2014. The Royal Inscriptions of Sennacherib, King of Assyria (704–​681 BC), Part 1. Royal Inscriptions of the Assyrian Period 3/​2. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns Leichty, E. 2011. The Royal Inscriptions of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680–​ 669 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-​Assyrian Period 4. Winona Lake, IN; Eisenbrauns Kitchen, K. A. 1993–​2014. Ramesside Inscriptions,Translated & Annotated:Translations. 7 Volumes. Oxford: Blackwell; Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell Kitchen, K. A., and B. G. Davies. 1993–​2014. Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated and Annotated: Notes and Comments. 4 Volumes. Oxford: Blackwell; Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell Parpola, S., and K. Watanabe. 1988. Neo-​Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths. State Archives of Assyria 2. Helsinki: The Neo-​Assyrian Text Corpus Project Livingstone, A. 1989. Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea. State Archives of Assyria 3. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project Hunger, H. 1992. Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings. State Archives of Assyria 8. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project Parpola, S. 1993. Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars. State Archives of Assyria 10. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project Reynolds, F. 2003. The Babylonian Correspondence of Esarhaddon and Letters to Assurbanipal and Sin-​šarru-​iškun from Northern and Central Babylonia. State Archives of Assyria 18. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project Parpola, S. 2017. Assyrian Royal Rituals and Cultic Texts. State Archives of Assyria 20. Helsinki: The Neo-​Assyrian Text Corpus Project State Archives of Assyria Bulletin State Archives of Assyria Studies Sonderschrift des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo Selected Papers in Ancient Art and Architecture Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk (Mainz, 1976–​1998) Studien zu den Boğazköy-​Texten

List of abbreviations

TLA Tripolitania TSSI 3

UET Urk. VAM Wb.


Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae. Reynolds, J. M., and J. B. Ward Perkins, eds. 1952. The Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania. Rome: Officine Apollon Gibson, J. C. L. 1982. Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions.Volume III: Phoenician Inscriptions including inscriptions in the mixed dialect of Arslan Tash. Oxford: Clarendon Press Ur Excavations Texts (London, 1928–​) Sethe, K., H. W. Helck, H. Schäfer, H. Grapow, and O. Firchow. 1903–​1957. Urkunden des ägyptischen Altertums. 8 Volumes. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs Vorderasiatisches Museum Erman, A., and H. Grapow. 1971 [1926–1931]. Wörterbuch der ägyptische Sprache. 7 Volumes (and 5 Belegstellen). Leipzig: Hinrichs; Berlin: Akademie-Verlag Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und verwandte Gebiete, (from 1939) und Vorderasiatische Archäologie Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde





Introduction Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason

Humans are universally sensing beings. That is the premise with which we begin this Handbook. However, in addition to not being the only sensing beings, humans do not sense in a universally similar way, whether today in contemporary life or in the lived experiences of past worlds and cultures. Notwithstanding, all humans have common sensory organs and apparatuses in their bodies: sensory neurons receive and transport environmental stimuli as well as convert them to electrochemical signals that travel to the brain. Humans perceive and make sense of these signals in the neural networks of the body and brain and translate them into meaningful memory, experience, and response. This volume explores the ways in which humans, through their senses, experienced their lives and the world around them in the ancient Near East,1 a region that gave rise to the first urban settlements, the world’s earliest civilisations, as well as the advent of writing and other technologies, and whose cultures had strong linguistic, cultural, religious, and ethnicties, making this area a crossroads of the ancient world. The use of sensory experiences to cast a lifeline to the “dead” ancient past offers a way for scholars and students of the ancient Near East to better understand, reimagine, and bring to life the human experience in antiquity. When we unearth remnants of a commemorative banquet, an ancient synagogue, a home’s dark corners, or a palace archive with written documents from the past, we can begin to conjure and intimately connect with the sensing lives of our deep ancestors. This connectivity is something that scholars of the ancient world crave when attempting to reconstruct past lives, and it is a connectivity, even perhaps an empathy, that is best achieved through the shared knowledge and appreciation of the fact that all humans have always and will continue to sense. While the ability for humans to sense is pre-​cultural, how and what we sense, and how we interpret or perceive of those sensory moments are not. That is to say, despite a universal ability to sense, sensory experiences have the potential of differing vastly, both over time and in space; therefore, it is the task of the philologist, archaeologist, and art historian to cast diverse nets of inquiry, unearth a multitude of evidence, and interpret the unique and/​ or shared sensory experiences of individuals, communities, and societies of the past. Sensory studies as an intellectual pursuit allows scholars to bring to life in a remarkably vivid, sometimes imaginative, as well as visceral way the lives of past humans. As David Howes and Constance Classen (2014: 7) write, “what makes sensations so forceful is that they are lived experiences, not intellectual abstractions.” DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-1


Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason

What is sensory studies? The new “sensory turn” This volume was inspired by and adheres to the tenets of the growing field of sensory studies, which began to emerge at the end of the twentieth century and gained momentum in the twenty-​first century CE . This “sensory turn” in humanistic and anthropological scholarship follows the “linguistic turn”—​the hermeneutical understanding of cultures and cultural systems (Geertz 1973)—​in reading the ancient past of the 1970s and grew out of the theoretical viewpoints of 1980s post-​processualism, including facets of cognitive archaeology, as espoused by Ian Hodder, which understands evidence from the past not simply as utilitarian items connected with human survival, but as objects with multiple cognitive and contextually specific meanings related to lived experience. The sensory turn has also been invigorated by new discoveries in fields that study humans through a physiological framework, such as psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and medical imaging technology. Moreover, the field of sensory studies has engaged with philosophical inquiries, by examining the ontological categorisations of different societies: did every culture have a concept of an individual self, a body, separate from “nature” or the environment? Indeed, this idea might be anachronistic for the ancient Near East, where the concepts of self/​not-​self or even of distinct senses were more ontologically and phenomenologically fluid than our own modern ones. The latter, in contrast, most notably for the West, conceive of the body as a vessel, with skin as a barrier, and as capable of experiencing only a limited number of senses that function in a mutually exclusive way. As Nicole Tilford (2017: 7) writes in her study of sensory metaphors in the Hebrew Bible: The ontological division between mind and body is a cultural construct of the modern West, one that does not seem to have been prevalent among the majority of ancient communities … Yet this sharp division between mind and body is problematic. Although modern Western individuals think in terms of a mind-​body divide, the division is not naturally predetermined. Since the late nineteenth century/​early twentieth century, such philosophers as William James, John Dewey, Maurice Merleau-​Ponty and the cognitive scientists who followed them have increasingly argued that there is no autonomous faculty of reason distinct from normal bodily function. Unfortunately, while a mind–​body dualism is not applicable to all cultures, it is hard for modern scholars, particularly those who developed their disciplinary knowledge in Western contexts, to jettison it from our own descriptive language: we frequently refer to bodies, ideas, sensing versus perception. It is a dualism that much of our own written language structures and reinforces. Perhaps a solution to this conundrum of anachronism arrives through the pioneering work on bodily phenomenology of the philosopher Maurice Merleau-​Ponty (Phénoménologie de la perception, 1945; first English edition, Phenomenology of Perception, 1962), who understands life as a series of lived experiences, where the body and the mind, sensation and cognition intertwine, and where the sensing individual has a dialectical relationship with their surrounding environment. Contra Descartes, Merleau-​Ponty (2012: xvi–​xvii) proclaims, “the world is not what I think but what I live through.” An understanding of the mind/​body/​environment spheres not as separate or exclusive, but as mutually constitutive and fluid allows scholars studying people of the past to understand, reimagine, and bring to life their “lived experiences” at the level of the individual, and in as emic a way as possible. Eschewing a phenomenological perspective in favour of one that emphasises the communal and social, humanistic scholars Howes and Classen explore sensory perception as a cultural construct among past and contemporary cultures, offering another avenue for escaping, as much as 2


possible, the rigidly structured post-​Enlightenment understanding of living with and through the senses. Howes has written and edited numerous books and contributions on the field of sensory studies (1991), and convenes a conglomeration of scholars at the website, sensorystudies. org. Howes’ and Classen’s scholarship has attracted researchers who are multi-​and interdisciplinary, as their idea of scholarly practice is itself connective, bringing together varied and diverse interests from across the globe and an array of academic disciplines. But most important, Howes and Classen have essentially redefined and revitalised the field of sensory studies beyond psychology, allowing it to become a socio-​cultural and historical endeavour by bringing interpretive and methodological critiques to past understandings of the senses in the Euro-​American imagination. In historical scholarship, where scholars have typically dealt with two-​dimensional textual or printed materials from the post-​antique world, Alain Corbin’s earlier work The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination (1986), a study of smells and their contextually specific perception from a nineteenth-​century French town, was seminal. Corbin influenced explorations of sensory experiences and the senses in other historical periods and spaces, led by Peter C. Hoffer’s Sensory Worlds in Early America (2003) and Mark M. Smith’s How Race is Made: Slavery, the Senses, and Segregation (2006). As is often the case, methodological or theoretical forays in other fields eventually reach the confines of the study of the deeper ancient past, and by the late 2000s, numerous anthologies and monographs on senses in the ancient world appeared, most notably A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity (Toner 2016), and the series The Senses in Antiquity (also published by Routledge/​Taylor & Francis). Each of the five volumes in the series is dedicated to textual explorations of a separate sense of the Greco-​Roman periods, which are arguably rich with textual evidence. This work on sensory experiences from the 1980s through the late 2000s approached the evidence from Classical cultures with the goal of creating sensory inventories, a “serial sense-​by-​sense approach” (Howes and Classen 2014: 12), inquiring: what were common/​good/​bad smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and touches, and how were they related to other cultural concepts? In its critique of the post-​ Enlightenment understanding of sensory experiences, however, the sensory turn, espoused by Howes and Classen, pushes against a rigid adherence to the five-​sense model of individually recognisable senses and their respective sensory nouns/​ actions/​organs: vision/​seeing/​eyes, sound/​hearing/​ears, taste/​eating/​mouth, smell/​sniffing/​ nose, touch/​feeling/​skin. Although the five senses, and primarily vision, were emphasised and deemed superior in Eurocentric philosophy influenced by Aristotle, and consequently taken up by Enlightenment figures such as Descartes for a number of historically and philosophically contingent reasons, discussed in more depth later (Hamilakis 2013: 25–​26; Classen 1993: 15–​36), Howes (1991: 257–​258) has pointed out repeatedly that not all contemporary cultures studied ethnographically recognise these five senses in their linguistic repertoires, rather some recognise fewer, more, and also other senses. What is more, the best practice of sensory studies does not assume a monolithic individual sensing body; it is a socio-​cultural exercise in ontology and taxonomy that should envision the range of individual human practice and agency within a specific cultural environment. It should anticipate how humans from various stages of life, socio-​ economic spheres, involved in acts of production and consumption, differentially sensed. As Yannis Hamilakis (2013: 10) reminds us: “Sensorial experience is universal and cross-​cultural, but the definition and meaningful understanding of sensorial modalities and interactions are context specific, and depend on class, gender, age, and other attributes.” In addition to the above, contributors to this volume and our own ideas of how to explore sensory experiences in the ancient world have been markedly influenced by archaeologists’ understanding of how humans affect and are mutually affected by their surroundings, including 3

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that of Christopher Tilley (1994), whose work in the field of landscape archaeology drew upon phenomenological approaches to landscapes and built environments. Spurred by this idea of affect and embodiment, other archaeologists have approached lived experiences phenomenologically, the most influential of whom are Robin Skeates (2010) and Hamilakis (2013). Hamilakis critiques Tilley’s visual and monumental focus, instead emphasising an embodied archaeology that studies multisensory experiences as humans interact with portable or monumental material culture through many senses. Many of our contributors draw on Hamilakis’ multisensory and embodied approach, and we consider it equally important to the sensory inventory methodology in this volume as a means of better understanding sensory experiences. The phenomenological approach attempts to reconstruct sensescapes or “sensorial assemblages [which] produce place and locality through evocative, affective, and mnemonic performances and interactions” (Hamilakis 2013: 127). An assemblage approach asks, what would a body multisensorially experience as they moved through events and spaces, and what memories would these interactions evoke or create? And what did it mean to be a part of these experiences in the moment? This is an intersensory and multisensory approach that attempts to reconstruct holistically how senses interacted with each other, and ultimately how those sensorial moments were perceived in humans’ lived experiences. In the field of sensory studies in general and in our own solicitation of contributions to this volume, we recognise five common tenets. First, sensing is both culturally bound and physiologically influenced; societies develop “sensory orders” (Howes 1991; Howes and Classen 2019: 5) or perceived sensoria that are unique and long-​lasting, but also ephemeral and capable of dynamism—​their perceptions change over time. These sensory orders can also be acculturated and politicised. The best examples of this would be the association of odours deemed foul-​ smelling with the urban working classes or immigrants in the nineteenth century, and the subsequent attempt to sanitise or eliminate those smells within middle-​class contexts in Europe (Corbin 1986: 158; Laporte 2000). The phenomenological approach to sensory experiences further appreciates that sensing is not only a culturally determined phenomenon but also a bodily process of the individual influenced by genetic and congenital bodily structures. Thus, in keeping with the attempt to move outside of the Western-​centric idea of mind–​body dualism, the idea of nature versus nurture does not work for understanding what causes the unique experiences of individuals and groups; it is not a question of either/​or, but and. Second, we recognise that the privileging of five senses is not universal in time and space, nor do all cultures “equally divide the sensorium as we do” (Howes and Classen 2019: 3). Senses beyond the five-​sense model have been identified for our own society as well as others. For example, a number of neurological and psychological studies have identified bodily mechanisms and neurons for other senses. These senses were “hidden” to Enlightenment thinkers, as their physical apparatus and sensory organs were under the skin and not easily visible to the naked eye, thus they were left out of the five-​sense inventory. They include, among others, the sense of proprioception, where the body has mechanisms that help it to orient and move in space, the sense of thermoception, or temperature awareness, and the sense of interoception, the neurons and systems in the body that allow internal organs to operate and transmit sensations. Some scholars have also proposed that humans have a “sense of time” with neurological apparatuses related to our daily circadian rhythms, seasonality, and temporal awareness (Wittman 2009). Third, different senses hold relative importance to cultures past and present. Not all cultures hierarchically rank which senses are deemed the most important, as Western thinkers and scholars have suggested. For historically contingent reasons, the sense of sight has been privileged in the modern Eurocentric quest to categorise and find hierarchy within systems in the universe, including the sensorium. Such a quest was culturally and politically motivated and related to 4


discussions about animal diversity and human races in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE . The sense of sight was considered by philosophers and naturalists to be most connected to the intellect and rationality, and ultimately to being human (as opposed to animal), followed in order of importance/​humanness by hearing, smell, taste, and touch. This modern Eurocentric quest to find hierarchy within the sensorium (Hamilakis 2013: 28–​29) came along at the same time as an expansion of print and visual culture, and set the stage for sight’s promotion. The hierarchy and privileging, much less restriction to identification of only five senses, is therefore a historically contingent concept that begs interrogation and deconstruction, and forces reconsideration for other times and places. Ultimately, the sensory studies approach asks, “which senses are emphasised and which senses are repressed, by which means and to which ends?” (Howes and Classen 2019: 6). Fourth, sensory studies scholars also recognise the important sensory experiences of kinaesthesia, sensing as a body moves through space and time or as sensory stimuli move to and through the body, and synaesthesia, where two or more senses combine, such as the idea in modern psychology that some people can smell colours. Many cultures, including some in the ancient Near East, have a concept distinguishable in texts and material culture of haptic visuality, in which visual attention or gaze can affect bodily feelings beyond vision (Hamilakis 2013: 75). Sensory scholars acknowledge that no sense acts in isolation from another; or as Howes and Classen (2019: 4) state, “the senses interact with each other first, before they give us access to the world; hence the first step, the indispensable starting point, is to discover what sorts of relations between the senses a culture considers proper.” This demands that scholars adopt a multisensory approach to the evidence from the past, and acknowledge that senses can be “combined,” rather than separated as they are in considerations of the sensorium that insist on the autonomy of each sense. And fifth, sensory studies scholars understand that philologists, archaeologists, and art historians who study past cultures are still bound by the ways in which they are able to access past evidence about sensory experiences, and the ways in which they can present that evidence to an audience, and most often a reading one for which vision is the most relevant sense. Since the advent of the printing press, our own method of presenting evidence has been dominated by our sense of vision and visual materials due to their Western associations with rationality and objectivity (Howes and Classen 2019: 4; Hamilakis 2013: 8). Archaeological site reports and editions of literary texts are published typically in written form in two-​dimensional media (though that is also changing with the ability to present reports and materials in three visual dimensions using various digital platforms). For example, what survives to us from the past rarely allows for direct olfactory or gustatory access to the evidence. Original smells and tastes from actual ancient objects are ephemeral; they do not survive completely in the dirt over millennia (although some traces may remain, as evidenced by a rare ancient Roman latrine “smell” witnessed by archaeologists when excavated; Koloski-​Ostrow 2018). Howes and Classen (2019: 47) argue that our goal as sensory scholars of the past is to “summon up the sensory worlds of past societies;” yet, our presentation of those sensory worlds is dependent on and conditioned by “all the assumptions regarding the ‘nature’ of the senses embedded in conventional Western constructions of the sensorium.” Thus, we have the unenviable task to “clear the mind of all such assumptions and redirect attention to finding out how the senses are constructed and lived locally, in the culture one studies.” In some ways, archaeological materials are best suited to sensory investigations, as even in museum contexts they have the potential of allowing more-​than-​visual access to their materiality and affordances. The ability of archaeological materials to allow some “feel” for the past has led proponents of sensory studies to experiment with alt(ernative)-​archaeologies (Hamilakis 2013: 35) in both practice and presentation. For 5

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example, one of our contributors, Dora Goldsmith has presented numerous reconstructions of ancient Egyptian perfumes, re-​created using ingredients that are as close as possible to the ancient ones. At many sensory studies panels at conferences, presenters will often bring modern versions of frankincense and myrrh resins and oils and pass them around the audience in order to evoke the ancient smellscape. Considered kitschy and cute in the academic settings, they usually elicit an initial laugh or two from the serious audience. Yet such modern performances and re-​creations are useful and accepted in understanding past sensory experiences. Museums are even getting into the act, with some attempting to create “four-​dimensional” experiences that integrate visitors spatially, tactilely, visually, and olfactorily into reconstructed exhibits of sensescapes (Howes 2014). Some sensory studies proponents also encourage creative pedagogical and writerly approaches to presenting the past—​where the sensing self of the archaeologist is allowed to (or readers are comfortable with) describe the past in some cases via their own sensory confrontation of the ancient, excavated material—​as long as that is made self-​conscious and explicit in the narration. Hamilakis (2013: 12) has argued that alternative ways of presenting our archaeological evidence about sensory experiments, such as theatre performances, might be “more appropriate for the exploration of sensoriality.” Local alternative archaeologies that are based on community practice and engagement with materials from the past and cultural heritage are also encouraged. Even in the visuality of two-​dimensional book-​writing, our language can be sensorially more evocative than a dry “distanced” scholarly article, and a writerly persona within the text can evince more bodily connection and acknowledgement of the senses. In other words—​it is appropriate to write imaginatively and evocatively when describing past sensory experiences, which can ignite and entangle with our own modern experiences, and must therefore transcend objectivity and rationality.

How does the field of sensory studies intersect with the study of the ancient Near East? This moment marks a critical point in the study of the senses and sensory experiences in world history and culture. The field of sensory studies is growing rapidly, and attracts constituent scholars from multiple disciplines and time periods. In 2018–​2021, the period in which we have been working on this project, we have counted at least five conferences in Europe and the United States on senses in the ancient world, including the second and third annual panel on “Senses and Sensibilities in the Near East” at the American Society of Overseas Research Annual Meeting chaired by Kiersten Neumann (2016–​2018). An even greater number of conferences, panels, and workshops devoted to the senses in the past can be counted if we look to later time periods and other geographical regions, including an early foray into cross-​cultural comparisons edited by Jo Day, Making Senses of the Past: Toward a Sensory Archaeology (2013), which was based on a conference held at Southern Illinois University in 2010 and a recent cross-​cultural anthology not proceeding from a conference and also from the publisher of this volume, the Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology (2020), edited by Robin Skeates and Jo Day. Two recent anthologies on sensory studies in the ancient Near East resulting from scholarly gatherings were published in 2019, edited by Ainsley Hawthorn and Anne-​Caroline Rendu Loisel, and Annette Schellenberg and Thomas Krüger. Most recently, a third conference volume focusing on the senses in the ancient Near East was published, Sensing the Past: Detecting the Use of the Five Senses in Ancient Near Eastern Contexts. Proceedings of the Conference Held in Rome, Sapienza University June 4th, 2018, edited by Davide Nadali and Frances Pinnock (2020). All three of these volumes contain contributions by individual presenters reporting on their current research, typically focused on one of the “higher five” senses, and they are not necessarily organised 6


according to themes or a consistent structural framework. Other singular contributions to the study of the senses in specific places in the ancient Near East tend to be Mesopocentric; this group includes an influential article by Augusta McMahon on architectural acoustics and light studies at the Neo-​Assyrian capital of Dur-​Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) (2013), as well as Mary Shepperson’s Sunlight and Shade in the First Cities, a volume on light and architecture in early Sumer (2017); Allison Thomason’s article from 2016 on Neo-​Assyrian sensescapes; and Kiersten Neumann’s discussions of sensory experiences and ritualised practice in Assyria (2018; 2019; forthcoming). For the Levant, the most important work is Yael Avrahami’s The Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible (2012), a sensory inventory approach organised by the five senses, which influenced a number of conference sessions at the Society for Biblical Literature Annual Meetings on senses in that textual tradition, as well as contributions in this volume. In a related venture, scholars and students of the ancient world have become increasingly interested in the cognitive and emotive aspects of human experience, areas in which the senses play key roles, as evidenced by anthologies such as that of Shih-​Wei Hsu and Jaume Llop Raduà (2020), which are again derived from conference gatherings. Another handbook, on emotions in the ancient Near East, edited by Karen Sonik, is in preparation in this same series published by Routledge/​Taylor & Francis. What is made clear by this growing and ongoing interest in sensory studies is that there has never been a more opportune and favourable time for scholars of the ancient Near East to explore all of the aspects of the lived experience of this complex and diverse region, with archaeological and textual materials in abundance, in order to more carefully and empathetically humanise the actors of the past. As Hawthorn and Rendu Loisel (2019: 7) declare, “although we cannot experience first-​hand the sensations of the ancient world, it remains possible to reconstruct part of the sensory reality of ancient societies.”

How is this a new compilation? This volume consists of contributions by authors—​on a variety of spaces, places, and periods in the ancient Near East—​grouped into thematic sections that are based on contexts of lived experience: practice, production, and taskscapes; dress and the body; ritualised practice and ceremonial spaces; death and burial; science, medicine, and aesthetics; and languages and semantic fields. These sections are modern groupings, indeed, but they represent formidable and noteworthy moments of sensory experience, whether quotidian or unique, encountered and shared by people in the past. With this organisational schema, the volume can facilitate cross-​cultural, as well as cross-​sensory and multisensory, comparisons and discussions, and serve as a comprehensive “state of the field” volume that explores critical issues and current approaches to senses and sensory experience in the ancient Near East. The volume understands the ancient Near East to be a geographical area that includes portions of the continents of Africa, Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula. In more recent history, this region has been divided into modern nation-​states with fixed political boundaries, a legacy that is difficult to overcome. Accordingly, some of the terminology of geography and periodisation that we utilise is also by necessity modern rather than ancient. Anachronistic as it may be, the modern terminology serves as an important tool for describing the region for contemporary audiences, and has defined the boundaries of disciplinary training for students and scholars of the ancient Near East. The geographical breadth of contributions to this volume, ranging from Egypt to Iran, Israel to Turkey—​a feat rarely attempted in other anthologies about the ancient Near East—​seeks to capture the diversity and uniqueness of the material and experiential 7

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encounters produced within environments throughout the region, while simultaneously celebrating the strong linguistic, cultural, religious, and ethnic ties of its cultures, which makes this area a crossroads of the ancient world. Our time span is also by necessity inclusive and broad since we are trying to explore a range of lived experiences and understand how they may have changed over time even in a single area. Thus, the contributions in this volume begin with the early Neolithic period around 10,000 BCE and continue into the Roman period, ending by the mid-​third century CE . Yet, this volume is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of all sensory experiences in all periods of all regions of the ancient Near East. The limited and sometimes haphazard preservation of archaeological and textual evidence precludes such comprehensive coverage. What is more, some of the archaeological sites and materials explored here lack textual materials because writing was not yet a technology adopted by the inhabitants. Additionally, even when the areas under discussion did have texts, they were rarely self-​conscious about something we call “the senses” and did not dedicate large expository passages to them. In addition, due to the nature of archaeological fieldwork for much of the last 200 years—​which privileged excavation within city walls and institutional structures at sites with monumental architecture—​most of the archaeological and textual evidence available relates to the elite spheres of society, such as temple priests, the king and royal court, and wealthy families. The benefit of a sensory approach, however, is the affordance that the materiality of archaeological objects allows for any single sensing body, of whichever socio-​economic sphere, if not all sensing bodies. Sensory studies might indeed be one of the few methods through which modern scholars can gain access or imagine the experiences of less elite members of society, in keeping with the idea that all humans are sensing bodies, no matter what sensory stimuli they encounter. The commonality of humanness, however, must always be tempered by the recognition that individuals or groups within societies might respond differently to the same sensory stimuli, and our contributors are often keen to point this out. While other anthologies on the senses have been organised based on the study of individual senses in specific places/​time periods, therein creating a kind of sensory inventory, as noted above, this volume embraces a multisensory approach and an organisational schema that is based on lived experiences, recognising that ancient people encountered a multitude of lived events and moved through complex sensorial moments. This format encouraged our contributors not only to view all potential sensory phenomena in their particular contexts, but also to complicate their discussions by moving beyond the Aristotelian hierarchical five-​sense sensorium (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch)—​a hierarchy that is anachronistic for the ancient Near East—​ acknowledging that additional senses likely existed for the cultures of this region. For example, some contributors explore the senses of time, proprioception (comportment in space, balance), and synaesthesia (the combination of sensory experiences, such as haptic vision through the Mesopotamian concept of melammu). The study of sensory experience, whether focused on the five-​sense model or other sense perceptions, for scholars of the ancient Near East is a relatively new albeit fast-​g rowing area of research, as discussed above, and one that does not conform to a single methodological or theoretical approach. In calling the volume a “handbook” we have intended to give a range of methodologies and approaches across a broad spectrum. For this reason, contributors were asked to clearly define and outline their chosen approach with respect to their subject matter and to situate their work within the larger field of sensory studies. Contributors were also asked to articulate the way(s) in which taking such an approach to their subject matter allows for a greater understanding or a new perspective of their area of study—​in other words, to answer the



question how their study gives something back to the field of ancient Near Eastern studies, as well as to the field of sensory studies as a whole. Few anthologies address such a considerable geographical and temporal breadth, in addition to archaeological, architectural, and textual contexts altogether. We endeavour with the contributions here to show not only what scholars are understanding about sensory experience, but how they are arriving at such ideas, including how they compare and differ in their choice of evidence, theoretical concepts, and ontological approaches as we embrace the sensory turn to understand the ancient Near Eastern past. What is more, this volume strives to allow sensory studies scholars who specialise outside of the geographic and temporal ancient Near East to understand the range of approaches and materials available, and to see how the major concepts of “the sensory turn” can be applied and investigated, as they have been for more modern (and Western) cultures by historians and anthropologists, for societies of the deeply ancient past.

The sections and chapters in this volume The methodologies of sensory studies demonstrated in the contributions in this volume allow researchers to understand the relevance and meaning of sensing moments in a culturally specific context, and to integrate how those sensed moments—​integrated into events and spaces—​related to memories and concepts held by individuals, communities, and societies of the past, as revealed by aspects of performance and space left behind in the archaeological and textual material. The first section,“Practice, production, and taskscapes” begins with Marian Feldman’s exploration of the haptic, visual, and kinaesthetic sensory experiences associated with sealing practices of the period of the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100–​2000 BCE ). Taking up as a case study a set of administrative documents from the southern Mesopotamian site of Nippur, Feldman defines the repetitive act of impressing cylindrical seals into the clay as “practicisation”—​a fully embodied, experiential sensation of doing that generated a sense of community among its participants. Looking similarly at the intersection of the body and practice, Caroline Sauvage’s chapter looks at the senses associated with the production and consumption of textiles, foregrounding instances of synaesthesia that produced cultural meaning and class differentiation in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age eastern Mediterranean and Near East. Moving from textiles to glass, Katharina Schmidt considers sensory experiences with respect to hemispherical transparent glass bowls of the Neo-​Assyrian period, from the perspective of both producers—​glassmakers—​and consumers—​guests at the royal banquet. Kiersten Neumann’s chapter takes us from portable works of art to the monumental with a multilevel tactile exploration of the Apadana relief sculpture at Persepolis, both bringing to light sensory traditions of the past and complicating our conceptions and reception of this architectural decoration in contemporary discourse. Completing this first section of the volume is Agnès Garcia-​Ventura and Mireia López-​Bertran’s pioneering approach to work songs and lullabies from Mesopotamia. Through a selection of both Sumerian and Akkadian primary sources, Garcia-​Ventura and López-​Bertran reveal the rhythmic aural and acoustic experiences of workers—​the soundscapes and taskscapes as they repetitively produce and craft—​captured in songs and lullabies. The second section of the Handbook, “Dress and the body,” opens with Josephine Verduci’s innovative study of southern Levantine metal anklets. In exploring the jewellery’s somatic effects and other sensory qualities, Verduci considers both the bodily perceptions and physiological implications of the sensory experiences of this form of bodily adornment. Megan Cifarelli’s study of dress artefacts at Hasanlu, Iran similarly looks not only at the impact of dress assemblages on the senses of observers, but also delves into the rich synaesthetic, kinaesthetic, and cognitive feedback that would have been experienced by its wearers, and how these sensorial assemblages 9

Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason

were connected with the generation of politically charged identities at Hasanlu. The relationship of bodily perception and identity carries into the next chapter, in which Sarah Scott mines the field of Mesopotamian glyptics in an exploration of the somatic experience of seal users and sealing practices, arguing for an understanding of clay as a second body—​a body of flesh. Neville McFerrin’s study of the multisensory interactions at play across the sculptured environment of Persepolis completes this second section of the volume, guiding the reader through a consideration of the proprioceptive engagements of the site with the kinaesthetic movement of bodies and how these connect with the overarching Achaemenid imperial endeavour. The third section, “Ritualised practice and ceremonial spaces,” opens with Irene Winter’s exploration of the affective sensory experience, the “aesthetics,” of ritual practice in ancient Mesopotamia. Winter enlivens her study with comparanda and concepts from beyond the ancient Near East, including aspects of worship in modern Hindu temples in India and a consideration of the concept of Gesamtkunswerk—​of Western operatic tradition—​as applicable to the multisensory temple/​ritual experience of Mesopotamia. Similarly emphasising context at the intersection of sensory experience and ritualised practice, Rick Bonnie’s investigation of stepped water installations in early Roman Palestine demonstrates how the varying soundscapes, smellscapes, and sense of place experienced at the pool installations at Jericho, Masada, Magdala, and Gamla during purification rituals created a diversity of experiences for different Jewish communities. Sarah Costello’s investigation of ritualised practice at the site of Göbekli Tepe continues the inquiry into the connection between multisensory experience and community, presenting an innovative exploration of how interactions with the megaliths and miniatures at this early Neolithic site reinforced the community’s shared cosmological view. Jen Thum’s contribution also engages with truly monumental material—​two Egyptian royal living-​rock stelae. The choice of location for these features, Thum argues, demonstrates that their sensorial potentials—​as experienced by passers-​by—​was integral to their purpose as media through which royal messages were transmitted. Next, Frances Pinnock takes us back to an urban context with a multilevel exploration of performative spaces at Ebla, guiding the reader through the complex sensescape of ceremonial activities of kingship at the site and drawing upon both archaeological and textual evidence. Focusing on a single royal monument—​the Ishtar Gate of Nebuchadnezzar II at Babylon—​as a case study, Beate Pongratz-​Leisten takes a cultural-​historical approach to multisensory built environments of Mesopotamian cities, specifically city walls and city gates, in order to investigate questions of agency, social memory, and collective imagination. Christine Palmer similarly draws attention to bodily movement and engagement with architecture in her study of a worshipper’s pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple, connecting the particulars of this sensory experience with the creation and shaping of a shared cultural narrative and distinctive Israelite identity. The section concludes with Paul Flesher’s meticulous analysis of the acoustic dynamics of the early stages of the Nabratein synagogue hall. Flesher’s findings demonstrate the importance of such a study for understanding not only ancient architectural spaces but also the forms of ritualised practice and worship carried out within them. Contributors to the fourth section, “Death and burial,” investigate not only burial spaces and associated sensory experiences, but also the powerful multisensory performances associated with death and the deceased, drawing on textual sources as well as preserved archaeological material. Nicola Laneri begins the section with a consideration of the potent senses associated with ancestor worship and veneration across the ancient Near East, with case studies ranging from prehistoric to Bronze and Iron Age societies. Narrowing the focus to intramural burials from two Levantine mortuary contexts—​at Qatna and Tel Megiddo—​Melissa Cradic argues for the importance of continued interaction between the living and the deceased through mortuary rituals and for associating their constructed sensory environments with a sensibility of death. 10


Helen Dixon keeps us situated in the Levant with her invigorating exploration of the tapestry of smells and olfactory substances associated with Phoenician mortuary practices, beginning with a discussion of the relevant vocabulary before moving on to considerations of both archaeological and textual evidence connected with death and burial. Wrapping up the section is Lissette Jiménez’s study of funerary practices in Roman Egypt. Taking the reader on a multisensory journey—​beginning with the painted portraits and shrouds attached to the mummified remains of the deceased to magical texts, ritual offerings, and the tomb landscape—​Jiménez brings to light how these commemorative practices were experienced not only by the dead, but by the living. In the fifth section of the volume, “Science, medicine, and aesthetics,” contributors offer detailed analyses of the role of sensory experiences in the ancient Near Eastern understanding of the universe, and the relationship of humans to it. Relying heavily though not exclusively on textual evidence, the authors demonstrate how the fields of philosophy, intellectual history, and sensory studies intersect in a rich way. Willis Monroe’s exploration of the relevance of the sense of vision in Mesopotamian astronomical observations reminds us that in the most elite, literate corners of the ancient world—​the scribal contexts that produced scholarly compendia—​ visual experiences were indispensable. Ulrike Steinert’s exploration of sensing in both health care practice and illness from medical (and related) texts provides numerous insights about the Mesopotamian understanding of the sensory effects of disease and the bodily experiences of sensing physicians, healers, and patients. An important facet of sensory studies and of how humans navigate their way in the universe is the exploration of sensorial deficits, a part of the larger and multidisciplinary field of disability studies. Edgar Kellenberger provides a reading of the Hebrew Bible/​Old Testament that demonstrates through the analysis of terms within their contexts how individuals who could not always sense or perceive were understood in biblical society. Continuing the comparison of ancient Near Eastern phenomenological understandings with our own modern ones, Karen Sonik interrogates the Eurocentric concepts of aesthetics and art, and discusses how Mesopotamian ideas related to vision differed greatly. In the sixth section of the Handbook, entitled “Languages and semantic fields,” numerous scholars work with texts in various languages and scripts from the ancient Near East to arrive at contextual understandings of words and phrases related to the senses and sensing. The linguistic diversity of the ancient Near East requires an equally diverse range of contributions, with experts on ancient Egyptian, Hittite, Hurrian, Sumerian, and Akkadian weighing in on conceptions of sensory experiences from various regions. Methodologically, the contributors to this section also diverge in their approaches to the ancient texts. In their innovative chapter, Aleksi Sahala and Saana Svärd utilise linguistic algorithms and statistical analysis to understand the uses and contexts, the semantics, of words related to the sense of vision in Mesopotamia. Turning toward metaphors for perception, Elisabeth Steinbach-​Eicke distinguishes between the “proximal” and “distal” senses, and explores their semantic fields in the ancient Egyptian language and script. This chapter is followed by a study of the perception, cognition, and emotional responses to sensory experiences in ancient Egypt derived from conceptual metaphors, offered by Camilla Di Biase-​Dyson and Gaëlle Chantrain. The semantic approach continues in this section with a focus on one sense, olfaction, and Dora Goldsmith’s walk through an idealised ancient Egyptian city. Using a variety of ancient Egyptian papyri and inscriptions, Goldsmith evokes the range of smellscapes that greeted residents in various sections of the urban environment on a daily basis. Extending the idea of semantic analysis for sense-​related words to the Akkadian language, Anne-​Caroline Rendu Loisel explores how the discussion of the materiality of certain objects and substances in Mesopotamian texts can afford access to multisensory experiences through the study of their meanings and contexts. The section concludes with two chapters that employ 11

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the traditional approach of dictionary-​based analysis so fundamental to basic research in ancient languages. Richard Beal delivers an extensive study of textual attestations related to the “five” senses in the Hittite world. And finally, Dennis Campbell offers a concise and complete analysis of the semantic fields related to the senses of “seeing” and “hearing” in Hurrian, the language of the region of Mitanni. Ultimately, the sectional organisation of the volume is driven in large part by methodological approaches, as we have attempted to allow readers to move beyond conceiving of the world along strictly geographic, temporal, or material boundaries. At the same time, this organisational scheme allows readers to explore in their fullest potential the multisensory and synaesthetic moments in the lives of ancient people. Therefore, our approach to the ancient evidence attempts a comparative methodology that is cross-​cultural and cross-​sensorial. We hope that this organisation allows scholars outside of the field of ancient Near Eastern studies to understand the state of the field of sensory studies as applied to a fundamentally important early time and space in the history of the world, while offering to scholars within the field new perspectives on and conceptions of familiar spaces, places, and practices. In our efforts to reconstruct, reimagine, and re-​create the sensory moments of the ancient past, this multidisciplinary and cross-​cultural Handbook acknowledges that those who study the past today desire to come as close to “being there” as possible—​that is, to reconnect with our sensing ancestors through our shared humanity.

Note 1. The “ancient Near East” (also, “ancient Middle East”) is a transcontinental term that refers to a geographical area which includes portions of the continents of Africa, Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula. Due to the colonial, Western-​centric implications of the terms “Near East” and “Middle East,” the use of continental and geographically oriented terms to refer to this region, including “Western Asia,” “Southwest Asia,” “North Africa,” and “Eastern Mediterranean,” is becoming more widespread. While no term is without its complications and the terminology is fraught with issues, we have chosen to utilise “ancient Near East,” in keeping with disciplinary tradition and previous volumes by our publisher.

Bibliography Avrahami, Y. 2012. The Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible. The Library of Hebrew Bible/​Old Testament Studies 545. London: T&T Clark International. Classen, C. 1993. Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and Across Cultures. London: Routledge. Corbin, A. 1986. The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Day, J., ed. 2013. Making Senses of the Past: Toward a Sensory Archaeology. Occasional Paper 40. Carbondale, IL: Center for Archaeological Investigation, Southern Illinois University Press. Geertz, C. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hawthorn, A., and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds. 2019. Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns. Hoffer, P. 2003. Sensory Worlds in Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Howes, D., ed. 1991. The Varieties of Sensory Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Howes, D. 2014. “Introduction to Sensory Museology.” The Senses and Society 9 (3): 259–​267. Howes, D., and C. Classen. 2014. Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society. London: Routledge. Howes, D., and C. Classen. 2019. “Sounding/​Resounding Sensory Profiles,” in A. Schellenberg and T. Kruger, eds., Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East. Atlanta: SBL Press, 3–​54. Hsu, S.-​W., and J. L. Raduà. 2020. The Expression of Emotions in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Leiden: Brill.



Koloski-​Ostrow, A. 2018. The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Laporte, D. 2000. The History of Shit. Boston: MIT Press. McMahon, A. 2013. “Space, Sound, and Light: Toward a Sensory Experience of Ancient Monumental Architecture.” AJA 117 (2): 163–​179. Merleau-​Ponty, M. 2012 [1945]. Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. Donald Landes. London: Routledge. Nadali, D., and F. Pinnock, eds. 2020. Sensing the Past: Detecting the Use of the Five Senses in Ancient Near Eastern Contexts. Proceedings of the Conference Held in Rome, Sapienza University June 4th, 2018. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz. Neumann, K. 2018. “Reading the Temple of Nabu as a Coded Sensory Experience.” Iraq 80: 181–​211. Neumann, K. 2019. “Sensing the Sacred in the Neo-​Assyrian Temple: The Presentation of Offerings to the Gods,” in A. Hawthorn and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 23–​62. Neumann, K. Forthcoming. “From Raw to Ritualized: Following the Trail of Incense of the Assyrian Temple,” in A. Grand-​Clément, A. Vincent, M. Bradly, and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Sensing Divinity: Incense, Religion and the Ancient Sensorium. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schellenberg, A., and T. Krüger, eds. 2019. Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East. ANEM 25. Atlanta: SBL Press. Shepperson, M. 2017. Sunlight and Shade in the First Cities: A Sensory Archaeology of Early Iraq. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Skeates, R. 2010. An Archaeology of the Senses: Prehistoric Malta. New York: Oxford University Press. Skeates, R., and J. Day, eds. 2020. The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. London: Routledge. Smith, M. M. 2006. How Race is Made: Slavery, the Senses, and Segregation. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Thomason, A. 2016. “The Sense-​Scapes of Neo-​Assyrian Capital Cities: Royal Authority and Bodily Experience.” CAJ 26: 243–​64. Tilford, N. 2017. Sensing World, Sensing Wisdom: The Cognitive Foundation of Biblical Metaphors. Ancient Israel and its Literature 31. Atlanta: SBL Press. Tilley, C. 1994. A Phenomenology of Landscape. Oxford: Berg. Toner, J., ed. 2016. A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity. Cultural Histories 1. London: Bloomsbury. Wittman, M. 2009. “The Inner Experience of Time.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biology 364: 1955–​1967.


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

Introduction Catherine Bell (1992: 67), in a section titled “The Sense of Ritual” of her seminal book, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, writes about the primacy of the social act itself, “how its strategies are lodged in the very doing of the act.” For Bell, the act of doing creates the “sense of ritual,” what she calls ritualisation. This sense of ritual is additional to the traditional five senses of Western (Aristotelian) philosophy, and indeed, it incorporates and draws upon the traditional five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Ritual is, according to Bell, a fully embodied experiential thing. Bell’s argument relies heavily on practice theory, espoused by scholars such as Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens. Following Bell’s logic, one can therefore understand practice to engage with and generate (at least some) bodily senses. This chapter explores this claim, specifically examining embodied crafting practices. It argues that a sense of practice emerges from acts of learning and doing and that this sense is critical to the formation of community. I consider this argument through the lens of one specific form of practice, that of sealing tablets, situating my study during the Third Dynasty of Ur (or Ur III period for short, c. 2112–​2004 BCE ) in southern Mesopotamia.

Learning and practice What does it mean to learn something? To know something or know how to do something? How does one learn? These are not simple questions, and they have bedevilled the fields of cognitive science, sociology, psychology, and educational theory. Two basic opposing frameworks exist to explain the process of learning, although in reality they both operate simultaneously and in tandem with one another. One comes out of a Cartesian duality of mind and body, which locates cognitive functioning and knowledge in the mind/​brain. In this view, learning is the feature by which a student grasps in the brain specific propositions. This model underlies much of our school-​based learning frameworks, whereby a teacher imparts discrete chunks of knowledge to the students in a unilateral fashion, such as when a university professor stands at the front of the classroom and lectures while the students take notes to be memorised and repeated later.

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-2


Marian H. Feldman

An alternative model has developed during the latter part of the last century. This model—​ known as situated learning or situated cognition—​posits learning as an inherently social activity in which the entire body and even collective groups participate (Lave and Wenger 1991). This is an embodied form of knowledge acquisition: learning by doing. We all do a great deal of this, often without even realising it, and it is becoming more commonplace within educational institutions, exemplified in the US collegiate realm by the ever-​increasing emphasis on internships and non-​classroom-​based activities, also called “experiential learning.” The model of embodied, situated learning, though developed to address educational issues in contemporary times, offers a powerful way to look at ancient ways of doing—​that is, ancient practices—​and how these practices engage and stimulate bodily senses to produce a composite “sense of belonging” or “sense of community.” The model postulates that learning entails social participation, in which participants are active in the practices of social communities and construct their identities in relation to these communities (Wenger 1998: 4). In other words, learning and the subsequent doing are both a kind of action (something you do) and a form of belonging (something you become). They are vehicles for the evolution of practices, the inclusion of newcomers, and the development and transformation of identities (Wenger 1998: 13). If learning and doing are inherently social, much of which happens through bodily practices, then the traces of these bodily practices found in the material products left behind (that is, ancient artefacts) should allow us to infer both the mechanics of learning/​doing and the social communities in which they occurred. Taken as a whole, these mechanics of learning/​doing, felt through the actions of the body, produce a sense, or a feeling, of individual and community belonging. Since learning changes who we are and creates histories of becoming, looking at learned practices of doing offers access to past communities and identities. Within the context of ancient Egypt, Willeke Wendrich (2012) has dissected the different components of learning through apprenticeship (which is a quintessential form of situated learning). She breaks the process into the following: dexterity, skill, endurance, memory, consideration, and properness (Wendrich 2012: 3). The entwining of bodily and conceptual components is critical for discerning how practice generates a sense of community. Dexterity, skill, and endurance—​what Wendrich (2006) calls “body knowledge”—​all focus on bodily actions: the physical ability to perform an activity in the proper sequence and for the required amount of time (Wendrich 2012: 3). At the same time, apprenticeship develops a collective memory of the activity and its products, an attention to the activity (consideration), and an awareness of the appropriateness of the activity (properness) (Wendrich 2012: 3). The bodily actions produce sensations through the doing of the actions, which in turn are integrated into the cognitive realm of memory. In other words, the collective memory and discernment of propriety emerge from the bodily doing as it is situated within a community of practitioners, and these memories and discernments fold back into the community as traditions of doing. While one direction to follow in thinking about learning and doing is that of practice theory, drawing on the seminal scholarship of Pierre Bourdieu (1977; 1990), André Leroi-​Gourhan (1993), Pierre Lemonnier (1992), and others (particularly in the French sociology/​anthropology tradition), another—​not mutually exclusive—​way to approach the question is through sensorial effects. Practice theory convincingly proposes that bodily and material processes of doing encompass, condition, constrain, and shape social relations. Yet one could argue that the theory lacks a foundational explanation for why this should be, an explanation that I suggest is rooted in the bodily senses. It is through the feeling and sensing of the bodily practices that the memories and identities are enacted. Wendrich (2006; 2012: 4) hints at this when she describes “body knowledge” as “a physical memory embedded in muscle and the central nervous system” (muscle


Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

memory). Thus, bringing sensory studies into conversation with practice theory offers a compelling explanation for identity and community emergence—​a sense of belonging.

Sealing practices and the Ur III period One could apply the above proposals to the production and creation of any number of different material objects that have survived for us today. For this chapter, I concentrate on the practice of sealing tablets during the Ur III period, and in particular, on a restricted corpus from the site of Nippur.1 Ur III sealed tablets offer a particularly valuable corpus to think through the engagement of the senses with productive practices for two reasons (Figure 1.1). First, the methods and sometimes also the sequence of different practices, such as inscribing and sealing, can be discerned through close analysis of the tablets, permitting a reconstruction of the bodily actions involved in their production. Second, the inscription of the names of individuals, both those who owned the seals and those involved in the recorded transactions, allow for some educated guesswork regarding the association of various activities with specific human bodies. It is worth noting at the outset that while sealing is a widespread and characteristic activity throughout most periods of the ancient Near East, sealing practices differ in significant ways from period to period and from place to place (Gibson and Biggs 1977; Hallo and Winter 2001; Pittman 2013; Otto 2019). It is, therefore, necessary first to discuss briefly general sealing practices in the ancient Near East and then to qualify the specific features of sealing practices during the Ur III period.

Figure 1.1  Scan of tablet UM 29-​15-​916 (NATN 663; CDLI P121361). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.


Marian H. Feldman

The use of seals to mark malleable surfaces such as clay is evidenced in the Near East already in the late Neolithic period, for example at Sabi Abyad in the Balikh River valley of northern Syria, where large quantities of containers were covered by clay which was then impressed by seals (c. 5200 BCE ; Akkermans and Duistermaat 1996). Early examples of seals from the sixth through fourth millennia BCE are relatively numerous and take the forms of various stamping devices (Buchanan 1981: 5–​41; Pittman 2001). Sometime around the middle of the fourth millennium, a new form of sealing device appears in the shape of a spool. This spool shape, in which the design is carved around the circumference, effectively eliminating any starting or ending points, seems to develop in conjunction with administrative experiments in information storage methods that eventually lead to the cuneiform writing system. While the precise trajectory of this development remains contested, one technique for storing information that is found at sites associated with an exchange network dating to the Uruk period (roughly the fourth millennium BCE ) throughout the Near East (for example, at Susa in southwestern Iran, Habuba Kabira in Syria, and Hacınebi in Turkey) uses clay balls (referred to in the scholarly literature as bullae; Nissen et al. 1990; Schmandt-​Besserat 1992; 1996; Woods 2010; Pittman 2013: 324–​325; Frahm and Wagensonner 2019). The clay balls enclosed groups of small tokens that presumably conveyed information about quantity and type of transacted items. The cylindrically shaped seals were rolled over the entire outer surface of the ball, securing the tokens inside. Tablets (which may be understood to be flattened bullae, although this developmental relationship is not secure) were also rolled with cylinder seals in the earliest periods of the development of writing, during the Late Uruk and subsequent Jemdet Nasr periods (from around 3500–​2900 BCE ). Once introduced, the cylinder seal remains the dominant form of sealing device through the first millennium BCE , operating in tandem with the cuneiform writing system. However, tablets themselves were not impressed with seals in all periods, and in fact, after the initial development during the Late Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods, tablets were rarely sealed until the Ur III period at the end of the third millennium (Steinkeller 1977: 41; Tsouparopoulou 2015: 17). Instead, during the Early Dynastic and Akkadian periods (c. 2900–​2112 BCE ), cylinder seal use occurs primarily on sealings securing items such as containers and rooms. The Ur III period sees a dramatic increase in the sheer number of administrative documents, the vast majority produced in relation to the state apparatus to record basic economic transactions. Earlier in the dynasty, these documents were often encased in envelopes which were sealed; whereas in the latter part of the period, at the very end of the reign of King Amar-​Suen (around year nine) and from the reign of Šu-​Suen on, envelopes became rarer and the tablets themselves began to be sealed with increasing frequency and astonishing consistency (Steinkeller 1989: 113; Fischer 1997: 99–​100; Garfinkle 2015: 150; Tsouparopoulou 2015: 17). The so-​called Third Dynasty of Ur emerged at the end of the third millennium BCE as the primary territorial state following the collapse and disintegration of the Akkadian state, the first polity to control all of southern Mesopotamia.2 As is often the case during transitional periods between strong ruling institutions, written documentation is spotty, and our understanding of Ur’s rise remains uncertain. Sometime around 2100 BCE , a ruler by the name Ur-​Namma established a dynasty that would survive over five successive rulers: following Ur-​Namma’s 18-​year rule is his son, Šulgi, who rules for 48 years and is succeeded by three of his sons, Amar-​ Suen (nine years), Šu-​Suen (nine years), and Ibbi-​Sin (25? years). The dynasty, while instituting a variety of centralised practices to facilitate the cohesion of the territorial state, lasted not much more than one hundred years. Despite the relatively short length of the Ur III Dynasty, certain aspects of the state—​in particular the official state economic apparatus—are exceptionally well documented. In fact, the Ur III state is best known to us today through its massive bureaucratic structures that administered 20

Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

the state’s activities both in the heartland and more distantly and that generated an immense quantity of cuneiform documents, more than 100,000 of which survive today. Of particular note, these administrative documents derive from a variety of different locales throughout the state, although unfortunately, most of them have been recovered through illicit digging. These include texts from the capital of Ur, the cities of Umma, Girsu (modern Tello), Puzriš-​ Dagan (modern Drehem), Nippur, Garšana (modern location unknown), and Irisaĝrig (possibly Tell al-​Wilaya [Viano 2019]), as well as smaller collections from numerous other sites across Mesopotamia (Garfinkle 2015; Sallaberger 1999: 200–​211). The documentation focuses almost exclusively on state-​sponsored activities, providing a highly skewed view on the period (Van De Mieroop 2016: 81). The texts from Nippur offer an exception to this, presenting what appears to be more private enterprise (Garfinkle 2012). What all the texts reveal, in abundance, is the highly centralised nature of Ur III control, which incorporated formerly autonomous areas into the state by means of governors and military leaders and which derived its wealth from a complex system of taxation. Many scholars of the Ur III period have noted the high degree of standardisation that characterises the administrative texts of the period. Van De Mieroop (2016: 84–​85) writes, “The scribes who wrote them [the administrative records] had to be trained to use proper accounting techniques and formulae. We see a uniformity of the writing system in official documents through the Ur III state, and it is likely that schools were established to teach this.” Just as there was uniformity in the writing system, so too was there extraordinary consistency in the specific ways of sealing the documents. Numerous studies over the last 40 years have investigated the general sealing practices of the Ur III period, providing an important window onto the degree to which these practices were shared across regions and communities (for example, Hattori 2001; 2002; Reichel 2003; Tsouparopoulou 2015). In general, in the later part of the Ur III period when tablets were routinely sealed, the seal impressions cover the obverse and reverse of the tablet, as well as usually three or four of its edges. Atsuko Hattori (2001) demonstrated that typically the tablet was inscribed first and then impressed. Most sealed Ur III tablets can be classified as administrative in nature. Piotr Steinkeller (1977) established a basic typology of these tablets still drawn upon today, dividing the corpus into three main groups: standard administrative texts (ration lists, receipts, disbursements, and so forth); bullae; and letter orders. Steinkeller (1977: 42) notes that among the standard administrative texts, seal impressions occur almost exclusively on receipts and disbursements. They appear most frequently on receipts characterised by certain Sumerian keywords: šu ba-ti (“he received” + inanimate entities), i3-​dab5 (“he received” + animate entities), and kišib (“seal (of PN)”). Christina Tsouparopoulou (2015: 9, 80–​81), in her study of the sealed tablets from the administrative centre of Puzriš-​Dagan, argues that tablet sealing served multiple, sometimes overlapping, purposes during the Ur III period: to identify the responsible individual in a transaction; to identify the tablet writer; to prevent tampering with the text; and to confirm receipt of goods. The seals used to impress the tablets also exhibit highly standardised compositions (Winter 1986; 1987). The most common design is the so-​called presentation scene, in which a standing individual, often with one or more lesser divine figures, comes before a seated deity or ruler (Figure 1.2). While there is some degree of variation occurring within this composition, and there are seals carved with alternative motifs (most notably animal combats), the vast majority of Ur III seals follow the basic presentation scene format (Collon 1982; Tsouparopoulou 2015: 27–​36). The visual depiction is almost always accompanied by a cuneiform inscription (or legend) arranged in a rectangular field (referred to as a cartouche) that is divided by lines into vertical boxes. The legend, of two to six lines, names the seal owner, and, depending on the length of the inscription, also his occupation, patronym (or father’s name), the father’s occupation, and name 21

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Figure 1.2  Ur III cylinder seal and impression, with two-​line inscription, “Aḫa-​nīšu, the servant of Nūr-​Šulgi.” Black stone (hematite?). Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum (FIC.07.178). Source: Courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.

of the seal owner’s overlord (Tsouparopoulou 2015: 22–​27). The legends are oriented 90 degrees in relation to the image such that, visually, they run vertically next to the upright forms of the standing and seated figures. Thus, in order to read the inscriptions, the seal must be turned at a right angle relative to the image—​a compositional strategy with implications for the sealing process.3

The case of Nippur Studies of Ur III sealing practices have examined which types of administrative documents are sealed and by whom, showing that, for example, at some locations, the shapes of tablets correspond to their content and that particular types of tablets tend to be sealed in specific ways (Hattori 2001; Tsouparopoulou 2015: 43–​44). Hattori (2001: 89–​97) presents the case of five sale tablets from Nippur that exhibit an idiosyncratic method of sealing by high-​ranking officials (see also Tsouparopoulou 2015: 81). These five tablets, which are larger than the typical Ur III tablet, contain only one sealing, rolled vertically down the centre of the reverse of the tablet in such a way that both the entire imagery and the inscription are visible. The seals belong to high officials, including judges, and they authorise transactions of relatively large amounts of money. Hattori (2001: 95) notes that although only five such sale documents exist, they span a considerable period of time, approximately 20 to 30 years, lasting from year 36 of Šulgi’s reign into the early years of Šu-​Suen and possibly as late as Ibbi-​Sin. For this reason, Hattori (2001: 95–​96) suggests that the unusual method of sealing may be more than just a single individual’s idiosyncratic way of rolling a seal, and instead proposes “an established sealing practice involving a high-​ ranking officer as transaction authorizer.” Hattori (2001: 89) concludes that, “the content of the texts and of the seal impressions suggests that this distinctive way of sealing is a special procedure observed among the upper echelons of Nippur.” This in turn suggests that this distinctive way of sealing was “taught” (or passed along) to individuals who formed part of a small elite group. 22

Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

Products of everyday practice by individuals of lower status—​though still in the upper levels of society—​provide further insight into how sealing practices were learned and shared, and how these practices formed communities. The ways in which these individuals learned to do everyday procedures would have enmeshed those individuals in communities of shared experiences, forming bodily memories.4 Nippur is a particularly useful site with which to conduct such an investigation. First, the tablets from the site derive from accredited archaeological excavations conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, even if these excavations, undertaken in the early years of Near Eastern archaeology at the end of the nineteenth century, provide only imprecise findspots within the site itself (Hattori 2002: 7–​6; Garfinkle 2012: 110–​112). Second, the corpus of Ur III texts from Nippur has been associated with non-​institutional (“private”) entities despite the fact that many of the individuals documented in the texts have close associations with the state administration (Garfinkle 2012: 110–​112). Steven Garfinkle (2012) argues for a flourishing non-​institutional economy during the Ur III period, evidence for which has seldom survived in the state archives, but which is discernible from the Nippur texts. Last, Nippur was one of the most important cities of southern Mesopotamia, with archaeological evidence for continuous occupation from the Ubaid period in the sixth millennium BCE into the Common Era (for some summaries and bibliography, see Ellis 1992; McMahon 2006). Throughout the third millennium BCE , Nippur—​as the city housing the temple of the chief god of the Mesopotamian pantheon, Enlil—​served as the central religious site for all of southern Mesopotamia. The main temple complex of Enlil, called the Ekur, was an extensive religious institution containing multiple buildings within a large courtyard situated on a high point of one of the ancient tells. The Ur III rulers lavished attention on the city, with Ur-​Namma and his son Šulgi rebuilding the Ekur and erecting an enormous stepped ziggurat in the precinct. For this chapter, I examined sealed administrative tablets from the University of Pennsylvania Nippur excavations that are attributed to less-​high-​ranking officials and that appear to relate to non-​institutional transactions.5 It should be noted that terms such as “non-​high ranking” and “non-​institutional” are not without problems, especially as we know that the relationship between so-​called private and public spheres was complex and not necessarily aligned with our own understanding of these terms in today’s economy (Garfinkle 2012: 18–​27). I use them here principally as a way to signal an attempt to avoid the unusual and special and to focus instead on the more mundane and everyday segments of society in order to access these communities. I concentrate primarily on receipts, because these are the most commonly sealed documents, and because there is evidence that sealing practices could vary depending on the type of text. Receipts are by far the most common type of document to be sealed during the Ur III period, and they present an ideal corpus of everyday transactions that took place among a diverse group of people. Nonetheless, because I analysed sealing practices of five different “individuals” (see below on this), not all the sealed documents belonging to a given individual are receipts. The sealing practices for receipts are generally fairly straightforward—​almost always the tablet was sealed with a seal belonging to the recipient of the goods being recorded or by someone closely related to the recipient. Tsouparopoulou (2015: 79), discussing official documents from Puzriš-​ Dagan, suggests that it was the recipient’s responsibility to write up the receipt and seal it, and then send it to the dispenser as confirmation of receipt of the goods. Receipts offer, therefore, a self-​contained glimpse into personalised sealing practices, belonging both to a larger community of practice (that is, generalised ways of doing things) as well as smaller or even individual identities as revealed by idiosyncratic ways of doing things. I also limited my corpus to tablets dated to the reign of Šu-​Suen, with an occasional tablet from Amar-​Suen’s final years eight and nine, due to the major shift in sealing practices that occurred at the end of Amar-​Suen’s reign (Fischer 1997: 99–​100). 23

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Working from Hattori’s 2002 dissertation on Ur III sealings on Nippur tablets, in which she catalogues all the occurrences of sealings belonging to specific, identified individuals, I isolated subsets in which there are four or more tablets bearing an individual’s seal. According to Hattori (2001: 73), of 1,372 sealed tablets that she examined, 544 are sealed by 489 different individual seals. Only 41 seals were found on more than one document, 26 of which were found only twice. Only five seals occurred on four or more documents, constituting my five groups. A quick caveat regarding my use of the term “individual:” I am starting from the base assumption that the person named in the seal legend is the person who impressed the seal on the tablet. This of course may not have been the case, especially when the named recipient, who is usually the one to seal receipt tablets, is different from the person named on the seal. However, it does appear to be the case most of the time. Of my five groups, three contain four documents, one contains five documents, and one has at least ten (possibly 126) documents. The vast majority of the tablets in my five groups are receipts of the šu ba-ti type, often for grains. Briefly, my groups are the following: (1) four tablets sealed with the seal of En-​engar, all dated to the reign of Šu-​Suen, all šu ba-ti receipts; in only one of the four receipts was En-​engar the recipient (Hattori 2002: SI n. 56); (2) four tablets sealed with the seal of Ur-​du6-​ku3, son of Ur-​me-​me; two are dated to the reign of Šu-​Suen, the other two are undated; one of the tablets is a šu ba-ti receipt, the other three are legal agreements (Hattori 2002: SI n. 102); (3) four tablets sealed with the seal of Lugal-​ma2-​gur3-​re, scribe and servant of Lugal-​me-​lam2; these are various receipts involving textiles; two of the four are dated to Amar-​Suen years eight and nine, the other two date to the first year of Šu-​Suen (Hattori 2002: SI n. 354); (4) five tablets sealed with the seal of Ma-​(an)-​gu-​ul; four of these are receipts and one is fragmentary and preserves only the date; four tablets bear dates, all in the reign of Šu-​Suen (Hattori 2002: SI n. 75); and (5) ten tablets sealed with the seal of Ur-​dma-​mi, son of Ḫu-​ḫa; they are all receipts: nine with the šu ba-ti clause, one with the i3-​dab5 clause; of the six that have a date, five are from Šu-​Suen’s reign and the sixth one probably is (Hattori 2002: SI n. 73). These Nippur tablets conform to the general conventions of sealing administrative tablets, and especially receipts, already studied by other scholars (for recent review, see Tsouparopoulou 2015: 43–​84). Tablet UM 29-​15-​916 is representative of the general sealing practices seen among all the tablets that I examined and can serve as an example (Figures 1.1 and 1.3a–​b). UM 29-​15-​ 916 is a šu ba-ti receipt for barley seed (Owen 1982: no. 663; CDLI P121361). The tablet itself is of whitish-​yellow clay and takes a neatly flattened, square form about 3.8 centimetres on each side, with flattened edges. Today, it has a somewhat matte, slurried surface and is cracked along the reverse and two edges. As with the other Nippur tablets, it was written first and then sealed. The recipient and sealer of the tablet is Ur-​dma-​mi, son of Ḫu-​ḫa (Hattori 2002: SI n. 73). This is one of at least ten sealings using Ur-​dma-​mi’s seal, the largest number of sealed documents for any individual among the Nippur corpus. The seal impressions preserve areas of the seal’s presentation scene, showing parts of the seated deity (a goddess in a flounced garment), crescent moon, and a standing figure (Figure 1.3b).7 As is usual on these receipts, the seal legend is impressed in the empty space on the reverse of the tablet. The two-​line seal legend is entirely visible in this placement, along with part of the standing “worshipper” to the right of the legend. Because the edge of the seal legend directly abuts the left edge of the tablet, and because the height of the seal (down which the seal legend runs perpendicularly) is shorter than the breadth of the tablet, the empty space that would have remained to the right side of the impressed legend 24

Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

Figure 1.3a  Tablet UM 29-​15-​916 (NATN 663; CDLI P121361) with seal impressions drawn onto it. Source: Image created by Laurel Poolman; © Marian H. Feldman.

Figure 1.3b  Reconstructed drawing of seal impressed on UM 29-​15-​916, showing seal legend with goddess and standing worshipper. Source: Drawing by author; © Marian H. Feldman.

was filled with another, partial impression of the seal, ensuring that no blank space would remain. Whereas on many of these small Nippur tablets, the entirety of the inscribed text was impressed with the seal legend, I could not see any traces of impressions over the reverse text, although the surface, as noted, was slurry and the impressions might not have been visible to my eye. The obverse also conforms to the pattern seen in the other Nippur tablets, with two columns of impressions running vertically from top to bottom over the inscribed text. These impressions highlighted the legend area of the seal, although occasional parts of the figures to either side of 25

Marian H. Feldman

the legend were also included. In all the sealings found on the tablet, the seal appears to have been pressed into the clay more so than rolled, with the seal legend repeating at least two times in both left-​and right-​hand columns. Because of the small size of the tablet relative to the height of the seal, the left-​hand column preserves the full vertical extent of the seal (that is, the entire width of the inscription), while the right-​hand column is narrower and only captured part of the length of the inscription. Two separate imprints of the seal legend, along with part of the back of the seated goddess to the left, can be clearly seen in the left-​hand column, as well as fainter impressions of at least two imprints of this same seal, including part of the seated goddess, in the right-​hand column. Interestingly, these imprints seem to indicate that the seal was pressed down and rocked slightly leftward, capturing the two lines of the legend and part of the seated goddess, while on the reverse, in the empty space, the seal appears to have been pressed down and rocked slightly rightward, capturing the legend and the standing figure to its right. One might imagine that the reverse imprint would be made first, since its clarity and legibility appear to have been of prime consideration, as seen in the “fixing” and re-​impressing of this part of another Nippur tablet (see below and Feldman forthcoming). The sealings on the obverse then would follow and would require the tablet to be flipped vertically. All four tablet edges were also impressed with the seal, and in a consistent manner: the seal was pressed into the edge at least twice on each side with the seal held at a right angle to the edge. The seal was not rolled, which would have generated a horizontal slice through the seal iconography, but rather pressed down and picked up in order to only impress the area of the seal legend. However, the seal legend inscription is not fully preserved because it was impressed perpendicular to the seal edge. Hattori (2001: figs. 3–​6) illustrates examples of edges impressed with a seal held lengthwise to the edge (what she refers to as a “vertical” impression; 2001: fig. 1), which leaves an impression of the entire seal legend, although none of the tablets that I examined were sealed in this way. It seems clear that the impressing of the edges was performed in a somewhat rote manner so that the same part of the legend—​the dingir and HU signs—​were consist˘ ently imprinted. These signs fall in the middle-​left part of the legend and therefore would have been located in the upper-​middle of the seal itself. One might reconstruct the manual process of impressing the edges, holding the seal vertically in one hand and the tablet horizontally in the other, as a series of quick pressures while rotating the tablet from edge to edge. A characteristic feature that I observed on many of the Nippur tablets I examined is a slight displacement of clay in the upper left corner of the obverse, where it appears the act of impressing the seal was begun with a certain amount of force creating a depression in the tablet surface. This feature is a good indicator of, on the one hand, the consistent order in which a seal was impressed on a tablet, and on the other hand, idiosyncratic bodily movements that appear to correlate with specific sealers who use greater or lesser force in the application of the seal. While this appears idiosyncratically more clearly on certain of the tablet groups, for example, a group of four tablets bearing the seal of En-​engar (CBS 8131, CBS 8678, CBS 8686, and CBS 8705; Hattori 2002: SI n. 56), it is apparent on almost all of the other sealed tablets from my five groups, suggesting that it was the result of a shared, habitual way of sealing (Figure 1.4). According to this scenario, one would begin sealing a tablet in the top left corner, then proceed downward, picking the seal up and starting the impressing again, and then making a second set of impressions along a narrower band on the right side of the tablet. We may surmise that these “non-​institutional” individuals learned a particular sequence of sealing that was widely shared, although some individuals executed it with greater bodily energy. The complete sequence of sealing obverse, reverse, and edges is not entirely certain. The force of the indentation made on the upper left of the obverse might suggest that this would be the very first place of impression, followed by the reverse with the edges being the last to be 26

Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

Figure 1.4  Tablet sealed with the seal of En-​engar showing displacement of clay in upper left-​ hand corner of obverse. Penn Museum (CBS 8131). Source: Photo by author; courtesy of Penn Museum.

impressed. However, the imperative to have a clearly rendered, legible impression of the entire seal legend in the space on the reverse (see below and Feldman forthcoming) may indicate that the sealer began on the reverse and then turned to impress the obverse and the edges. If, as has been proposed by Tsouparopoulou (2015: 47–​48, 68, 79, 84), the sealer was also the person who inscribed the tablet (and, thus, also the person under the obligation recorded on the tablet), one might envision a sequence in which the transaction was inscribed beginning on the obverse, then flipped over to the reverse, upon completion of which the seal was impressed in the empty space of the reverse. Additional impressions on the reverse would follow, with the tablet then flipped back again to the obverse for impressing, ending with the edges. Given the need to both inscribe and impress the tablet within a short period of time before the clay dried out too much, this latter sequence makes the most sense and could be quickly performed in several seamless motions.

The sense of sealing Multiple sensory engagements would have contributed to the overall experience of sealing a tablet. These sensory experiences would have been shared among groups of people, not only those in physical proximity to one another, but also among anyone whose learned bodily motions derived from performing similar sealing practices. Learning to seal in particular ways, thus, created a community of practitioners who would be bound to one another through the shared physical (bodily and sensory) activity of sealing. What, however, were these sensory experiences that created the community? We can deduce at least some of them from the close analysis of the sealing practices described above. Working back from the surviving sealed tablets, the easiest sensory affects for us to access are haptic, visual, and kinaesthetic experiences.8 27

Marian H. Feldman

The sensory experiences of touching and feeling would have been central to the formation of a sense of practice. This is the so-​called muscle memory that occurs when a bodily action is engaged in repeatedly to the point that one can perform the motion without conscious thought. It is something like learning to drive a stick-​shift vehicle (now a vanishing skill). At first, you have to think about each moving part—​the hand on the gear stick, the left foot on the clutch, the right foot on the gas pedal; each action has to happen in the proper sequence and tempo in order to smoothly move forward or stop without stalling. In the early days of learning all the separate actions, it feels as if you will never be able to master the sequence, and then at some point it clicks, and the body performs the right moves in the correct order without thought. You have entered the community of manual car drivers. One imagines a similar process in the mastery of sealing a tablet, as well as a similar sense of initiation into a group bound by specialised knowledge and skills. We know from later, Old Babylonian school texts where scribes are first learning to write cuneiform, for example, that repeating the motions of horizontal, vertical, and oblique cuneiform wedge marks constituted an early part of scribal training (Wagensonner 2019: 141).9 The Ur III tablets from Nippur mostly fall within a standard size and shape, typically around three to four centimetres in height and length (usually fairly square). They fit compactly in the hand, held between the thumb, forefinger, and other fingers (Figure 1.5). On most of the tablets, there are clear indentations on the tablet edges near the corners, many of which still preserve the fingerprints of the holder (also, Taylor 2011: 13). The clay at this point would still be damp enough to be able to inscribe the text and then imprint the seal, providing a feeling of moisture and the yielding sense of the matrix as the fingers applied pressure to the tablet edges.10 As already mentioned, Tsouparopoulou (2015: 47–​48, 68, 79, 84) argues that, at least for short transactional records, a single person was responsible for writing the text and sealing the tablet.

Figure 1.5  Photograph of author holding CBS 8678. Source: Photo by author; courtesy of the Penn Museum. 28

Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

Perhaps this same person also formed the tablet.11 Depending on the composition of the clay (the visual inspection of the tablets reveals several different clays, exhibiting colours from yellow-​ green to red-​brown and varying degrees of fineness of the particles), it could feel smoothly plastic, perhaps sticky or gritty. Considering the visual experience is complicated because of what could and could not be seen of the seal and its impression. Typically, visual experience has been accorded a privileged status in the sensorium (see, for example, Candlin 2018: 27), and when we study ancient seals we focus mostly on a visual inspection of the carved representation. However, the visual operates slightly differently on the impressed Nippur tablets. First, as has been noted, the figural depiction carved on the seal seems to be, at best, of secondary interest in the sealing practice of these tablets. Instead, the seal legend assumed primacy. On all the tablets that I examined, and a common practice among Ur III administrative tablets in general, a space on the reverse permitted the impression of a fully legible seal legend. Because such blank spaces are not found on all Ur III tablets or are occasionally found devoid of any seal impressions, there has been debate regarding the intended purpose of these spaces (Tsouparopoulou 2015: 82). One of the Nippur tablets, UM 29-​15-​893, however, suggests that at least for many documents, providing an empty space in order to create a fully legible imprint of the seal legend was paramount (Figure 1.6). UM 29-​15-​893, a legal document bearing the seal of Ur-​du6-​ku3, shows evidence that its blank space was “fixed” with added clay that was then impressed (or perhaps re-​impressed) with the seal,

Figure 1.6  Reverse of tablet UM 29-​15-​893. Source: Photo by author; courtesy of the Penn Museum. 29

Marian H. Feldman

Figure 1.7  Detail of corrected area on reverse of tablet UM 29-​15-​893. Source: Photo by author; courtesy of the Penn Museum.

providing a legible imprint of the inscription (Feldman forthcoming) (Figure 1.7). Elsewhere, I have suggested that this was in part to facilitate the visibility, legibility, and identification of the seal legend as it was impressed over the inscribed text on the rest of the tablet. Thus, the visual experience of sealing involved an intimacy with the inscription on both the part of the sealer and anyone later needing to verify the tablet (see also Chapter 8, this volume). Kinaesthetic experiences involved in sealing tablets would derive in large part from haptic engagement. Because of the small size of both the tablets and the seals, no large or exaggerated movements would be necessary to create, inscribe, or seal the documents. Indeed, the process may have appeared fairly stationary and could be performed mostly while sitting in one place. However, the possibility that the receipts were inscribed and sealed by the person named as recipient suggests that these tablets were not produced in any kind of assembly-​line fashion, nor was there a small group of trained scribes with a monopoly. Rather, when a situation required it (that is, when a transaction occurred involving a recipient and a disperser), a tablet would be drawn up by the recipient who then gave the document to the disperser for safekeeping (Tsouparopoulou 2015: 79). If the sealing practices occurred automatically, like driving a stick-​ shift car, sealers would seal the entire tablet in a series of already internalised/​learned movements. There has been some debate about when such transactions were actually textually recorded, whether at the time and place of transaction or after the fact (Garfinkle 2015: 147, n. 15). The fact of and standardised ways of sealing the tablets strongly points to a performative element, which in turn suggests that tablets were sealed in the presence of other people, a conclusion confirmed by the listing of witnesses on some documents. The sealer’s kinaesthetic experience would be, on the one hand, the repeated actions of an ingrained, learned set of motions, and on the other hand, conditioned by the assembly of other people present, the setting in which the transactions took place, and perhaps even the specifics of the transaction (fairly everyday and non-​consequential versus momentous and life-​changing).

Conclusion The practices seen on the Nippur tablets are found not just among these so-​called “private” or non-​institutional documents from Nippur, but also in all the major archives of the Ur III period, 30

Case study of tablet sealing at Nippur

most of which stem from large-​scale institutions and in particular, the state. These practices served an important function in bringing together the diverse populations of the emerging territorial state. Garfinkle (2015: 152) has recently explored this in the context of the written texts: “Perhaps the most important aspect of textual production was its ability to define, and sometimes to create, new social networks.” The huge uptick in the production of administrative texts during the Ur III period can be ascribed, according to Garfinkle (2015: 156), to the performative function that the texts served, creating “larger notions of community” through their evidentiary ability to document the participation of the individuals in a larger web of transactions and affairs. Garfinkle (2015: 146, 152) has also demonstrated the interpenetration and entangled affairs of individuals operating between and within both institutional and non-​institutional entities, noting that the Ur III texts exhibit both a standardisation indicative of centralisation, as well as showing continuing significance of local and regional social, economic, and political networks. Garfinkle views the administrative production of tablets, the vast majority of which are simple texts of just a few lines like the ones under study here, in a performative light, their actual making, including their sealing, standing as evidence of the various individuals’ participation in the larger Ur III system. The Ur III administrative tablets can be understood to have actively facilitated state formation, rather than simply being a result of it. Just as Garfinkle sees the texts as performative, sealing likewise was a performative activity. While the tablets may have served an ongoing purpose of manifesting participation through their lasting physical presence, it was the act of production, which brought a group of people together—​ the physical actions undertaken by these people—​ that generated a community through their very doing of the task. Along the lines of Bell’s notion of ritualisation, this “sense of practice” might be conceptualised as practicisation: a fully embodied, experiential sensation of doing. The sensations produced by the bodily actions—​of fingers holding damp clay, or hard stone cylindrical seals pressed into yielding material, or repeated motions of flipping and turning the tablet—​generated a shared collective memory, a body knowledge, that bound the participants into a community.

Notes 1. This chapter draws on current research for a larger project on sealing practices in Ur III Nippur, only some of which can be included here. See also, Feldman forthcoming. 2. The designation Ur III derives from the ancient composition, the Sumerian King List, which identifies the rulers of Ur during this period as the third such dynasty from Ur to rule over Mesopotamia since kingship was first given to humanity by the gods. For a comprehensive overview of the Ur III period, see Sallaberger 1999; for a more general overview, especially of the administrative corpus, see Van De Mieroop 2016: 79–​89. 3. The inscriptions are carved into the seals in mirror reverse, so that the impressed text is legible. 4. While we have preserved the evidence for scribal training “in action,” so to speak, in the form of school texts (see, below, n. 9), there are no clearly identified trial or school exercises demonstrating stages of learning how to impress a tablet. This situation appears to be similar to what Tinney (2011: 589–​590) investigates in the Old Babylonian period, when he finds different “structures of learning” between the realm of liturgical and practical texts (which do not appear as school texts) and those of the scribal curriculum. As a result, Tinney (2011: 590) proposes a “stratified education” with “a common level of elementary instruction in writing, followed by a specialized training as an apprentice.” I suggest a similar manner of apprenticeship as the means by which sealing practices were transmitted and learned. 5. Tablets were examined using a hand-​held magnifying glass on two separate visits to the Penn Museum on May 30, 2019 and July 30–​31, 2019. My sincere thanks to Phil Jones of the Penn Museum Tablet Room for facilitating this study. 31

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6. Hattori (2002: SI n. 73) lists 12 seals belonging to Ur-​dma-​mi; however, in CDLI, two of the 12 sealings identified by Hattori are catalogued as separate seals: UM 29-​15-​913/​NATN660/​CDLI P121358 (transcribed as belonging to ur-ma-mi, dumu ḫu-ḫa?; said to be the same as a seal on UM 29-​15-​ 896/​NATN645/​CDLI P121343) and UM 29-​15-​924/​NATN670/​CDLI P121368 (which is sealed on the case and transcribed by CDLI as ur-​dlamma, dumu ḫu-​x). 7. The reconstructed drawing is based only on the visible sealings on tablet UM 29-​15-​916 and remains incomplete. The sealings preserve partial evidence of the ur, dingir, dumu, and HU signs. The seal is also known ˘ from the other tablets in this group, which provides further evidence for both the image and signs. 8. I take kinaesthesia to be the sensation of one’s own bodily movements, as in Hawthorn and Rendu Loisel 2019: 2, n. 3. 9. A considerable amount of scholarship has been undertaken regarding scribal training, mostly focused on the so-​called school texts; however, most evidence for scribal training dates to the Old Babylonian period or later, with little evidence preserved for the Ur III period. Scholarship on this topic has tended to focus on curricular content of the school texts rather than on the processes of creating the texts (but for an exploration of the student–​teacher relationship in the second and first millennia BCE, see Cohen and Kedar 2011). For a recent, general overview of scribal training, with references, see Wagensonner 2019. 10. For a general overview of the production of tablets, including the physical properties of clay, ways of shaping and forming tablets, and writing practices, see Taylor 2011 and the articles from two workshops investigating the production of tablets (Biga and Taylor 2011). 11. See, for example, an ancient exhortation: “Go! Knead your tablet! Make it! Write it! Finish your tablet!” from an Old Babylonian bilingual text, cited in Wagensonner 2019: 141; see also Taylor 2011: 12. It is unclear how such texts fit into the scribal training system, nor their relationship to the actual practices that they describe (Crisostomo 2016).

Bibliography Akkermans, P. M. M. G., and K. Duistermaat. 1996. “Of Storage and Nomads: The Sealings from Late Neolithic Sabi Abyad, Syria.” Paléorient 22 (2): 17–​44. Bell, C. 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York: Oxford University Press. Biga, M. G., and J. Taylor, eds. 2011. “Produzione, composizione e analisi delle tavolette cuneiformi.” Scienze dell’antichità 17: 273–​426. Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. R. Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [first published as Esquisse d’une théorie de la pratique, précédé de trois études d’ethnologie kabyle, 1972]. Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Trans. R. Nice. Stanford: Stanford University Press [first published as Le sens pratique, 1980]. Buchanan, B. 1981. Early Near Eastern Seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Candlin, F. 2018. “Sensory Separation and the Founding of Art History,” in D. Howes, ed., Senses and Sensation: Critical and Primary Sources, vol. 4, Art and Design. London: Bloomsbury, 27–​41. Cohen, Y., and S. Kedar. 2011. “Teacher-​Student Relationships: Two Case Studies,” in K. Radner and E. Robson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 229–​247. Collon, D. 1982. Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum: Cylinder Seals II. Akkadian—​ Post Akkadian—​Ur III Periods. London: British Museum Publications. Crisostomo, C. J. 2016. “Multilingualism and Formulations of Scholarship: The Rosen Vocabulary.” ZA 106: 22–​32. Ellis, M. 1992. Nippur at the Centennial: Papers Read at the 35e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Philadelphia, 1988. Philadelphia: Distributed by the S. N. Kramer Fund, Babylonian Section, University Museum. Feldman, M. H. Forthcoming. “Making an Impression: How to Seal an Ur III Period Administrative Tablet in Nippur,” in B. M. Bryan, M. Smith, T. Di Cerbo, and M. Escolano-​Poveda, eds., Festschrift for Richard Jasnow. Atlanta: Lockwood Press. Fischer, C. 1997. “Siegelabrollungen im British Museum auf Ur-​III-​Zeitlichen Texten aus der Provinz Lagaš: Untersuchung zu den Verehrungsszenen.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 28 (1997): 97–​183. Frahm, E., and K. Wagensonner. 2019. “Cuneiform Writing: Origins, History, Decipherment,” in A. W. Lassen, E. Frahm, and K. Wagensonner, eds., Ancient Mesopotamia Speaks: Highlights of the Yale Babylonian Collection. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 23–​43.


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Garfinkle, S. J. 2012. Entrepreneurs and Enterprise in Early Mesopotamia: A Study of Three Archives from the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112–​2004 BCE). Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology (CUSAS) 22. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press. Garfinkle, S. J. 2015. “Ur III Administrative Texts: Building Blocks of State Community,” in P. Delnero and J. Lauinger, eds., Texts and Contexts: The Circulation and Transmission of Cuneiform Texts in Social Space. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter, 143–​165. Gibson, M., and R. D. Biggs. 1977. Seals and Sealing in the Ancient Near East. Malibu: Undena Publications. Hallo, W. W., and I. J. Winter. 2001. Proceedings of the XLVe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Part II: Seals and Seal Impressions. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press. Hattori, A. 2001. “Sealing Practices in Ur III Nippur,” in W. W. Hallo and I. J. Winter, eds., Proceedings of the XLVe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, pt. II, Seals and Seal Impressions. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 71–​99. Hattori, A. 2002. “Texts and Impressions: A Holistic Approach to Ur III Cuneiform Tablets from the University of Pennsylvania Expeditions to Nippur.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Hawthorn, A., and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel. 2019. “The Senses in the Ancient Near East: An Introduction,” in A. Hawthorn and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 1–​20. Lave, J., and E. Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lemonnier, P. 1992. Elements for an Anthropology of Technology. Anthropological Papers of the Museum of Anthropology 88. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Leroi-​Gourhan, A. 1993. Gesture and Speech. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press [originally published as Le geste et la parole, 2 volumes, 1964–​1965]. McMahon, A. 2006. Nippur V: The Early Dynastic to Akkadian Transition: The Area WF Sounding at Nippur. OIP 129. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Nissen, H. J., P. Damerow, and R. K. Englund. 1990. Archaic Bookkeeping: Early Writing and Techniques of Economic Administration in the Ancient Near East. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Otto, A. 2019. “Glyptic,” in A. C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art. Medford, MA: Wiley/​Blackwell. Owen, D. I. 1982. Neo-​Sumerian Archival Texts Primarily from Nippur in the University Museum, The Oriental Institute and the Iraq Museum (NATN). Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Pittman, H. 2001. “Mesopotamian Intraregional Relations Reflected through Glyptic Evidence in the Late Chalcolithic 1–​5 Periods,” in M. S. Rothman, ed., Uruk Mesopotamia and Its Neighbors: Cross-​Cultural Interactions in the Era of State Formation. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 403–​443. Pittman, H. 2013. “Seals and Sealings in the Sumerian World,” in H. Crawford, ed., The Sumerian World. London: Routledge, 319–​341. Reichel, C. 2003. “Appendix: Sealing Practice,” in M. Hilgert, Drehem Administrative Documents from the Reign of Amar-​Suena. OIP 121. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 603–​624. Sallaberger, W. 1999. “Ur III-​Zeit,” in W. Sallaberger and A. Westenholz, Mesopotamien: Akkade-​Zeit und Ur III-​Zeit. OBO 160 (3). Freiburg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 121–​390. Schmandt-​Besserat, D. 1992. Before Writing. Austin: University of Texas Press. Schmandt-​Besserat, D. 1996. How Writing Came About. First Abridged Edition. Austin: University of Texas Press. Steinkeller, P. 1977. “Seal Practice in the Ur III Period,” in M. Gibson and R. D. Biggs, eds., Seals and Sealing in the Ancient Near East. Malibu: Undena Publications, 41–​53. Steinkeller, P. 1989. Sale Documents of the Ur-​ III-​ Period. Freiburger Altorientalische Studien 17. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH. Taylor, J. 2011. “Tablets as Artefacts, Scribes as Artisans,” in K. Radner and E. Robson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 5–​31. Tinney, S. 2011. “Tablets of Schools and Scholars: A Portrait of the Old Babylonian Corpus,” in K. Radner and E. Robson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 577–​596. Tsouparopoulou, C. 2015. The Ur III Seals Impressed on Documents from Puzriš-​Dagān (Drehem). Heidelberger Studien zum Alten Orient 16. Heidelberg: Heidelberger Orientverlag.


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Van De Mieroop, M. 2016. A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000–​ 323 BC. Third Edition. Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell. Viano, M. 2019. “On the Location of Irisaĝrig Once Again.” JCS 71: 35–​52. Wagensonner, K. 2019. “Becoming a Scribe: On Aspects of Education and Apprenticeship in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in A. W. Lassen, E. Frahm, and K. Wagensonner, eds., Ancient Mesopotamia Speaks: Highlights of the Yale Babylonian Collection. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 139–​147. Wendrich, W. 2006. “Body Knowledge: Ethnoarchaeological Learning and the Interpretation of Ancient Technology,” in B. Mathieu, D. Meeks, and M. Wissa, eds., L’apport de l’Égypte à l’histoire des techniques: méthodes, chronologie et comparaisons. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 267–​275. Wendrich, W. 2012. “Archaeology and Apprenticeship: Bodily Knowledge, Identity, and Communities of Practice,” in W. Wendrich, ed., Archaeology and Apprenticeship: Bodily Knowledge, Identity, and Communities of Practice. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1–​19. Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [18th printing, 2008]. Winter, I. J. 1986. “The King and the Cup: Iconography of the Royal Presentation Scene on Ur III Seals,” in M. Kelly-​Buccellati, ed., Insight through Images: Studies in Honor of Edith Porada. Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 21. Malibu: Undena Publications, 253–​268. Winter, I. J. 1987. “Legitimation of Authority through Image and Legend: Seals Belonging to Officials in the Administrative Bureaucracy of the Ur III State,” in M. Gibson and R. D. Biggs, eds., The Organization of Power: Aspects of Bureaucracy in the Ancient Near East. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 46. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 69–​116. Woods, C. 2010. “The Earliest Mesopotamian Writing,” in C. Woods, ed., Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond. OIP 32. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 33–​84.


2 Senses and textiles in the eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (1550–​1100 BCE ) Caroline Sauvage

Introduction This chapter explores the senses involved in textile production and consumption in the eastern Mediterranean and Near East during the Late Bronze (1550–​1180 BCE ) and Early Iron Ages (1180–​1100 BCE ). My aim is to integrate archaeological, iconographic, and textual evidence to propose a reconstruction of the perception of the textile world. In texts from the site of Ugarit in coastal Syria alone, Vita (2010) lists 35 alphabetic terms and 21 syllabic terms associated with textile terminology. Although the goal of this chapter is not to explore the diversity of textile terminology at Ugarit, it is the perfect starting point to evoke the variety of textures, colours, drapes, thicknesses, and warmth potentially produced by these textiles and clothes. All certainly contributed to a vast array of sensory experiences, potentially combining visual, tactile, and olfactory senses into a multisensorial experience, embodying the essence of the fabric of the Ugaritic society. In this chapter, the senses of touch, smell, and vision will be particularly explored. Following the approach of Howes and Classen, I have decided not to take a sense-​by-​sense approach, because I want to highlight possible dynamic interactions of sensations associated with textile production and consumption. The intermingling of sensations, also known as synaesthesia, is a vehicle for the production of cultural meaning (Howes and Classen 2014: 11), which was one of the key factors involved in textile consumption. The Late Bronze Age of the eastern Mediterranean was a period of intense exchange of goods, ideas, and people. The major and lesser powers of the time, that is to say, Egypt, Hatti, Mitanni, Babylon, Cyprus and the Levantine city-​states, had both intense relationships and extensive trade exchanges. Such widely developed trade was facilitated by a regulated system, including the establishment of a strict hierarchy among participating kings, the use of equivalent weights and measures standards, the exchange of standardised diplomatic letters in Akkadian on cuneiform tablets, the exchange of gifts to link countries and initiate trade negotiations, and finally, a shared interest in the so-​called “international style” of objects made of precious and valuable materials such as ivory, gold, faience, fine linen, and expertly woven and dyed textiles (Feldman 2014).

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-3


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Such objects bear eclectic representations and decorations combining, among other things, Levantine, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Aegean motifs. After the widespread destruction at the end of the Late Bronze Age, international exchange continued to a lesser scale during the Early Iron Age, even if the exact nature of the political organisation of most regions is still debated. Cloth and clothing were an integral part of this Mediterranean elite exchange system and were used as gifts, commodities, and means of symbolic communication, while their bright colours enhanced their materiality and reinforced their value and intrinsic message.

The sensory experience of textile production Spinning and weaving Several types of textile tools are attested in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages in the eastern Mediterranean. Spindle whorls, spindles, loom-​ weights, distaffs, and beaters were often manufactured locally,1 and were respectively made of different materials (clay, stone, metal, ivory, bone, wood, reed). They could bear various amounts of decoration, generating a wide array of tactile, visual, and auditory experiences. These were of course not exclusive of each other and all contributed to a dynamic interaction of sensations, probably forming a synaesthetic experience.2 Since not all of these tools were used at the same time by the same people (or social classes), nor for the same product, I will argue that different sensorial experiences were associated with specific textile production and social classes. Although this is not the place to review specifically all the associations of textile tools within their archaeological contexts throughout the eastern Mediterranean, selected examples from sites located in the Levant and Cyprus will support our discussion. In Ugarit, spindle whorls are made of stone (steatite/​chlorite schist, serpentinite, limestone), ivory or bone, perhaps faience, wood, and clay; these whorls are mostly, if not exclusively, dome-​shaped (Sauvage 2012a: 190–​196). At Enkomi in Cyprus, the vast majority of whorls were biconical in shape and made of clay but stone and bone or ivory biconical and dome-​shaped whorls were also common (Figures 2.1a–​b) (Sauvage and Smith 2016). These whorls would have been used to manufacture threads of different thickness, and therefore produced different visual appearances and tactile sensations. I have distinguished four categories of whorls (very light, light, medium, and heavy), which would all have been used to manufacture threads of different thicknesses or could have been used for plying different threads together (for the heavy group).3 For instance, small whorls with a light weight of about four grams would have been used to manufacture a very fine and delicate thread made from carefully selected wool (Figure 2.2). The high quality and delicacy of the produced thread would have been matched by the smooth finish of the lightweight whorls, which are always carefully finished, likely to avoid breaking the delicate output (Sauvage 2012a: 203, fig. 11.7). Invariably, whorls made of bone or ivory are smaller and lighter than the other whorls made from stone and clay, a property due to the density of their material, but it is also telling that at Ugarit and Enkomi no medium or heavy weight whorls were made of ivory. This would point to the use of the ivory whorls to manufacture only high quality threads for elites. This supposition is supported by the fact that ivory whorls are not found in common households, but instead come from more prestigious contexts in Ugarit such as the royal palace, the elite structure “maison aux albâtres.” In Minet el-​Beida, the harbour site of ancient Ugarit, they were found in “dépôt 43,” which might have been a rich tomb (Sauvage in press) and in the wealthy material of tomb III.4 At Enkomi on Cyprus, they are found in rich tombs, and in the large official building of Area I (Sauvage and Smith 2016). It should also be noted that possible 36

Textiles in the eastern Mediterranean

Figure 2.1a–​b  Examples of dome-​shaped and biconical spindle whorls from Enkomi; (a) AM 2151 and (b) AM 220a. Source: Drawings by E. Devidal; courtesy of the Musée du Louvre.

Figure 2.2  Variation from thinner to thicker threads. The first line on the left corresponds to a thread spun with a four-​gram spindle whorl; the blue line was spun with a 44 gram whorl. Source: Andersson et al. 2007: 10, fig. 8.


Caroline Sauvage

faience whorls were found in the royal palace at Ugarit (Sauvage 2012a: 196, fig. 11.9), and might also have been used to manufacture fine threads. Ivory was in itself a valuable material, and according to Warburton (2019: 13), the hues of ivory would have signified visually the qualities of brightness and luxury. Ivory tools would have had a cool and smooth touch, which is very distinctive from tools made of wood or of a combination of reeds and wood (for the shaft) and stone and wood (for the whorls). As observed by Feldman (2014: 50), small objects made of ivory call out for physical caressing. Since all of the ivory textile tools are obviously designed to produce fine and delicate threads, and in many cases come from elite archaeological contexts, it is possible that the quality of the finished garment or textile was directly related to the quality and value of the textile tools used. This could also be reinforced by a reference in the Odyssey (4.133–​136) to Helen of Troy using a golden spindle to spin purple (murex-​dyed?) wool. Therefore, one would expect that high quality thread used to produce some of the so-​called fine or even “royal quality” clothes,5 would have been produced in elite and wealthy households, on smooth and glimmering ivory whorls and spindles, or even on precious metal tools. Similarly, a spindle shaft made of metal would also have provided for its user a distinctive set of experiences; metal is at first cooler, smoother, and heavier than other materials, but the shaft would have become warmer with use, or could even have been hot if left out in the sun. It is also worth mentioning that all of the whorls found in Ugarit and Enkomi show similar use-​marks, including chips on the edges of the dome-​shaped whorls (Sauvage 2012a; Sauvage and Smith 2016), some of which demonstrate that spindles could fall onto the floor during an accidental drop when the thread broke. Whorls made of stone, ivory, clay or wood mounted on reed and wood, metal or bone and ivory shafts would have produced different and distinctive clinking sounds, thus filling the production place with characteristic noises. Decorated spindle whorls, although attested, are less frequent than plain ones. They tend to be finer, well executed and of higher quality, with a better or smoother finish, unless the decoration was made for practical purposes.6 Concentric circles or radiating spokes/​motifs are the most common decorations on dome shaped-​objects (Figure 2.3a–​d), while small circles or groups of parallel lines characterise biconical whorls. In both cases, the motif would have emphasised the visual effect during rotation of the object while spinning (Sauvage 2012a). Although complete spindles with shafts and whorls attached are rare, preserved examples in bone or ivory from Late Bronze and Early Iron Age contexts in the eastern Mediterranean show that their shafts can either be plain or decorated. Overall, decorated shafts were more frequent (Sauvage 2015). This might be due to the inherent carvable quality of the ivory spindles or be related to their elite status, but it might also be due to preservation, as most examples were deposited in tombs. Similar patterns are often present on one or both extremities of the shaft. These include parallel lines framing net-​like patterns or zigzag (Figure 2.4), parallel lines with a scale pattern (Figure 2.5), or oblique lines (Figures 2.6a–​b). Some shafts have additional sets of decoration in the middle of their shafts (Figure 2.7a–​b) but these are quite rare. Additionally, deep horizontal and parallel grooves meant to hold the thread can be found on the widest extremity of the spindles (see for instance Figure 2.3a–​d). These Late Bronze and Early Iron Age decorations are strongly reminiscent of textile patterns and are especially similar to the borders of fine garments. Borders characterised by parallel lines or zigzag/​herringbone patterns can be found, for instance, on a very elite object excavated from the royal palace at Ugarit, an ivory bed also decorated with figural scenes (Figure 2.8). In the carved image, a king is wearing a kilt with a fine belt decorated with vertical parallel stripes; the border of his garment is decorated with a zigzag pattern framed by a line (or maybe two parallel lines) on each side.7 The vanquished enemy is wearing a similar quilt, with a less detailed 38

Textiles in the eastern Mediterranean

Figure 2.3a–​d  Spinning set from British Tomb 24 at Enkomi. British Museum (BM 1897,0401.885; BM 1969,0701.30; BM 1969,0701.31; BM 1969,0701.32). Source: Photos by author; courtesy of the British Museum.

Figure 2.4  Spindles from Ugarit RS 4.221[A]‌(AO 15 757) and RS 34.210. Source: Gachet-​Bizollon 2007: nos. 136, 139; courtesy of J. Gachet-​Bizollon; © Mission de Ras Shamra.

Figure 2.5  Pomegranate knobbed shaft 132 from Kition tomb 9, upper burial. Source: Smith 2009: 98, fig. III.11; © J. Smith.

border (without zigzag) and a belt. An extreme version of a decorated “border” occurs on the embroidered edging on a tunic from the tomb of Tutankhamun (1336–​1327 BCE ) in Egypt, where parallel lines not only frame wavy lines, but also elaborate figurative scenes,8 somewhat reminiscent of cylinder-​seal impressions (Figure 2.9).9 It is therefore possible to imagine that the pattern as well as the texture created by the engraved decorations on the extremities of the spindles could have been visual and tactile reminders of finished textile borders. Therefore, 39

Caroline Sauvage

Figure 2.6a–​b  Bone shafts (length 20 centimetres) from Tell Deir ‘Alla. Source: (a) Franken 1992: figs. 4–​5.18; (b) van der Kooij and Ibrahim 1989: no. 13, 101; courtesy of J. van der Kooij; © Deir ‘Alla Excavations.

Figure 2.7a–​b  Decorated spindles from Megiddo; (a) no. B433a (length 20.2 centimetres) from tomb 3018F, and (b) bone shaft (length 23.6 centimetres) from tomb 877B1. Source: (a) Loud 1949: pl. 197.2; (b) Guy 1938: pl. 95.50; courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Figure 2.8  Representation of the king on the Ugarit ivory bed. Source: Gachet-​Bizollon 2007: pl. 25, I/​H; courtesy of J. Gachet-​Bizollon; © Mission de Ras Shamra.


Textiles in the eastern Mediterranean

Figure 2.9  The “Syrian” embroidered tunic from the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Carter 367. Source: Courtesy of the Griffith Institute, Oxford University.

spinners and weavers would either have been working together, or the same craftsperson could have been manufacturing both high-​end threads and textiles. Weaving would have created a multisensorial experience for those directly involved in the weaving process, but also for those carrying out other tasks nearby, either in the same household or in the same workshop (depending on the place of production, as both domestic and “industrial” productions are attested).10 As argued by M.-​L. Nosch (2014: 91) for ancient Greece, the “making of clothes created a background rhythm of female life … that is both visual and audible if one knows where to see and where to hear it.” Indeed, not only do spindles make characteristic sounds when they hit the floor, but looms and the action of weaving also make distinctive noises, which would all have been part of the domestic acoustic background. Ethnographic parallels and archaeological experiments demonstrate that in a warp-​weighted loom, “when the heddle bars are pulled back and forth and the shed is changed, rhythmic thumping sounds occur. They are followed by the sound of beating the weft threads into the fabric with the weaving swords. This is accompanied by the clicking sound from the impact of the loom weights, made of fired clay or stone” (Nosch 2014: 95). 41

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Other types of looms attested in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, such as horizontal looms and vertical looms with fixed beams, would also have created rhythmic sounds when changing the shed and beating the weft.11 These weaving sounds are so characteristic that modern residents of Wajo villages in Indonesia describe them as “the sound of village life (bunyi kehidupan desa)” (Morrell 2005: 85). The weaver(s) would have orchestrated these rhythms and sounds, which may have been accompanied by singing (see also Chapter 5, this volume). Songs would have been used as mnemonic devices that would presumably help the weaver remember when to change the shed and where to pass the weft, thus assisting them in executing complex patterns (Tuck 2006; Nosch 2014: 93).12 Mnemonic songs are still used today in traditional Iranian carpet manufacture.13 Therefore, a connection between music and textile production is highly possible. This proposal is not new,14 and can be reinforced by the visual similarity of hand looms and lyres (Nosch 2014: 99). According to McMahon (2013: 174), sounds are crucial to the lived experience of space, and the sound of textile production would have been no exception. In domestic settings, where weaving often took place outside on roofs or in courtyards,15 the rhythmic sounds of the looms and the singing or chatting (when several people worked the loom) that accompanied the craft would have been audible not only within the household, but also beyond, in the street or even more widely within the neighbourhood. As Devereux (2006: 23) noted, “people in early cultures would have found the act of listening to the sounds in their quieter world to be of key importance.” These sounds would have been informative, and given the prime importance of textiles and textile production in the ancient societies, one should imagine that these sounds would have been part of the frequent audible background of city life. Weavers would also have experienced a tactile sensation when weaving, which would have been dependent on the quality and type of textile produced. Indeed, a fine, high quality textile would have had a soft touch, while a coarser textile would have been rougher. The textures of open weaves and closed weaves would also have been different as would have been the textures of weft looping textiles.16 An open weave fabric would have felt like a modern gauze or in some extreme cases like a net, and would have been loose, malleable, and fragile, while a weft-​looping textile would have been soft, fuzzy, and warm and therefore comparable to the feel of a thick but soft fringe. Textiles could also be embellished with painted motifs, beads, bracteates, bands, tassels, braids, embroidery, appliqués, and other similar materials made from different ordinary or precious materials.17 Along with embroidery, gold bracteates and glass beads are preserved on several garments found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, such as on the tunic discussed above (Figure 2.10a–​b) along with several other examples excavated by Carter (for example, Figure 2.11)18 and the Nimrud Queens’ tombs from Assyria (Gaspa 2014; Hussein 2016), and were therefore probably common (although not frequent) in other parts of the eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. Faience and glass beads could also have been either sewn on or woven into fabrics. An early example includes faience beads woven into a garment (maybe a shawl) found at the funerary temple of Mentuhotep II at Deir el-​Bahari, Egypt (Middle Kingdom).19 Although not preserved on textiles, tiny red-​orange faience beads probably stored in a bag as well as glass beads stored in a Canaanite amphora were found in the Uluburun shipwreck (Figure 2.12; Ingram 2014: 235–​ 236).20 They could have been used on textiles, which is confirmed by the text RS 15.43 from Ugarit, in which wool, linen clothes, and glass are listed together.21 Similarly, a small faience statue found near the royal palace at Ugarit (RS 18.246) represents a male dressed with a kilt decorated with horizontal and dotted lines, possibly representing beads, as proposed by Matoïan.22 Garments possibly decorated with golden round bracteates are worn by the king (enthroned and on his chariot) and the priestess on a plaque from Megiddo, and could also possibly 42

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Figures 2.10a–​b  Textiles decorated with beads and bracteates, tomb of King Tutankhamun, Egypt. P0105 and P0106. Source: Courtesy of the Griffith Institute, Oxford University.

correspond to the spotted garments depicted on Mycenaean vases, as well as in a treasury hoard from the Aegean island of Aegina (Figure 2.13). These gold appliqué plaques could have been sewn onto the whole surface of the garment, possibly giving the impression of a garment made of gold.23 Indeed, in a text from Mari, the king gave instructions for a garment whose interior 43

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Figure 2.11  Detail of an appliqué and embroidered panel with gold bracteates from a linen garment, tomb of King Tutankhamun, Egypt. Source: Photo by Nino Monastra; courtesy of Gillian Vogelsang-​Eastwood; see https://​trc-​leiden. nl/​trc-​needles/​regional-​traditions/​middle-​east-​and-​north-​africa/​ancient-​middle-​east-​and-​north-​ africa/​tutankhamun-​and-​decorative-​needlework-​egypt.

Figure 2.12  Canaanite jar from the Uluburun shipwreck filled with glass beads. Source: Courtesy of Cemal Pulak; © Institute of Nautical Archaeology. 44

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Figure 2.13  Gold bracteates from the Aigina Treasure, c. 1750–​1550 (BM 1892,0520.42, 33, 64, 63, 31, 47, 27, 35, 70, 66). Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum.


British Museum

should look like a silver sheet, while not being too heavy to prevent tearing (Durand 1997: 274, no. 136; see also Gaspa 2014: 239). The weight of such garments might have reduced the mobility of their wearers.24 As noted by Thomason (2016: 249, quoting Feldman 2014: 50), multicoloured and beaded textiles would thus have produced a multisensorial and synaesthetic experience that she compared to Feldman’s observation on ivories: “the combination of intricacy of carved design, luminosity and diversity of colours, and tactile desire would have served to capture and ensnare viewers’ attention along the lines of Alfred Gell’s notion of enchantment by technical virtuosity.” These bracteates made of gold, glass, or faience would have acted as little mirrors, glimmering and sparkling as light played across them. These embellishments were likely selected because of their brilliance and gave clothing a dynamic and material presence. This effect would only have been increased by the motion of the worn garment, along with the changing natural light or the flickering light of oil lamps.25 Similarly, fringes, trims, and tassels could have been made of coloured fibres, shiny metals,26 or beads of various precious materials.27 These would also have reflected light, and provided extra texture and visual stimulation when the wearer was moving.28 Moreover, all of these embellishments might have produced some tinkling sounds when in movement, adding to the overall sensory experience of both the wearer and the observer, possibly creating memory-​triggering sensual experiences (Thomason 2016: 251). When a garment was entirely decorated with gold appliqués, the glimmering effect would certainly have given the audience the impression that they were facing a radiant being, and might for instance have further embodied the divine character of the pharaohs in Egypt. In the Near East, “luminosity/​ splendor” was an active force (protective or destructive) associated with gods, divine and royal emblems, kings, weapons, monsters, demons, diseases, and cultic paraphernalia (Thavapalan 45

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2018b: 15). The visual consumers of such radiant garments would certainly have been in awe. Wengrow has called this production controlled by elites as a form of “aesthetic labour” (2001; see also Gell 1999). The added value of gold, precious beads, vibrant colours, or delicately woven textiles made textile artisans and their products stand out from a mass of similar labourers and artefacts (Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 127) and would have produced awe and admiration in their viewers. Larger ornaments dangling from fabrics are also well attested in the eastern Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds (see also Chapter 7, this volume). Tassels and belts are present on several representations. For instance, at Ugarit, they are attested on masculine costumes on the ivory bed (see Figure 2.8) and on cylinder seals (Amiet 1992: nos. 98, 106, 161, 173, 291, 340; Matoïan and Vita 2009: 497). We also know that cylinder seals and metal garment pins could be worn on garments, as attested at Mari,29 but these were not permanently attached.30 These embellishments would have added texture (and value) to garments, and would have, in some instances, modified the feel, colours, and refraction properties of the garments, as will be discussed below.

Dyes and dyeing Colourful garments are attested in the Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean sources, from Egypt, the Levant, the Hittite Empire, Cyprus, and the Aegean.31 Textual and visual sources in particular allow us to reconstruct vibrant and colourful possibilities for garment manufacture. For instance, in Ugarit, white, black, red, yellow, purple/​blue, and multicoloured wool or garments are well attested.32 Linen was also dyed with red madder in the Levant and Egypt,33 and blue and yellow linen are attested in Egypt,34 while texts additionally mention green and light-​coloured linen (Herslund 2010: 72). Identified dyes in the eastern Mediterranean include: red from madder (Rubia tinctorium; Pfister 1937: 209), kermes (Kermes vermillo),35 the Armenian cochineal (Porphyrophora hamelii),36 “arsenic ruby” or realgar,37 henna (Lawsonia sp.),38 and certain lichens;39 yellow or red from safflower (Carthamus tinctorium; Pfister 1937: 210; Barber 1991: 227, 232), yellow from saffron (Crocus sativus or Crocus cartwrightianus), turmeric (Curcuma longa; Campbell Thompson 1934: 780), pomegranate rinds (Punica granatum),40 and onion skins; blue from a variety of berries (Barber 1991: 233), woad (Isatis tinctoria), and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria);41 and blue/​purple from murex molluscs (Murex brandaris, Murex trunculus, Purpura haemastoma),42 and from the root of alkanet and dyer’s bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria; Thavapalan 2020: 181; Cardon 2003: 60–​62). Temperature and time are key factors to successfully bond dyes to fabrics. Temperatures are often controlled through active heating but good results also could be achieved in a closed container left out in the sun to steep for several days, called “direct dyeing.”43 It is also possible to produce purple dye with murex shells through the direct dyeing method. We also know that in some cases, imported garments could be dyed after being received in Ugarit, as revealed by the archives from the Urtenu’s House.44 Such a process would have necessitated larger vats to ensure dye penetration, and possibly specialised facilities. In term of senses, heated dye baths would all have produced distinctive odours. Some were stronger and definitively more characteristic or recognisable than others. For instance, according to modern dyers, madder (Rubia tinctorium) has a rich, pleasant, and earthy smell,45 which can be identified on a textile well after the dyeing process.46 Seemingly, onion skin can smell like onion soup; henna has a strong earthy smell (distinctive from madder); woad can be pungent (depending on the form used in the vat); and indigo can be sweet and pungent.47 Indigo is sometimes described as in between earthy, musty, smoky with a hint of grass and manure,48 or as a ripe, sweaty scent. 46

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Of course, the most characteristic and persistent smell would have come from purple murex dye. Although textile workshops are hard to identify, it is likely that as with other Near Eastern smell-​ producing workshops, installations or architectural configurations limiting the olfactive impact of the dyeing process did not exist.49 Purple dye production was certainly conducted near the seashore50 in shaded areas to prevent direct sunlight interfering with the dyeing process.51 Installations relating to this industry were technically outside of the main cities, for instance, carried out in the harbour town of Minet el-​Beida,52 located less than two miles from the main city of Ugarit. But, despite the distance, the smell of the production would have been regularly carried to the main city with prevailing westerly winds. Later Classical sources discuss this olfactory experience: Strabo mentions that the city of Tyre (near Ugarit) was unpleasant to live in due to the purple murex dye industry;53 while Martial refers to the strong smell of garments54 and the pungency of a fleece dyed twice with purple (Epigrams IV.4). Still, according to Ruscillo (2005: 105), the odour encountered during the dyeing process was not only terrible according to our modern standards, but textiles dyed with murex purple dye retained their stench long after washing. Therefore, she proposes that perfume would likely have been required on new garments. However, it can be argued that odours and their associations are cultural, and that depending on one’s (cultural) background, a similar odour can have positive or negative associations.55 For instance, most of us would agree that some cheeses are particularly smelly, leading to some people being turned off by the odour and unwilling to eat them; while for others, the smell is associated with a pleasant gustatory experience. The same might have been true in the Levant, or at least in Ugarit, as in the Epic of Baal, there is a clear reference to henna perfumed with coriander and murex,56 and references from Ugaritic literature for murex being used as rouge: “she washed and put on rouge, she put on rouge of sea-​dye, from a thousand fathoms in the vast expanse of the sea.”57 If the odour produced by murex was so putrid and pungent for the inhabitants of the Levant, it would seem unlikely that they would have applied murex on their faces, or used it as a perfuming agent. Although textile workshops are extremely hard to identify, we know that textile activities took place within domestic, official or institutional, and religious settings.58 We should therefore expect that at least some households were dyeing fibres with those readily available and easy-​ to-​use vegetal dyes such as onion skins, lichen, pomegranate rinds, woad, and perhaps madder. However, madder requires the use of alum as a mordant to aid in the binding process, which had to be imported from Egypt, Cyprus, or Melos (Picon et al. 2004). Natural hues of wool would also have been used to create coloured garments. Other, harder-to-acquire dyes such as madder-​ plus-​alum, kermes, realgar, murex, or perhaps imported indigo would have been more exclusive and produced by wealthier households or specialised institutional workshops. Some of those processes would have contributed to the olfactive atmosphere of cities, and specific ingredients would have been easily recognisable outside of the immediate dyeing area thus dominating other urban odours.

Sensory experience of clothing and textiles Beyond the synaesthesia involved in producing these textiles, another set of intermingling sensations would have been involved in their consumption. Multiple types of textual evidence attest to this. In Ugarit, we know that textiles were brought and distributed by the palace (McGeough 2007: 168), and different types of textiles or garments are attested. Although it is challenging to precisely translate textile terminology,59 diverse layers (capes, undergarments, coats and cloaks), textures, weights, qualities and materials60 are mentioned in administrative texts. As confirmed by textile tools, a variety of textiles were manufactured in the eastern Mediterranean, and many circulated as diplomatic gifts by the elite of the time, thus serving to fulfil tribute 47

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requirements.61 Textiles and finished garments were meant to be consumed directly by their wearer and indirectly by the wearer’s audience. Both direct and indirect consumption would have created distinctive sets of experiences. Indirect consumption might not have been passive and may have been considered as a performative act.62 For instance, a magnificent garment could leave an audience in awe, while being heavy, uncomfortable, and motion-​restrictive to its wearer, affecting their sense of proprioception. Both direct and indirect consumers would have been able to assess or at least recognise textile qualities. This would have been especially important from an economic perspective when evaluating the value of diplomatic gifts and tribute, or for assessing someone’s social status. Textile quality can be estimated by a visual and tactile experience, as well as by the know-​how of the observer. As discussed by Wingate and Mohler (1984: 36): Factors [such] as warmth, coolness, pliability, texture, bumpiness, smoothness or strength of a fabric can be discerned by the sense of touch. To develop a sense of touch, grasp the edge of a cloth between the thumb and index finger, with the thumb on top. Rub the thumb and forefinger across the cloth, then lengthwise, then in a circle. Each time a fabric is felt, words that best describe the feel should be brought to mind: pliability, elasticity or ‘give,’ warmth, softness, smoothness, and so on.63 And as Herring argues (1949: 209), degrees of lightness to heaviness (weight dimension), softness to hardness (solidity dimension), warmth to coldness (temperature dimension), smoothness to roughness (texture dimension), pliability to rigidity, friability to strength, etc. can be distinguished. Practice and knowledge would increase and refine the “sensitivity of discrimination” (Wingate and Mohler 1984: 36). A visual examination could also assess degrees of lustrous or shine qualities, some weight dimension and pliability as well as texture, especially for textiles with a border, embroideries, bracteates, or tassels. These visual assessments might be defined as “tactile vision.” This synaesthetic sense of tactile vision would have been especially important for the audience of religious festivals, attendees of royal ceremonies, or conspicuous acts of communal consumption. Undoubtedly, each fibre had a different visual appearance: linen was certainly sought after for its fineness and its whiteness and considered bright and shiny; while sea-​silk (byssus), if it was already exploited in the second millennium BCE ,64 would have been rare and characterised by its lightness/​thinness and by a shiny golden appearance when placed under direct light, which would certainly have been stunning and restricted to the highest elites of the time. Wool would have been coarser and heavier, although it was possible to produce very fine and lightweight fabrics. Wool’s natural colours varied from white/​beige to brown and black/​dark,65 and it is unknown what shades were the most common. White wool would certainly have been sought after as it is easy to alter its colour with natural dyes, but it would also have been considered as a bright colour on its own. This is confirmed by earlier textual sources from the Ur III Dynasty (2112–​2004 BCE ) in which white wool was reserved for the king (Breniquet 2014: 65; Steinkeller 1995). Although in the eastern Mediterranean regions, we have fewer sources relating to the importance of vision and gaze than in Mesopotamia,66 we know that visual impressions were of prime importance. For instance, in the Ugaritic Story of Kirta, a legendary Hurrian king, Kirta’s description of his lover emphasises these aspects along with the importance of colours (Tablet 1, col. 3, 41–​45; after Coogan and Smith 2012: 77): Her loveliness is like [the goddess] Anat’s, her beauty is like [the goddess Astarte’s], her pupils are lapis lazuli, her eyes are gleaming alabaster … I will rest in the gaze of her eyes. 48

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In this excerpt, the colours blue and white are defined by their similarity to precious stones. Similarly, in Akkadian texts, coloured wool can be named after precious gemstones such as calcite, lapis lazuli, and amethyst, but can also be characterised as dyed (Thavapalan 2018a: 3; 2020: 177). Thavapalan (2018a: 3) suggests that textiles and other materials were dyed in a manner that “evoked the vivid hue and luster of these costly and esteemed minerals.” For instance, purple-​dyed wools could be designated as “red(-​tinged) lapis lazuli wool,” showing that purple wools were thought to have characteristics akin to the vivid hue and brightness of lapis lazuli (Thavapalan 2018a: 8, n. 26). In Ugaritic texts, lapis lazuli has explicit lustrous properties, as seen in the Epic of Baal when describing the god’s palace: “and build the house with silver and gold, the house with lustrous lapis lazuli (stones)” (Smith 1997: 130–​131, with some adaptation by Feder 2014: 91). Even when a colour does not explicitly refer to valuable stones, lustrous or gleaming properties of other types of materials are suggested. For instance, in Ugaritic, the term pḥm can either refer to “black” as charcoal, or to “dark-​red” (as glowing charcoal), with the latter solution being preferable, and maybe referring to a red-​purple (Van Soldt 1990: 342–​ 344; Bordreuil and Caquot 1980: 353). In Egypt, colours refer to precious minerals and metals (Aufrère 1991: 577; Warburton 2008), and therefore they also shared some of their properties. For instance, blue textiles, ḫstb, are named after the Egyptian name for lapis lazuli, ḫsbḏ (Aufrère 1991: 464). Similarly in the Hittite world, colours were perceived in terms of hue, brightness, and saturation (Dardeniz 2019: 100–​101). In the eastern Mediterranean, as in Mesopotamia, colours were thus seen in terms of lustrousness, vividness, and brightness, and these would have translated to specific visual impressions when viewing colourful garments or textiles. Brightness (melammu) was part of the definition of colours in Akkadian (Thavapalan 2018b; see also Chapter 15, this volume), and this concept would also have been true in Ugarit, and certainly in other parts of the Mediterranean. According to Warburton (2019: 10), “colour was nothing ordinary at the dawn of history: brilliant, shining, golden light was divinity itself.” In Mesopotamia, Winter (1994: 129) has shown that radiant light was a visual manifestation of the divine world and we should probably expect a similar concept in the Levant. Ugaritic literary texts attest to this, as for instance the palace of Baal is built with gleaming and lustrous materials,67 and in the myth of Elkunirsa and Ashertu, Baal is described as “radiant (or perfect)” (4Aiii, 1–​6; Hoffner 1998: 92, n. 3). Colourful garments should also be added to the list of materials shared by gods and elites, as textile hues are associated with light-​emitting materials, and therefore, monochrome as well as polychrome textiles would have been treasured for their brightness (see for instance Aufrère 1991: 537; Warburton 2019: 10). Some colours were particularly significant across cultures. For instance, red stood for the finest sort of divine light in Mesopotamia (Thavapalan 2018b: 18), and was a warm colour in Egypt,68 as it was the colour of the sun, and a preferred colour for festive clothing. Blue was an important colour of divine light in Mesopotamia, at least in the first millennium BCE (Thavapalan 2018b: 19), and the material lapis lazuli was also used to characterise the divine world in Egypt (Schenkel 2019: 46). In Ugaritic literature, red-​purple from murex shell (called “sea-​dye”) was similar to lapis lazuli, and was beautifying for goddesses and heroes in the Story of Aqhat: “Pugat washed and put on rouge, she put on rouge of sea-​dye, from a thousand fathoms in the vast expanse of the sea” (3: 4, 40–​43; Coogan and Smith 2012: 54); and in the Epic of Baal: Anat “beautified herself with murex” (3: 3, 1; Coogan and Smith 2012: 118). Therefore, in Ugarit and perhaps the Levant, this colour might also have been assimilated to the world of the gods. In Egypt, yellow was like gold, the flesh of gods, and white was positive, shiny, pure, radiant, bright, and a sign of social stature (as in white linen) (Blom-​Böer and Warburton 2019: 234; Morgan 2011: 4; Schenkel 2019: 38–​40; Vogelsang-​Eastwood 2000: 280), and was similar to 49

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silver (Warburton 2008). In Ugaritic texts, white is compared to gleaming alabaster69 and therefore also was considered as a bright and radiant colour. The Hittites also characterised white as “bright,” while silver is a white and pure metal (Dardeniz 2019: 100–​101). In biblical Hebrew, Akkadian, Hittite, Sumerian, and Ugaritic texts, the primary terms for purity are related to radiance, thus connecting white’s radiance with purity (Feder 2014: 90). Both white and coloured wools and garments were valued at Ugarit and elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean as they often appear in lists of tribute, or royal gifts of the second millennium and first millennium BCE courts.70 In particular, textiles dyed red and blue seem to have been favoured in the Hittite world (Dardeniz 2019: 102) and in the Levant,71 while purple garments were some of the most precious commodities.72 For instance, a material called takiltu-​ wool (blue wool dyed with shellfish) (Quillien 2015: 107; Thavapalan 2018a: 3–​4) was an expensive commodity in Ugarit, and was used by wealthy elite and royalty. In one Ugaritic text from the palace at Ras Shamra (RS 12.33), the queen is presented with a gift of 100 shekels’ worth of wool, while in another text (RS 17.354), the gift is worth 300 shekels (Thavapalan 2018a: 11, n. 37). In the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean regions, shellfish-​dyed textiles have been excavated from elite archaeological contexts such as the royal tomb at Qatna (James et al. 2009; Baccelli 2012) and the tombs at Stamna in Greece (ninth to eighth century BCE ; Kolonas et al. 2017). It thus seems that purple-​dyed textiles were connected to royalty and divinity. Similarly in the Aegean, purple-​dyed textiles are mentioned in the Linear B archives of Knossos, suggesting not only an interest in these textiles, but also that at least some purple textile production was royal (Burke 2010: 79; Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 140).73 A similar conclusion might be reached in Ugarit if one follows Pardee’s proposal to see Minet el-​Beida, the harbour of the city where murex-​dye installations were identified, as a royal possession.74 The prime importance and elite status of shellfish purple-​dye might have been due to its rarity and to the number of molluscs required to dye fibres, but it would also certainly have been connected to the colourfast properties of the dye, as shellfish-​dyed threads would have remained bright, and would not have faded with time.75 Not only were colours important visually, but the dyes used to achieve specific colours were also essential when contemplating the value of a garment. Many colourful elite materials such as lapis lazuli or carnelian were imitated through the production of man-​made materials in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean regions. Being able to differentiate originals from imitations would have been of prime importance to some individuals.76 In terms of textile consumption, similar concerns would have arisen as colours produced by the use of true murex dye (blue-​purple and red-​purple) could also have been achieved with plant-​based dyes (for instance a mix of madder and woad/​indigo).77 Although a rich range of colours and textile terminology is attested at Ugarit, many economic texts quote relatively low prices for purple-​dyed wools suggesting that some of them might have been dyed with vegetal dyes (Thavapalan 2018a).78 As observed by Thavapalan (2018a: 24), it seems that the names of the coloured fabrics do not distinguish between genuine (mollusc-​based) and fake purple dyes, and that only the context could reveal a reference to molluscan purple wool.79 It may not have been easy to distinguish real shellfish-​purple from imitation products, as for instance in Strozzacapponi (Italy) one of the richest tombs of the Hellenistic era (323–​31 BCE ) contained a textile dyed with non-​shellfish purple, while the finest shellfish-​purple-​dyed cloth was found in a humble coarse-​ware ossuary (Gleba et al. 2017; Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 146). But in this case, the consumers might have lacked some connoisseurial knowledge, or even positive sensory associations, which would have allowed them to establish a distinction between several types of purple-​dyed textiles. 50

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In the Levant, however, even if textual sources do not allow us to easily identify specific dyes, direct and indirect textile consumers might have been able to do so. Of course, some hues could have been different, and plant-​based dyes would have faded with time. But certainly, the smell of the fabric/​wool/​threads dyed with murex shells would also have allowed people to (easily?) recognise purple dyes.80 The smell of molluscan purple dye would have been part of the Ugaritic and larger coastal Levantine sensescape, and the positive connotations of the smell were mentioned in the Story of Aqhat: “[Pugat] beautified herself with murex” (3: 4, 40–​43; Coogan and Smith 2012: 54) and in the Epic of Baal: “[Anat] beautified herself with murex” (3: 3, 1; Coogan and Smith 2012: 118). These pleasant or at least distinctive odours would have reminded the ancient inhabitants of these regions of “home.” In comparison, modern inhabitants of Oaxaca in Mexico taste purple-​dyed fabrics to verify if molluscan dye had been used, as genuine shellfish purple apparently tastes like garlic (Saltzman 1992: 479; Balfour-​Paul 2011: 14, n. 10). We could thus argue that the smell (and maybe taste?) of molluscan purple garments would have been culturally meaningful (Howes and Classen 2014: 3–​4). Moreover, odour associations might have helped to create and differentiate various social groups (Howes and Classen 2014: 68–​69). Sensory differences related to cultural distinctions and personal memories would thus have formed social exclusions based on a connoisseurial-​like knowledge of real versus imitation materials.81 As demonstrated by Winter, there was an active response to seeing. Seeing an object could provide joy, and there was a true aspiration to have works, goods, and buildings viewed and admired.82 Gods and kings could experience joy and delight when viewing works made for them, while the more passive audience (people) responded with “admiration” and awe (see also Chapters 10, 15, and 25, this volume).83 The preparation of the visual experience is extremely important and corresponds to an exhortation to feel/​produce a specific reaction based on the social level of the participants (Pinnock 2020: 5). In some cases, people could have experienced what Winter calls the “WOW-​ effect,” when something was perceived as impressive or overwhelming (Winter 2000: 34–​35; Pinnock 2020). Pinnock notes that the emphasis on textiles in textual sources as well as on their colours, along with standards pointing to the ranks and function of their owners would have made ceremonies a complex multisensorial experience, similar to Winter’s “WOW-​effect” (Pinnock 2020: 8; 2018: 73–​77; see also Chapter 14, this volume). Textiles and clothing would thus have transmitted impressions, or even feelings not only to the producers of the garments, but also to their wearers and receiving audience, and would have contributed to the creation of specific atmospheres and multisensory experiences. Clothes and garments would also have been used to express feelings. As Wagner-​Durand (2020: 221) has argued, sensory perception and emotions are linked since emotions are based on the sensory perception of the world. But more subtle clues were certainly deciphered by ancient Near Eastern people as well. With our modern state of mind, we expect to use our visual sense to understand the emotional state of others, and we mostly look for clues in facial expressions. In ancient Near Eastern art, faces can sometimes seem to lack emotion, and we might therefore fail to recognise emotional display,84 especially if it was made through specific visual clues such as garments. The wearer’s relationship to clothing and the emotions provoked is strongest in literary descriptions of mourning. In the Ugaritic Epic of Baal, the gods El and Anat covered their loins with sackcloth to mourn Baal.85 And in the Tale of Aqhat, Pugat tore off the clothes of Danel following the death of Aqhat: “She tore the clothes of Danel, the man of Rapau, the garment of the Hero, the man of the Harnamite” (3: 1, 36–​37; Coogan and Smith 2012: 47). Colours on garments would also have been used to display or encode emotions.86 As discussed preliminarily above, brightness was connected to positive emotions, while dark colours were linked with 51

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illness and bad fortune (Wagner-​Durand 2020: 234; Thavapalan 2018b). Red was also a festive clothing colour in Egypt, connected to joy, while white was considered to invoke overall positive emotions (Blom-​Böer and Warburton 2019: 234; Schenkel 2019: 38–​40). Clothes also had agency to manipulate identity and therefore magical powers, and this is a well-​known fact for Mesopotamian deities.87 In Ugarit, the agency resides in the ability to provide an identity. For instance, in the Story of Aqhat, Pugat “put[s]‌on a hero’s clothes, she placed a knife in her sheath, she placed a sword in her scabbard; and on top she put on women’s clothes” (3: 4, 43–​46; Coogan and Smith 2012: 54). Finally, garments, especially their hems or borders could be used to express a relationship of vassal or domination as well as family relations, especially marital relations. For instance, in the Epic of Baal, Anat “seized Death by the edge of his clothes, she grabbed him by the hem of his garment” (6: 2, 10–​11; Coogan and Smith 2012: 147). Her attitude can easily be paralleled with a vassal/​lord or vanquished/​vanquisher relationship as described by Podany (2010). Garments served to convey and represent personal identity. For instance, a widow at the Hurrian site of Nuzi could cut the hem of her garment if she wished to remarry, and the hem could also be cut in the case of an adoption (Podany 2010: 50–​52). In these cases, information was encoded in the visual appearance of the garment’s hem. But it seems that a symbiotic relationship existed between people and their garments, probably due to the limited wardrobe of most people. For instance, the sisskitum (or hem) of a garment (or cord for a seal) could symbolically stand for a person during an extispicy, or serve as the pledge for a loan.88 The hem of a garment could also be impressed onto legal documents (instead of a cylinder seal) as proof of authentication and obligation, and could symbolise an obligation to another party (Podany 2010: 53). Visual and tactile senses would have been involved in the wearing of clothing. Borders or hems in particular were often decorated with geometric motifs, or with more elaborated iconographic representations, and these long narrow stripes edging textiles or garments certainly have striking visual (and maybe even tactile when embroidered) similarities to cylinder-​seal impressions. It is quite certain, that when signing with the hem/​border of an elaborate garment edge, the visual and tactile aspects of the fabric were transferred and recorded onto the clay, where they were then experienced in a multisensorial manner (see also Chapter 8, this volume).

Conclusion Textile production was an ever-​present multisensorial activity in which textile workers were active participants. The melody of weavers possibly singing while working to help remember the desired patterns and the rhythmic sounds of roof-​top looms and of looms set up in courtyards would have been an integral and tangible part of the soundscape of Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age cities. Dyes and dye baths created a powerful and memorable olfactory presence, recognisable to most people, elite or common. Inside wealthy dwellings or specialised institutional workshops, radiant, bright, and fine garments embellished with colours and metallic/​glass beads and appliqués might have been exclusively manufactured with equally bright, smooth, appealing, and valuable tools. These tools might have been tactile and visual reminders of elaborate borders most likely found on fine fabrics. This elite conspicuous production akin to a form of aesthetic labour as defined by Wengrow required provisions and preparations and resulted in exceptional and enchanting textiles (Wengrow 2001; Gell 1999). The added value of gold, precious beads, vibrant colours, or delicately weaved textiles made products stand out from a mass of otherwise similar fabrics and would have produced awe and admiration in their viewers. Because form was invested with meaning, brightness and technical prowess were certainly meant to highlight 52

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the power of the king and the elite consumers who controlled the specialised producers. It also conferred on them qualities akin to the worn materials such as brilliance and radiance. Finally, along with power over production, consumption of such fabrics or garments allowed for class differentiation, based not only on their visual aspects, but also on their multisensory effects on the wearers and their audience.

Notes 1. See for instance Sauvage 2012a: 192, fig. 11.2, for the spindle-​whorl production at Ugarit and see the unfinished whorl no. 81, AO 918 in the Museé du Louvre. 2. See for instance Frieman and Gillings 2007. 3. Sauvage 2012a: 190–​196, esp. fig. 11.7. Similar weight groups existed at Enkomi, and therefore have to be considered quite common in the Late Bronze Age Levant and eastern Mediterranean. 4. See Gachet-​Bizollon 2007; and Sauvage 2012a: 202–​203, n. 43 for all of the objects published by Gachet-​Bizollon. 5. In Ugaritic texts, some textiles are defined as mlk “royal” (of superior quality); see Vita 2010: 325, n. 11. For the different terms used in Egypt, see Herslund 2010: 72–​73. 6. And consisted of a spoke meant to hold the thread or several threads for plying them together, see for instance heavy whorls (AO 11658, AO 84 428, and MAN 76 780.03 from Ugarit; Sauvage 2012a: 197–​ 198, fig. 11.10; Sauvage and Hawley 2013) and whorls 1506 and 1507 from Enkomi (Dikaios 1969–​ 1971: pl. 178). 7. Despite being of clear Egyptian inspiration, the king has attributes deriving from Western Asia as well: his beard, hairstyle, kilt and shoulder belt; see Gachet-​Bizollon 2007: 140. 8. See for instance Vogelsang-​Eastwood 2016. 9. Smith argues for a similar argument but for cylinder-​like objects in the eastern Mediterranean (personal communication 2019). 10. For instance at Kition and Enkomi (Sauvage and Smith 2016). 11. See for instance the short documentary Footage Farm (2016); in particular, the beating of the weft on a horizontal loom and ground loom at 2:20–2:40. 12. Nosch (2014: 92) also argues that in the Iliad and Odyssey textiles and weaving played a vital role both in society and epic narrative. Furthermore, Akkadian may also connect weaving and the action of harrowing a field by their similar zigzag movement back and forth, and thus might connect weaving and poetry/​literary composition; see Nosch 2014: 94 for references. 13. For a modern example of traditional pattern singing in Iran, see the 2019 documentary by Jazi. 14. See for instance Tuck 2006; Nosch 2014. 15. For instance, warp-​weighted looms are attested in courtyards at Enkomi and Kition, and one might have been on the roof at Tell Tweini; see Sauvage and Smith 2016; Sauvage and Jans 2019. 16. Egyptian textiles were for instance weaved this way; see the 11th Dynasty example from Deir el-​ Bahari, Egypt; Barber 1991: pl. 5.3. 17. See for instance Vogelsang-​Eastwood 2016; Thavapalan 2020: 188–​189. For painted Egyptian textiles, see Vogelsang-​Eastwood 2000: 281. 18. Carter 2014 [1923]: 153, 156, 247. See also the rare documentary footage from Footage Farm (2016); and Barber 1991: figs. 5.10 and 5.11;Vogelsang-​Eastwood 1999. 19. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (VAT 729-​ 1907); see Vogelsang-​Eastwood 1994: 31 and 2000: 280. A nineteenth-​century BCE textile found at Acemhöyük in Anatolia was also decorated with faience beads sewn with gold thread; see Thavapalan 2020: 191 for references. 20. Some of the beads found loose might have been originally sewn onto textiles, but there is no evidence for it (Pulak 2008: 296–​297). 21. “X hundred (shekels of) takiltu-​wool, 200 (shekels of) ḫašmānu wool, 2 linen clothes, 80 (shekels of glass).” 22. Matoïan and Vita 2009: 497, PRU 3.187; Van Soldt 1990: 329. 23. This was the same in the first millennium BCE , see Gaspa 2014: 239. 24. Thomason 2016: 251. Bodily discomfort is also possible, for example (Thomason 2019). 25. See Hamilakis 2013: 76–​77 for a similar interpretation of glass mosaics and relief metal icons. 26. For instance, tassels could have been closed by small gold clasps, at least in first millennium BCE Assyria; Gaspa 2014: 232. The Iliad (2.530) also mentions golden tassels on Athena’s aegis. 53

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27. A tunic from the tomb of King Tutankhamun had a fringe made up of disc and pendant beads (Vogelsang-​Eastwood 1999: 57). 28. For instance, on the ivory bed from Ugarit, the king has a group of five long strings terminated by tassels coming either from the fastening of the shoulder belt or the kilt’s belt, hanging in between the king’s legs, and reaching his mid-​calves. Other strings with fan-​like extremities are represented on either side of his kilt (Figure 2.8). These long dangling elements attested in several cylinder seals from Ugarit would certainly have been in constant motion (see Amiet 1992: nos. 98, 106, 161, 173, 291, 340). 29. See for example the inlay of a woman wearing a cylinder seal from the Early Dynastic III period, National Museum Damascus, Syria 1271: 1272, n. 104a; Aruz 2003: 161. 30. See for instance the numerous gold dress-​pins found at Enkomi. 31. See for instance, the blue kerchief (MMA 09.184.217) of King Tutankhamun, and his embroidered tunic (Pfister 1937: pl. LII; Barber 1991: figs. 5.10, 5.11). This embroidered tunic might have been of Syrian (Mitannian) origin; see Vogelsang-​Eastwood 1999: 55. See also the garments of the Asiatic leaders found in the mortuary temple of Ramses III Medinet Habu (Aruz et al. 2008: no. 168a–​d, 267–​ 269); and the garments described in Hittite treaties and tributes (for instance Beckman 1996: no. 22B and 28B). 32. Van Soldt 1990: 339. Examples of multicoloured garments included in Ugarit texts are: the white, carnelian-​red and violet-​purple costume all (RS 15.115:4–​6; KTU 4.182); the violet and reddish purple hpn garment (RS 15.082:1; KTU 4.168; Vita 2010: 325, n. 12); and a multicoloured “waist-​ cloth” mentioned (RS 17.148; Van Soldt 1990: 336). 33. In Ugarit, puwatu is often listed with alum, and was used for linen (Van Soldt 1990: 347–​348). Textiles from the tomb of King Tutankhamun were also dyed with madder (Pfister 1937: 209; Germer 1992: 68–​70). 34. A blue kerchief from the embalming cache of King Tutankhamun’s tomb (MMA 09.184.217); yellow mummy wrapping from the 12th Dynasty Tomb of the Two Brothers (Barber 1991: 227). 35. See for instance Quillien 2019: 206, with references; Thavapalan 2020: 178–​179. 36. Quillien 2019: 206, with references to booty of red wool from the Ararat Valley in Lebanon taken by the Assyrian kings. 37. Barber 1991: 231: ûqnu stone mined in Armenia and Persia. This is a soft, red compound of arsenic which would have been toxic if garments dyed with this substance were continuously worn (Barber 1991: 231, n. 9). 38. See Barber 1991: 232; Loret 1930: 23–​28; Forbes 1956: 103, 108–​109 (although it might have been used more for the body than for textiles); Pfister 1937: 210. 39. Lichen was used in an Assyrian red-​dye recipe, see Barber 1991: 232 for references. 40. Forbes 1956: 123; Thavapalan 2020: 180: pomegranate and madder are mentioned together for the production of half a mina (250 grams) of wool in the Mari text ARM 21 316 (see Parrot et al. 1982). 41. For uses of woad and indigo, see Barber 1991: 234–​235 and Balfour-​Paul 2011: 13–​17. For early indigo trade with Punt and southern Arabia (but without references), see Wulff 1966: 192; Balfour-​ Paul 2011: 13. Woad and not indigo was most likely used in ancient Egypt (Germer 1992: 65–​66; Vogelsang-​Eastwood 2000: 52). There are several other plants with high content of indigoids Polygonum tinctorium, Marsdenia tinctoria, Strobilanthes flaccidifolius. According to Lentini (2009: 169), several species of Indigofera (I. tinctoria, I. argentea, I. intricata, I. spinosa, and I. semitrijuga) were found in Egypt, Sudan, and the Near East. See also Soriga 2017: 84, n. 41. 42. See Barber 1991: 228–​229. Different species of murex snails would have produced different hues of purple: Hexaplex trunculus mainly contains blue-​purple colourants (and could have been used for the takiltu-​coloured wool) while both Bolinus brandaris and Stramonita Haemastoma contained red-​ purple colourants and could have been used to obtain argamannu-​coloured wools (Thavalapan 2018a: 5, 9). But vegetable dyes might also have been used to produce hues of purple in ancient Mesopotamia. 43. For instance, a possible workshop for dyeing was excavated at Mari, but no fire installation was recorded (Breniquet 2014: 69). Similarly, textile workshops might have been identified at Ugarit (Maison B, îlot VI tranchée Ville Sud, locus 17; Maison F in Centre de la Ville, locus 1222), and at Minet el-​Beida, and they also lack fire installations. Callot (1994: 190) and Matoïan and Vita (2009: 488) refute these identifications because of the lack of hearth/​fire installation, and they question the possibility to have “polluting activities” within the city. 44. RS 94.2562, l. 23–​27; Lackenbascher and Malbrant-​Labat 2016: 76–​77; Matoïan and Vita 2009: 486. Similar attestations of piece dyeing come from Mari (Joannès 1984: 153). Piece dyeing is a difficult 54

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process because of the compact overlapping threads within the cloth and there is little attestation before the Roman period (Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 135). 45. See for instance blog by Vic 2018. 46. Personal communication from Theresa Wollenstein, owner of Griffin Dyeworks & Fiber Arts. 47. See Murphy 2015. 48. See Indigo Dye and Shibori n.d. 49. See Buccellati 2020 for smells associated with workshops, kitchens, and toilets. 50. See for instance the well-​known piles of murex shells deposited along the Levantine coast and dating to the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (Barber 1991: 229). For references to Hazor, Akko, and Keisan, see Soriga 2017: 89. 51. The clear mucus extracted from the shells turns purple upon exposure to sunlight. For an argument for roofed structures, see Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 132. 52. Murex as well as a large vat stained with purple were reported by Schaeffer 1951: 188. 53. “And although the great number of dye-​works makes the city unpleasant to live in, yet it makes the city rich through the superior skill of its inhabitants” (Geography XVI: 2, 23). 54. “Clothes smelling strong of purple dye” (Epigrams I.50); and “ strong smelling purple of Sidon” (II.16). 55. See Howes and Classen 2014: 88 for similar examples. 56. Epic of Baal 3: 2, 1–​2: “Henna enough for seven girls, scented with coriander and murex.” 57. Story of Aqhat 3: 4, 40–​43; Coogan and Smith 2012: 54. Anat in the Epic of Baal “beautified herself with murex” (3: 3, 1; Coogan and Smith, 2012: 118). 58. See for instance Sauvage and Smith 2016 on Enkomi and Kition. See also Dagan and Cassuto 2016. 59. For instance,Vita 2010. 60. Linen and wool are of course the most common, but fur could also have been integrated into textiles, or used for garment elaboration. Schaeffer (1951) mentioned seeing fur in court III of the royal palace at Ugarit. Leather or animal skins were also used and could have been embellished with bracteates as in the case of one of the leopard tunics from King Tutankhamun (Carter 44q; JE 62629–​30) (Vogelsang-​ Eastwood 2016: 52, 56–​57). Byssus or sea-​silk might have been exploited in the second millennium BC, see Soriga and Carannante 2017. 61. See for instance the Ugaritic tribute to Hatti (Beckman 1996: 153–​154), or the letter from Queen Naptera of Egypt to Puduhepa of Hatti (Beckman 1996: 153–​154). 62. See Pinnock 2020: 1; and Nelson writes: “Seeing was doing” (2000: 4). 63. See also Di Paolo 2020: 169 for a similar statement. 64. See Soriga and Carannante 2017: 34, 37–​38 for possible attestations in Hittite texts and a possible representation of a Pinna shell at Mycenae. 65. On the natural hues of wool (light-​coloured and dark-​coloured), see Thavapalan et al. 2016: 200. 66. See for instance Winter 1994; 2000. 67. As noted above, the palace is built with silver, gold and lustrous lapis lazuli. Although in this context, silver and gold are not defined as having light-​reflective properties, they are in other places, such as in: “But then Asherah saw the gleam of the silver, the gleam of the silver and the shine of the gold” (tablet 4, col 2, 27–​28); and gold as well as alabaster are also defined similarly in the Epic of Kirta: “gleaming gold”, “gleaming alabaster” (1: 3, 44) (both from Coogan and Smith 2012: 73, 77). 68. It could also be associated with blood, aggression and war; see Aufrère 1991: 276, nn. 8–​9, 556. 69. Epic of Kirta (1: 2, 1 and 1: 3, 41–​45; after Coogan and Smith 2012: 77). 70. Ugarit, for instance, sent annual tribute to the Hittites that included blue-​purple wool and 500 shekels of red-​purple wool (Beckman 1996: 153–​154). A later inscription of Shalmaneser III of Assyria states that Tyre and Sidon, two coastal cities, sent blue and red woollen textiles to the Assyrian king (Tadmor 1994: 69–​70; Soriga 2017: 80). For other discussions of tribute and trade of purple wool in first millennium BCE texts, see Quillien 2015: 110–​113. 71. Intermingling blue and red threads on textiles might also have created the visual illusion of purplish colours. Such a strategy is seen in the Assyrian palace at Til-​Barsip, which suggests that “the Assyrians were conscious that distance and the angle of light can cause two or more colours placed near each other to create the illusion of an altogether new colour” (Thavapalan 2018b: 30). 72. See Dardeniz 2019: 102, n. 20 for references concerning the Hittite world. 73. Ventris and Chadwick 1973: 321, no. 224; Reese 1987: 204; compare tablet L 474. 74. Pardee 2002; forthcoming; Sauvage 2012b: 155. 75. On the colourfast properties of murex dye see Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 145. According to Marzano (2013: 157–​158), 100 to 160 murex brandaris shells produce 590 millilitres of dye, enough to dye a piece 55

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of textile measuring 20 by 15 centimetres. See also Burke 2010: 36 for a discussion of the number of murex shells needed. 76. For instance, lapis lazuli from the kiln is a clear reference to blue glass, of a lesser value than the original stone. See for instance Thavapalan 2019; Dardeniz 2019 (for glass in the Hittite world). 77. A combination of red dye from the roots of the Rubiaceae family and blue dye derived from the woad plant (Isatis tinctoria) can be considered (Balfour-​Paul 2011: 14). Lichens such as Roccella tinctoria could also have produced purples (Cardon 2003: 109, 378, 323; Marín-​Aguilera et al. 2018: 146). 78. On the other hand, Quillien (2015: 116; 2019: 208) has also observed that in first millennium Mesopotamia, purple wool was common on the local market, but was very expensive and therefore was probably genuine. 79. But several scholars suggested that the Ugaritic tabarru “carnelian red/​red-​brown purple” (Matoïan and Vita 2014: 139) might have been obtained by mixing genuine purple with madder, or other vegetable dyestuff; see for instance Barber 1991: 230. However, Soriga (2017: 84–​91) and Quillien (2015: 107) argue that the Akkadian terms tabarru, takiltu, and argmanannu may also refer to the dyeing process. 80. As in Martial’s Epigrams (1.1, 4.4; 2.16). 81. See Buccellati 2020: 201 and Quillien 2019 for these suggestions. Purple-​dyed wool seems to have been exclusively used by palatial elites of first millennium BCE Mesopotamia (Quillien 2015: 214–​215). 82. See in general Winter 2000: 22–​28, who quotes an early second millennium BCE fragment from the Epic of Gilgamesh: “I saw it and I felt (such) joy” (24). 83. Winter (2000: 30, 34) states that “admiration stands for ‘augmented viewing leading to positive response.’ ” 84. See for instance Wagner-​Durand 2020: 232. 85. Epic of Baal (for the goddess Anat: 5:6, for the god El: 1:2, 17; Coogan and Smith 2012: 143). 86. See Wagner-​Durand 2020: 233–​234, with a reference to the facial colour of the Marduk’s cult statue where only brightness and possibly red are connected to joy and happiness. 87. See for instance in the Mesopotamia tale, Ishtar’s Descent to the Netherworld. 88. In some of the prophecy letters from Mari, the prophet provided the king with a lock of hair and a sissiktum (garment hem), which would be used as the prophet’s substitute during the extispicy (Podany 2010: 52).

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3 New sensory experiences through technological innovation The use and production of transparent drinking bowls in the Neo-​Assyrian palace Katharina Schmidt

Introduction In our world today we are surrounded by a plethora of transparent objects that are part of our everyday sensorial experience. Whether in car windows, binoculars, or architecture, glass and various forms of plastics are the most widely spread transparent and solid materials. By comparison to the ubiquity of these artificial materials, transparency is a property reserved for only few substances in nature. Among such transparent natural solids are minerals like diamond, rock crystal, and pure quartz or selenite. For Mesopotamians of the early first millennium BCE , being confronted with transparency was not part of the daily experience, in particular when it comes to solid materials. Rock crystal is virtually the only natural transparent material known from the archaeological record of those periods which was, however, only rarely used. It is within this setting that the first appearance of transparent glass has to be evaluated. Its first material representatives were certainly perceived as outstanding, as it was a man-​made material through which one could actually see. Unlike, for example, water, which though transparent as well, glass was different because it was solid. And most importantly, one could shape glass, for instance into hemispherical bowls, and thus determine its use. The first deliberate production of glass occurred in the sixteenth century BCE . The conventional assumption is that glass technology was first developed in Mesopotamia (Barag 1970: 131–​ 134; Shortland et al. 2017). Chief glass production sites—​that is to say, raw glass production sites—​are, however, rarely found in the archaeological contexts of the Bronze and the Iron Age.1 In both the Bronze and Iron Ages glass was made from quartz pebbles and a flux consisting of the ashes obtained from desert or coastal plants which, blended with colouring agents, were heated to a melting point above 1000°C (see below; Turner 1956). In this early stage of history, glass was predominantly opaque. The essential features of opaque glass were primarily the material’s impermeability to light, and secondly, the brightly coloured, shiny surfaces, achieved by the addition of mineral colourants to obtain mostly turquoise, white, yellow, or red. Opaque glass objects were produced in the so-​called core-​forming technique, resulting in polychromatic 62

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-4

Drinking bowls in the Neo-Assyrian palace

vessels with characteristic decorations, among which the most prominent one is the so-​called feather pattern.2 Ancient opaque glass thus very much resembles modern colourful lollipops or sweets. At first glance the material is often quite deceptive, as one would generally expect it to transfer light, and therefore to have a certain degree of translucency. Often glass researchers emphasise the visual proximity of opaque glass to coloured semi-​precious and precious stones.3 In the tenth century BCE glass was virtually reinvented. By then, the production included monochrome, translucent glass often appearing in dark blue hues, and shortly thereafter, probably already in the early ninth century BCE , transparent colourless glass (Schmidt 2019: 112–​114). The transparent hemispherical bowls found at the Assyrian cities of Nimrud and Khorsabad discussed in this chapter represent an innovation not only regarding their material qualities, but also their manufacturing technique.

Methodological background By looking at the bowls from a sensorial perspective, a new aspect detaches itself from the otherwise technical ones, as it focuses more on the human senses experienced in connection with them. In this regard, I draw on Yannis Hamilakis’ Archaeology and the Senses (2013) and his discussion of “commensality” and “memory.” In addition to the usage of the bowls, the primary production of the transparent glass and the secondary production of the hemispherical bowls themselves will be discussed, focusing on the sensory experiences of the glassmakers in the production process of this material. In recent years, the field of sensorial studies in archaeology has received growing attention.4 For Hamilakis (2013: 4) archaeology relies on material things, and the physical qualities of things are precisely those with which humans interact in a sensorial way.5 Therefore, a sensual approach with regard to the transparent drinking bowl enables a new perspective in understanding the material glass and how humans have been engaged with it. With regard to the usage of transparent hemispherical bows, “commensality” is one of the central aspects in this chapter, entailing the aspect of “memory” (Hamilakis 2013: 167–​174). Remembering is an important cognitive process that is connected with sensory experiences: humans are affected by sensory experiences which are brought on by triggers in the present and thus set off processes of remembering. Triggers can be material such as objects and places, or immaterial such as taste, smell, and so forth. Senses and memory are therefore inevitably connected and thus mutually condition each other. In order to be able to view the transparent hemispherical glass bowls against the background of a sensorial approach, the archaeological objects themselves and their find contexts will be presented. Also glass as a material and the physical aspect of transparency will be discussed. Assuming that senses are culturally determined, “thick description” (Geertz 1973) in relation to sensual cultural studies not only involves describing how sensory resources were used by different people, but also approaching the meaning they had for them. This also includes the question of how and why the senses were cultural constructs, that is to say, taught and even controlled, and how the sensual order of a society is related to its wider environment.

Glass and its transparency In order to draw on the sensual meaning and effect of the objects, it is necessary to elaborate on the production processes of glass, and in particular of transparent glass. The production of glass required technological expertise on the basic constituents and their properties, about quantity ratios, temperature, and kiln atmospheres. Only by matching all components and parameters could the material be manufactured successfully. 63

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In general, glass was made from silica, flux, and a stabilizer. Silica is the main chemical component of glass (45–​70 per cent) and occurs as the mineral quartz widely present in quartz pebbles or sand throughout the Near East (Freestone 1991: 39; Wedepohl 2003: 5). Since the melting point of pure silica at around 1700°C was impossible to achieve in ancient kilns and furnaces, flux was added to the batch in order to lower the melting temperature to around 1000°C (Henderson 2013: 56; Pollard and Heron 1996: 156). The most common flux used in the late second and early first millennium BCE was potash gained from plant ash, which was widely available throughout the Near East. Beginning in the tenth century BCE , mineral natron was used as well. The earliest natron-​based glass comes from the tomb of Nesiohns in Thebes, Egypt, and dates to 974 BCE (Schlick-​Nolte and Werthmann 2003) but this material also occurs at Pella, Jordan (Reade et al 2009), Hasanlu, Iran (Brill and Stapleton 2012: 2017), and Nimrud (Reade et al. 2005: 26). Stabilisers were essential for the durability of glass as they stopped the material from dissolving in water. They were usually present in ancient glass in the form of lime and magnesia; it is not clear whether stabilisers were added deliberately to the batch or if they came into the batch with the plant ash (Fletcher et al. 2008: 47). An important characteristic of glass is its behaviour under light, which defines whether a glass is opaque, translucent, or transparent. The amount of light traversing the glass could be influenced by small inclusions, the so-​called “opacifiers.” The presence of opacifiers obstructs light from travelling through glass and thus creates a milky or opaque appearance (Pollard and Heron 1996: 163; Shortland 2002: 518; Turner and Rooksby 1959). Translucent glass, on the other hand, allows the light to pass through it. Translucent glass is free from opacifiers, and may occur in different colours, such as dark blue or purple. Transparent, colourless glass is also translucent and therefore free of any opacifiers (Figure 3.1). This may be due to natural circumstances, unless a so-​called decolouriser (antimony oxide) is added (Shortland 2002: 517–​518). The extent to which transparent glass was intentionally produced, that is to say, through the addition of antimony oxide to the batch, remains uncertain (see above). Among the oldest

Figure 3.1  Hemispherical, transparent drinking bowl with the typical modern white corrosion layer. British Museum (BM 91534). Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum. 64

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transparent colourless glass objects known are the hemispherical glass bowls from the Neo-​ Assyrian capital city of Nimrud, which are the focus of this study.

Archaeological contexts of transparent hemispherical glass bowls Transparent hemispherical glass bowls found at Nimrud in Mesopotamia are completely transparent and therefore are comparable to modern non-​tinted drinking glasses. The bowls were found in a fairly good state of preservation and are part of the British Museum’s collection, as that institution partly sponsored A. H. Layard’s excavations at Nimrud beginning in 1847. Further bowls and bowl fragments were uncovered between 1987 and 1989 by Paolo Fiorina and his team of the Centro Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l’Asia in the Southwest Quadrant of Fort Shalmaneser (Cellerino 2015: 114). The fragments, which were stored in the house of the Italian expedition, have been destroyed as a result of the 1990–​1991 war (Cellerino 2015: 118). Nimrud, ancient Kalḫu, was the capital of the Neo-​Assyrian Empire from 883 to 706 BCE . Almost all of the transparent glass bowls exhibit a whitish corrosion layer, as well as traces of pitting and iridescence, the typical marks of glass corrosion caused by deposition in the soil. This thick layer of corrosion covers the entire surface of the bowl and makes it non-​transparent in modern times. In some places the layer has flaked off and the transparent glass is visible. The transparent hemispherical bowls range between 7.3 and 14.7 centimetres in diameter and between 5.5 centimetres and 9.7 centimetres in height. The thickness of the vessel wall is about 0.2–​0.3 centimetres; the relatively thin walls certainly contributed to the maximum transparency of the material. The bowls were made through the slumping technique, during which a hot and thus malleable glass disc was slumped over a dome-​shaped form (Schmidt 2019: 47–​48) (Figure 3.2). These bowls represent the earliest prototypes for this particular manufacturing technique.6 The hemispherical bowls were probably held between the fingertips, as depicted on a carved ivory also from Nimrud showing Ashurnasirpal II in a ceremonial dress holding a hemispherical bowl in the right hand on top of his fingers (Figure 3.3). Other depictions are also known, for example, from a relief from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud showing the seated king holding a shallow bowl between his fingertips (Oates and Oates 2001: 54, fig. 28) or on a relief from the North Palace at Nineveh showing Ashurbanipal feasting with his queen, the latter holding a petalled bowl between the ends of her fingers (Thomason 2010: 207, figs. 8.8, 8.9).

Figure 3.2  The principle of slumping a transparent glass blank over a dome-​shaped mould (slumping technique). Source: Schmidt 2019: 48, fig. 4.12; redrawn after Grose 1989: 33, fig. 9. 65

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Figure 3.3  Carved ivory depicting Ashurnasirpal II holding a hemispherical bowl between his fingertips, Nimrud (height: 27 centimetres) (ND1082). Source: Mallowan 1966: fig. 21.

The context in which the transparent hemispherical bowls were found indicates the group of people that used and produced them. All bowls were found in palatial contexts in the Neo-​ Assyrian capitals in Mesopotamia. Five intact and two nearly intact vessels are known from Nimrud.7 The vessels were recovered from several elite structures at Nimrud, including the Northwest Palace (room AA) and the so-​called Burnt Palace, and from Fort Shalmaneser (rooms SW37 and A12), a military and administrative storehouse (ekal māšarti, or “review palace”) (Barag 1985: 62–​63, nos. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32; Cellerino 2015: 115; Schmidt 2019: 194, nos. Nim7–​ Nim12). Over 250 bowl fragments were uncovered in the Burnt Palace making the number of bowls that existed in Nimrud much larger (Barag 1985: 64, no. 35). A bowl fragment was uncovered from the royal residence K (room 52) at Khorsabad, ancient Dur-​Sharrukin, the capital of Assyria under Sargon II, from 721 to 705 BCE (DS 1180; OIM A17439; Barag 1985: 66, n. 111; Schmidt 2019: 192, no. Khor 1). And finally, one fragment comes from Nineveh, which was the capital of the Neo-​Assyrian Empire under several kings from 706–​612 BCE (Barag 66

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Figure 3.4  Fragment of a rock crystal bowl with engraved design from the Burnt Palace, Nimrud (diameter: 7.8 centimetres) (ND 1663). Source: Mallowan 1966: fig. 143.

1985: 66, no. 41). The number of transparent colourless glass bowls found outside of Assyria is extremely low; specimens have been reported from Fortetsa, Crete (Brock 1957: 1), Praeneste, Italy (Canciani and Hase 1979: 77–​87), and Gordion (Jones 2009: 106–​107). Since they are of later dates, they have not been included in the present discussion. Looking at the specific find contexts, room AA in the Northwest Palace had probably served as a magazine inside the palace’s private domestic quarters (bītānu). With regard to Fort Shalmaneser, most of the transparent hemispherical vessels were found in room SW37, part of a large storage area, along with pieces of ivory furniture and their (glass) inlays, and other objects (Fiorina 2009: 36–​38; Mallowan 1966: plan VIII). The fragment from Khorsabad was found in room 52 which was identified as part of a service area around the court (Loud and Altman 1938: 68, pl. 71). An important and related part of this object corpus is the fragment of a hemispherical bowl made of rock crystal (Figure 3.4); this piece was also discovered in the throne room of the Burnt Palace. Both the rock crystal bowl and the transparent glass bowl had the same material properties and therefore the same effect on the group of people who used them (Larson 2019). The coinciding in situ contexts show that both materials were only used in the palace. This restriction of glass bowls (and one single bowl of rock crystal) to purely palatial contexts is all but accidental: not a single transparent piece of glass was found in the many dwelling houses excavated at Assur where all findings were meticulously recorded (Miglus 1996). A complete lack of transparent glass objects has also been observed in more recent excavations, such as in the provincial Neo-​Assyrian cities of Tell Halaf (ancient Guzana), Zincirli (ancient Sam’al), and Ziyaret Tepe (ancient Tušhan), which had close relations with the Neo-​Assyrian Empire being part of the vassal and province system.8 This distribution of findspots shows that transparent glass objects were exclusively used at Neo-​Assyrian royal palaces, and hence also produced exclusively for use there. The find circumstances thus define the functional context for the transparent hemispherical glass bowls. Evidently the bowls had been used exclusively at the Neo-​Assyrian royal court, and thus they were also produced specifically for the same client. Together with their sizes of no more than 10 by 15 centimetres (height 5.5–​9.7 centimetres diameter), the rounded shapes and the thin rims, the bowls point to a function as drinking vessels perfectly adapted to be held between the fingertips of an individual person (Figure 3.3). In addition, the glass material itself was particularly suited for holding liquids, as the vitrified surface did not absorb them. Similar 67

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vessel sizes and wall thicknesses are known from metal bowls (Oates and Oates 2001: 275–​276) and also ceramic representatives of the so-​called “palace-​ware” that were used as drinking vessels at banquets held throughout the Neo-​Assyrian Empire. Palace-​ware vessels are characterised by very fine wares with varying shapes and sizes, including hand-​held bowls (Hunt 2015: 48–​49, 183–​187). Since the objects were found in magazines and service rooms of the elite buildings and in association with other valuable objects and furniture parts, it is likely that they were stored there—​together with the glass bowls—​to be retrieved when needed for royal banquets held in the royal palaces. The massive scale, and high visibility of the Neo-​Assyrian royal monumental buildings symbolised and materialised power in every respect. “The city [Khorsabad]9 defined and reified political structures within the empire; the buildings’ role as ‘social capital’ that expressed the wealth and high status of their occupants is also clear” (McMahon 2013: 164). The Neo-​Assyrian elite consciously used every possible means of communication and reinterpretation; the palaces were also meant as physical reminders of singular events whilst they served as links, not only between people, but also between the past, present, and future (Ermidoro 2015: 238).

Use Hamilakis (2013: 167–​174) describes the “palatial phenomenon,” meaning that palaces were places for an explosion of sensuality, with the “materialisation, glorification, and celebration of ancestral time, of long-​term, sensorial, and mnemonic history” (Hamilakis 2013: 168). One central aspect is the specific “place” because memory is irrevocably linked to emplacement (Hamilakis 2013: 168–​170). The driving force of the particular palatial experience is the aspect of collectivity of the participants, since they carry their experiences with them outside the palace. Communal ceremonies held in palaces, which commemorate and celebrate the act of gathering, are thus decisive for their history (“embodied commensality”) (Hamilakis 2013: 170–​ 171). The atmosphere of the palatial court, the taste and smell of foods and drink altogether form a sensory explosion that creates links between people, and thus builds up mnemonic histories.10 Thomason (2016: 246) describes Neo-​Assyrian palaces as “multi sensorial envelopes” that were experienced visually, acoustically, and cognitively as the visitors moved through them (kinaesthesia). Attendants at the royal banquet were inexorably unshielded as they faced this multisensory explosion.11 The transparent hemispherical glass bowls are an important artefact group that have to be interpreted in the context of the royal banquet where they contributed in a heightened manner to the sensorial explosion. As indicated by their find-​contexts, the transparent hemispherical glass bowls were used at the royal banquets inside the palaces of the Neo-​Assyrian capitals. Feasts by the king were usually held in the empire’s capital cities, where inhabitants from all over Assyria gathered.12 During the banquet the Assyrian king was present, but owing to the scarcity of other public events during which he appeared, his presence at royal banquets was certainly considered as extraordinary.13 The banquet was held in large rooms (Ermidoro 2015: 95), the participants sat on chairs (with footstools) at tables.14 The servants brought movable and lavishly decorated braziers with firelight into the reception rooms on two parallel rows made of stone blocks, referred to as “tram lines” (SAA 20: 33, ii, 6–​15). Apart from their comforting heating function, the braziers were also adapted to the room’s overall decoration (Bertazzoli and Bertolotto 1998; Kertai 2015: 186). An exceptional atmosphere was created by burning incense and other aromatics during the meal (SAA 20: 33, ii, 3–​5, r. 41–​44). The ensuing blend of fragrances provoked an intense olfactory experience. There are long lists of the foodstuffs and dishes reported to have been consumed at the royal banquets.15 The dishes were extraordinary and diametrically different from the guests’ 68

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usual food intake. This generated distinctive associations that, due to their singularity, linked up with particular memories about the event. Before the meal, the guest’s comfort was taken care of in a ceremonial hand-​washing (SAA 20: 33, ii, 16–​19). In addition to this tactile experience, the festive atmosphere was heightened by appropriately chosen garments that indicated individual ranks and functions, and corresponding to the event’s felt importance (Thomason 2010). Finally, the multisensorial experience would have been topped by musicians of string, wind and percussion instruments, accompanying the gathering during the banquet (Ermidoro 2015: 232, with further literature). The transparent hemispherical glass bowls played a decisive role in this environment as the central activity of the banquet participants during the feast was drinking. This links up with iconographic representations in reliefs, glazed pottery vessels, or ivories which show that the typical gesture of the banquet attendees was not eating, but that of drinking. Kings, ladies, and courtiers are exclusively represented in attitudes raising their hands while holding shallow bowls between their fingertips (see Figure 3.4). The lifting of the drinking bowls, as for example depicted on a relief from Nimrud, Room G (king) (Oates and Oates 2001: 54, fig. 28) or on a carved ivory panel (king and other participants) (Oates and Oates 2001: 58, fig. 31), can therefore be interpreted as raising a toast. There are no known similar scenes in which someone eats or handles food that could be due to an ideological decision (Ermidoro 2015: 231). With regard to the written evidence, a toast given by Sennacherib is testified in his annals: “at the dedication of the palace, I drenched the foreheads of the people of my land with wine, with mead I sprinkled their hearts” (RINAP 3/​1: Sennacherib 17, viii, 75–​76). The usual beverages available at a banquet were wine, beer, and an alcoholic drink translated here as “mead.”Wine was considered the most prestigious and exclusive drink, and with regard to important events such as the royal banquet, it was poured at the request of the guests (Ermidoro 2015: 189, 207). Drinking played a crucial role during the royal banquet. The taste and the odour of wine was of paramount importance, its communal consumption invoked a sense of cohesion and intimacy, not least because of its alcohol contents (Fales 1994; Kinnier Wilson 1972; Stronach 1985). The transparent hemispherical glass bowls enhanced this extraordinary moment. The glass bowls were transparent, made artificially in a rare material. The mere appearance of these bowls must have been considered as exceptional, and the opportunity to hold one of them in the hand must have been beyond any stretch of imagination for many. The same material properties also apply to the rock crystal bowls, also found exclusively in Neo-​Assyrian palaces, which were certainly valued as highly as the transparent glass bowls (Figure 3.4). The fact that rock crystal is a natural material and glass is artificially produced (as, for example, metals are as well) is irrelevant in this context.16 By its size and shape, the bowl could be held perfectly between the fingers. Its smooth surface had an incomparable feel that until then had been without equal from ceramic or metal vessels. Lifting the glass bowls to a toast exalted the community to an almost magical moment, when the visible red liquid of prestigious wine was held shimmering in the light, as if suspended in the air. The liquid floated in the room. After the toast, the bowl was brought to the mouth, the smooth and delicate surface of its slender edge gently touched the lips. Moreover, the liquids consumed in odourless glass were immaculate from parasite smells like the ones emanating from metal bowls. This again contrasted to the experiences of daily life in which one was left to drink from the less smooth and thick-​ walled pottery, or from metal vessels (more likely of bronze and not gold) which might have emitted a metallic smell or aftertaste. Together with the setting of the banquet with all its fragrances, tastes, and sounds, the sensory diversity and triggers inside the palace and with the presence of the king himself, these unique and transparent drinking bowls must have culminated in a sensory explosion that created an unforgettable moment for every banquet attendant. 69

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This shared experience was meant to be unequivocally associated with the royal banquet (see also Chapter 14, this volume). The event represented a clear disruption from normal temporality and created a distinctive moment in time that the attendants took back to their homes in deep-​rooted memories.

Production There is hardly any evidence in the archaeological record for the primary production of glass and the processing of glass objects (secondary production) and none for the production of transparent glass in the early first millennium BCE . Neither workshops nor raw glass ingots have been found in situ in the capital cities of Assyria. Nevertheless, conclusions about the circumstances of production and processing can be drawn from the findspots and the use of transparent bowls discussed in the preceding paragraphs. In order to discuss the invention and production of transparent glass, it is essential to understand its chemical components. Transparent glass was made by adding the decolouriser antimony oxide in a quantity of one to two per cent to the batch, which was melted in the furnace under suitable firing conditions (Brill 1970: 116). The antimony oxide decolourised the normal greenish colour of most glasses which was caused by impurities in the raw quartz materials. Elevated levels of antimony oxide in the batch could therefore indicate a deliberate use of the decolourisers by the glassmakers to achieve colourless glass. And indeed, elevated levels of this oxide are attested in samples taken from colourless glass from Nimrud, which identifies these pieces as the earliest decolourised transparent glass objects known.17 The stages leading to the production of transparent glass have not yet been researched in detail. Nevertheless, there are some indications that the transparent glasses from Nimrud were deliberately made. First, the large number of transparent glass vessels and fragments found in the Northwest Palace, Burnt Palace, and Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud basically exclude an accidental production of colourless glass. Second, Reade et al. (2005: 5) could identify three different composition groups of colourless glass at Nimrud which implies the existence of a dynamic production of colourless glass at the site. No other Mesopotamian site of the first millennium BCE provided such dense evidence for the production and processing of transparent glass as the Neo-​Assyrian palaces in Nimrud. This presupposes that the glassmakers working for the royal court at Nimrud knew exactly which raw material(s), in which quantities, and under which conditions led to the decolouration of glass. They worked, of course, without the modern knowledge of the chemical properties of the elements and its reactions. One way to approach the production process of glass is to consult cuneiform texts, the so-​called “glassmaking texts” or “Nineveh glass recipes,” which give us an insight into the production of coloured glass; the production of transparent glass is not attested in these texts (Oppenheim 1970; Schmidt 2019: 118–​133).18 The detailed instructions of the texts indicate that the production of coloured glass was a difficult undertaking that could lead to defective products showing unintentional discolouration or even to waste material if even only minor mistakes were made. In view of the high costs associated with the procurement of firing and the effort involved in the actual melting process, adherence to the chaîne opératoire, that is to say, the sequence of certain production steps, was of the utmost importance. This will be illustrated in the following using the example of the production of zagindurû-​glass, a blue translucent glass: in order to be able to produce the end product zagindurû-​glass, it was first necessary to produce the intermediate glass products zukû and tersītu. Each step that led to the intermediate products is characterised by different operations such as repeated heating, crushing of sintered products, melting and annealing. All of these steps were necessary to release impurities from the batch 70

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that had entered it through the different base materials as silica and thus made the product more reactive and better predictable for the melting process. The intended purification of the basic substances becomes clear in the etymological origin of the intermediate zukû, which means “the pure one, purity” (AHw: 1536, from zakû, “pure”), and which can be identified as an intermediate glass product (Schmidt 2019: 129). Without these repeated purifications the final melting process could fail. The complex and sophisticated sequence of production steps shows how carefully the glass processing was carried out and how precisely the glassmakers knew the various production steps. The manufacturing process of a previously unknown material, which possessed the outstanding material property of transparency, must have been both an extraordinary success and a constant challenge for the glassmakers. Only rock crystal possessed the property of transparency at that time, a material also strictly reserved for use in the palace. However, while rock crystal is a natural material, transparent glass was man-​made. Glass was not valued beyond rock crystal because of its artificial production, but it must have had significance for the glassmakers who were privileged to imitate nature; from the furnace they picked out and removed the transparent glass after having meticulously followed the manufacturing steps. Undoubtedly, for the glassmakers the moment after melting was associated with a feeling of excitement and hope for success—​because once the base materials were in the furnace, the composition could no longer be manipulated during the melting process. In this regard, the glassmakers surely also trusted in divine assistance, which was already important when building the glass furnace. According to the recipes, a “favourable month” and “a propitious day” had to arrive in order to build a kiln (Schmidt 2019: 125).19 Furthermore, for the protection of the kiln, images of the kūbu demons, personifications of embryos insinuating the creation of a new material, were buried in front of it. Then, before the first melting, a sacrifice was performed, juniper was burned, and sacrifices of honey and ghee were made in front of the kiln and the kūbu-​images. The ritual could only be carried out by ritually clean participants, and no “unclean” person was allowed to approach the kiln, which also applied to the glassworkers. The ritual purification is considered the ideal state, which represents the perfect order and the absence of all evils (Sallaberger 2007). The ideal condition was considered decisive for a successful glass production, which comes as no surprise in view of the technological complexity of glass production. The detailed instruction of the ritual shows that, together with the meticulous observance of the chaîne opératoire, it was considered crucial in glass production. The glassmakers thus belonged to a strictly limited group of people who could get near the glass furnace at all and, moreover, were directly involved in the production of this unique material, since only they possessed the respective knowledge (see also Chapter 30, this volume). The strict assignment of transparent glass to the royal court and the exclusive use of the material at the royal banquet must have added to the importance and status of the glassmakers. The transformation of transparent glass into hemispherical bowls during secondary production was the next significant step. It was only at this stage that the transparency and purity of the glass could be properly assessed, as the walls of the bowls became thin enough to actually see through. The smooth surface of the bowls was achieved by a final polishing with minimally abrasive materials, so the craftsmen involved in this process were the ones who first lifted the pieces—​without wine and without toast—​to appreciate visually the effect of transparency and to feel the smooth surface.


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Conclusion The transparent hemispherical glass bowls represent a remarkable innovation, both in terms of material and manufacturing technique that occurred not later than the ninth century BCE . In the Neo-​Assyrian period, the transparency of the material was unequalled by (almost) any other material. The earliest bowls were found exclusively in the royal palace, where they had functioned as drinking vessels during royal banquets. They were part of the sensory landscapes of Neo-​Assyrian royal banquets and their use represented an absolutely extraordinary experience for every participant of the banquet community, creating a distinctive and unforgettable moment and thus laying the base for future memories. The glassmakers were the ones who preserved the knowledge about the production of this special material; they were fully aware of the sequence of production steps, but they asked for the help of the gods for a good result. The successful outcome of the production was uncertain until the end of the process and thus always accompanied by a feeling of uncertainty. On the other hand, the ability to produce a transparent material artificially, a quality previously completely unknown and probably even unthinkable, may have led to a feeling of superiority and pride in the circles of the craftsmen. The Neo-​Assyrian palace offered the only environment in which this material could be produced and used.

Notes 1. In the middle of the fourteenth century BCE two Egyptian production centres (Amarna and Malkata) (Nicholson 2007; Pusch and Rehren 2007) are known, whereas in Mesopotamia production centres yet await proper documentation, although it is generally assumed that glass was produced here in several different workshops (Shortland 2012; Shortland et al. 2017; Walton et al. 2012). 2. For the variety of the patterns on core-​formed vessels, see Schmidt 2019: 94. 3. The extent to which an imitation of stones was intended is not the subject of this chapter; see in this regard Shortland 2012: 75–​78; Amrhein 2019; Schmidt 2019: 78–​82. 4. For the first theoretical approaches to sensorial archaeology see Tarlow (2000a; 2000b; 2012), and Meskell (1999; 2002); particularly the works by Skeates (2010) and Hamilakis (2013) have been influential, in which the calls for a “sensorial turn” in archaeology have been voiced. 5. In his monograph Archaeology and the Senses, Hamilakis (2013: 16–​65) goes into detail about the sensory regime of the modern Western world and shows the roots of modern developments. By doing so, it becomes clear that the modern Western sensorium is a cultural construct and therefore embedded within the colonial and national nexus of power. These explanations represent a comprehensible example of the cultural construct of senses in relation to the Western world. 6. The process nonetheless evokes the manufacturing technique of the so-​called mosaic glass vessels that date back to the Late Bronze Age (1600–​1200 BCE ) (Schmidt 2019: 38–​39). The slumping method applied with the transparent hemispherical bowls may hence be understood as technically inspired by earlier techniques, which is a feature recurrently observed in “innovations” (Burmeister and Bernbeck 2017: 8). An innovation, in contrast to invention, is described as a social process in which a group of people gradually or suddenly undertakes something “new” and integrates it into everyday life, see Hansen et al. 2021: https://​atlas-​​en/​p/​ What-​Are-​Innovations-​uvmYLhKc38htMugBrsUKkB. 7. Next to the intact bowls, there are over 250 fragments of translucent violet, turquoise, and dark blue hemispherical bowls—​which were also made by the slumping technique—​among the finds from Fort Shalmaneser and the Burnt Palace, the latter being another royal residence at Nimrud which was in use from 710–​612 BCE (Barag 1985: 63–​64, nos. 33, 35, 36). It cannot be ruled out that there are also transparent shards among these pieces, which were never fully described. 8. This conclusion is based on the insight into the excavation databases of the excavation missions; I thank for Tell Halaf, Lutz Martin; for Zincirli, David Schloen and Vincent van Exel; for Ziyaret Tepe, Tim Matney and Dirk Wicke. 9. This applies not only to Khorsabad but to all Neo-​Assyrian capitals.


Drinking bowls in the Neo-Assyrian palace

10. An abundance of social aspects around commensality have been extensively studied in the social sciences; for example, psychosocial studies show how sharing food creates a semi-​conscious sense of intimacy (Fahlander 2010: 37). 11. Numerous authors have described these aspects in relation to the Neo-​Assyrian palace focusing on different elements such as, for example, the architecture and control of movement (Kertai 2012); the effects of light and shadow (McMahon 2013); polychromatic wall reliefs, glazed bricks, and ṣiqqatu (Neumann 2015; 2018; 2019); drapery (Reade 1979); floors and inlaid furniture (Dalley 2013: 128); for a detailed overview and summary on the palace from a sensual point of view, see Portuese 2019; Thomason 2016: 245–​248, for the banquet, see 248–​253. 12. Neo-​Assyrian capitals were considered the centres of the world, and the centres of these capitals were in turn the royal palaces. Certain Neo-​Assyrian kings moved the capital from one city to another, establishing a new and unique seat of power. In contrast to Bronze Age centres, which Hamilakis (2013: 190) discusses for Crete, the Assyrian locales that transformed into palatial centres did not always have a long history of (monumental) occupation and use, but were staged as such. 13. Private meetings with the ruler were extremely hard to arrange, even for his closest friends and followers. This is exemplified by a written correspondence complaining about the difficulty to meet the king face to face (e.g., Ermidoro 2015: 90). 14. Depictions of which are well known from palace reliefs and on glazed vessels found at Nimrud (Oates and Oates 2001: 232, fig. 144). 15. Many of the ingredients and flavours would have been imported from regions outside of the Assyrian heartland. The dishes too were highly complex and indeed released unfamiliar aromas and subsequently tastes as they were being served in elaborately arranged presentations; for an extensive overview of banquets and the foods served at them, see Ermidoro 2015: 191–​200. 16. On this topic see, e.g., Amrhein 2019; Schmidt 2019: 78–​82. 17. Brill (1970: 116) was sceptical about the conscious use of a decolouriser in glass from Nimrud. He explains that antimony is almost ubiquitous in every glass sample of the first millennium BCE in the entire Mediterranean and from Mesopotamia with a proportion of about one to two per cent. However, the effect of colouration could also be due to the furnace atmosphere or the use of pure sands, see therefore Bimson and Freestone 1985; Shortland and Eremin 2006: 584, 591. 18. The texts comprise a group of cuneiform tablets found in the library of Ashurbanipal (668–​631 BCE ) in Nineveh. There are 38 fragments that can be joined to five clay tablets which are all kept in the British Museum. Apart from this group, three other isolated cuneiform texts from the mid to late second millennium BCE are known that deal with the production of raw glass, one Middle Babylonian text with unknown provenance (BM 120960) (dated to the last third of the second millennium) and one from Hattuša (BM 108561), both in the British Museum, and one from Babylon (VAT 16453) now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin. 19. The ritual referred to comprises the introduction of the Nineveh glass recipe, and is part of manuscript A and B (Schmidt 2019: 122–​123; Oppenheim 1970: figs. 2.3, 4.5). It is important to stress here, that accompanying rituals for the construction of a glassmaking kiln were “in no way atypical or extraordinary” (Oppenheim 1970: 33), but an important element of any kind of building work in Mesopotamia (Ambos 2004: 3).

Bibliography Ambos, C. 2004. Mesopotamische Baurituale aus dem 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. Dresden: Islet. Amrhein, A. 2019. “The Power of Stones: Natural, Artificial, and in Between,” in A. Amrhein, C. Fitzgerald, and E. Knott, eds., A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate. New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and Princeton University, 91–​103. Barag, D. 1970. “Mesopotamian Core-​Formed Glass Vessels (1500–​500 B.C.),” in A. L. Oppenheim, ed., Glass and Glassmaking in Ancient Mesopotamia: An Edition of the Cuneiform Texts which Contain Instructions for Glassmakers with a Catalogue of Surviving Objects. Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass, 131–​199. Barag, D. 1985. Catalogue of Western Asiatic Glass in the British Museum. London: British Museum Publications. Bertazzoli, E., and G. Bertolotto. 1998. “Un braciere da Forte Salmanassar, Nimrud.” Mesopotamia 33: 167–​188.


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Bimson, M., and I. C. Freestone. 1985. “Scientific Examination of Opaque Red Glass of the Second and First Millennia BC,” in D. Barag, ed., Catalogue of Western Asiatic Glass in the British Museum. London: British Museum Publications, 119–​122. Brill, R. H. 1970. “The Chemical Interpretation of the Texts,” in A. L. Oppenheim, ed., Glass and Glassmaking in Ancient Mesopotamia: An Edition of the Cuneiform Texts which Contain Instructions for Glassmakers with a Catalogue of Surviving Objects. Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass, 105–​128. Brill, R. H., and C. P. Stapleton. 2012. Chemical Analyses of Early Glasses, Volume 3: The Years 2000–​2011, Reports, and Essays. Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass. Brock, J. K. 1957. Fortetsa: Early Greek Tombs near Knossos. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Burmeister, S., and R. Bernbeck, eds. 2017. The Interplay of People and Technologies: Archaeological Case Studies on Innovations. Berlin: Edition Topoi. Canciani, F., and F.-​W. Hase. 1979. La tomba Bernardini di Palestrina. Rome: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. Cellerino, A. 2015. “Glass from the Italian Excavation in Fort Shalmaneser.” Mesopotamia: Revista di Archeologia, Epigrafia e Storia Orientale Antica 50: 113–​144. Dalley, S. 2013. The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ermidoro, S. 2015. Commensality and Ceremonial Meals in the Neo-​Assyrian Period. Venice: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari. Fahlander, F. 2010. “The Nose, the Eye, Mouth and the Gut: Social Dimensions of Food-​Cravings and Commensality,” in F. Fahlander and A. Kjellström, eds., Making Sense of Things: Archaeologies of Sensory Perception. Stockholm: Stockholm University, 35–​50. Fales, M. 1994. “A Fresh Look at the Nimrud Wine Lists,” in L. Milano, ed., Drinking in Ancient Societies: History and Culture of Drinks in the Ancient Near East. Papers of a Symposium Held in Rome, May 17–​19, 1990. Padova: Sargon, 361–​380. Fiorina, P. 2009. “Nimroud, Fort Salmanasar: entrepôts et ateliers de la zone SW,” in S. M. Cecchini, S. Mazzoni, and E. Scigliuzzo, eds., Syrian and Phoenician Ivories of the Early First Millennium BCE: Chronology, Regional Styles and Iconographic Repertories, Patterns of Inter-​regional Distribution. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 27–​46. Fletcher, P. J., I. C. Freestone, and R. Geschke. 2008. “Analysis and Conservation of a Weeping Glass Scarab.” Technical Research Bulletin, British Museum 2: 45–​48. Freestone, I. C. 1991. “Looking into Glass,” in S. Bowman, ed., Science and the Past. London: British Museum Press, 37–​56. Geertz, C. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. London: Hutchinson. Grose, D. 1989. The Toledo Museum of Art: Early Ancient Glass. New York: Hudson Hill Press. Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeology and the Senses. Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hansen, S., J. Renn, F. Klimscha, and J. Büttner. 2021. “What Are Innovations?” Digital Atlas of Innovations. https://​atlas-​​en/​p/​What-​Are-​Innovations-​uvmYLhKc38htMugBrsUKkB. Henderson, J. 2013. Ancient Glass: An Interdisciplinary Exploration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hunt, A. M. W. 2015. Palace Ware Across the Neo-​Assyrian Imperial Landscape: Social Value and Semiotic Meaning. CHANE 78. Leiden: Brill. Jones, J. D. 2009. “Did the Phrygians Make Glass? Sources of Moulded Glass in Iron Age and Hellenistic Gordion,” in K. Janssens, P. Degryse, P. Cosyns, J. Caen, and L. Van’t dack, eds., Annales du 17e Congrès de l’Association internationale pour l’histoire du verre. Antwerp: Antwerp University Press, 21–​26. Kertai, D. 2012. “Organising the Interaction Between People: A New Look at the Elite Houses of Nuzi,” in G. Wilhelm, ed., Organization, Representation, and Symbols of Power in the Ancient Near East. Proceedings of the 54th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale at Würzburg, 20–​25 July 2008. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 519–​530. Kertai, D. 2015. The Architecture of Late Assyrian Royal Palaces. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kinnier Wilson, J. V. 1972. The Nimrud Wine Lists: A Study of Men and Administration at the Assyrian Capital in the Eighth Century B.C. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq. Larson, K. 2019. “Vitreous Materials in the Ancient Near East,” in A. Amrhein, C. Fitzgerald, and E. Knott, eds., A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate. New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and Princeton University, 113–​118. Loud, G., and C. B. Altman. 1938. Khorsabad II: The Citadel and the Town. OIP 40. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 74

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Mallowan, M. E. L. 1966. Nimrud and Its Remains. 2 Volumes. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq. McMahon, A. 2013. “Space, Sound, and Light: Toward a Sensory Experience of Ancient Monumental Architecture.” AJA 117: 163–​179. Meskell, L. 1999. Archaeologies of Social Life: Age, Sex, Class, et cetera in Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Blackwell. Meskell, L. 2002. Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Miglus, P. A. 1996. Das Wohngebiet von Assur. Stratigraphie und Architektur. Berlin: Mann. Neumann, K. 2015. “In the Eyes of the Other: Mythological Wall Reliefs in the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh,” in M. Dalton, G. Peters, and A. Tavares, eds., Seen and Unseen Spaces: Archaeological Review from Cambridge 30 (1): 85–​93. Neumann, K. 2018. “Reading the Temple of Nabu as a Coded Sensory Experience.” Iraq 80: 181–​211. Neumann, K. 2019. “Sensing the Sacred in the Neo-​Assyrian Temple: The Presentation of Offerings to the Gods,” in A. Hawthorn and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 23–​62. Nicholson, P. T., ed. 2007. Brilliant Things for Akhenaten: The Production of Glass, Vitreous Materials and Pottery at Amarna Site O45.1. London and Oakville, CT: Egypt Exploration Society and David Brown Book Company. Oates, J., and D. Oates. 2001. Nimrud: An Assyrian Imperial City Revealed. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq. Oppenheim, A. L. 1970. “The Cuneiform Tablets with Instructions for Glassmakers,” in A. L. Oppenheim, ed., Glass and Glassmaking in Ancient Mesopotamia: An Edition of the Cuneiform Texts which Contain Instructions for Glassmakers with a Catalogue of Surviving Objects. Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass, 22–​101. Pollard, A. M., and C. Heron. 1996. Archaeological Chemistry. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. Portuese, L. 2019. “The Throne Room of Aššurnaṣirpal II: A Multisensory Experience,” in A. Hawthorn and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 63–​92. Pusch, E., and T. Rehren. 2007. “Glas für den Pharao –​Glasherstellung in der Spätbronzezeit des Nahen Ostens,” in G. A. Wagner, ed., Einführung in die Archäometrie. Berlin: Springer, 215–​235. Reade, J. 1979. “Assyrian Palatial Decoration I: Techniques and Subject Matter.” Baghdader Mitteilungen (10). Reade, W., I. C. Freestone, and S. Bourke. 2009. “Innovation and Continuity in Bronze Age and Iron Age Glass from Pella in Jordan,” in Annales du 17e Congrès de l’Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre, Anvers, 2006. Antwerp: Antwerp University Press, 47–​54. Reade, W., I. C. Freestone, and St. J. Simpson. 2005. “Innovation or Continuity? Early First Millennium BCE Glass in the Near East: The Cobalt Blue Glasses from Assyrian Nimrud,” in Annales du 16e Congrès de l’Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre, London, 2003. Nottingham: AIHV, 23–​27. Sallaberger, W. 2007. “Reinheit. A. Mesopotamien.” RIA 11: 295–​299. Schlick-​Nolte, B., and R. Werthmann. 2003. “Glass Vessels from the Burial of Nesikhons.” Journal of Glass Studies 25 (45): 11–​34. Schmidt, K. 2019. Glass and Glass Production in the Near East During the Iron Age Period: Evidence from Objects, Texts and Chemical Analysis. Oxford: Archaeopress. Shortland, A. 2002. “The Use and Origin of Antimonate Colourants in Early Egyptian Glass.” Archaeometry 44: 517–​530. Shortland, A. J. 2012. Lapis Lazuli from the Kiln: Glass and Glassmaking in the Late Bronze Age. Leuven: Leuven University Press. Shortland, A. J., and K. Eremin. 2006. “The Analysis of Second Millennium BC Glass from Egypt and Mesopotamia, Part 1: New WDS Analyses.” Archaeometry 48: 581–​605. Shortland, A., S. Kirk, K. Eremin, P. Degryse, and M. Walton. 2017. “The Analysis of Late Bronze Age Glass from Nuzi and the Question of the Origin of the Glass-​Making.” Archaeometry 60: 1–​20. Skeates, R. 2010. An Archaeology of the Senses: Prehistoric Malta. New York: Oxford University Press. Stronach, D. 1985. “The Imagery of the Wine Bowl: Wine in Assyria in the Early First Millennium BC,” in P. E. MacGovern, S. J. Fleming, and S. Katz, eds., The Origins and Ancient History of Wine. New York: Gordon and Breach, 175–​195. Tarlow, S. 2000a. “Emotion in Archaeology.” Current Anthropology 41: 713–​746. Tarlow, S. 2000b. “Landscapes of Memory: The Nineteenth-​Century Garden Cemetery.” European Journal of Archaeology 3: 217–​239. Tarlow, S. 2012. “The Archaeology of Emotion and Affect.” ARA 41: 169–​185. 75

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Thomason, A. K. 2010. “Banquets, Baubles, and Bronzes: Material Comforts in the Neo-​ Assyrian Palaces,” in A. Cohen and S. E. Kangas, eds., Assyrian Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II: A Cultural Biography. Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art Dartmouth College and University Press of New England, 198–​214. Thomason, A. K. 2016. “The Sense-​scapes of Neo-​Assyrian Capital Cities: Royal Authority and Bodily Experience.” CAJ 26: 243–​264. Turner, W. E. S. 1956. “Studies of Ancient Glasses and Glassmaking Processes, Part II: The Composition, Weathering Characteristics and Historical Significance of Some Assyrian Glasses of the Eighth to Sixth Centuries B.C. from Nimrud.” Journal of the Society of Glass Technology 38: 445–​456. Turner, W. E. S., and H. P. Rooksby. 1959. “A Study of the Opalising Agents in Ancient Opal Glasses Throughout Three Thousand Four Hundred Years.” Glastechnische Berichte 8: 17–​29. Walton, M. S., K. Eremin, A. J. Shortland, and P. Degryse. 2012. “Analysis of Late Bronze Age Glass Axes from Nippur: A New Cobalt Colourant.” Archaeometry 54: 835–​852. Wedepohl, K. H. 2003. Glas in Antike und Mittelalter. Geschichte eines Werkstoffs mit 29 Tabellen. Stuttgart: Schweizerbart.


4 To touch upon A tactile exploration of the Apadana reliefs at Persepolis Kiersten Neumann

Introduction Touch animates social life; it is a form of communication that creates bonds between people and the material world. Whether holding an object, embracing a person, or experiencing a tactile fantasy, as humans we are surrounded by instances and opportunities to engage with our surroundings through touch. Utilitarian, pleasurable, and imaginative tactile encounters serve one of our most basic needs. One millimetre below the skin’s surface, the epidermis, is a collection of Meissner’s corpuscles—​oval clusters of cells, or pressure-​sensitive sensory end organs, enriched particularly in the fingerprint skin of human hands and the soles of our feet; these touch receptors are connected to nerves that transmit signals to the brain (Abraira and Ginty 2013). As tactile sensations reach the brain, they become associated with visual sensations, the two working in unison—​touch enables us to attribute tactile values to retinal impressions. This touch–​vision relationship emerges in the art world through an emphasis on faithful representation of shapes, structures, and materials. The tactile sensibility of the Gothic reality captured in Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait of 1434 and the realistic depiction of pain and suffering of Spanish Baroque as seen in statues of the Crying Virgin Mary—​with immaculately rendered tears running down her cheeks (Figure 4.1)—​stand as example of the power and emotional effect of the materialisation of tactile sensations on viewers (Svankmajer 2014). Taking things one step further, Salvador Dalí’s “le cinema tactile,” discussed in connection with his 1930 film project L’Âge d’or, envisions a synaesthetic cinema that would create a mixed tactile-​auditory-​visual experience; the former sense was to be realised by way of objects and materials that would roll out on a table in front of each audience member in sync with what was being presented on the screen (King 2007: 30). Notwithstanding the impact and richness of tactile sensations on the human experience, it is the visual sphere that has traditionally been prioritised in Western art historical scholarship, as has sight in the field of anthropology of the senses up until recently (Howes 2005; Bezera 2015). The same can be said of contemporary society. While touch is a sense that affords a concrete sensational experience as related to mental processes, we cannot see our thoughts. In The Book of Touch, Classen (2005: 2) reflects on our present lived experience when it comes to the touch–​ vision relationship:

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-5


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Figure 4.1  Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Lady of Sorrow), statue by Juan Prieto, Cordoba, Spain, 1719. Source: Wikimedia Commons: JCabreraJ.

We live in a society of the image, a markedly visual culture, in which, while there may be many representations of touch, there is nothing actually there to feel. The attractions of advertising, television, or the Internet, are designed to be consumed by the eyes and the ears … The inability to touch the subject matter of the images that surround us, even though these have a tremendous impact on our lives, produces a sense of alienation, the feeling of being out of touch with one’s society, one’s environment and one’s cosmos. A sense of alienation is also brought about in our contemporary world in times of social unrest and widescale pandemics, when individuals endure lengthy intervals of sheltering at home and practising social distancing, depriving people of physical connections and touch.1 Being out of touch with one’s society and environment leads to the development of a condition called touch starvation or skin hunger. That we have tactile interactions—​whether with other people specifically or the material world around us more generally—​is not only fundamental to our mental health and human psyche, but the types of touch we make possible and are afforded and experience are telling of the cultures and the world in which we live, a sign of the times (Gopnik 2016): One strange thing about the unsung sense [touch] is that it has no songs. Every other sense has an art to go with it: the eyes have art, the ears have music, even the nose and the tongue have perfume and gastronomy. But we don’t train our hands to touch as we train our eyes to look or our ears to listen. In considering ancient material worlds, it is thus worth stepping away from our contemporary customs and contexts and delving deeper than the visual surface to consider modes and affordances for tactile communication, the ways in which both boundaries and unions were formed through this most powerful and immediate sense. 78

Exploration of the Apadana reliefs

A multilevel tactile exploration of the relief sculpture of the Apadana, the great audience hall atop the terrace platform (Takht-​e-​Jamshid, “Throne of Jamshid”) of the Achaemenid site of Persepolis in southwestern Iran, brings to light less-​discussed traces of sensory traditions of the past. In this chapter I consider the touch of the craftsmen in creating the reliefs; the ways in which they captured and produced representations of touch in the imagery itself; and the affect and agency of these traces of touch and touch-​imagery on people moving through this space—​in other words, how these forms of touch encapsulated in the reliefs may have produced a sensory experience beyond the visual, that is to say, a tactile interaction. These aspects of touch of the Apadana reliefs not only embody codes of the Achaemenid royal court, they also complicate conceptions and/​or the reception of this form of architectural decoration in contemporary discourse, suggesting a re-​evaluation of how interaction with these works of art has traditionally been discussed and reimagined, and the intents and strategies that guided their creation from the outset. The tactile features of the carved stones simultaneously reinforce and break the illusion of the activity that is represented and suggest additional agencies of the reliefs that can be overlooked when the focus is placed solely on what is represented rather than how it is created and represented.

The Apadana of Persepolis The architecture and art preserved at Persepolis reveals the beauty and rich history of this great dynastic centre of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–​330 BCE ), the largest political entity predating Rome. Containing within its boundaries a diversity of peoples and cultures, at its peak the empire extended from North Africa to the Indus Valley and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf. Material culture from the site of Persepolis attests to its role in important political, administrative, and ceremonial activities at the centre of the Fars province, including in particular sealings and tablets excavated in the northeastern Fortification (Persepolis Fortification archive [PFA]) and the Treasury2 (Persepolis Treasury archive [PTA]) by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute (OI) Persian Expedition in Iran and which date to the reigns of Darius I (regnal dates 522–​486 BCE ), Xerxes I (486–​465 BCE ), and Artaxerxes I (465–​424/​3 BCE ) (Briant et al. 2008; Henkelman 2013; Azzoni et al. 2017). Founded by Darius shortly after taking the throne, work on the city’s great terrace and its palace complex continued under Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Artaxerxes III (359–​338 BCE ), all of whom continued the distinct sculptural style developed under Darius that would come to define the building programmes of the Achaemenid period (Roaf 1983: 150–​159). Yet after only two centuries, Persepolis along with the empire fell to Alexander of Macedon, his armies sacking and burning the city in 330 BCE . Though the mudbrick superstructures were destroyed, left behind were such majestic stone architectural features as the colossal columns of great audience halls, grand relief-​decorated staircases, and monumental doorways and gateways—​all finely carved from a distinct grey limestone by the craftsmen of the Achaemenid royal court. The Apadana was among the first buildings constructed on the terrace of Persepolis, its initial phase dating to the reign of Darius with its expansion and completion carried out under Xerxes (Roaf 1983: 157, figs. 152–​3; Kleiss 2000: 359–​361, figs. 4, 7; Morgan 2017). Archaeological evidence along with modern reconstructions of the Apadana’s grand superstructure stand as testament to the power of the Achaemenid kings in attaining the raw materials and the host of skilled craftsmen and artisans necessary for realising such a vast building enterprise (Schmidt 1953: 70–​106; Mousavi 2012: pls. 15–​18). Located in the northeastern quadrant of the terrace, this large columned hall stands atop its own 2.5-​metre square platform and runs 60 metres on each side (Figure 4.2). The exterior and interior of the building were equally visually dynamic; 79

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Figure 4.2  Plan of Persepolis. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

for example, the roof of the inner hall was held aloft by 20-​metre high gilded polychromatic columns topped with bull protomes (or front part of a bull) and equally impressive columns, topped by bulls and lions, that marked grand porticoes on the north, east, and west exteriors of the building; a single row of columns spanned a section of the closed south side (Morgan 2017). This inner space served as an audience hall, catering to the royal reception of visitors. Grand staircases embellished with relief sculpture, mirror images of which mark the north and east sides of the building, created an appropriately magnificent means of entering this inner royal sanctum. Sections of the Apadana sculptural programme along with other relief sculpture across the terrace had been exposed since antiquity and were therefore well known to locals as well as early explorers to the region (Mousavi 2012). However, it was not until 1932–​1933 that the most well-​preserved reliefs on the audience hall’s eastern façade were uncovered (Figure 4.3), by the Oriental Institute expedition. First under the direction of Ernst Herzfeld and then Erich 80

Exploration of the Apadana reliefs

Figure 4.3  Eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (D. 13326).

Schmidt, the archaeological expedition’s work at Persepolis culminated in three remarkable volumes, the findings of the Apadana appearing in the first of the series (Schmidt 1953; 1957; 1970). Later publications by Ann Britt Tilia (1972; 1978) resulting from the work of her and her husband, Giuseppe Tilia, at Persepolis from 1965–​1979, carried out as part of the Italian Institute of the Middle and Far East, make a similarly noteworthy contribution to our understanding of the monuments and in particular the reliefs, including details of craftsmanship and construction. These exceptional artistic feats—​specifically the reliefs of the eastern staircase—​are the focus of this chapter.

Touch of the craftsmen The use of stone for fashioning architectural elements at the imperial capitals of Pasargadae and Susa is important for understanding the development and prevalence of this skillset in the Achaemenid period. The preserved stone columns and carved reliefs at these sites, for example, stand as testament to an exceptional technological ability to work hard stone in order to produce polished and detailed forms before the founding of Persepolis by Darius. The use of stone as a construction material for monumental building programmes, however, was not prevalent in the region prior to the reign of Cyrus II (559–​529 BCE ). During their respective travels, Cyrus and Darius would have come into contact with the craftsmen who built large monumental structures in different traditions and regions, including: the great Ionic temples of stone with columned porticoes in the Greek world, for example the temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the monumental rock reliefs and sculptured panels of gateways, processional ways, and palatial walls of Hittite and Assyrian rulers; and the great stone architecture of Egypt (Curtis and Reade 1995: 39–​91; Blanchard 2019).3 When Cyrus founded his new capital city at Pasargadae, he had the opportunity to include these varied construction techniques in the realisation of his new city and imperial ideology. After ascending the throne in 522 BCE , Darius continued to expand and refine Persian stone construction through his work at Pasargadae and Susa, before turning to his newly minted city of Persepolis. The craftsmen at Pasargadae and Susa during the reigns of these two kings included foreign labourers from throughout the empire who brought with them the knowledge and skills for executing unprecedented stone architectural feats, in particular columned halls and reliefs as noted above (Nylander 1970; Stronach 1978; Root 1979). For the latter, they replicated not only the art form but also some of the subject matter, as demonstrated by the mythological and divine figures—​a bull-​man, fish-​cloaked human figure, an ugallu (lion-​headed creature), and Lulal (anthropomorphic divine figure)—​in the door jams of Palace S, which mirror Assyrian reliefs from the temple of Ninurta at Kalḫu (Nimrud) and Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh (the modern mound of Kuyunjik); unfortunately, only the lower portion of the Pasargadae reliefs 81

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were preserved (Stronach 1978: 68–​69, figs. 34–​35, pls. 58–​60; Neumann 2015: 190, figs. 18, 145 (BM 124573); Neumann 2014). The foundation charter of Darius’ palace at Susa—​a trilingual text, with Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian versions inscribed on baked-​clay and marble plaques—​details the origins of some of the exotic building materials—​including cedar, gold, and precious stones—​that he used in these building programmes and of the craftsmen—​for example, Ionian and Sardian stone-​carvers—​whom he employed (DSf; Stolper 1992: 270–​271, no. 190; Curtis and Razmjou 2005: 56): (35–​40) The gold was brought from Sardis and from Bactria, which here was wrought. The precious stone lapis lazuli and carnelian which was wrought here, this was brought from Sogdiana. The precious stone turquois, this was brought from Chorasmia, which was wrought here. (40–​45) The silver and the ebony were brought from Egypt. The ornamentation with which the wall was adorned, that from Ionia was brought. The ivory which was wrought here, was brought from Ethiopia and from Sind and from Arachosia. (45–​49) The stone columns which were here wrought, a village named Abiradu, in Elam—​ from there were brought. The stone-​cutters who wrought the stone, those were Ionians and Sardians. (49–​55) The goldsmiths who wrought the gold, those were Medes and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians. (55–​58) Darius the King says: At Susa a very excellent (work) was ordered, a very excellent (work) was (brought to completion). Me may Ahuramazda protect, and Hystaspes my father, and my country. Inscribed Elamite tablets among the Persepolis administrative archives (PFA and PTA) also document the employment of foreign workers and record artisans and craftsmen (for example, marrip) among those who received provisions—​silver and foodstuffs—​according to their qualifications, from the Achaemenid administration in the region of Persepolis, including individuals who would have been involved in construction and building programmes (Hallock 1969; Uchitel 1991; Henkelman and Kleber 2007; Henkelman 2013). Such textual sources along with the preserved buildings themselves and close examination of the construction techniques, including the cutting, setting, and clamping of the building stones, point towards a diverse group of workmen whose tactile knowledge executed these monumental endeavours and contributed to the development of an imperial style and programme that would persist until the end of the empire (Nylander 1970; Roaf 1980; 1983). Yet the full expression of this style, what is now referred to by scholars as the Achaemenid court style, was not fully realised until Persepolis, Darius’ newly minted city. As argued by Margaret Cool Root (1979: 13–​14), however, the essence of this Persepolitan style lay not with the workmen “who set chisel to stone” and their cultural origins, but rather with the king and court: A good artist can, once he has mastered the specific technical difficulties involved, work in a variety of styles, successfully suppressing his own personal and cultural idiosyncrasies and assuming the vocabulary of a different style as occasion demands.


Exploration of the Apadana reliefs

In his seminal study of the sculptures and sculptors of Persepolis, Michael Roaf (1983) similarly argues for the detachment of the sculptors and their cultural origins from the designs of the reliefs; rather, per Roaf (1983: 46, 96), it was the multicultural artistic traditions of the designers, following the instructions of the king, that are expressed in the overall composition: Investigations into the origins of the motifs at Persepolis have shown borrowings from many artistic traditions, most importantly from earlier Achaemenid reliefs at Susa, Pasargadae, and Bisutun, but equally important was influence from Mesopotamia, both Babylonia and Assyrian. It also appears that Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician, Elamite, Median, Urartian and Scythian art, directly or indirectly, influenced the creation of the Persepolitan style. However, royal inscriptions related to the construction of Persepolis and its monuments ascribe to the long-​standing trope of the king as builder and craftsman, with no accompanying acknowledgement of the ingenuity and contribution of such designers to the stylistic programme, or of the hands-​on work of the sculptors that executed the overall endeavour. For example, the Elamite foundation inscription of Darius at Persepolis, located on the southern façade of the terrace, declares the king’s intimate involvement not only in the construction but also the beautification of Persepolis, thus seeming to assert his command over the sculptural programme as well (DPf; Schmidt 1953: 63): And Darius king says: As for the fact that upon this place this fortress was built, formerly here a fortress had not been built. By the grace of Ahuramazda I built this fortress … And (so) I built it. And I built it secure and beautiful and adequate, just as I was intending to. Xerxes’ Babylonian inscription on the stairway of the Apadana makes a similarly holistic claim; also noteworthy is that it lacks an acknowledgement of Darius as founder of the building (XPb; Schmidt 1953: 82):4 Says Xerxes the great king: By the grace of Ahuramazda have I built this house. May Ahuramazda protect me with the gods, my kingdom and what I have built. Such declarations align with Mary Helms’ (1993) arguments regarding the significance of royal engagement in skilled craftsmanship and building programmes and the role this specialised production—​ involving materials acquired through long-​ distance trade, but one might also include the ingenuity and skillsets of foreign craftsmen—​plays in legitimating imperial ideologies and ambitions; worth highlighting is the import this would have had for Darius in particular, having claimed a throne that was not his by way of royal family lineage nor was he named as a rightful heir by a predecessor. To summarise, what is unmistakable is a diversity of cultural origins and a variability of professional and craftsmanship roles among the individuals involved in the creation and production of the Apadana reliefs, groupings that I have here only touched on briefly. Acknowledging the import of those responsible for the design and programme, I will proceed next to the contributions of the sculptors, as the individuals who interacted intimately with the stone, by virtue of the sensorial and specifically touch-​oriented interest of this chapter. A focused examination of the Apadana reliefs in situ at Persepolis reveals material traces of the hands of sculptors at work and of the tools with which they manipulated the stone.5 Iron tools, including picks and hammers, and points and chisels were employed at different stages of the process, from the shaping of a panel and outlining figures to executing the details—​by way 83

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of raised edges, smooth surfaces, and incision—​of such elements as garments, jewellery, beards, eyes, and ears, each requiring varied levels of precision and care: “the most interesting parts of the figures are the heads, and it was on the heads that the sculptors carried out their most skillful work” (Roaf 1983: 5). When the carving was complete, artisans would have applied paint to the stone surface, although to what extent we do not know for certain, and additional decorative elements such as stone and metal inlays and gold leaf or gold sheet were added.6 A close-​up of the head of a tribute bearer from the southern end of the staircase reliefs on the east side of the Apadana beautifully encapsulates the subtle yet impactful traces of the intimate tactile engagement between the hands of the sculptors manipulating the tools and the stone: the figure’s curls of hair stand out in stark contrast to the polished surface of the cheek, forehead, and headdress, while incisions articulate individual strands of hair, artfully evoking its texture and plurality (Figure 4.4). Also preserved in the dark grey limestone surface are traces of the tools used to create the smooth surfaces of the headdress and the background surface from which the figure emerges. The face of a camel from the same section of reliefs preserves similar tool marks on the smooth, plain surfaces; this stands out in stark contrast, and thus accentuates the skilfully executed eye and mouth of the animal (Figure 4.5); similarly, the head of a ram—​the articulated eye and nose, the heavily textured tuffs of fur on its neck, and tool marks on the cheeks (Figure 4.6). Such minor yet magnificently rendered features as metal garment pins, ties on footwear, and tree trunks and leaves similarly highlight the sculptors’ mastery of their tools when put to stone (Figure 4.7). From the largest to the smallest element, the Persepolis sculptors manipulated the limestone in order to achieve the desired form and perfect finish. In this process their own sense organs would have become entangled in a techni-​symbolic network, their direct bodily engagement with the stone-​turned-​image activating their own tactile memory of past experiences and material encounters, all the while realising the masterfully designed programme of the king and royal court (Bezera 2015). Thus, while not playing a determining role in the overall design and

Figure 4.4  Close-​up of a tribute bearer from the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (D. 13304). 84

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Figure 4.5  Close-​up of a camel from the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Photo by author.

Figure 4.6  Close-​up of a ram from the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Photo by author.

Figure 4.7  Details from the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Photos by author. 85

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style of the sculptural programme due to the oversight of the king and court, the individuality of the sculptors’ hands upon the stone is noticeable in some of these more minute attributes of the reliefs, for example the method by which a sculptor produced a lock of hair, nose, petals of a flower, or the laces of a shoe. These features, which Roaf (1983) has observed and catalogued in detail using mathematical cluster analysis—​drawing on the work of Giovanni Morelli—​and stylistic analysis, aligns with art historical discussions of habitus and practice—​subconscious attributes that are the result of each individual sculptor’s learned carving abilities. For this reason, Roaf was able to identify the work of different sculptors’ hands across the Apadana reliefs. In addition to some of these arguably unintentional traces of their work in progress, the sculptors also intentionally left their mark on the Apadana reliefs in the form of sculptors’ marks, or makers’ marks, of various shapes and designs—​attributes that further contributed to Roaf ’s study. These symbols, several hundred of which are preserved on the visible, flat surfaces of the reliefs across the terrace at Persepolis, represent different sculptors active at the site at the time of construction (Figure 4.8). Similarities between marks at Persepolis and Susa suggest the movement of stone sculptors, while comparable examples from further afield, such as Ionia, likely suggest the much fuller extent of their movement (Perrot 2013: 190).7 Combining his findings from the mathematical cluster analysis, stylistic analysis, and sculptors’ marks, Roaf determined that a number of sculptors worked as a team on the same section of reliefs from start to finish under the guidance of a master craftsman, who himself was responsible for some of the more skilled work, such as figures’ heads, and that the marks were used as a way for a master and his team to distinguish their work, either by marking individual figures or the limits of their section, from that of others working on the terrace (Roaf 1983: 26, 90–​96, 160–​164). Of note is the imperfect, “hand-​written” style of the sculptors’ marks, which contrasts with the very formal and repetitive style of the relief carving, the latter being predetermined by the artistic guides used by the sculptors and created with mathematical precision and perfection

Figure 4.8  Sculptors’ mark on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Photo by author. 86

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based on the overall programme and design. Adding another layer of contrast between these features is the fact that the sculptors’ marks were carved into the flat stone surface or background plane while the figures and associated elements emerge from the background in relief. What is more, this background may have been left unpainted, the dark limestone surface with the sculptors’ marks remaining bare alongside the polychromatic human and animal figures, trees, and sculpted borders of rosettes.8 The only other feature to be carved similarly into the flat background surface were the cuneiform inscriptions on either end of the staircase; however, these were set apart from the neighbouring scenes carved in relief by a raised border with rosettes and an incised rectangular frame (Figure 4.3; Schmidt 1953: pl. 21). These conspicuous and intentional marks of the sculptors on the Apadana reliefs, together with the unintentional traces of their workmanship discussed above, remind observers of the process of creation and of the sculptors as agents who, by way of their learned tactile knowledge and skillsets, touched and manipulated the stone in an age well before artists’ individual signatures were common practice. What is more, they break the illusion of the represented scene—​figures in ceremonial procession that emerge in relief—​as a real (albeit idealised) event. Sculptors’ marks and traces of craftmanship force an observer to acknowledge the materiality of these works of art—​the physicality of the reliefs as three-​dimensional forms that were fashioned from raw material through human touch, which occupy space, and which have hard, textured surfaces with their own dynamic tactile affordances.9 Before taking up the latter, however, I will first turn to an additional tactile layer wonderfully encapsulated in these reliefs owing to their subject matter—​the representation of touch.

Touch carved in stone As excavated in the 1930s, the eastern staircase reliefs of the Apadana show on the left delegates from across the empire bearing gifts for the king, at the centre elite guards in Persian and Median dress,10 and to the right additional guards and courtly attendants. At one level this sequence can be said to be an idealised representation of the ceremonial activity staged within the audience hall in the presence of the king. In the larger context of the Achaemenid imperial machine, the staircase reliefs, as described by Root (2003: 10), are “a metaphor of kingship and harmoniously ordered hegemony” intended to be experienced by the abundance of visitors—​local and foreign—​to the city. Instances of tactile interaction across this majestically sculpted façade offer particularly astute and artful representations of touch—​between human, animal, and material object—​that would have made an impression on the diverse audience moving through this built environment. For the gift-​bearing delegates on the south side of the staircase, the craftsmen—​designer and sculptor alike—​would have called upon their own tactile experiences to inform and perfect their depictions of touch, considering the shape, weight, material, orientation, and perception of each individual object held by these figures. Albeit very similar in form, the difference in representation of the hands that support the two vessels shown in Figure 4.9 accurately accounts for the different size and weight of the two objects; the same is true of shallow bowls represented, their bases gently cupped by the flat hands of delegates. The tight grasp and articulated knuckles of the delegates in Figure 4.10 are similarly convincing representations, of the way in which a person would hold an armband and the skin of an animal as depicted in these two instances. The weight-​bearing rod that rests on the shoulders of the delegate in Figure 4.11 bends as gravity pulls on the suspended baskets to either end, therein communicating to an observer a realistic sense of the pressure and weight felt across the figure’s shoulders as he strains to hold it in place, a visual articulation of proprioception, a person’s sense of the position and movement—​reaction—​ of his or her body in relation to other material and objects. A comparable instance is found on 87

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Figure 4.9  Vessels on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 23162/​N. 12801, P. 29345/​N. 15621).

Figure 4.10  Representations of clasped hands on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 23160/​N. 12799, P. 24944/​N. 15378).

the north side of the staircase where a groom supports the king’s chariot stool on his back by way of shoulder straps in addition to the whip and folded rug that he holds in his hands (Figure 4.12) (on proprioception, see McFerrin 2019 and Chapter 9, this volume). Contact between human and animal was executed in a similarly artful and accurate manner across the staircase, whether the connection is made through a hand resting lightly on an animal’s 88

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Figure 4.11  Delegate on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 22755/​N. 11861).

Figure 4.12  Grooms on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 28976/​N. 15246). 89

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Figure 4.13  Delegates leading animals on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 23157/​N. 12796); photo by author.

Figure 4.14  Lion and bull in combat on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 57540/​N. 37609).

back, through securely held reins, or the clasping of fur (Figure 4.13). Tactile interactions between animals are also noteworthy, the most well-​known example being the motif of a lion biting the backside of a rearing bull (Figure 4.14). This theme of a lion and bull in combat was methodically repeated like clockwork on the triangular sections of all of the main staircases and the ends of sculptured walls at Persepolis. In each of these instances, the sculptor accentuated the points of contact between the lion and bull—​specifically the lion’s claws and mouth—​using the depth of the relief, these features standing out the furthest from the background, and with such 90

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details as the articulated ridges of the lion’s nose and details of its paws and claws. The reversed head of the bull similarly draws the observer’s attention towards this point of contact between the animals; yet at the same time the bull’s rearing forelegs connect firmly with the frame of the scene, breaking the illusion of the event by physically connecting the bull with the material restrictions of the architectural landscape in a somewhat jarring manner, his right leg tightly bent and his left leg rising at an unrealistic angle. Person-​to-​person contact was likewise repetitively represented across the Apadana reliefs. On the south side of the staircase ushers in Persian and Median dress are shown leading the foremost figure of each of gift-​bearing delegations by hand (Figure 4.15). The consistent superimposition of the former’s hand over that of the latter symbolises social hierarchy, the usher exerting control over the delegates much in the same way that the tactile interactions between human and animal above demonstrated the control of the former over the latter. Similarly materialising social hierarchy is a tactile gesture on the original central panels of the north and east staircases which were moved to the Treasury, likely during the reign of Artaxerxes I, and replaced by the current scene of elite guards in alternating Persian and Median dress (Figure 4.3) (Schmidt 1953: 162–​169, pls. 119–​123). The audience scene of the original panels shows the seated king and crown prince receiving a bowing official whose hand is raised to his mouth; this gesture, of touching the lip with the hand or covering the mouth, was an act of social etiquette and reverence, here directed towards the king as superior, and one which the designers of the sculptural programme—​realising the vision of the king—​would have been intimately familiar with themselves (Figure 4.16). The north side of the eastern staircase, in contrast, presents gestures of equality between the figures of dignitaries in Persian and Median dress, including clasped hands between neighbouring figures and the hand of one figure resting gently on the shoulder of the figure in front or on the chest of the figure behind (Figure 4.17). All of these demonstrations of touch, in particular between humans but also those including animals and material objects, produced in stone would have amplified in people observing the reliefs a desire—​concurrently encouraged by the tactile traces of the sculptors and the materiality of the reliefs discussed above—​to engage with these scenes carved in stone in a tactile way, which brings us to the final realm of touch to be considered—​tactile encounters with art.

Figure 4.15  Ushers leading delegates on the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 29001/​N. 15271). 91

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Figure 4.16  Central panel from the eastern façade of the Apadana, excavated in the Treasury, on display at the National Museum of Iran, Tehran. Source: Photo by author.

Figure 4.17  North side of the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 28975/​N. 15245). 92

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Curating and producing interactions with art Many discussions of the Apadana sculptural programme focus primarily on the iconography as if these grand façades were works of art created for and displayed in a museum, a space within which curators create an environment that prioritises the visual experience. Often found alongside such museum displays are stanchions that maintain a “safe distance” between person and object (Figure 4.16), accompanied by bold signage that reprimands visitors from having any thoughts of taking a deeper dive through other forms of engagement, in particular a tactile one. In fact, when one visits the site of Persepolis today, stanchions and foot paths guide and govern visitors’ movements, producing a predominantly visual experience of the preserved stone architecture atop the terrace. The very need for such distancing devices, and similarly signs in museums and at archaeological sites prohibiting touch, confirms that we as humans have an instinct to acquire tactile knowledge of objects within our immediate space, that we have a natural longing to touch. Only a few centuries ago, as private collections transitioned to early museums, the handling of objects was encouraged so that visitors could gain tactile knowledge of exotic artefacts. Museum professionals utilised the multisensory affordances of their collections—​that is to say, not just the visual—​in order to curate and produce a distinct interactive experience. This tradition is perfectly captured in Willem van Haecht’s 1628 The Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest (Figure 4.18) (Classen 2007; Howes 2014). The seventeenth-​century empirical philosopher Robert Hooke stated that “ ‘ocular inspection’ must be accompanied by the ‘manual handling … of the very things themselves’ when studying an object” (quoted in Classen 2012: 140–​141). Classen (2005: 279) provides a wonderful simile for this early museum experience: “to be invited to peruse a collection of exotic artefacts or objets d’art and not touch anything would be like being invited to someone’s home for dinner and not touching the food.” Classen (2012: 141) extrapolates further on the rewards of a tactile experience for visitors: Sight requires distance to function properly, detaching the observer from the observed. Touch, by contrast, annihilates distance and physically unites the toucher and the touched. Handling museum artefacts gave visitors the satisfaction of an intimate encounter. The experience created for museum visitors in these instances allowed them the thrill of coming into vicarious contact with the original creators and users of the artefacts, albeit disassociated from their original context—​to hold the spear of a warrior, the blade of a surgeon. Sophie de la Roche, a German visitor to the British Museum in 1786, wrote the following of her experience (quoted in Classen 2007: 902): With what sensations one handles a Carthaginian helmet excavated near Capua, household utensils from Herculaneum … There are mirrors too, belonging to Roman matrons … with one of these mirrors in my hand I looked amongst the urns, thinking meanwhile, ‘Maybe chance has preserved amongst these remains some part of the dust from the fine eyes of a Greek or Roman lady, who so many centuries ago surveyed herself in this mirror.’ Sculpture similarly presents the opportunity to appreciate through touch the skill and ingenuity of the sculptors who fashioned these works of art from rough stone. For the sixteenth-​century Florentine historian Benedetto Varchi, touch “alone could appreciate the artifice involved in a


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Figure 4.18  The Gallery of Cornelis Van der Geest, by Willem van Haecht II, 1628. Rubenshuis, Antwerp (RH.S.171). Source: Photo by Bart Huysmans and Michel Wuyts.

sculpted work, such as the transformation of hard marble into seemingly soft flesh” (Classen 2005: 279). Bringing these considerations back to the ancient world, I turn to the art historian Aloïs Riegl, who, writing in 1901, reflected on ancient Egyptian sculpture when considering the materiality and tactile experience of ancient objects. Such statues, for Riegl (Late Roman Art History, quoted in Lant 1995: 72), had a lifeless flat form when viewed from a distance, yet “from greater proximity, the planes become increasingly lively, until eventually the fine modelling can be felt entirely, when one lets the tip of the fingers glide over them.” He further asserted that with ancient Greek relief carving a true tactile-​optical perception was realised: because of the projection and recession of Greek sculpture, a viewer did not have to touch the sculpture to apprehend its materiality, yet it was not until Roman art that a full optical perception was achieved (see further, Candlin 2010). While Riegl’s assessment of pre-​modern art practices and visual knowledge can be critiqued, his description of the sense of touching sculpture is noteworthy, of gliding one’s fingers over fine modelling. In her characterisation of an observer moving about the terrace of Persepolis, Root (2018: 202) similarly finds herself considering the tactile allure of the sculptured reliefs: “The visitor to Persepolis moves in a built landscape in which images of humans and their things offer fluctuating experiential scales. Furthermore, the exquisite detailing of some of the worn and carried things tantalises the eye and tempts tactility” (see also McFerrin 2019).


Exploration of the Apadana reliefs

If visitors to Persepolis during the Achaemenid period succumbed to these temptations of tactility exuded by the Apadana reliefs—​temptations that may very well have been intentionally produced by the sculptors and designers when creating these works of art—​their well-​polished planes, which Roaf (1983: 42) describes as resembling black glass, would have caressed a person’s fingertips much in the same way as Riegl describes for ancient Egyptian sculpture. Concurrently jagged textures and deep edges would have obstructed movement. Variable surface temperatures would also have been felt—​warmth in areas that retained heat from the sun and a coolness on surfaces cast in shadow. Painted surfaces and precious metal and stone inlays and attachments, which would have been present in antiquity, may have increased this tactile temptation, the experience being all the more sensual and powerful. Alternately, perhaps an observer would have avoided touching the painted features and instead traced their fingers over the carved out lines of the sculptors’ marks on the unpainted background. Not only the materiality of the reliefs but also aspects of the scenes portrayed would have produced a longing to touch—​specifically, the tactile encounters between human, animal, and object. In seeing these moments of contact between things, between agents, one cannot help but feel a pull to re-​enact, to join in with these most intimate and primal of bodily gestures. In addition to the sensory experience of the material surface, touching the reliefs would have afforded an immediate and intimate connection with the sculptors whose hands fashioned the stone, the designers who envisioned the overall composition, and simultaneously with the people who served as inspiration—​the delegates who travelled to Persepolis with their gifts and the courtly attendants who moved about in proximity to the king. The scale of the various sculptured features, the “fluctuating experiential scales” as defined by Root above, may have played an additional role in determining which tactile temptations were acted upon. The less-​than-​life-​size scale (about 0.9 metre tall; compare the person on the far left to the carved figures in Figure 4.3) of the gift-​bearing delegates on the south side and the guards and courtly attendants of the north side, all of which were arranged in three registers beginning at ground level, may have given observers a sense of supremacy that would have encouraged touch, for those features within reach for an observer. The figures of the central panels—​both the original and the replacement panels—​were slightly larger (the crown prince and seated king were just over 2 metres) but overall human scaled, as described by Root (2018), who concludes of these panels that “a passerby senses membership in the same human family as these figures. He does not sense scalar domination.” These feelings of belonging, of membership, that the reliefs produced in observers may have emboldened their desires to reach out and touch the surface, to connect with the human figures protruding from the stone. Ascending the stairs to enter the Apadana offered a different scaled experience, the guards at the base of the interior faces of the stairs measuring a mere 0.76 metre in height (Figure 4.19); Root (2018) describes this band of figures as “diminutive military figures [that] feel like bodyguards intent on sticking by while also blending in.” Closer to eye-​level is a diagonal band of rosettes topped by cypress trees and stylised palm trees, features that figure prominently throughout the Persepolis sculptural programme and which offer their own dynamic qualities for tactile engagement. Upon reaching the upper level of the staircase, a visitor would next enter the great audience hall—​a dynamic built environment filled with radiant tapestries and embroidered textiles, furniture of exquisite woodwork and metalwork, colossal stone columns painted in radiant colours, and of course, people moving through this space dressed in opulent attire. The reliefs were but one opportunity for connecting with the royal landscape through touch.11 Of course, today’s ropes and tourist paths produce a very different experience, unquestionably discouraging proximity let alone tactile interaction with the stone ruins of Persepolis and restricting visitors to an ocular-​centric connection with the relief sculpture. This would please 95

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Figure 4.19  Western interior face of the central flight of stairs of the eastern façade of the Apadana. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (P. 28980/​N. 15250).

Foucault, who suggested purified visual learning that focused on shape, size, and composition, and absent of other multisensory information which he deemed unreliable, was the path to rational knowledge (Candlin 2010).12 Even if touch were permitted today, the sensory experience would not be analogous to the original context of the Apadana reliefs, since our cultural memory and learned tactility is altogether different than individuals of the sixth to fourth centuries BCE . Yet there is something to be said for the power of touch in connecting us with this past, of confirming for us the very existence of this period in history, of the sculptors, of the raw stone-​turned-​relief, of the audience. Carolyn Korsmeyer (2019: 26), in her book on touch in the past, quotes a passage from Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel The Marvel Faun to demonstrate this enduring power of the material presence of the past: One of the immense gray granite shafts lay in the piazza, on the verge of the area. It was a great, solid fact of the Past, making old Rome actually sensible to the touch and eye; and no study of history, nor force of thought, nor magic of song, could so vitally assure us that Rome once existed, as this sturdy specimen of what its rulers and people wrought.

Conclusion Margaret Cool Root (2015) wrote of the Apadana that it was “bound up in acts both of place-​/​ space-​making and place-​/​space-​experiencing as reciprocal social performance. It was meant to engage multiple audiences and participants visually, spatially, psychologically and spiritually in a 96

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dialogue about kingship, dynasty and imperial family.” To this list, I would add a sense of touch. The attention given to producing depictions of touch in the Apadana sculptural programme confirms that this mode of interaction was meaningful in Achaemenid society and an integral component of the Apadana reliefs as materialised performative event. What is more, the meticulous details of the textures and forms of these tactile encounters transform the stone-​scape from a static scene into an affective and active entity imbued with its own rich tactile affordances. The sculptors’ marks preserved in the reliefs for perpetuity and the unintentional traces of their learned carving abilities, along with texts that record the men whose hands manipulated and transformed the stone of these grand Achaemenid cities, reaffirm a permeating appreciation of touch—​of direct bodily engagement, tactile knowledge and creation, and of cultural memory. The craftsmen were in touch with their environment, their physical landscape, and in so doing, brought to life the diverse interactive sensory affordances of these majestic built environments. While the question remains, whether the craftsmen intended to create an environment that encouraged a tactile union between visitors and the reliefs, based on a powerful human instinct to touch makes me wager that, whether or not this was the case, such tactile desires were acted upon, intentionally and perhaps unintentionally, the hand being quicker than the mind.

Notes 1. As I finalise this chapter in 2020, I myself am experiencing the impacts of social distancing and isolation associated with the worldwide COVID-​19 pandemic, making this a particularly personal and surreal experience, reflecting on and writing about touch and tactile sensations. 2. Oriental Institute archaeologists identified this structure as a royal storehouse based on the quantity and value of objects excavated within; for a detailed description of these artefacts and the structure’s architectural features, see Schmidt 1953: 156–​200, figs. 74–​81. 3. Darius built the temple of Amun at Hibis in the Kharga Oasis, upon which are inscriptions of the king; the monument was excavated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, under the direction of Herbert E. Winlock; see Winlock 1941. Of this, Schmidt (1953: 27) wrote: “There is no doubt, finally, that the king’s regard for the architects of Egypt was as high as for its artisans whom he employed at Susa … and at Persepolis.” On the building projects of Achaemenid kings outside of Persepolis, see Schmidt 1953: 19–​39. 4. Darius as founder of the Apadana is acknowledged in Xerxes’ brick inscriptions from the exterior walls of the Apadana (Schmidt 1953: 71). 5. For detailed accounts of the tools and carving techniques used for Achaemenid reliefs, see Tilia 1968; Nylander 1970: 22–​72; and Roaf 1983: 3–​9. 6. While fewer traces remain today on the reliefs compared to when they were uncovered by Herzfeld, the use of such colours as red, green, blue, and possibly yellow can be reconstructed. Embellishments including inlays and gold leaf were not found in place when the reliefs were excavated; however, space for inlays and ornaments to be set in remained, for example for necklaces and bracelets, and drill holes were preserved in reliefs at Persepolis and Pasargadae (Herzfeld 1941: 255; Tilia 1972/​1978: II, 31–​69; Roaf 1983: 8). On polychrome and paint at Persepolis, see further Nagel forthcoming. 7. Although some of the marks are parallel to signs from contemporary alphabets, Roaf (1983: 92–​93) cautions against using them as a basis for drawing conclusions regarding the ethnicity of the craftsmen, noting that the parallels are “not surprising, as there are a limited number of signs available for distinguishable devices which are easily carved on stone.” 8. As discussed in Feldman (2021), no traces of paint have been found on the background of Neo-​ Assyrian reliefs, suggesting that these areas were also likely left unpainted (Reade 1979: 19; Sou 2015). 9. Feldman (2021) makes an argument for the importance of considering the carved stone orthostats of Neo-​Assyrian palaces as material entities in their own right, arguing that the primacy of the stone surface, the representation of dramatic voids, and the material solidity of the palace walls contributed to the emotive effects that shaped the experience of these artworks. 10. The Medes were a political and cultural group that inhabited Media, a region of northwestern Iran, which included the city of Ecbatana; they were most powerful in the first half of the first millennium BCE , yet were conquered by Cyrus II around 550 BCE . 97

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11. See further McFerrin, Chapter 9 in this volume, on the tactile affordances of reliefs and their impact on the immersive experience of visitors to the site of Persepolis. 12. Descartes, in Meditations on First Philosophy, similarly expressed a scepticism of sense perception as reliable in its own right, asserting that it is through thinking and our minds that we understand the nature of things and the physical world around us.

Bibliography Abraira, V. E., and D. D. Ginty. 2013. “The Sensory Neurons of Touch.” Neuro 79 (4): 618–​639. Azzoni, A., E. R. M. Dusinberre, M. B. Garrison, W. F. M. Henkelman, C. E. Jones, and M. W. Stolper. 2017. “Persepolis Administrative Archives.” Encyclopedia Iranica.​articles/​persepolis-​admin-​archive. Bezera, M. 2015. “Touching the Past: The Senses of Things for Local Communities in Amazonia, Brazil,” in J. R. Pellini, A. Zarankin, and M. A. Salerno, eds., Coming to Senses: Topics in Sensory Archaeology. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 105–​118. Blanchard, V., ed. 2019. Royaumes oubliés de l’empire Hittite aux Araméens. Paris: Musée du Louvre. Briant, P., W. F. M. Henkelman, and M. W. Stolper, eds. 2008. L’archive des fortifications de Persépolis: État des questions et perspectives de recherches. Paris: De Bocchard. Candlin, F. 2010. Art, Museums and Touch. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Classen, C., ed. 2005. The Book of Touch. Oxford: Berg Publishers. Classen, C. 2007. “Museum Manners: The Sensory Life of the Early Museum.” Journal of Social History 40 (4): 895–​914. Classen, C. 2012. The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. Curtis, J., and S. Razmjou. 2005. “The Palace,” in B. André-​Salvini, ed., Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 50–​103. Curtis, J., and J. Reade. 1995. Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum. London: British Museum Press. Feldman, M. H. 2021. “Assyrian Spaces: Surface and Wall as Constitutive Features in Neo-​Assyrian Narrative Reliefs,” in K. Sonik, ed., Art/​ifacts and ArtWorks in the Ancient World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Gopnik, A. 2016. “Feel Me: What the New Science of Touch Says about Ourselves.” The New Yorker (May 16, 2016). Hallock, R. T. 1969. Persepolis Fortification Tablets. OIP 92. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Helms, M. W. 1993. Craft and the Kingly Ideal: Art, Trade, and Power. Austin: University of Texas Press. Henkelman, W. F. M. 2013. “Administrative Realities: The Persepolis Archives and the Archaeology of the Achaemenid Heartland,” in D. T. Potts, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Iranian Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 528–​546. Henkelman, W. F. M., and K. Kleber. 2007. “Babylonian Workers in the Persian Heartland: Palace Building at Matannan during the Reign of Cambyses,” in C. Tuplin, ed., Persian Responses: Political and Cultural Interaction with(in) the Achaemenid Empire. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 163–​176. Herzfeld, E. 1941. Iran in the Ancient East. London: Oxford University Press. Howes, D. 2005. Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg. Howes, D. 2014. “The Secret of Aesthetics Lies in the Conjugation of the Senses,” in N. Levent and A. Pascual-​Leone, eds., The Multisensory Museum: Cross-​Disciplinary Perspective on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory, and Space. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 285–​300. King, E. 2007. Dalí, Surrealism, and Cinema. Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books. Kleiss, W. 2000. “Zur Planung von Persepolis,” in P. Calmeyer and R. Dittmann, eds., Variatio Delectat: Iran und der Western: Gedenkschrift für Peter Calmeyer. Münster: Ugarit-​Verlag, 355–​368. Korsmeyer, C. 2019. Things: In Touch with the Past. New York: Oxford University Press. Lant, A. 1995. “Haptical Cinema.” October 74: 45–​73. McFerrin, N. 2019. “The Tangible Self: Embodiment, Agency, and the Functions of Adornment in Achaemenid Persia,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 233–​248. Morgan, J. 2017. “Who Has the Biggest Bulls? Royal Power and the Persepolis Apadāna.” Iranian Studies 50 (6): 787–​817. Mousavi, A. 2012. Persepolis: Discovery and Afterlife of a World Wonder. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter.


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Nagel, A. Forthcoming. Pigments and Power: Approaching the Polychromies of Achaemenid Persia, c. 550–​330 BCE. Paris: De Boccard. Neumann, K. 2014. “Resurrected and Reevaluated: The Neo-​Assyrian Temple as a Ritualized and Ritualizing Built Environment.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Neumann, K. 2015. “In the Eyes of the Other: Mythological Wall Reliefs in the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh,” in M. Dalton, G. Peters, and A. Tavares, eds., Seen and Unseen Spaces: Archaeological Review from Cambridge 30 (1): 85–​93. Nylander, C. 1970. Ionians in Pasargadae: Studies in Old Persian Architecture. Boreas: Uppsala Studies in Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Civilizations 1. Uppsala: Universitetsbibliotek. Perrot, J., ed. 2013. Palace of Darius at Susa: The Great Royal Residence of Achaemenid Persia. London: I.B. Tauris. Reade, J. E. 1979. “Assyrian Architectural Decoration: Techniques and Subject-​ Matter.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 10: 17–​49. Roaf, M. 1980. “Texts about the Sculptures and Sculptors at Persepolis.” Iran 18: 65–​74. Roaf, M. 1983. “Sculptures and Sculptors at Persepolis.” Iran 21: 1–​164. Root, M. C. 1979. The King and Kingship in Achaemenid Art. Leiden: Brill. Root, M. C. 2003. “The Lioness of Elam: Politics and Dynastic Fecundity at Persepolis,” in W. F. Henkelman and A. Kuhrt, eds., A Persian Perspective: Essays in Memory of Heleen Sancisi-​Weerdenburg. Achaemenid History. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 9–​32. Root, M. C. 2015. “Achaemenid Imperial Architecture: Performative Porticoes of Persepolis,” in S. Babaie and T. Grigor, eds., Persian Architecture and Kingship: Displays of Power and Politics in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis. London: I.B. Tauris, 1–​63. Root, M. C. 2018. “A Response: Scaling the Walls of Persepolis Toward an Imaginal Social/​Material Landscape,” in S. R. Martin and S. M. Langin-​Hooper, eds., The Tiny and the Fragmented: Miniature, Broken, or Otherwise Incomplete Objects in the Ancient World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 188–​216. Schmidt, E. F. 1953. Persepolis I: Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions. OIP 68. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Schmidt, E. F. 1957. Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries. OIP 69. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Schmidt, E. F. 1970. Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments. OIP 70. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Sou, L. 2015. “Digital Recolourisation and the Effects of Light on Neo-​Assyrian Reliefs.” Antiquity 89: 348. Stolper, M. W. 1992. “The Written Record,” in P. O. Harper, J. Aruz, and F. Tallon, eds., The Royal City of Susa: Ancient Near Eastern Treasures in the Louvre. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 253–​278. Stronach, D. 1978. Pasargadae: A Report on the Excavations Conducted by the British Institute of Persian Studies from 1961 to 1963. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Svankmajer, J. 2014. Touching and Imagining: An Introduction to Tactile Art. London and New York: I.B. Tauris. Tilia, A. B. 1968. “A Study of the Methods of Working the Parts Left Unfinished in Achaemenian Architecture and Sculpture.” East and West 18: 67–​95. Tilia, A. B. 1972/​1978. Studies and Restorations at Persepolis and Other Sites of Fars. 2 Volumes. Rome: IsMEO. Uchitel, A. 1991. “Foreign Workers in the Fortification Archive,” in L. de Meyer, ed., Mésopotamie et Élam (Actes de la XXXV Rencontre assyriologique internationale). Ghent: University of Ghent, 127–​135. Winlock, H. E. 1941. The Temple of Hibis in el Khargeh Oasis. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.


5 Soundscapes and taskscapes in the ancient Near East Interactions and perceptions Agnès Garcia-​Ventura and Mireia López-​Bertran1

Introduction Work and music are two topics of research that have only very rarely been explored together in the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies.2 In this chapter, paying special attention to gender, we want to analyse the important role of music and sounds in the creation of an aural and acoustic atmosphere accompanying the kinetic and tactile rhythms of workers. To do so we take as our primary sources a sample of four texts classified as work songs or as lullabies and written in Sumerian and in Akkadian, the two main languages registered in cuneiform writing,3 in an attempt to go beyond the standard economic and social perspectives applied to the study of work and workers.4 This chapter comprises four main sections including several subsections. The first two sections offer an overview of previous studies as well as reflections on the challenges and definitions of work and music when considered together.5 The third section presents a selection of primary sources analysed, as case studies, from the perspective of sensory studies. Finally, we present some brief concluding remarks. Work and music are the two main terms we consider here to define our topic of study and choice of sources, the work songs and lullabies, as well as to frame our theoretical approach. In what follows we present some insights and working hypotheses regarding these terms.6

Work and taskscapes The first definition in the entry for the word “work” in the Harper-​Collins Dictionary refers to it as the “physical or mental effort directed towards doing or making something.”7 This maximalist definition has the virtue of being inclusive and applicable to a great variety of geographies and chronologies. However, from our point of view, its maximalism might also be perceived as a weakness: applying this definition, it is almost impossible to differentiate work activities from other kinds, such as leisure activities which might not be considered properly as work in a given cultural environment.


DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-6

Soundscapes and taskscapes in the Near East

Equally, from a gender studies perspective, a maximalist definition does not help to underline the difficulties we still face in current archaeological and historical studies in our attempts to approach women’s work. In fact, activities carried out by women are often naturalised and thus deprived of any “physical or mental effort” (to use the terms that appear in the above definition).8 As a consequence of this naturalisation, then, too often maintenance activities9 carried out exclusively or mainly by women in most cultures, such as child rearing, are not considered work. To overcome some of these difficulties here we define work following two proposals taken from the legal history of labour and from gender archaeology respectively. On the one hand, the legal historian Robert Carvais10 states that what differentiates work from non-​work activities is that the former are mandatory while the latter are not. At the core of the definition of work there is an obligation, be it voluntarily subscribed or legally imposed. From this perspective, maintenance activities such as cooking, cleaning, or child rearing are clearly work activities as they all are mandatory and necessary for the survival and management of the human group. We also argue for a reconceptualisation of work aimed at overcoming the customary binary production (mainly associated with men) versus reproduction (mainly associated with women).11 In this context we consider useful proposals such as the one coined by the archaeologist Encarna Sanahuja (2002: 179), which we cite here as an example.12 Sanahuja defines the work of women as potentially conforming to three elements: the production of bodies (usually termed reproduction), the production of objects (production in its more classic sense), and the maintenance of both bodies and objects. Taking into account this multi-​layered definition of the work of women and also Carvais’ remark on its obligatory nature, in our contribution we consider as work songs those traditionally labelled as such, for instance songs linked to farming activities such as grinding grain or ploughing, but also those traditionally defined as lullabies, thus placing at the same conceptual level opening up the furrows of a field and soothing a crying child. Delimiting the definition of work as proposed above allows us to analyse some tasks mainly or exclusively carried out by women in ancient Mesopotamia under a new light: for instance, grinding grain and child rearing. However, we are aware of a possible pitfall of this application of the term “work” to these activities: an anachronistic and ethnocentric classification of certain activities which might hide some of their features. For this reason, if for the choice of the sources we defend the usefulness of this definition, for its scrutiny we take into account the concept of taskscape. Taskscape (Ingold 1993) is defined as a socially constructed space of human activity which is always in process, and recognises that all tasks are interlocking. This word was conceived to confront the Western practice of classifying activities into groups such as ritual, technological, or subsistence, and is normally studied by looking at topics such as mobility, nature, public spaces, economy, or habitat. In the following sections, we aim to highlight how sensescapes are also constituent parts of taskscapes; and we do it through the study of work songs where aural, kinetic, or tactile features of working practices can be recognised thanks to the application of a sensorial approach to the analysis of the lyrics.

Music and soundscapes The second main term that articulates our contribution is music. Undoubtedly, as we have seen with “work,” “music” is a cultural phenomenon that is shaped by each particular society.13 When we think about ancient music, we apply our own biases and thus tend to focus only on the remains of musical instruments or the representations of musicians, both of which are often defined quite restrictively, in much the same way as we define them in our present-​day Western societies. Here, following on from the proposals of archaeomusicological studies in recent decades, we advocate a broader definition of music and musical instruments.14 In this respect, on the 101

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one hand we should bear in mind that musical events involve far more than just instruments and musicians; if we restrict our analysis to instruments and the musicians who play them we risk forgetting that music exists because there is an audience listening to it. And on the other hand, we defend that we need to consider musical instruments in a broad sense including “any agency that can emit sound, from the use of raw materials such as wood, bone or stone, to the human body itself ” (Watson and Keating 1999: 325). Using this definition, we can identify certain materials in the archaeological record which have never previously been considered as related to musical phenomena. This is particularly the case when dealing with the taskscapes in some of the working environments we consider below. Furthermore, “music” is traditionally defined as opposed to “sound” and to “noise.” In this direction, the definition coined by the ethnomusicologist and anthropologist John Blacking proposes that music is constituted by “humanly organized sounds” (Blacking 1973: 3–​31). Sound, for its part, might be considered as being produced without human intervention, and thus being of natural origin, and not perceived as unpleasant. Finally, “noise” may be of natural or of human origin and is often perceived as unpleasant, or at least not consciously perceived as pleasant. We see then that where the three phenomena differ is in their origin (that is, whether or not humans intervene) and in the ways in which they are perceived. While the origin may remain the same over the ages, perceptions depend on geographies and chronologies: when we think about sound, music, and noise, the distinctions we make will probably be different from the ones our ancestors would have made. Thus, our preconceptions about music are likely to be different as well; what people from the ancient Near East in diverse chronologies experienced and understood as musical phenomena may well seem alien to us. For this reason, in our analyses of work songs we include some insights into how the distinctions between noise and music, between sounds perceived as pleasant and as unpleasant, were shaped in the ancient Near East. This is indeed fundamental to a better understanding of the use and function of work songs in the ancient Near Eastern context. However, despite how our perceptions of pleasant and unpleasant sounds might differ over geographies and chronologies, in this chapter we follow the expert on psychoacoustics, James Beament (2001: xiv), who stated, not without controversy, that “the mainspring of music has been the production of pleasurable sound sensations.” Keeping this common goal in mind would help us to better understand work songs, as these “pleasurable sensations” would both accompany and facilitate the execution of a given task. Moreover, facilitating the execution of a task is also linked to the combination of two elements also analysed in studies on the perceptions of sounds: pitch and time patterns. Despite both are almost always intertwined, analysing the preponderance of one element or the other might also help to better understand work songs. In this direction, while choices on pitch would be preponderant for lullabies, choices on time patterns would be preponderant for work songs related to grinding or to ploughing.15 Finally, another interesting concept is “silence”: the absence of sound or noise. At first sight silence appears to be the negation of music, but it can also be understood as a part of the sound system. In ancient Greece, and in Medieval times as well, there were two kinds of music: the music of the spheres (inaudible to human ear) and music as a human creation (audible to humans). These two kinds of music included silence, since one of them was not audible. These ideas were recovered by the modern avant garde, which considered silence, non-​audible music, as the most sublime objective—​indeed, an unattainable objective. Seen from this perspective, a piece by John Cage consisting of different movements for players made up only of silence is particularly significant: taking silence to be the main part of music is like using white as the main colour in the most radical twentieth-​century paintings.16


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For the case studies we consider below, particularly those linked to songs to soothe a child’s crying, silence is also a fundamental piece of the puzzle. In that case, as we will see, what is perceived as pleasant music (the work song or lullaby) is used to counteract a sound or noise perceived as unpleasant (the child’s crying). The final goal when singing in this case is to attain silence: none of the previous sounds, then, will prevail or remain if the song serves its function. So, to better grasp the complexity of situations like the one sketched roughly here in this chapter we also take into account the concept of soundscape. A term coined by Raymond Murray Schafer in 1977 to describe the sonic environment of sentient beings, a “soundscape” is the amalgam of different sound sources: it is not a result, a closed object, but a dynamic process between people and their environment (Rodaway 1994: 85–​86).

Approaching and delimiting work songs As noted by Andromache Karanika in the introduction to her monograph Voices at Work:Women, Performance, and Labor in Ancient Greece (2014), work songs have only rarely been considered as themes for research because “they are seen as lacking variety and are associated with patterns of work that have not changed dramatically over time. As such, they have been little more than a footnote in most scholarly works.”17 However, as we argue in this chapter, they have a great deal to offer to researchers interested in myriad approaches. So far, work songs have been studied mainly in two geographical and chronological contexts, to an extent due to the richness of the sources available, but also due to other contingent reasons. On the one hand, work songs in contemporary United States history have been a path followed to approach the history of the African American community and also the roots of musical genres such as jazz.18 On the other hand, work songs in the Aegean have been approached in ethnological analyses dealing with twentieth-​century CE evidence, in studies in Classics dealing with ancient Greek sources, and even in analyses comparing both ancient and modern Aegean work songs linked mainly to agricultural activities.19 Despite the differences in these geographies (the United States and the Aegean) and chronologies (covering a range of more than two thousand years between the oldest and the newest sources) and although they are far removed from our ancient Near Eastern sources, we believe that using them as inspiration and, occasionally, for comparison with our sources, might be productive. We do this at some points below; and when we do so, certain common concerns appear. In this respect, a first basic concern that is common in all these studies is precisely the distinction of what are and what are not work songs, and how we can study music at work if it is not through the identification of texts which might fit in what we define as this literary genre. To overcome some of the possible problems arising from these concerns, studies dealing with contemporary history propose a move from considering work songs to a focus on singing at work (Korczynski et al. 2013: 19–​20). Despite acknowledging the relevance and usefulness of this epistemological change, we do not think it is fully applicable to the scrutiny of the past due to the limitations we have in accessing our sources, which come down to us only in their written rather than oral form. However, even if we concentrate only on what we identify as work songs, the classification of ancient Near Eastern texts in literary genres is not unproblematic—​as several scholars have discussed at length.20 Moreover, discussing the written or the oral origin of some of these texts complicates the debates further.21 Indeed, when discussing texts customarily labelled as “work songs” and as “lullabies” these two debates intertwine.22 Consequently both the identification of ancient texts as pertaining to these genres and even the suitability of the use of these labels as categories of analysis need to be


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discussed rather than taken for granted. In this connection, following the remarks on the definition of work presented above, we question the standard division between work songs and lullabies as it perpetuates binaries such as public/​private or productive/​reproductive work which, as pointed out above, have been amply contested from a gender studies perspective. For this reason, conceptually we consider all the texts we analyse below as work songs although we will use both labels in certain cases for the sake of clarity, particularly when referring to previous research. Also, along these lines, it is interesting to notice, as further support for our conceptual choice, that the consideration of lullabies as work songs is by no means new. In book 14 of The Deipnosophists (14.618e) the Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus of Naucratis (second and third centuries CE ) includes at least one specific type of lullaby, the katabaukalêseis sung by wet-​nurses, in a broader compilation of work songs of various kinds.23 Karanika (2014: 160–​181) also includes lullabies in her study of work songs. These two examples, ancient and modern, related to Aegean sources, consider at least some lullabies as work songs; and so perhaps it is anachronistic to consider work songs and lullabies as completely different texts and to ignore the contact points among them. As an example of these points of contact, we refer to connections in the context of performance between ancient Near Eastern texts so far labelled as work songs and as lullabies. To show this through the texts we select for our analyses (see below for more details on these texts and for the texts themselves) while two of the four compositions can be labelled as maintenance songs related to everyday tasks (Song of the Millstone and Lullaby for a Son of Šulgi), the other two are ritualised ones as they were intended to be performed in enactments (Song of the Plowing Oxen and To Calm a Baby). We see then that moving the focus from a divide into two literary genres towards shared contexts of performance of the texts might offer new insights, related to the multisensory experiences of the singers and their audience, as we will develop in the following sections.

Sensing the past: an overview In this chapter, we analyse the sources selected and presented below from the perspective of sensory studies. Our aim thus is to identify the elements that comprise the so-​called sensescape at work, emphasising the interaction between soundscapes and taskscapes in these sources. To contextualise the analysis that follows, here we offer some insights into the “sensorial turn” in studies on the ancient world in general and on the ancient Near East in particular. In recent decades, the “sensorial turn” has been influential for scholars dealing with the study of past societies.24 It is generally agreed that the senses are socially constructed and context-​ specific, even though they are neurophysiological processes and, thus, universal and cross-​cultural (Howes 2005; Classen 1993: 2). A common point in this research is to acknowledge that these approaches have privileged the Western Aristotelian and Cartesian division of the five senses25 and, more specifically, the sense of sight, because it is considered the most human (in contrast, for example, to touch, which is related to animals) (Stewart 2005). Aware of this bias, archaeologists and ancient historians have been trying to challenge this cultural division by offering fresh approaches based on ethnographic case studies that have demonstrated other sensoria like proxemics, the study of how space is used in human interactions, or the interoceptive senses, those received within the body rather than through external organs (Day 2013: 4). In addition, synaesthetic processes or intersensoriality, when the stimulation of one sense triggers involuntary experiences in another (Skeates 2010: 21), have also been analysed. As many of these case studies have shown, intersensoriality occurs especially in ritual contexts with the achievement of altered states of consciousness. From a methodological point of view, Hamilakis (2013: 12) 104

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recently proposed the concept of “sensorial field” to reject the idea that senses are structured by individuated external stimuli. This is a useful concept because it avoids the classification of the senses and offers an inclusive, comprehensive framework that comprises sensory perception, experience, materials, sentient beings (human or not), the environment, time, and social memory. All these elements are related and interact in different ways, such as in the case of the circulation of substances or movements. Archaeologists, ancient historians, and philologists alike are able to recover the role of the senses in given societies because the material culture (ranging from pots to buildings and to texts) has material features that can be analysed through sensorial lenses; for instance, the eye-​catching colours and the smooth or shiny surfaces with which certain objects were crafted reflect the significance of sight and haptic experiences.26 Equally, architecture has also been a privileged arena for focusing on the interplay of acoustics, visibility, and movement. The study of buildings has helped us to go beyond the five-​sense division because it allows an exploration of the kinaesthetic experiences of being sentient and moving through a built environment (Inomata 2020). The materiality of taste and smell has also left behind a large quantity of material traces, especially through the study of the containers used to hold foodstuffs and oils, resins or perfumes for burning. This topic has been studied particularly with regard to conspicuous consumption in rituals of commensality or banquets where synaesthetic experiences are fundamental (Skeates 2010: 16–​17; Day 2013: 13–​15). Moving on to our sense-​study, hearing or audition is based on vibrations that are detected by the ears and transformed into nerve impulses perceived as sounds by the brain (Skeates 2010: 13). As Skeates has noted, humans can distinguish different sounds over time and space, like propriocentric hearing (involuntary sounds produced by our own bodies); culturally patterned sounds for communication using the vocal apparatus, parts of our bodies and a diversity of sonorous artefacts; and soundscapes, already mentioned above. From an archaeological point of view, the field that deals with the search for culturally specific soundscapes is archaeoacoustics. This research highlights how acoustics can be a key element in deciding the location of artworks. Some case studies have demonstrated that places with exceptional acoustics would have been selected and/​or created to undertake and to perform not only artistic creations but also ritual activities (López-​Bertran 2019b with references to case studies; see also Chapter 17, this volume). Finally, it is worth highlighting the attention that research on sounds and soundscapes received in the framework of this “sensorial turn,” as demonstrated by the publication of the edited volume Sound and the Ancient Senses (Butler and Nooter 2019) in the series The Senses in Antiquity. Studies on the ancient Near East have also played their part in the “sensorial turn.” As noted by Hawthorn and Rendu Loisel (2019: 8), there are some precedents from the 1960s; an example is the research by Elena Cassin, with an approach clearly influenced by her training in anthropology.27 However, research on the senses flourished especially in the new century and is currently in good health, as witnessed for instance by several edited volumes on the topic: Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East (Schellenberg and Krüger 2019), Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East (Hawthorn and Rendu Loisel 2019), and Sensing the Past: Detecting the Use of the Five Senses in Ancient Near Eastern Contexts (Nadali and Pinnock 2020), as well as the chapter on Mesopotamia (McMahon 2020) in the Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. With regard to the most often discussed topics and contexts, the combination of architectural features, especially elite spaces, imagery, and texts has been an excellent avenue of research for analysing the interplay of movement, visual, and auditory experiences in Neo-​Assyrian palaces (McMahon 2013; Thomason 2016; 2019). Moreover, the multisensorial or synaesthetic approach has also been applied in relation to the achievement of sensory alterations through the Akkadian literature on death and banqueting (Rendu Loisel 2019). Another example of the combination 105

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of senses is the melammu (“splendour, light, radiance” in Akkadian)28 that refers to the emission of light by inanimate objects (Thomason 2016: 246; Thavapalan 2018). Finally, with regard to soundscapes, the works of Anne-​Caroline Rendu Loisel are essential in ancient Near Eastern studies. An example is her seminal monograph Les chants du monde: le paysage sonore de l’ancienne Mésopotamie (2016a).29 Among other things, Rendu Loisel stressed the importance of sounds in public and private spaces through the analysis of the Šumma ālu, a series of omens written in Akkadian where noises and sounds are well attested, especially those made by animals (Rendu Loisel 2016b). Lorenzo Verderame (2020a) also explicitly applied the framework of soundscapes to the study of spaces in Sumerian literature.30

Ancient Near Eastern work songs as indicators of multisensoriality In this section, our aim is to identify the elements that make up the so-​called sensorial fields, emphasising the interaction between soundscape and taskscape starting from the study of a selection of four work songs, a kind of text which the Sumerologist Miguel Civil explored at several points during his life. The first two texts we select were written in Sumerian and are among the ones discussed and translated by Civil in 1976 and in 2006.31 Here we reproduce his translations and refer to his studies for a detailed analysis of copies, context, and translation of some of the terms.32 The other two selected texts have been labelled as lullabies. One was originally written in Sumerian, the other in Akkadian. In this case we include translations issued in modern anthologies including Sumerian and Akkadian literature to help the interested reader compare these texts with others related in some way, either with regard to the chronology or to the topics discussed.33 We stress that we refer to all the four texts with the titles used in the modern editions. These are also the titles used for some of the following sections. In the analyses of the different work songs we refer to the characters allegedly singing the songs as explained in the lyrics and we also consider contexts of performance. However, we do not present hypotheses on the authorship of these texts for two main reasons. First, the use of “authorship” as an analytical tool is very contested in ancient Near Eastern studies. This debate is out of the scope of our chapter. Second, with ancient Near Eastern texts we deal with oral and aural traditions reshaped constantly, thus even if we agree on a certain utilitarian definition of authorship in this context, it might not shed light on the topics here discussed.34

The Song of the Millstone In this composition, a miller woman urges the millstone to work fast and to keep on moving so that she can finish her work. As stated above, the text is written in Sumerian, but in a variant known as emesal. Several proposals have been put forward to define emesal. Despite their discrepancies they all share one common feature: a basis which, in some way, links language and gender pointing to a predominant use of this variant by women in literary texts.35 Since flour milling was typically performed by women, as attested in a wide range of ancient Near Eastern written sources from diverse chronologies, the choice of this linguistic variant is significant.36 Oh, my small stones, rare necklaces beads … Work with the sieve! Oh my larger stones, stones for a neck ornament … Work with the grits sieve! Standing close to the fire, in the shadows, By itself, you, sharpening stone, are not working. My mouth is working on, 106

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My … is working on. My Millstone, I want to sing your song, who can sing something about you? The Millstone says to the Sharpening stone: My mother gave you birth, my god fashioned you. If we are siblings, if we have been nursed (together) in abundance why do you change my face? why do you change my nose? My millstone, go, go! Run, run! Bite, bite!37 An analysis of some aspects of this Song of the Millstone highlights a number of interesting topics. First, from a gender perspective, we note that the performers are female; indeed, as pointed out above, it is likely that both young and adult women were responsible for grinding not only in domestic contexts, but also in institutionalised spheres, as is recorded by the administrative texts and archaeological materials alike.38 A good example of this is the paradigmatic case study of Ebla, with the discovery of grinding rooms from the end of the third millennium BCE in the palace together with the finding of administrative texts recording the existence of a workforce devoted to milling.39 In this regard, it is also interesting to note that grinding is also a female task in the Aegean tradition, both ancient and modern. It is no coincidence that in the framework of the Aegean work songs there is a long, well-​attested tradition of grinding songs presenting recurrent patterns. The striking similarity between modern Greek grinding work songs and an excerpt from a work song quoted by the Greek writer Plutarch (first–​second centuries CE) in his Moralia (157e) has often been noted. In this passage Plutarch includes a quote from a woman who addresses the hand-​mill and says “grind, mill, grind.”40 In addition, modern Greek work songs are attested that include this sentence, also uttered by the woman using the mill: “Grind, my mill, grind.”41 Needless to say, both are also comparable to the last sentence of the grinding work song in Sumerian quoted above, where in the last line we find this same exhortation: “My millstone, go, go! Run, run! Bite, bite!” It has been pointed out that the similarity of all these exhortations might reflect the fatigue and apathy of these female workers engaging in this and other maintenance activities. In all cases they delegate the task to the hand-​mill and urge it to complete the task rapidly.42 Second, this song offers us an excellent way to highlight the multisensorial approach as it makes it possible to analyse the tactile-​kinaesthetic-​aural sense in relation to the use of saddle querns. The tactile dimension is clearly attested through the activity itself and the lyrics of the song: on the one hand, when grinding the grain, touching with the hands would have been essential at several stages: when pouring the grain on the mill and when collecting the flour after its crushing, which are clear transformative features of the task. In addition, the haptic dimension is clearly seen in the tool itself, especially the hand-​held upper stone, also known as the hammer, which is rubbed back and forth across the flat stone. This is an essential tool required for the task, and its contact with the hands of the women and the noise of crushing the cereals would have participated intensely in the creation of the soundscape. Here it is noticeable that this task is not only associated with obvious haptic sensations like the surface, form, pain, texture, or temperature of the grinder and the hammer alike, but also with non-​traditional or normative senses like the full-​body sensations of balance and the sense of kinaesthesia with the back-​and-​forth movement of the body, especially the torso, arms and head, along with the hammer. Thus, this task is a perfect example of the tactile-​kinaesthetic sense described by Ingold (2000) or Merleau-​ Ponty (2003).


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Looking closely at the aural aspect, the lyrics of the song reinforce the important role of touch between the mill and the women because the small stones, probably referring to hammers, are defined as necklace beads. The idea, real or not, of turning the tools into ornamental objects is significant because they become intimate objects in direct contact with the skin. In addition, the definition of hammers as body objects may be no coincidence because it reinforces the entanglement of personal identity, material culture, and technology: through the definition of hammers as rare necklace beads, women reinforce their skills as grinders and define their social role with this taskscape. However, we bear in mind that the jewels are much more than mere decorative objects; they are imbued with magical features and are also creators of self-​identity in relation to age, gender, genealogy, status, and so on, and, in this case, in connection with the skill of transforming grain into flour. Moreover, the use of necklaces as a metaphor of partnership is frequent in other Sumerian literary texts, particularly in love songs.43 It is also worth noting that the song itself makes it clear that it was used as tool to accompany the haptic and kinetic features of grinding. In fact, as pointed out above, work songs are a well-​ known category in history across time and space, and recent anthropological studies have stressed the importance of this artistic creation in several physical activities in order to measure time, increase efficiency, maintain concentration, or relieve boredom (Gioia 2006). The same might be true for ancient work songs, including the ones attested in the cuneiform record discussed here, as most of them are related to agricultural tasks (Civil 2017 [2006]).44 These work songs call themselves elilu, illalu (in Sumerian), elilu, elēlu (in Akkadian), and similar variants. All these Sumerian and Akkadian terms with a recurrent pattern of alternating vowels and liquid consonants (a pattern furthermore attested in many languages to express strong feelings)45 may also allude to the repetitive movements due to their onomatopoeic character. Moreover, the interconnection between the movement of crushing and the sound that was produced is already attested in the name of the millstone, known as na4kinkin, another onomatopoeic word that includes the repetitive action of the instrument, the hammer. This relation might be associated not just with coordinating timing among different women when grinding, but also to distract them from this physically hard and perhaps boring activity, a possibility also noted above when discussing the millers’ exhortations to their hand-​mills in these songs. The use of song as a tool to lessen the strain or to accompany the grinding can also be inferred from the sentence “my mouth is working on,” understanding the mouth as the organ through which the music (and by extension sound) flows, as an active participant in the process of milling. These songs, thus, focus on the tactile-​kinetic and aural properties of the items used to carry out the tasks and not on the end results; note that there is no mention at all of flour. This feature is remarkable because it gives us the idea that the performers of the whole taskscape (grinding and singing) are interested in signalling the enskillment of women. We borrow the concept from Ingold (2000). It is defined by the development of a crafter’s sense of self by showing the process of becoming skilled in the use of tools and the manipulation of materials; so we can consider it as an empowerment of female agency in grinding tasks. Also in this connection Karanika (2014: 158–​159) notes that the performance of work songs itself is a means of empowerment for women, as in doing so they also become ritual actors. In Karanika’s (2014: 159) words, “agents of work songs ritualize their own act by claiming through their agency more than their immediate task. They claim a voice that embues them with power.” Finally, as observed above, the use of the imperative is present here as well, in this case reinforcing this empowerment by transmitting an image of control and authority over the task described. In all, the agency of women as millers is achieved by the enskillment, which is mainly a sensorial experience based on touch, movement, and hearing.


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Also worth considering is how the lyrics reinforce non-​human agency. As Civil (2017 [2006]: 654) noted,“the speaker is a miller girl who reports a dialogue between the personifications of the millstone and the mill-​sharpening stone.” Indeed, the tools not only have the potential for agency, understood as the ability to act, but also animacy, which means that they have personhood or life force that is capable of producing changes in the world (Harrison-​Buck and Hendon 2018: 4–​9; see also Karanika 2014: 148–​149). The song shows how the tools have the ability to create a genealogical46 link in a dialogue between the sharpening stone and the millstone, as they are defined as siblings. But in fact, there is even more to this relationship: an emotional link is also recorded because a certain attitude of reproach is attested between the two objects. Certainly, Civil (2017 [2006]: 654) highlighted that this topic, the hostility between the two items, was a popular theme in other texts. As other archaeological studies have shown (Hendon 2018: 155–​159), implements can be defined as persons and agents because they are not made but born and described with bodily features, with faces and noses, and are agents capable of causing things to happen to other beings, in this case the miller. Indeed, as Civil (2017 [2006]: 654) wrote “the girl had a vested interest in keeping the millstone sharp, enabling her to fulfill her work quota.” To conclude our analysis of this song, we stress that it exemplifies clearly the interconnection of the senses in the creation of a particular taskscape, and also, from a phenomenological point of view, the song shows how tools possess sensorial and emotional features that break down the traditional subject–​object divide.

The Song of the Plowing Oxen If the previous composition was uttered by a woman, it seems that this one was uttered by a man who is summoning the oxen to plough a field. In this case the text is much longer and even though from the point of view of its form it is a work song, it was uttered in an agricultural ritual, probably by the king, in a re-​enactment of the ploughing oxen.47 (1–​6) [Ellu m]allu! Go, oxen, go, put the neck [under the yoke], [Go, royal oxen, go], put the neck under [the yoke!] I am [the faithful Farmer] of the land, I am […, the son] of Enlil, I am [the king] of the country. (101–​118) Ellu mallu! The harrow, the comb of my field, Has to be fitted with large teeth to harrow the holy field. The hoe must dig the edges—​remove the stumps! The hoe must dig the edges. Once you have taken down your sacred plow, which was hanging from a beam, Your master carpenter must tighten (its) bonds. Its side-​boards […]


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(139–​142) […] the sounds […] (S)he has to [hold] in his/​her right hand the measuring reed. Enkindu, the man of dikes and canals […], Should […] for you in […]. (143–​149) [Ellu] mallu! go, oxen, go [put the neck under the yoke], Go, [royal oxen], go, [put] your neck under the yoke! Step [on the furrows of] the fertile [field, walk] the sides [straight]. In the alehouse, the joy of drinking […], Inanna […] a place of relaxation. [Her heart(?)] is happy again. It is an [ululu]mama song for Ninurta This song revolves around some of the same ideas as the Song of the Millstone discussed above. As noted by Civil (2017 [1976]), this song is related to agricultural activities where the main protagonists are the oxen, and the Farmer,48 understood as the king. Although the lyrics are poorly preserved, the song tells that the Farmer has a dream in which he speaks with the oxen in order to choose one of these animals for the plough and an unidentified speaker encourages him to prepare the tools. Finally, the song describes a convivial drinking session after ploughing. The genre is clearly a work song as each stanza starts with the onomatopoeic sound to exhort the oxen to work. First of all, the context of the performance has to be taken into consideration. This is not a commoner’s song, but one that was sung during agricultural festivals in which the king performed tasks related to the oxen, using agricultural tools like the plough, the hoe, and the harrow to open the first furrows. Of course, agricultural festivals were significant events since farming was a fundamental activity in ancient Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to obtain a detailed idea of how some of the abovementioned farming duties were carried out or how the tools were used. An exceptional example of research that covers this gap is another study by Civil, his edition of the text known as The Farmer’s Instructions (1994). Among other things, this text mentions the ploughing with oxen and the opening of the furrows, the main topics in the Song of the Plowing Oxen under analysis here.49 With regard to the context of performance, as has been convincingly demonstrated by other contexts and chronologies, festivals and rites at Mesopotamian royal courts were highly sensorial experiences with the presence of music, convivial feasting, the consumption of luxury materials, and the exploitation of visual resources.50 Although our case study is slightly different, we can also assume that the agricultural rituals would also have been multisensorial. The importance of rhythm and music to facilitate the task of ploughing is highlighted by the onomatopoeic expression of “ellu mallu” at the beginning of each stanza; accordingly, movement is desired by the protagonists as the Farmer urges the oxen to move and work (“Go, oxen, go, put the neck under the yoke”). The rhythmic repetition of sets of movements and activities that is central in the conception of taskscape is seen in three moments of the song. Firstly, lines 16–​19 and 24–​25 emphasise the need for supplies in order to be able to bear the long day of ploughing; specifically, the song mentions bringing water and bread. This is highly significant as the Farmer receives the instructions from the “dream inducer,” the god Nanše. Secondly, although the text is poorly preserved, according to Civil’s translation (2017 [1976]: 401), in lines 43–​44, the song mentions 110

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two other movements and tasks necessary before ploughing can begin: picking up the clods before making the furrows and “chasing the birds away” before the harvest. In the same vein, in line 127 the removal of stumps is also mentioned, which is connected to the third task, described in lines 139–​142; here it is explained how the edges were delimited by a “measuring reed” which is mentioned in the work song, although in isolation. Thirdly and finally, the song ends with a clear sensorial reference: in line 146 an alehouse and the joys of drinking are mentioned. As in lines 16–​19, the sense of taste is the most obvious association, but we can also assume a more synaesthetic experience attached to the joys of drinking: the soundscape of the tavern with or without music, or the sensorial alteration of drunkenness.51 Thus, this song makes clear that the ploughing, either real or performed by the king, contains the essence of what we consider a taskscape: an embodied multisensorial experience with the rhythmic repetition of movements and activities that is enhanced by the music and soundscape, as the lyrics underline. The complexity of the soundscape is also attested by the animals and the tools because, as we have seen in the previous song, they possess animacy and agency: they have the ability to speak and to transform reality. During the dream, the Farmer has a conversation with a young ox (note the important role of voice, both animal and human, to create an emotional link between them). In addition, the youth of the ox is also very sensorial; the animal is described as lacking hair on its muzzle and having a clean skin because it has not worked yet. Interestingly, the text suggests a strong connection between the oxen and the equipment, as their relation is based, as in the previous case, on genealogical links. Moreover, Civil (2017 [1976]: 407, lines 59–​60) comments that “the ‘fathers and mothers’ are the plowman and his helpers.”This is an excellent example of what is called “enactive knowledge” because, to quote Civil (2017 [1976]: 407), “the young oxen, in a team with several pairs, were yoked in front to train them progressively to the task of carrying the yoke and pulling the plow.” This sentence puts the emphasis on learning in a socialised context, not in isolation; in addition, the acquisition of the task is based on bodily sensorimotor responses rather than on mental processes. Both features are fundamental to enact knowledge during task-​ learning processes (Tringham 2013: 188). Interestingly, this process has always been studied in regard to humans, especially children; but here, the protagonists of this sensorial learning process are the animals, which makes it clear how oxen also possess personhood and agency. In addition, it might be noted that the active bodily engagement of certain tasks (here, ploughing) is closely associated with the environment. A reference to this point is seen when the lyrics mention the sun, which Civil interprets as the use of the length and position of the shadow of the yoke to guide the ploughing straight (2017 [1976]: 407, line 61). Beyond movement and sound, the sense of sight also participates in the process of sensorial and kinetic learning. If the song here analysed was sung while ploughing, the music itself would take on importance. Lastly, this song also refers to a sense that is usually not taken into account as such: the sense of time. As Neumann has convincingly argued for the Neo-​Assyrian period (2019a: 255), the sense of time or time perception does not have a unique sense organ, but is relational and interplays with visual, auditory, and emotional states. It seems that our song refers to a festival and to astronomical aspects. More specifically, it includes three references to the sense of time: a ritualised one in relation to the festival, an astronomical one connected to the earth, and, finally, a reference to days of labour. With regard to the first, Civil (2017 [1976]: 397) argues that the festival most probably took place during the month of gud-si-su, recalling the connection between the name of the song and the name of the month, GUD being the Sumerian term for “ox.” Moreover, this festival was devoted to the god Ninurta or Ningirsu, a deity linked to agriculture, the other main topic present in the song.52 With regard to the second theme, the song makes reference to the passing of time because it mentions the stars, the bedding, referring to the night-​time and the dream, and it is assumed that the dream ends with sunrise. In addition, there is a comparison 111

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between the constellations and well-​organised rows of furrows, thus connecting the earth with the sky. Thirdly and finally, the song may also report a working day because the action finishes in a tavern or a similar establishment drinking and relaxing.

Two songs to soothe a child’s crying Our final examples are two work songs, traditionally labelled as baby-​incantations and lullabies,53 which may have been sung by mothers, wet-​nurses, or experts on incantations and divination. As can be seen, there are several possibilities here; compared with our two previous case studies, it is more difficult to determine who sang these songs. Indeed, determining this issue is closely bound to a debate on the origin and classification of these texts viewed either as lullabies, and thus coming from an oral tradition, or as incantations more linked to a written tradition.54 Consequently, in what follows we choose from among several possibilities to build our interpretations even though, given these circumstances, our proposals are necessarily speculative. The first of these two last texts is often named the Lullaby for a Son of Šulgi because King Šulgi (c. 2100–​2050 BCE ) is mentioned in the text and because it is assumed to have been commissioned by one of his wives. However, as noted by Halton and Svärd (2018: 103) in the introduction to the text in their anthology, “this assumption perhaps tells us more about the perspective of modern scholars than it does about the composition itself.”55 In any case what is clear is that the composition is sung by someone, most probably a woman, trying to soothe a baby that cannot sleep.56 (1–​5) Ua-​aua At my lament, may he grow. At my lament, may he get big. May he grow roots, like a tree may his branches spread. (12–​18) Sleep, come. Sleep, come. Sleep, come here to my son. Sleep, hurry here to my son. Make his open eyes go to sleep. Place your hands on his glinting eyes. And his active tongue, let its activity not destroy his sleep. (19–​23) May he fill your lap with emmer while I sweeten cheese curds for you –​ this cheese is a physician for humankind, a physician for humankind and of the lord’s son, the son of lord Šulgi. (24–​30) In my garden are lettuces that I have watered. I have chopped the hearts of lettuce. 112

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The lettuces, let my lord eat. At my lament, let me give him a wife. Let me give him a wife; let me give him a son. May a good-​hearted nurse talk with him; May a good-​hearted nurse suckle him. (39–​48) You are troubled, I am tired, I am speechless (?), looking at the stars the half-​moon illuminates my face. Your bones might hang from the wall. The man on the wall might weep for you. The mongoose might play an instrument for you. The gecko might scratch its cheek for you. The fly might trouble its lips for you. The lizard might stick out its lips for you. (49–​56) May this song make him bloom. May this song make him blossom. When you bloom, when you blossom, when you … shake the churn, sleep … bedroom … A soothing sound … Brings joy … The second and last text we analyse was titled To Calm a Baby in Benjamin Foster’s (2005) anthology of Akkadian literature. Below we reproduce his translation into English:57 Little one who dwelt in the dark chamber, You really did come out here, you have seen the [sunlig]ht. Why are you crying? Why are you [fretting]? Why did you not cry in there? You have disturbed the household god, the bison(-​monster) is astir, (saying), ‘Who disturbed me? Who startled me?’ The little one disturbed you, the little one startled you. Like wine tipplers, like a barmaid’s child, Let sleep fall upon him! (Incantation to calm a little one) The songs here analysed are very different from the previous ones because the Song of the Millstone and the Song of the Plowing Oxen are intended to accompany the soundscape created by specific taskscapes, whereas the lullabies or baby-​incantations are performed to stop a sound described as distressing, that is, a baby’s crying, through a sound perceived as pleasant, that is, the song and its lyrics. The final goal is, in any case, to obtain silence. At this point it is interesting to note that the 113

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perception of sounds or even of what might be described as noise in ancient Mesopotamia has a strong and ambivalent significance. If in certain contexts noise is perceived as positive, as a sign of civilisation and of flourishing human activity, in others the same noise is described as negative and as something that must stop.58 With regard to its negative perception, as is the case in the two texts under analysis here, it is worth recalling the plot of the well-​known story of the Atra-​hasīs, a mythological story about the creation of the world, which relates human noise with the disturbance of the gods’ rest and their punishment of humankind in the form of a great flood.59 There is thus a connection between this myth and the baby-​incantations and lullabies designed to calm agitated infants, as in both contexts the sounds of humanity and of babies crying are perceived as annoying. Thus, some baby-​incantations can be considered as abbreviated texts revolving around the same ideas of the myth, which basically recall the sequence of noise, the interruption of sleep, and divine anger (Heffron 2014). The Lullaby for a Son of Šulgi begins with a soothing onomatopoeic expression “ua-​aua,” which is also used to name these compositions. As in the example of the Song of the Millstone discussed above this onomatopoeia works also through reduplication and in addition, in this case, includes the alternance of the vowels u-​a, which is quite commonly identified in other onomatopoeic forms in Sumerian.60 In this song, besides the desire to have the baby fall asleep, the singer is concerned about the child’s health and future. On the one hand the mother expresses her intention to feed the baby with healing food like cheese and lettuce (Kramer 1971: 193). It is worth noting that cheese and other dairy products were not consumed every day, not even in the highest echelons of society.61 On the other hand, she also hopes for a successful and healthy future for her son, imagining his forthcoming wife and offspring (see lines 19–​30, above, and also 31–​38 for a reiteration of the wife motif). One of the recurrent features of this text is the personification of Sleep.62 Sleep has agency and animacy, like the materials analysed in the previous songs. It is described according to sensorial features: it moves in different intensities and degrees (enter, come, and hurry) and its touch is perceived as powerful because it can close the baby’s eyes and quieten his tongue (lines 16–​18: “Place your hand on his glinting eyes. And his active tongue, let its activity not destroy his sleep”). Another relevant topic is how the lyrics emphasise the tiredness of the mother in relation to the sense of sound because in line 49 the performer describes herself as speechless. Thus, the feeling of being tired is embodied through the lack of voice. In addition, lines 43 to 48 are highly significant in terms of the connectivity of beings and senses. It is likely that the song evokes how other beings, mostly animals, participate in the process of calming the baby through sensorial activities related again to sound and touch: the “man of the wall”63 cries for him, the mongoose plays music, the sound of the gecko touching its cheek seems to help calm the baby, and the fly and the lizard also take part in the calming process by transferring the sound of the human lament to their animal sound that emanates from their lips. Furthermore, the kinetic aspect is also worth noting as the mother’s bouncing or back and forth movement would have also been essential actions in calming the baby as much as warmth and caresses. Thus, beside the song itself, the sensescape, especially related to sounds, of the environment also participates actively in the process of soothing the child. Therefore, it is understandable that the lyrics refer not to the sound of the song, considered as music, but to the soothing sound that brings joy (lines 55–​56), which means that the lament ends and the normal sounds of houses return. In fact, silence is not a desirable feature for houses; as it is related to death, houses are expected to produce different noises like the ones made by animals, wooden objects, or the wind (Rendu Loisel 2019: 280). The presence of animal sounds as agents reiterates the Šumma ālu since most of the entries in this compendium deal with animal sounds (Rendu Loisel 2019: 296). 114

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Comparing the two lullabies, the sense of time is clearly referenced in both; they both refer to night-​time, the moment of the day when this sound is most bothersome. In the Lullaby for a Son of Šulgi the mother positions herself looking at the stars in the light of the half-​moon (lines 41–​ 42), whereas in the incantation To Calm a Baby it is likely that the place for the baby to rest is in a dark chamber and not in the sunlight. The last song, To Calm a Baby, also attests to how acoustic signs in houses are perceived as negative because they are understood as intrusions of negative forces (Rendu Loisel 2019); in this case it is possible that the crying disturbs the household god (cf. Scurlock 2003: 99, nn. 1, 2). The baby is likened to a drunken adult. The comparison may not be just a matter of chance, because it gives the impression that both the drunk and the crying baby are in altered states of consciousness and, as a consequence, they embody synaesthetic experiences64 which are not allowed in the domestic contexts of rest during the night; the baby’s crying might disturb the human and extra-​human inhabitants of the house and have unintended consequences (Verderame 2020b). The two lullabies make it clear how the senses are connected to emotional responses. In the first example, the mother-​singer expresses her concern about her child’s illness, and, thus, we can argue that the baby’s crying is the physical sound of the emotion of worry or sadness. In the second example, the noise provokes an emotional response related to anger. Thus, we conclude that the study of soundscapes sheds light on one of the multiple approaches to sensory studies which has recently been termed sensory-​emotive archaeology. Here again, the soundscape is connected to emotional responses, which is one of the approaches to sensory studies (Nugent 2020: 109).

Conclusion: singing at work in the ancient Near East Some common assumptions can be traced regarding the four songs that we have just analysed. First, it is clear that sound in a broad sense is central in the complex sensescape of the ancient Near East. Second, all songs recall the performative power of words and, in this case, of lyrics. Work songs are not just complementary of tasks; for this reason, as we have seen, establishing the boundaries between customary genres such as incantations, spells, lullabies, or work songs is not a straightforward task. In this chapter we have opted for a use of work song in a broad sense encompassing other possible genres for our analytical purposes, but needless to say this is not a closed option and debates need to remain fluid and open to other approaches. Third, singing was essential in daily tasks such as grinding, ploughing, and soothing babies. Indeed, we have seen that in all these daily tasks there is always a set of sounds which cannot be fully controlled, for example the sounds of the tools in the farming activities, or the crying of the child in the lullabies. The songs, in contrast, are created with an express purpose and for this reason they might be understood as an expression of a desire to control these sounds. In this connection, the use of the imperative is seen to enhance their efficacy. As pointed out by Karanika (2014: 163), “the imperative empowers the performer, giving the illusion of control over the situation.” We see then that singing in working contexts might empower the singers by creating a certain feeling of “domestication” of the uncontrolled sounds. This is an important point to highlight because, as we have already shown, sensory studies, especially in relation to sounds, have focused on ceremonial or ritualised activities rather than on daily tasks such as the ones considered here. Fourth, although we consider highly significant the desire of control as exposed above, it has to be noticed that the setting of pitch and time patterns is bidirectional. Indeed, the decisions taken with regard to pitch and time patterns in work songs shape some features of the task developed. At the same time, these decisions are conditioned by the pitch and time patterns of the 115

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tasks themselves. As an example, grinding and ploughing have clear time patterns influencing those chosen for the work songs, while time patterns of the work songs might help to set and maintain the pace of work as well as to get through the drudgery of the work. Sounds and tasks, soundscapes and taskscapes are mutually intertwined also at this level. Fifth, analysing the lyrics we can see how sounds interact with other senses to become important examples of multisensoriality where sounds, music, silence, and rumours interact clearly with touch and movement, but also, though to a lesser extent, with smell and taste. In the same vein, the songs are clear examples of what are called sensorial fields as they put together the ways in which humans, other-​than-​human beings, and artefacts present sensorial features that participate actively in the perception of the environment: the use of the land (in the Song of the Plowing Oxen), time (Song of the Plowing Oxen, Lullaby for a Son of Šulgi, To Calm a Baby), and social memory through genealogical links (expressed in the Song of the Millstone and in the Song of the Plowing Oxen).

Notes 1. Miquel Civil Desveus left us in January 2019. Both authors were lucky enough to attend his scholarly lectures and courses in Barcelona during our predoctoral training. We have fond memories of those sessions. When we received the invitation from Kiersten Neumann and Allison Thomason to contribute to this volume, we decided to choose a topic of study related in one way or another to Civil’s work. This is why our chapter deals with work songs. We include here translations of two work songs by Civil and we also quote several of his contributions to cuneiform studies. We dedicate the results of this research to his memory. We also thank the editors of the volume for inviting us to contribute, and Lorenzo Verderame for his kindness in sharing with us several of his recent publications on topics closely related to our theme. 2. Exceptions are recent studies by De Zorzi (2011: 11–​16) and Verderame (2020a: 89–​90), both devoted to the analysis of soundscapes of ancient Near Eastern cities, including soundscapes related to work activities. 3. Cuneiform writing, mainly on clay tablets, was in use from the end of the fourth millennium BCE until the first or second century CE . The two main languages attested in this writing were Sumerian, an isolated language, and Akkadian, a Semitic one. Sumerian was native to the area surrounding the Persian Gulf, in current southern Iraq. It was spoken until about the end of the third millennium BCE ; however it was a written language during the whole time span of use of cuneiform writing, thus over three millennia. Akkadian was native to the area surrounding the current city of Baghdad. It was spoken in the whole area of ancient Mesopotamia, that is the one covering the land bathed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, from the beginning of the third millennium until the end of the first millennium BCE . The first written records date from about the mid-​third millennium BCE . For more details about both languages see Michalowski 2020 (for Sumerian) and Hasselbach-​Andee 2020 (for Akkadian). 4. For examples of the research done from this perspective, and for an overview of previous publications on the topic see Steinkeller and Hudson 2015 and Garcia-​Ventura 2018 (particularly the introduction). 5. As stated above, few studies have explored music and work together. For this reason we devote a significant part of this chapter to this combined focus. They are not included as mere introductory remarks, but as topics of study in their own right aiming to foster future research and debate on these issues. 6. Needless to say, given the complexity and range of terms such as “work” and “music” here we do not attempt to present complete or cross-​sectional definitions. For broader approaches to these concepts from the perspectives of anthropology and sociology, particularly discussing their delimitations and definitions, see the two classic references Jacob 1994 (for work) and Blacking 1973 (for music). 7. See​dictionary/​english/​work (accessed October 2020). 8. The same happened with activities carried out by the colonised when described by the colonisers, as noted by Jacob (1994: 103–​108). Moreover, this issue often arises in current studies when struggling to define and delimit the concept of work in antiquity. In this connection, for a gender studies perspective, see Karanika 2014: 10–​15. 9. For a classic reference on the usefulness of “maintenance activities” as a category of analysis for the study of the past see Picazo 1997. See also Montón Subías and Sánchez Romero 2008 for some case studies and previous references. 116

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10. See Carvais 2010: 14, with previous literature on this perspective. 11. For some insights into this customary division and the way it has been problematised by some contemporary feminist artists, see Mayayo 2011. 12. Many scholars, particularly those who apply a Marxist feminist approach, redefine work taking these premises into account. Besides Sanahuja, see Haraway 1991 for a classic and complementary reference work. 13. For some insights, see Blacking 1973: 31–​33, as a classic reference on the topic. 14. For a classic reference on the topic, see Lund 1981. See also Garcia-​Ventura et al. 2018 for some examples of studies in this direction, particularly the contribution of Jiménez et al. 2018: 173–​206, with previous references. 15. On the differences between pitch and time patterns in terms of sensory perception, as well as on their complex interaction, see Beament 2001: 139–​146. 16. With regard to the use of white as signal for a certain philosophical and aesthetical stance, see Joseph 2000, dealing with the series White Paintings by Robert Rauschenberg. For an in-​depth analysis of Cage’s composition 4’33”, the one discussed in our text, as it is only made of silence, in its social and intellectual context; see Gann 2010. 17. See Karanika 2014: 2–​4. Although Karanika concentrates on ancient Greece, her thoughts are also useful to approach other areas such as the ancient Near East. 18. See, for instance, Gioia 2006. For an overview of previous literature and for some reflections about the portability of the customary approach of these studies to other contexts, see Korczynski et al. 2013: 19–​33. 19. See, among others, Beaton 1980 and Karanika 2014, with previous references. 20. For some thoughts about this issue and for previous references on this debate see, among others, Verderame 2016: 5–​8. See also Brisch 2010: 153–​154, n. 4, with previous references. 21. For some insights on this debate, taking Sumerian hymns as a case study, see Brisch 2010: 154–​158, with previous references. 22. In addition to the references in previous notes, for some considerations on the adequacy of considering “lullabies” as a literary genre in the ancient Near Eastern context if compared with other literary traditions, see Farber 1990: 139. For some insights into the use of “songs” and “incantations,” with some parallel elements in the debate, see Worthington 2019. 23. For the whole passage in Athenaeus dealing with work songs, see 14.618d–​14.620a (Athenaeus 2011: 122–​133). See also Karanika 2014: 133–​139 for an overview and analysis of some parts of this passage by Athenaeus. 24. As a guide, see the seminal works of Pluciennik 2002; Hamilakis 2013; Hamilakis et al. 2002; Hawthorn and Rendu-​Loisel 2019; Skeates 2010; Day 2013. 25. For a detailed overview of the launch and transmission of the model of the five senses see, for instance, Hawthorn and Rendu Loisel 2019: 1–​3, with previous references. However, this awareness of the cultural construction of the five senses should not be equated with always discarding the model when dealing with the past. See for instance the remarks on the evidence of five senses in the Sumerian language; see Verderame 2020a: 85, n. 1. 26. For an overview on the topic, focusing on how these approaches redefine how artworks are considered in several academic disciplines such as archaeology and art history, see López-​Bertran 2019a, with previous references. In the milieu of ancient Near Eastern studies, the pioneer work of Irene Winter must be referred to. See for instance Winter 2002, with previous references. More recently and particularly focusing on colour and shine see Thavapalan 2018. 27. Glassner (2010) contains an obituary of Cassin that pays particular attention to this training and highlights the variety and richness. For an overview of the “sensorial turn” in ancient Near Eastern studies starting from Cassin’s research, see Hawthorn and Rendu Loisel 2019: 8–​10. 28. The CAD (M/​2 s.v. 10–​12) defines melammu as “radiance, supernatural awe-​inspiring sheen (inherent in things divine and royal).” 29. For a brief overview of the definition and application of soundscapes to the study of cuneiform sources see particularly Rendu Loisel 2016a: 19–​27. 30. Besides these references, for the explicit application of soundscape as a framework for the study of the past including Assyriology as well as other disciplines and methodological studies, see some examples in Emerit et al. 2015. 31. Besides these two texts, Civil is also related in a way to our third text, the Lullaby for a Son of Šulgi. As acknowledged by Kramer in his editio princeps of this text, Civil made several suggestions regarding this composition—​first and foremost his identification of it as a lullaby (Kramer 1971: 192, n. 3). 117

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32. In this chapter we refer to several publications by Miguel Civil as issued in the year 2017 but include the original publication year in square brackets. The 2017 publication is a selection of papers by Civil which includes, among others, the four we refer to here. To facilitate further checking by the readers, we always provide page numbers from this compilation, accessible online (http://​​ dspace/​handle/​2445/​129686, accessed February 2020). 33. For overviews of Sumerian and n Akkadian literature, see Rubio 2009 and Foster 2009 respectively. 34. For some features of these debates, with different points of view, see Halton and Svärd 2018: 30–​34 and Helle 2019, with previous references. 35. For an overview of some of these diverse proposals see Garcia-​Ventura 2017. 36. Civil (2017 [2006]: 654) highlights the use of “emesal” as well. For an overview of Sumerian literary genres where the use of the “emesal” linguistic variant is commonly attested, see Rubio 2009: 1369–​1370. 37. Translation into English by Civil 2017 [2006]: 659–​660. 38. Civil (2017 [2006]: 654, 665) also alludes to this issue in his publication of this work song. For an overview of ancient Near Eastern sources, including the case of Ebla, see also Milano 1993–​1997. 39. On this evidence at Ebla see Biga 1991 (for the administrative texts and an overview of female occupations recorded there) and Peyronel et al. 2014 (for the study of archaeobotanical, architectural, and ceramic materials related to grinding rooms, with previous references). 40. For an English translation of the whole excerpt by Plutarch and for a more detailed analysis with further comparisons and references, see Karanika 2014: 144–​153. 41. For examples of modern Greek work songs comparable to Plutarch, including the ones alluded to here, see Beaton 1980: 146–​147; Karanika 2014: 157. 42. Karanika 2014: 158. Cf. Civil 2017 [2006]: 654. See also, Stol 2016: 352–​353 which briefly comments on this issue starting from the Sumerian Song of the Millstone. 43. For an overview of the use of necklaces, linking them to possible wedding rituals, see Stol 2016: 93–​94, with previous references. 44. For examples of ancient Greek work songs linked to agricultural activities such as threshing, harvesting, or making wine, see Karanika 2014, particularly 153–​159, 201–​218. 45. On these terms and this recurrent pattern in Akkadian referring to certain songs in comparison to cases of other modern and ancient languages, with further references, see Rendu Loisel 2016a: 105–​107. For further references on the terms to designate work songs linked to agriculture in the cuneiform record see also De Zorzi 2011: 15, particularly nn. 74 and 75. See also Shehata 2009: 236–​237 for an analysis of the terms and of these onomatopoeic patterns in the framework of the ancient Near Eastern vocal repertoire. 46. We use in this chapter “genealogies” rather than “kinship ties.” Despite the terms having clear connections, we opt for the former keeping in mind its use in gender studies. In this milieu genealogies are often used to pinpoint relationships, which resemble features of kinship ties (such as affection or learning socialisation), but which do not involve biological or blood ties. Moreover, the term “genealogy” is also used in feminisms and gender studies to recover predecessors in activism and in intellectual work respectively. For a reference work on this topic, see De Lauretis 1993. 47. The text is 149 lines long. Here we only include Civil’s translation into English of some excerpts. For the complete text, see Civil 2017 [1976]: 399–​402. For an overview of copies and translations of the text, see Viano 2016: 56. 48. Here we follow Civil (2017 [1976]: 396) and write “Farmer,” with the first letter capitalised, when alluding to the speaker of this work song, and “farmer,” all in lowercase, when alluding to any other farmer. See Civil 2017 [1976]: 396: “The speaker is the Farmer, clearly not an ordinary farmer but either a god or a king” (our emphasis). 49. On these topics in The Farmer’s Instructions, see Civil 1994: 29–​31, 74–​86. For an overview of farming in ancient Mesopotamia to obtain a better context for this text covering several types of sources, see Wiggermann 2011. 50. For a comprehensive view, especially for Neo-​Assyrian monumental architecture, see Thomason 2016 and Portuese 2019 for palaces; and Neumann 2019b for temples. 51. On taverns in Mesopotamia, with allusion to a drinking song (particularly relevant to our case study), see Civil 2017 [1964]. 52. For more details on this festival celebrated in the second month of the Nippur calendar at the end of the third millennium BCE , see Sallaberger 1993: 114–​122. For previous references to this festival in


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54. 55. 56.

57. 58. 59. 60.

61. 62. 63. 64.

the cultic calendars, see particularly Sallaberger 1993: 114, n. 514. For the link of this festival with the work song discussed here, see Civil 2017 [1976]: 397. For a more general overview of festivals and rites linked to the agricultural year in ancient Mesopotamia, see Wiggermann 2011: 679–​682. On these texts see the monograph by Farber 1989, including a thorough selection of texts translated into German. For the translation of some of these and similar texts into other languages such as English, Spanish, or French, with a focus on other details, see, for instance, Farber 1990, Couto-​Ferreira 2016, and Murad and Cavigneaux 2018, respectively. For a summary of some arguments in this debate and the adequacy of the use of the label “lullaby” in cuneiform studies, see Farber 1990: 139–​140. Cf. Karanika 2014: 160–​181 for some insights referring to ancient Greek sources. See for instance Stol 2016: 368. The text has 100 legible lines in total plus a broken part at the end. Here we only include the excerpts discussed. For the complete translation into English and references of previous publications see Halton and Svärd 2018: 103–​105. See also Kramer 1971: 194–​198 for the transliteration of the text and for its first translation into English. Foster 2005: 172 = F II.20c. Compare Farber 1989: 34–​35 with other translations of the same text into German and into English (Van der Toorn 1999: 139). On this ambivalence, with diverse thoughts and examples, see, for instance, Foster 2005: 32–​33; De Zorzi 2011; Rendu Loisel 2015;Verderame 2020a. For an emphasis on its negative aspects and the need to stop them, see Van der Toorn 1999: 139–​140; Heffron 2014: 83; and Rendu Loisel 2016a: 167–​169. For a summary of the plot and parts of the text, see Shehata 2001: 4–​22. See also Verderame 2016: 28–​ 30. For an overview of translations and studies on the composition and its different manuscripts, see the references and insights provided in Shehata 2001 and Verderame 2016: 154. On this vocalic alternance with an overview of several examples see Black (2003). See also De Zorzi 2011: 7 for previous references. For other insights on this issue, starting from the case study of a term which meaning is linked to sound and noise, see Civil 2017 [1966]: 1–​5. To compare with the writing of onomatopoeia in Akkadian, see Rendu Loisel 2016a: 36–​37. For a case study developing this argument, see Brunke 2014: 345–​346. This was already pointed out by Thorkild Jacobsen in 1971 in a translation and interpretation of this text published as an appendix to Kramer (1971: 202). In this excerpt, this is the only non-​animal being. For an overview of superhuman beings such as demons in Mesopotamia with some examples also related to their entering the house and their disturbance of sleep, see Verderame 2017, with previous references. In contrast, in other situations in ancient Mesopotamia the achievement of altered states of consciousness is desirable. See Rendu Loisel 2019 for examples of Akkadian texts about banquets or near-​death experiences.

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Carvais, R. 2010. “Pour une préhistoire du droit du travail avant la Révolution,” in B. Menu, ed., L’organisation du travail en Égypte ancienne et en Mésopotamie: Colloque Aidea –​Nice 4–​5 octobre 2004. Bibliothèque d’Étude 151. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 13–​37. Civil, M. 1976. “The Song of the Plowing Oxen,” in B. L. Eichler, ed., Kramer Anniversary Volume: Cuneiform Studies in Honor of Samuel Noah Kramer. Neukirchen-​Vluyn: Verlag Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, 83–​95. Civil, M. 1994. The Farmer’s Instructions: A Sumerian Agricultural Manual. Aula Orientalis Supplementa 5. Sabadell: AUSA. Civil, M. 2006. “The Song of the Millstone,” in G. Del Olmo Lete, L. Feliu Mateu, and A. Millet Albà, eds., Šapal tibnim mû illakū: Studies Presented to Joaquín Sanmartín on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Aula Orientalis Supplementa 22. Sabadell: AUSA, 121–​138. Civil, M. 2017 [1964]. “A Hymn to the Beer Goddess and a Drinking Song,” in L. Feliu, ed., Studies in Sumerian Civilization: Selected Writings of Miguel Civil. Barcino Monographica Orientalia 7. Barcelona: IPOA/​Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 287–​307. Civil, M. 2017 [1966]. “Notes on Sumerian Lexicography I,” in L. Feliu, ed., Studies in Sumerian Civilization: Selected Writings of Miguel Civil. Barcino Monographica Orientalia 7. Barcelona: IPOA/​ Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 1–​10. Civil, M. 2017 [1976]. “The Song of the Plowing Oxen,” in L. Feliu, ed., Studies in Sumerian Civilization: Selected Writings of Miguel Civil. Barcino Monographica Orientalia 7. Barcelona: IPOA/​ Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 395–​410. Civil, M. 2017 [2006]. “The Song of the Millstone,” in L. Feliu, ed., Studies in Sumerian Civilization: Selected Writings of Miguel Civil. Barcino Monographica Orientalia 7. Barcelona: IPOA/​Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 653–​672. Classen, C. 1993. Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and across Cultures. London: Routledge. Couto-​Ferreira, M. É. 2016. “Parteras, nodrizas y cuidadoras en Mesopotamia,” in A. Delgado Hervás and M. Picazo Gurina, eds., Los trabajos de las mujeres en el mundo antiguo. Cuidado y mantenimiento de la vida. Hic et Nunc 8. Tarragona: Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica, 105–​118. Day, J. A. 2013. “Introduction: Making Senses of the Past,” in J. A. Day, ed., Making Senses of the Past: Toward a Sensory Archaeology. Occasional Paper 40. Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigation, Southern Illinois University Press, 1–​33. De Lauretis, T. 1993. “Feminist Genealogies: A Personal Itinerary.” Women’s Studies International Forum 16 (4): 393–​403. De Zorzi, N. 2011. “Rumori dalla città: le percezione culturale dei suoni nell’antica Mesopotamia,” in A. Ellero, F. Luciani, and A. Z. Ruggiu, eds., La città. Realtà e valori simbolici. Padova: Quaderni del Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità e del Vicino Oriente –​Università Ca’Forscari Venezia, S.A.R.G.O.N. Editrice, 1–​31. Emerit, S., S. Perrot, and A. Vincent. 2015. Le paysage sonore de l’Antiquité. Méthodologie, historiographie et perspectives. RAPH 3. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale. Farber, W. 1989. Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlaf! Mesopotamische Baby-​Beschwörungen und -​Rituale. Mesopotamian Civilizations 2. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Farber, W. 1990. “Magic at the Cradle: Babylonian and Assyrian Lullabies.” Anthropos 85 (1/​3): 139–​148. Foster, B. R. 2005. Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. Third Edition. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press. Foster, B. R. 2009. “Akkadian Literature,” in C. S. Ehrlich, ed., From an Antique Land: An Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 137–​214. Gann, K. 2010. No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”. New Haven: Yale University Press. Garcia-​Ventura, A. 2017. “Emesal Studies Today: A Preliminary Assessment,” in L. Feliu, F. Karahashi, and G. Rubio, eds., The First Ninety Years: A Sumerian Celebration in Honour of Miguel Civil. SANER 12. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter, 145–​158. Garcia-​Ventura, A. 2018. What’s in a Name? Terminology Related to the Work Force and Job Categories in the Ancient Near East. AOAT 440. Münster: Ugarit-​Verlag. Garcia-​Ventura, A., C. Tavolieri, and L. Verderame. 2018. The Study of Musical Performance in Antiquity: Archaeology and Written Sources. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Gioia, T. 2006. Work Songs. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Glassner, J.-​J. 2010. “Elena Cassin (1909–​2011).” RA 104: 1–​2. Halton, C., and S. Svärd. 2018. Women’s Writing of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Anthology of the Earliest Female Authors. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.


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Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hamilakis, Y., M. Pluciennik, and S. Tarlow. 2002. Thinking through the Body: Archaeologies of Corporeality. New York: Kluwer Academic/​Plenum Publishers. Haraway, D. 1991. “‘Gender’ for a Marxist Dictionary: The Sexual Politics of a Word,” in D. Haraway, ed., Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. London and New York: Routledge, 127–​148. Harrison-​Buck, E., and J. A. Hendon. 2018. “Introduction,” in E. Harrison-​Buck and J. A. Hendon, eds., Relational Identities and Other-​Than-​Human Agency in Archaeology. Louisville: University Press of Colorado, 3–​28. Hasselbach-​Andee, R. 2020. “Akkadian,” in R. Hasselbach-​Andee, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Languages. Oxford: Wiley-​Blackwell, 129–​148. Hawthorn, A., and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds. 2019. Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns. Heffron, Y. 2014. “Revisiting ‘Noise’ (rigmu) in Atra-​ḫasīs in Light of Baby Incantations.” JNES 73: 83–​93. Helle, S. 2019. “Enheduana and the Invention of Authorship.” Authorship 8: 1–​20. Hendon, J. A. 2018. “Can Tools Have Souls? Maya Views on the Relations between Human and Other-​ than-​Human Persons,” in E. Harrison-​Buck and J. A. Hendon, eds., Relational Identities and Other-​ Than-​Human Agency in Archaeology. Louisville: University of Colorado Press, 147–​166. Howes, D. 2005. Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg. Ingold, T. 1993. “The Temporality of the Landscape.” World Archaeology 25 (2): 152–​174. Ingold, T. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge. Inomata, T. 2020. “Ceremonial Architecture and Public Events,” in R. Skeates and J. A. Day, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. New York: Routledge, 248–​266. Jacob, A. 1994. Le travail, reflet des cultures. Du sauvage indolent au travailleur productif. Paris: PUF. Jiménez Pasalodos, R. and P./​P. Holmes. 2018. “The Aulos and the Trumpet: Music, Gender and Elites in Iberian Culture (4th to 1st century BCE),” in A. Garcia-​Ventura, C. Tavolieri, and L. Verderame, eds., The Study of Musical Performance in Antiquity: Archaeology and Written Sources. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 173–​206. Joseph, B. W. 2000. “White on White.” Critical Inquiry 27 (1): 90–​121. Karanika, A. 2014. Voices at Work: Women, Performance, and Labor in Ancient Greece. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Korczynski, M., M. Pickering, and E. Robertson. 2013. Rhythms of Labour: Music at Work in Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kramer, S. N. 1971. “u5-​a a-​ù-​a: A Sumerian Lullaby (with appendix by Thorkild Jacobsen),” in Studi in onore di Edoardo Volterra. Milan: A. Giuffrè, 192–​205. López-​Bertran, M. 2019a. “Types of Art,” in C. Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Cham: Springer. https://​​10.1007/​978-​3-​319-​51726-​1. López-​Bertran, M. 2019b. “Ephemeral Art,” in C. Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Cham: Springer. https://​​10.1007/​978-​3-​319-​51726-​1. Lund, C. 1981. “The Archaeomusicology of Scandinavia.” World Archaeology 12 (3): 246–​265. Mayayo, P. 2011. Cuerpos sexuados, cuerpos de (re)producción. Colección Textos del Cuerpo. Barcelona: editorial UOC. McMahon, A. 2013. “Space, Sound and Light: Toward a Sensory Experience of Ancient Monumental Architecture.” AJA 117 (2): 163–​179. McMahon, A. 2020. “The Sensory World of Mesopotamia,” in R. Skeates and J. A. Day, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. New York: Routledge, 396–​412. Merleau-​Ponty, M. 2003 [1945]. Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Routledge. Michalowski, P. 2020. “Sumerian,” in R. Hasselbach-​Andee, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Languages. Oxford: Wiley-​Blackwell, 85–​106. Milano, L. 1993–​1997. “Mühle (A. I. In Mesopotamien),” in RIA 8. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 393–​400. Montón-​Subías, S., and M. Sánchez Romero. 2008. Engendering Social Dynamics: The Archaeology of Maintenance Activities. Oxford: Archaeopress. Murad, A., and A. Cavigneaux. 2018. “IM 160096: un charme pour calmer un bébé qui pleure.” Altorientalische Forschungen 45: 193–​198. Nadali, D., and F. Pinnock. 2020. Sensing the Past: Detecting the Use of the Five Senses in Ancient Near Eastern Contexts. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. 121

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Part II

Dress and the body

6 Adornment practices in the ancient Near East and the question of embodied boundary maintenance Josephine Verduci

Introduction Evidence derived mainly from mortuary contexts and supplemented by pictorial and iconographic sources indicates that anklets were a common form of adornment during the Bronze and Iron Ages in the southern Levant (Figure 6.1). This evidence stands in contrast to what we know of neighbouring groups, such as Egyptians, Nubians, and Neo-​Assyrians, who in Egyptian iconography were shown without anklets. The practice of wearing multiple bangles suggests the role of adornment in the sensory experience of individuals in the ancient Near East; however, the nature and significance of adornment in multisensorial experience remain frequently unexplored. Studies of anklets have focused on their ethnic significance (Tufnell 1958), their metallurgical properties (Notis et al. 1986), and their role as an expression of gender and age (Green 2007); however, little consideration has been given to how sensory experience and corporeal embodiment can lead to decisions that challenge cultural meanings. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that emotions, as might arise through the sensorium of adornment, are integral to cognition and are an essential aspect of memory formation and retrieval. In exploring how adornment may have been implicated in sensory modalities, such as sight, sound, touch, weight, and movement, we can thereby examine the emotional and memorial aspects of embodied experience in the ancient Near East (Joyce 2005; Hamilakis 2013). Themes introduced by a phenomenological approach refer to the role of external forces, particularly relationships, and the role of emotion and memory to link socio-​cultural and somatic processes in shaping the self. A significant part of the role of others in our sense of self is the importance of memory and the imaginary of shared values. Such imaginings not only shape the agent’s actions but also influence the communities around them, either through positive reception to those memories or due to an oppositional stance. Through a strategy of reaching back into traditional memory and reusing jewellery forms worn by previous generations, some

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-7


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Figure 6.1  Anklets in Egyptian iconography: (1) Painting from Tomb 4 at Gurneh depicting Asiatic chieftain from the reign of Thutmosis III, c. 15th century BCE . (2) Triumphal stela depicting a Mitannian conquered in battle from the reign of Amenhotep III, c. 14th century BCE . (3) Reliefs from Karnak depicting “chiefs of Retenu” being carried away by the pharaoh from the reign of Seti I, c. 14th century BCE . Source: Tufnell 1958: fig. 4; courtesy of the University College of London.

communities may have attempted to re-​establish identities to assure the continued existence of their cultural group. This is notable, as there is potential for ornaments, especially for items made of durable materials, to persist beyond an individual’s lifespan.

The data The grave goods Bracelets, anklets, and armlets form the largest category of metal jewellery in the southern Levant (Verduci 2018). The custom of wearing bangles possibly arrived in the southern Levant from Anatolia, where they appear at Tepe Hissar in the Chalcolithic period (c. 3365–​3030 BCE ) (Voigt and Dyson 1992: 173–​174); thereafter, it is possible to detect a continuing—​albeit limited—​ presence across the region until the bangle becomes increasingly popular in the Late Bronze Age. Typologically, these objects change very little between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, although Iron Age I styles sometimes have blunt terminals (Verduci 2018: Subtype 3II.a.ii, Subtype 3II.a, Type 3IV), while bangles with overlapping terminals (Verduci 2018: Type 3III) become more common in the Iron Age than bangles with open-​ended terminals (Verduci 2018: Type 3II). The most exceptional bangles are decoratively incised, with examples bearing geometric designs suggestive of a non-​local origin (Verduci 2018: 195). By contrast to the Near East, the wearing of bangles within other areas of the eastern Mediterranean, such as the Aegean and Cyprus, is less common. The customary deposition of these personal objects within mortuary contexts reflects the intimate relationship between the deceased and their possessions while creating what were likely to be emotionally binding social memories for mourners (Verduci 2016) (see also Chapter 19, this volume). Open-​ended plain bangles with a circular section are the most common type found in the Levant throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages; the majority of this type is made of bronze, although many iron and even steel examples are known (Verduci 2018: Subtype 3II.b and 128

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Subtype 3III.b). In fact, some of the earliest steel objects in the southern Levant are not weapons or tools, but carburised steel anklets from the Baq’ah Valley dating to the Iron Age I period (Notis et al. 1986: 262–​267, 272–​278). In order to manufacture these bangles, molten metal was poured into a clay or stone mould, after which the bangle was annealed and hammered; the tapered ends frequently seen on bangles are likely the result of such hammering. Alternatively, bangles could be formed from block-​twisted or strip-​twisted pieces of sheet metal. These objects may have functioned as anklets, armlets, or bracelets; however, in most cases, post-​depositional disturbance and a lack of associated skeletal material mean that the intended placement of the artefacts on the body is unknown. Despite commingling of the skeletal remains and burial goods at numerous sites, excavations in the Levant have exposed in situ bangles at sites such Ashkelon (Figure 6.2a–​b; Master and Aja 2017: fig. 8), Jebel al-​Hawāyah in the Baq‘ah Valley (McGovern 1986: pl. 15d), Lachish (Tufnell 1953: 389), Pella (Green 2007: 290), Tell el-​Mazar (Yassine 1984: fig. 54:124); Tell en-​Nasbeh (Brody and Friedman 2007), Tell es-​ Sa‘idiyeh (Green 2007: 290), and Wadi Fidan (Levy et al. 1999: fig. 7), with many bangles occurring in pairs or multiples. An analysis of anklet use at Tell es-​Sa‘idiyeh in Jordan looked at how social roles were reproduced through symbolic communication and concluded that there were gendered differences in the wearing of anklets in the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age transition (c. 1200 BCE ) (Green 2006; 2007). At that site, high-​status male burials wore single anklets, while women, children, and infants wore anklets in pairs (Figure 6.3) and multiples (Figure 6.4). The anklet’s aperture sizes possibly correlate to the stages of physical growth over an individual’s lifespan. Green (2007: 304) argued that by being restricted to women, anklet pairs were symbolically linked to fertility, femininity, and familial protection. Nevertheless, we should not consider social factors, such as gender and age, in isolation from somatic factors. Although some bangles are flexible enough to have been removable, others are made of thick, inflexible metal and thus would have remained on the body as a permanent or semi-​permanent fixture. That solid bangles from Tell es-​Sa‘idiyeh, and elsewhere across the southern Levant, were not removable without specialist aid due to the thickness of the metal indicates that certain jewellery items marked the individual in ways akin to permanent and semi-​permanent body modifications such as tattooing, piercing, cutting, branding, binding, and constriction (Verduci 2012). Significant factors in the experience of wearing such objects encompass those of sense perception and weight; these factors might be understood with the aid of empirically observable data (e.g., Brody and Friedman 2007). My results from studying 661 metal bangles from across the southern Levant include 48 bangles that can definitively be classified as anklets due to being identified in situ (variously on infants, children, or adults), in addition to 43 bangles that are greater than 80 millimetres in diameter—​assuming we accept the diameter of an adult anklet as 80 millimetres or greater (Verduci 2018: 126, n. 367). When we look specifically at anklets worn by adults, including nine in situ examples and the 43 examples mentioned above, the results indicate that this group encompasses a broad range of weights, but includes, in general, a thickness range of 6–​12 millimetres and a weight range of 50–​247 grams. The experience of wearing such weighty bangles was an everyday reality for many inhabitants of the southern Levant, and accordingly, the sensations associated with wearing these objects would have impacted their perception of being-​in-​the-​world (Csordas 1994), which will be discussed shortly. Below, I continue to focus on adults rather than infants and children, while acknowledging that bangles were similarly, if not equally, commonplace in the adornment traditions for adults and children (Verduci 2018: 249). I am particularly interested in the sensory role adornment may have played in ritual and performative acts from which younger individuals may, perhaps, have been excluded before marking their passage into adulthood. 129

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Figure 6.2a–​b  Burial 246, before (a) and during (b) excavation, looking north. Source: Master and Aja 2017: fig. 8; courtesy of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.


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Figure 6.3  Anklets on skeleton in Tomb 123, Tell es-Sa’idiyeh. Source: Pritchard 1980: fig. 61.1; courtesy of University of Pennsylvania Press.

Figure 6.4  Leg-​bones and feet of burial in Grave 411, Tell es-Sa’idiyeh. Source: Tubb and Dorrel 1994: fig. 29; courtesy of British Museum Tell es-​Sa’idiyeh Excavation Project.

The iconography Moulded female figurines that date from the latter half of the thirteenth century BCE through the Early Iron Age demonstrate the manner in which women wore multiple anklets and bracelets in everyday life; these figurines corroborate the claim that wearing multiple anklets was gender-​specific to females, while single anklets were associated with status when worn by males 131

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Figure 6.5  Figurine, Tel ‘Ira (A.42). Source: Paz 2007: fig. 2.2.10; courtesy of Peeters Publishers.

(Figure 6.5; Green 2007). Female figurines wearing multiple anklets are numerous across the southern Levant (references are exhaustive, but include Beck 1990; Braun 1999; Chambon 1984; Daviau 2002; Finkelstein et al. 2000; Holland 1977; James 1966; Keel and Uehlinger 1998; Kletter 1995; Paz 2007;Yadin et al. 1961), and scholars widely accept that those holding round, disc-​like objects represent drummers (e.g., Tadmor 2006: 325). Still, the provenance of many of these adorned female figurines is unknown, but where that information is available, in most cases, the figurines occur in domestic or sacred contexts, including within buildings interpreted as religious structures, such as one at Tel el-​Farah North (Burgh 2006: 37). Some female figural representations depict frontal nudity, including Near Eastern pendants commonly referred to as “Astarte” pendants (Figure 6.6; McGovern 1985: 30–​32). This reference is to a Canaanite deity associated primarily with sexuality and war (Cornelius 2004: 93–​ 94), although scholars have assigned a fertility function to Astarte as she has become conflated with another Canaanite goddess, Asherah (Selz 2000). These piriform, pear-​shaped, or triangular pendants share similar attributes; that is, they are of decoratively incised sheet metal that consistently depict the pubic area, breasts, face, and jewellery. The prominence of the face and jewellery on the images is not necessarily associated with fertility but linked to sexuality or female eroticism (Benzel 2013). Alternatively, the category of piriform pendants depicting full-​body, frontal female nudity—​so-​called “Qudšu” pendants—​may be Levantine variants of Egyptian Qedešet iconography that reference the powers and attributes of the goddess Hathor (Budin 2016), who was particularly associated with music and dance. A gold example (KW 703) recovered from the Late Bronze Age Uluburun shipwreck off the coast of Turkey, which also held numerous sets of weights to fit different weight systems across the eastern Mediterranean, illustrates the movement of this subtype across the region (Figure 6.6; Bass et al. 1989). 132

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Figure 6.6  Gold pear-​shaped pendant from the Uluburun shipwreck. Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology (KW 703). Source: © Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

Discussion The underlying concern of embodiment theories shifts away from Cartesian frameworks of the dualistic notion of mind and body, and emphasises the cognitive perspective of social actors constructing their own reality (Meskell 1996; Rozemond 1998). The alternative phenomenological approach emphasising lived experience argues that the full range of personal and public relations structures a person’s sense of self. The agent is shaped by the multiple contexts and influences in which they are placed—​their engagement in the world shapes their bodily intentionality and implicates them in the bodily intentionality of others (Maclaren 2009: 29–​32). This notion of dual embodiment recognises reciprocal relationships between people and culture at a perceptual level. This perspective provides an account of the body as being in the world (Csordas 1994). Clearly, theories regarding bodily inscription require more intense scrutiny (Meskell 2000). Whether approached from a Foucauldian social constructionist position of the body as a site of display with fixed categories of difference, or a structuralist approach of “the body as artefact,” studies often ignore the issue of lived experience (Meskell 2000: 15–​16). Meskell and Preucel (2004: 123–​124) argue that traditional labels, whether related to gender, sexuality, religion, or rank should be broken down due to their subjective nature, relying as they do on modern taxonomy that might bear little resemblance to lived experience. For example, attempts to examine Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Cypriot figurines for insight into sex and sexuality and social relations aimed to determine the significance of individual characteristics without relying on totalising discourses, such as the generic view of women as “mother goddesses” (Knapp and Meskell 1997: 191). That study considered how figurines often incorporated ambiguous or dual male and female characteristics, the changing nature of pendants and birthing figurines, and how individual personal adornment markings distinguished plank figurines. The results 133

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demonstrate that scholarly bias assigns female gender to figurines and illustrates how assumptions about the characteristics of ancient individuals—​as well as changes in material culture from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age—​should be reconsidered (Knapp and Meskell 1997). Embodiment as a learned and lived experience is closely intertwined with the embodied or social imaginary (Dion et al. 2011). Shared bodily perceptions and understandings define one’s sense of belonging to a group and are vital in maintaining deep-​rooted ethnic affiliations across time and space. Two types of memory frame the concept of the social imaginary: founding memory and counter-​present memory (Assmann 2000: 79). The former type of memory imbues meaning into the present through its relationship to past traditions, while the latter type glorifies the past in contrast to perceived inadequacies of the present day. These memories are associated with fixed points in the past whose significance is recalled “through forms of institutionalised communications using specialised bearers of tradition” (Maran 2011: 170); that is, cultural memory is encoded in material culture, and conversely, material culture is implicated in constructing social memory. This notion brings to mind Paul Connerton’s (1989: 41–​71) influential study of social memory entitled How Societies Remember, which emphasises the need to include bodily practice alongside other accepted modes of transmission (e.g., texts and cognitive processes).1 Social memory can legitimise power and create individual or collective identities manifested in symbolic material culture. The embodiment of memory in objects, particularly those conservative cultural practices reproduced over extended periods, such as the practice of wearing bangles, may have served as mnemonics prompting memories with certain groups over more than one lifetime (Hamilakis 2013: 189; Joyce 2003: 104–​112).2 The value of metal jewellery extends beyond its appearance, durability, and potential currency. Highly resonant materials valued for their musical properties, such as metals, have long been an indispensable part of adornment traditions. The sensory aspect of metal bangles is attested in the biblical record, which refers to the tinkling of Israelite women’s anklets: “Because of the haughtiness of the daughters of Zion, the way they walk with heads held high and enticing eyes, the way they mince along, tinkling the bangles on their feet” (Isa. 3:18). Although the sound made by anklets is of enough significance to be mentioned in the biblical account, until recently the role of jewellery in sensory experience has been discussed for the ancient Near East in only a limited fashion (Brody and Friedman 2007: n. 12; Golani 2013: 87, 151; Thomason 2019).3 Following this line of analysis, terracotta plaque figurines of female drummers provide an expression of women’s lives during the Iron Age. Scholars have variously interpreted the figures as goddesses, priestesses, or worshippers in religious activities, with those possessing hermaphrodite characteristics especially linked to cult (see Figure 6.5; for references, refer to Paz 2007: 74–​ 78). While the figurines may have served as votive offerings (Burgh 2006: 39), they perhaps also represent real musicians. This latter view is supported by the description of female drummer performances in biblical passages that are ascribed to different phases of the Iron Age and are typically set within festivals, celebrations, and cultic contexts (Exod. 15:20–​21; Jdg. 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6; Ps. 150: 1, 4; Ps. 68:26; Jer 31:3). Looking to Egypt for insight, dancers were often depicted in scenes of funerary or temple ritual, suggesting the highly regarded role of dance in religious contexts (Spencer 2003). Furthermore, there is a connection between female musicians and nudity in Egypt and the Levant that implies a symbolism connected to fertility or sexuality (Riley 2014: 32). That in most cases these women—​whether clothed or naked—​wear jewellery of some kind suggests that adornment served as a music-​related artefact. We might view musical activity as having served a religious function by which the members of a specific group communicated boundaries to distinguish it from others (Stokes 1997: 6), preserving the memory of older polytheistic religious traditions in resistance to the monotheism of the ruling ideology into the Iron Age 134

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(Paz 2007: 120). In these settings, the wearer experienced the adornment on the body through the sensorium, inclusive of visual, aural, and haptic stimuli, which also acted as cues to others, enabling the expression of individual and collective identities, in turn influencing how individuals and those people that viewed them occupied their social and cultural landscapes (Fisher and DiPaolo Loren 2003: 225). In this view, adorning the body developed into embodied practice associated with specific sensorial experiences. Ethnographic studies provide an avenue through which to explore the negotiation and expression of emotional landscapes and the role of jewellery in enhancing sensory experience. The Samburu, Turkana, and Pokot tribes of Kenya all wore iron anklets that “clanked rhythmically” as they walked in ways calculated to attract the attention of warrior-​age males and designed to dramatise their dance (e.g., Cole 1979: 95). Similarly, tribes such as the Toupouri of Cameroon synchronised the rhythm of their dancing to the metallic sounds made by their anklets that, in effect, became instruments of music (Lembezat 1950). What is more, audible jewellery could act as forms of communication and self-​identification; the sounds made by necklaces and pendants worn by the Samburu, for example, could be used to identify an individual girl’s walk in the dark (Cole 1979: 95). Similarly, the counterweight at the back of the Egyptian menyet collar may have made rattling sounds during ceremonies and seems to have some association with the worship of the goddess Hathor (Andrews 1994: 32). Research has shown that a repetitive rhythm, such as the clinking of metal anklets, can alter one’s emotional state, even inducing euphoric or ecstatic experiences that stabilise human bonds (McNeill 1995). On a practical level, the wearing of anklets would no doubt have caused some discomfort when the metal worn on one leg would strike the opposing ankle. In the case of the Igbo tribe from Nigeria and the Wodaabe tribe from Niger, the weight and size of extremely large brass anklets results in a female’s hobbled gait that causes an exaggerated hip movement in what can seem to be a display of sexual enticement, while at the same time restricting the female’s freedom of motion (Mack 1988: 10; Fisher 1984: 158). The use of adornment to alter an individual’s physical mobility, in ways that might exaggerate desirable attributes of the female body, may have been a behaviour encoded with intangible meanings necessary to the stability of the cultural group.4 A focus on sight and sound perhaps signifies a Western sensory bias, when these sensory modes might have been just some of the ways that adornment acted on the senses (Hamilakis 2013: 100). Ancient cultures, or indeed particular groups within a culture, may have privileged other senses over vision or hearing or may have experienced multiple perceptual systems or sensory orders simultaneously (Porath 2008; Howes and Classen 2019: 7). Touch and kinaesthesia, which both feature in the Hebrew Bible, might also have been integrated with the sensory experience of wearing anklets (Avrahami 2012) in ways that intersected with bodily aesthetics and apotropaic powers (DuQuesne 1996). The interplay of sight, sound, touch, weight, and movement, caused by wearing anklets, which in cultic settings may have also been linked to architectural cues and odours, would have increased an individual’s materialisation of their religious beliefs (Laneri 2013). By wearing anklets outside of these settings, the memorialisation of religious traditions would have been enacted in daily life (see also Chapter 7, this volume). Studies rarely consider the fact that jewellery would have also played a sentimental role in the ancient world, but the Westcar Papyrus provides some insight (Lichtheim 1975). From that Egyptian text, thought to have been composed during the Middle Kingdom or the Second Intermediate Period (c. 2200–​1550 BCE ), we learn of the Pharaoh Sneferu taking a boat ride with the most beautiful women in his harem. One of the female rowers loses a fish pendant of turquoise that she wore in her hair, but the pharaoh cannot console her with a replacement. Until the pendant is retrieved, neither she nor the other women will continue to row. At a loss, the pharaoh has his chief priest push through the water to allow the retrieval of the amulet. 135

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This tale suggests that attachments to personal items could be as profound in the ancient world as they are today. Children in Egypt wore fish amulets to protect them against drowning; however, the woman’s attachment to the pendant in this tale seems to go beyond its functionary role as an amulet. We might also compare Egyptian ab pendants (or so-​called heart amulets), symbolic of the owner’s spiritual heart and of thinking and feeling, as the heartbeat quickened with heightened emotions. Western views deem emotion and rationality to be mutually exclusive; this classic Cartesian logic of mind–​body dualism limits the role of emotion in embodiment (Knapp and Meskell 1997: 185). We might look to recent treatment of ancient emotion in Mesopotamia, where it is argued that such rigid dualism does not apply (Sonik 2017); furthermore, such ancient expressions of emotion are accessible to modern audiences despite the broad temporal distance. To flesh out embodiment theory, as it were, a biological emphasis might provide insights into the lived experience of ancient individuals. Neuroscientific studies demonstrate that sensory systems are integral to cognition and memory. African San healers dance to induce specific physical responses in themselves and others, along with the feelings that go with these experiences. The healers’ dance involves a rhythmic shuffle while shaking their torsos, punctuated by short, sharp stamps of the feet that resonate through the body of the dancers; the rhythm of each stamp is exaggerated by the noise of moth cocoon rattles strapped to dancers’ ankles. By warming up the abdomen through dance, the healers’ internal healing potency awakens (Low 2017: 235). Sensations of intense fear stimulated by the shaking give way to feelings of euphoria and empathy, each relating to hyper-​stimulation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, respectively (Low 2017: 236). What also distinguishes San dance is the emphasis placed on smell, which among other features, serves to awaken memories and acts as a diagnostic tool in detecting sickness. San dance highlights the central role of body and emotion in learning and doing and the implications this holds for the dancers’ engagement with their communities and the wider world. Studies of cognitive neurobiology also suggest that emotions and sensory experiences are an essential aspect of memory formation and retrieval (Worthman 1999: 45). In an exploration of regional affiliations in France, the entanglement of cognition and embodied ethnicity was used to explain modes of experiencing ethnicity (Dion et al. 2011). The researchers’ results demonstrated that subjects spontaneously referred to the sensory dimension of their ethnicity: smell, taste, sight, sound, weight, pressure, and movement (Dion et al. 2011: 317). For many of those individuals, identity and ethnicity was primarily a question of bodily perceptions and how sensory experiences affected them physiologically; in this sense, “the phenomenological effects of reality are culturally entangled” (Dion et al. 2011: 318; Geurts 2002). We might link this view to Merleau-​Ponty’s (1962) phenomenology of perception with its relationship of bodily practice to the world around it and Csordas’ (1994) understanding of culture and how the world is experienced through the body. However, while these phenomenological approaches to lived experience elaborate on the notion that people in the past may have interacted with the world around them through diverse bodily senses (e.g., Csordas 1994: 61), they are limited in their treatment of the role of memory in the sensorial (compare Hamilakis 2013: 68).

Conclusion To summarise, then, this study aims to contribute to the ongoing investigation of the sensorial aspects of embodied adornment practices in the ancient world. The theme of material culture as being meaningfully constituted and intimately linked with the senses and memory is a means of understanding personal and cultural significance and explaining lived experience that 136

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allows for an individual’s self-​identification as a member of a larger group (Fisher and DiPaolo Loren 2003: 225). Although I feel strongly that jewellery is an aspect of material culture that is associated with cultural origins and ethnicity, it is possible that material remains in and of themselves do not distinguish cultural groups as effectively as the non-​material and intangible characteristics with which they are associated. By focusing on how individuals created and experienced themselves through their bodies, archaeologists are better able to comprehend them as culturally specific, multi-​constituted social beings. To some extent, the presentation of self can then be used to interpret the social and physical aspects (gender, race, religion, sexuality, age) that are key to the construction of identities in everyday life. The concept of embodiment provides us with ways to interpret the uses of material culture in constructions of identity in that it locates material culture as an extension of the body. Further, the concept of embodiment provides us with ways to understand how bodily identity was constituted in and through the social and physical landscape. This discussion reveals that there are several modes of culturally defined phenomenological experience. I propose that there are multiple modes of experience working in unison, which range from the material to the intangible. The discussion above demonstrates that the use of adornment, and anklets in particular, was linked to status, gender, cultural identity, and ritual use, but further implicated in modes of experience. I suggest that a suite of sensory experiences in the wearing of jewellery was integral to memory formation, boundary maintenance, and a crucial aspect of lived experience. Indeed, some social and collective sensory interactions, at least for adults, appear to have been formalised and performative.

Notes 1. Scholars have also applied this concept to Egypt (Meskell 2003) and for the Classic Maya societies of Mesoamerica (Joyce 2003). 2. This embedding of memory in items of adornment was utilised to considerable effect in Victorian mourning jewellery, such as lockets containing hair from a deceased relative. 3. One might look to the value of sound associated with metal, as has been studied for the bells of ancient Mexico (Hosler 1994; Hosler et al. 1990). 4. A clear analogy would be the Chinese practice of foot-​binding, at its peak in the seventeenth century, at which time it was considered a sign of civility and culture, a marker of ethnic boundaries, as well as a method of physical adornment, rather than a form of mutilation (Verduci 2012: 8–​9).

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Tadmor, M. 2006. “Realism and Convention in the Depiction of Ancient Drummers,” in Y. Amit, E. Ben Zvi, I. Finkelstein, and O. Lipschits, eds., Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context: A Tribute to Nadav Na’aman. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 321–​338. Thomason, A. 2019. “The Phenomenology and Sensory Experience of Dress in Mesopotamia: The Embodiment of Discomfort and Pain through Dress,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 217–​230. Tubb, J., and P. Dorrel. 1994. “Tell es Sa’idiyeh 1993: Interim Report on the Seventh Season of Excavations.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 126: 52–​67. Tufnell, O. 1953. Lachish: The Iron Age. Volume 3. London: Oxford University Press. Tufnell, O. 1958. “Anklets in Western Asia.” Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London 1: 37–​54. Verduci, J. A. 2012. “Costume, Belts and Body Modification in the Late Bronze Age Aegean,” in M.-​ L. Nosch and R. Laffineur, eds., KOSMOS: Jewelry, Adornment and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age, Proceedings of the 13th International Aegean Conference, University of Copenhagen, 21–​26 April 2010. Aegeaum 33. Liège: University of Liège, 639–​646. Verduci, J. A. 2016. “Early Iron Age Adornment within Southern Levantine Mortuary Contexts: An Argument for Existential Significance in Understanding Material Culture,” in M. Cifarelli and L. Gawlinski, eds., What Shall I Say of Clothes? Theoretical and Methodological Approaches in Antiquity. SPAAA 3. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 25–​46. Verduci, J. A. 2018. Metal Jewellery of the Southern Levant and its Western Neighbours: Cross-​Cultural Influences in the Early Iron Age Eastern Mediterranean. Ancient Near East Studies Supplement Series 53. Leuven: Peeters. Voigt, M., and R. Dyson. 1992. “The Chronology of Iran, ca. 8000–​2000 BC,” in R. Ehrich, ed., Chronologies in Old World Archaeology. Third Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 122–​178. Worthman, C. M. 1999. “Emotions: You Can Feel the Difference,” in A. L. Hinton, ed., Biocultural Approaches to the Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 41–​74. Yadin, Y., Y. Aharoni, R. Amiran, T. Dothan, M. Dothan, I. Dunayevsky, and J. Perrot, J. 1961. Hazor: An Account of the Third and Fourth Seasons of Excavations, 1957–​1958. Volumes 3–​4. Jerusalem: Magnes Press/​Hebrew University. Yassine, K. 1984. Tell el Mazar I: Cemetery A. Jordan: University of Jordan.


7 Dress, sensory assemblages, and identity in the early first millennium BCE at Hasanlu, Iran Megan Cifarelli

Introduction This chapter examines the durable goods relating to dress discovered in the nearly 100 Period IVb burials at Hasanlu, Iran, as aesthetic, sensorial assemblages, and as agential phenomena in an era of crisis at the site. In particular, I focus on a distinctive, elite, suite of dress items found in five wealthy women’s burials excavated at the site. These dress assemblages include up to three long, sharp, heavy copper-​alloy or iron garment pins, ordinary garment pins, metal finger-​(and in two instances, toe-​) rings, beaded jewellery on the head, neck, and shoulders, and noisy, tintinnabular clusters of tubes and beads attached to flat copper-​alloy armour scales worn on the upper chest. While such an ensemble would certainly have provided a visual spectacle, its sensory impact and potential for affectivity is not limited to its visuality. At the nexus of bodies, vibrant materials, environment, and society, this dress suite is constituted through myriad transcorporeal encounters. Not only would these suites of objects have impressed themselves on the senses of observers, but they would have provided dynamic synaesthetic, kinaesthetic, and cognitive feedback to the wearers. Framing dress as sensorial assemblages (Hamilakis 2017) and understanding them through the lens of agential realism (Barad 2007) sheds light on the role of the sensorium in the dynamic, deliberate generation of politically charged identities at Hasanlu.

Hasanlu in Period IVb (1050–​800 BCE ) Located in the Lake Urmia Basin in northwestern Iran, Hasanlu was excavated between 1956 and 1977 by the Joint Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Archaeological Service of Iran, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Muscarella 2006; Danti 2013b; Cifarelli 2019b).1 This site is perhaps best known for the horrific destruction of its citadel during the early Iron Age in c. 800 BCE . Under attack by a marauding army, hundreds of residents of this town gathered in and around the monumental buildings on the citadel, where they died with their attackers, trapped as burning buildings collapsed and crushed their bodies.

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-8


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Occupation at Hasanlu began in the Neolithic period and continued with breaks through the early Medieval period. The site features a High Mound, or citadel, and the Low Mound, which was the site of burials, industry, and some domestic architecture (Figure 7.1a–​b). From the start of Penn’s excavations through the 1990s, the site was widely regarded as playing a unique and powerful role in regional and interregional power structures, particularly with respect to the historical entities of Mannea and Assyria. At the time of Hasanlu’s excavations in the 1950s through the 1990s, few sites in its immediate region were known through excavation, although the number is now steadily increasing due to the continuous work of the Iranian Archaeological Service (Amelirad et al. 2002; 2017; Amelirad and Azizi 2019). Dozens more are known through survey, including four similarly sized mounds along the Gadar River valley (Danti 2013a). The evidence for Assyrian contact and sway at the site has now been re-​evaluated (Danti and Cifarelli 2016; Cifarelli 2018a), suggesting that Assyria did not loom as large as previously thought, and the proposed identification of Hasanlu with the historical Mannean kingdom is no longer believed to be geographically or chronologically tenable (Cifarelli 2019b), although Mannean cultural links are possible. Hasanlu was in fact one of many sites in the region, all of which were engaged in dynamic interplay with expanding Mesopotamian and south Caucasian polities to the west and north, and neighbours to the south and east. Writing was not used at the site, although a few cuneiform-​inscribed objects seem to have been collected as precious curiosities, and the ancient name and ethno-​linguistic character of its residents are not known.2 In the beginning of the first millennium BCE , Hasanlu’s location in the Gadar River valley was precarious (Figure 7.2). At a crossroads between a region of economic interest to the Assyrian Empire and directly in the path of the growing kingdom of Urartu from the north, the fertile Gadar River valley was an appealing landscape to hungry armies on the march. Fortresses dotted the routes along the river valleys and mountain passes linking Hasanlu to regions east along the shores of the Caspian Sea and north to the new capital of Urartu on the shores of Lake Van in eastern Anatolia. Epigraphic and archaeological evidence indicates Urartian control of fortresses near Hasanlu by around 820 BCE (Salvini 2005; Kroll 2005; 2010; 2013; Cifarelli 2019a). The destruction of Hasanlu, dated archaeologically to c. 800 BCE (Dyson and Muscarella 1989), coincides with Urartian expansion, and Michael Danti (2014) has persuasively argued that the men crushed as they looted Hasanlu’s most famous artefact—​the Gold Bowl—​were Urartian combatants or mercenaries in Urartian employ. Caught between the agendas of Assyria and Urartu, Hasanlu and its neighbours were potential military targets during the latter part of Period IVb. And indeed, there is evidence at Hasanlu for two site-​wide destructions—​a massive fire towards the end of Period IVc (c. 1250–​1050 BCE ) and the catastrophic attack, fire, and collapse that ended occupation at the site in the Iron II period (c. 800 BCE ). These catastrophic events delimit Period IVb (1050–​800 BCE ) at Hasanlu, and the looming risk of destruction had a significant impact on the material development of the built, material, and social environments at the site (Cifarelli 2017a). While hindsight is inherent to archaeological processes, and our awareness of the catastrophic destruction at the end of Period IVb no doubt throws the existential threat which the site was under into sharper relief, the archaeological record is clear regarding the impact of precarity at the site. Fuelled perhaps by recent memories of the heat of the fires burning the citadel, the smell of their aftermath, the heart-​pounding chaos and confusion of rescuing precious objects from temple treasuries and storehouses, and in anticipation of hearing the frightening clamour of enemy forces moving towards the site, with their gleaming armour and belled horses, the residents of Hasanlu altered access to, and the layout of, the citadel. New internal fortified gateways guarded areas of the citadel, and defensive shifts to the monumental buildings placed entrances in a protected courtyard, safeguarding the approach to critical buildings. The introduction of the practice of 142

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Figure 7.1a–​b  Excavation photograph and contour plan (showing excavation areas) of Hasanlu, Iran. Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.


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Figure 7.2  Map of the ancient Near East showing location of Hasanlu. Source: Base map, Wikimedia Commons.

sealing, using stamp and cylinder seals for doors and containers, heightened the control of access to goods and areas within monumental buildings (Marcus 1989; 1996). Finally, the contents of the nearly 100 burial assemblages dating to Period IVb evince a clear heightening of social distinctions and intensification of local hierarchies relative to earlier periods (Cifarelli 2016; 2017a; 2017b; 2018c). Comparison of the Period IVb burials on the lower mound at Hasanlu to earlier burials at the site show many common features that demonstrate the site’s cultural continuity over the longue durée. Burials are generally modest, and dress items therein demonstrate the site’s engagement with broad local and regional networks of interaction, from the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia in the west, to southern and western Iran, to goods paralleled closely in burials from the South Caucasus (Danti 2013a; Cifarelli 2013; 2014). Ceramics show a continuous indigenous development, as does the material evidence of elite drinking practices (Danti and Cifarelli 2015). In pre-​Period IVb burials the range of wealth is quite narrow and the only persistent distinction between burials bioarchaeologically identified as male and those identified as female (Selinsky 2009; Monge and McCarthy 2011) is the wearing by women of garments fastened at the shoulder or breast by metal pins. Materials and artefact types appearing for the first time in Period IVb burials manifest intensive social distinctions amongst the burials, separating the burials of men from women, strongly South Caucasian inflected from local, and rich from poor. In contrast to the earlier assemblages in which the only sex-​specific artefact class appears to have been garment pins, several newly introduced dress items show strong correlation to bioarchaeologically determined sex: these include weapons and armoured belts on male-​identified bodies, and armour scales and long pins on female-​identified bodies (Figure 7.3).3 144

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Figure 7.3  Graph showing the relationship between female and male identified burials and classes of artefacts and materials in Period IVb burials at Hasanlu.

While there is no such thing as a “typical” female-​identified burial at Hasanlu, in Period IVb the burials of women are generally better furnished than those of men (Figure 7.4), with a wider variety and larger quantities of grave goods, particularly dress items. More modestly accoutred women were buried with one or two ordinary dress pins, plain copper-​alloy finger-​r ings, and beaded jewellery, usually around the neck (Cifarelli 2017b). A very small number of women, however, are conspicuously, even radiantly well dressed. In fact, three of the four persons buried with jewellery made of gold—​a rarity in burials at Hasanlu—​are identified as women (Cifarelli 2018c), and their elite panoply of dress items is the subject of this chapter. A very small group of highly militarised, male-​identified burials are the wealthiest Period IVb burials at Hasanlu in terms of the sheer quantities of bronze and iron, and significantly, their armour (sheet-​metal belts) and weaponry are strongly linked to South Caucasian material culture (Rubinson 2012a; 2012b; Danti and Cifarelli 2015; Cifarelli 2016). The most lavishly furnished burial of Period IVb is that of SK493a, a young man who was accompanied by pottery, metal drinking vessels, swords, spearheads, a mace head, personal ornaments, and an elegantly decorated copper-​alloy belt (Danti and Cifarelli 2015; Cifarelli et al. 2018) (Figure 7.5). Certainly, this masculine assemblage is sensorially and semantically rich, a topic for another time. Less wealthy, male-​ identified, burials also include weapons (arrowheads) and blades of less ostentatious, probably locally manufactured types. And while a small number of men are distinguished by their wealth and noticeably militarised dress, across the board men are far more likely than women, or even children, to be buried with very few or no grave goods (Figure 7.4). External tensions at Hasanlu, as well as internal strains that may have included migration to the site of warriors from the South Caucasus, perturbed the social fabric, yielding this increased gap between the male-​identified haves and have-​nots, between expressions of local and northern militarisation, and the heightened distinction between masculine and feminine accoutrement, and it is significant that the types of artefacts introduced to men’s and women’s burials during this period relate to military status, physical protection, and group affiliation (Cifarelli 2017a; 2017b; 2018b; 2018c; Cifarelli et al. 2018). The emergent and diverse assemblages in Period IVb burials are not simply displays of status or wealth. In and out of mortuary contexts, dress, defined expansively by Mary Ellen Roach-​ Higgins and Joanne Eicher (1992: 7) as “an assemblage of modifications of the body and/​or 145

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Figure 7.4  Hasanlu Period IVb burials showing distribution by sex/​age categories and relative wealth.

supplements to the body” participates in the construction and negotiation of social categories, or identities (Sørensen 1997; 2007; Entwistle 2000; Joyce 2001; Diaz-​Andreu 2005). It is not always possible to ascertain the extent to which these patterns of mortuary dress align with dress for the living. For many years, the exceptionally long pins found in predominantly adult, female-​identified burials at Hasanlu had been referred to as “shroud pins” based on their size, placement, and on the understanding that excavators only found them in graves and not among the tens of thousands of objects on the citadel (Marcus 1994) (Figure 7.6; Figure 7.7: a, b, d–​m). An examination of excavation records, however, shows that excavators found nearly a dozen of these long pins in the citadel destruction, suggesting that their use was not exclusively funerary.4 While excavation records are incomplete and the placement of individual objects within burials and with respect to bodies is not always documented, photographs and drawings place these pins in the same positions on the body as regular, shorter garment pins: generally near the shoulders. This positioning can be compared to one of the very few images of dressed women in the visual culture of Hasanlu and elsewhere in Iran. As was the case for a figurine from Susa, the evidently female figures on the famous Gold Bowl wear garments fastened with pins crossing the clavicle near each shoulder (Figure 7.8). With allowances for post-​depositional shifting of materials in the processes of decomposition and excavation, it appears that these long pins simply fasten garments at the shoulders. And so, while it is possible to conclude with Marcus that these adult women were buried differently from all other residents of Hasanlu—​wearing a shroud closed by enormous pins—​a simpler explanation for the appearance of these objects in the burials of adolescent to mature women, one supported by the archaeological record, is that they dressed differently, distinctively, and in a fashion with implications for sensory amplification (Cifarelli 2017b; 2018c). 146

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Figure 7.5  Excavator’s drawing of Burial SK493a. Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

Assemblages and phenomena Archaeologists and art historians are inclined to think about the role of assemblages like these suites of dress items by en-​visioning them in ocular terms, as what Martin Wobst (1977) termed “stylistic behavior” that can be read visually for clues about identity. Indeed, the long pins and accompanying items would have contributed to a spectacular display on the bodies of these 147

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Figure 7.6  Excavation photograph of Burial SK448. Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

women, but when considering the human experiences of such objects, visuality is only one of many components of their sensory effects and potential affectivity. Yannis Hamilakis explores the notion of a sensorial assemblage as a means of contemplating embodied human experience in the past and the links between bodies, senses, memories, and materials in the past and present (Hamilakis 2013a: 410). The word assemblage has long been applied to collections of objects recovered from a defined archaeological context (Hamilakis and Jones 2017).5 In the case of a suite of dress items in a burial, we can consider the context an indication of human acts of deposition, and the ensuing assemblage as residue of events or processes at the time of deposition, including human actors placing things in relation to one another. Amongst a group of burials, patterns of deposition may suggest intentionality as well as aesthetic values at work (Joyce and Pollard 2010: 292–​303) (see also Chapters 18 and 19, this volume). Assemblage theory, however, goes beyond the understanding of the context of deposition as the sole framework in which meaning emerges and is codified, to assert that context is one of many active participants in the creation of meanings (Alberti and Jones 2013: 30–​31). Assemblage 148

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Figure 7.7  Examples of the long and ordinary copper-​alloy garment pins from elite women’s burials at Hasanlu (a, b, d–​m). From Burial SK448: a. HAS 64-​351 (UM 63-​31-​125); b. HAS 64-​ 351 (unknown); c. HAS 64-​349 (UM 63-​15-​116). From Burial SK481: d. HAS 64-​195 (unknown); e. HAS 64-​194b (UM 65-​31-​118); f. HAS 64-​194 (UM 65-​31-​118); g. (iron) HAS 64-​199 (UM 65-​ 31-​215); h. HAS 64-​198 (unknown); i. HAS 64-​194a (UM65-​31-​72). From Burial SK503: j. HAS 64-​575 (unknown); k. HAS 64-​573 (UM65-​31-​406). From Burial SK59: l. HAS 59-​097 (Tehran 10967); m. HAS 59-​112 (unknown); n. HAS 59-​102b (UM60-​20-​164). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

and Actor Network theories transcend and build on the traditional conception of contextual assemblages, recognising assemblages as relational and dynamic complexes of diverse components.6 This wide-​ranging body of theoretical literature suggests that contextual assemblages—​like the mortuary dress found in burials at Hasanlu—​are not simply groups of inert objects that featured in or resulted from a past event, waiting in the ground for archaeologists to uncover and employ to decode the “real” practices and/​or beliefs of past peoples. Rather, assemblages are broader and more dynamic, and in the case of mortuary dress include not just the human-​ created objects, materials, and technologies empirically detectable in the grave itself, but the personhood of the deceased, the people who created the grave and dressed the corpse, the plants, animals, ideas, beliefs, and natural processes that participate in creating the assemblage, as well as the archaeologists, archaeological ideas, practices, and publications, and so forth, that attend its discovery and study. These dress assemblages are not fixed in time at the moment of deposition as the community mends or acknowledges the tear in the social fabric caused by death, or at the moment of excavation and recording as the archaeologist “interprets” them, but are continually reconfiguring in relation to their human, material, sensory, temporal, and cognitive components (Robb and Harris 2013; Crellin 2017; Fowler 2017). These dynamic reconfigurations allow for layers of understanding of the burials at Hasanlu. And at a more elementary level, assemblages are open-​ended and ever changing because matter itself is characterised by a quality Jane Bennett (2010) termed “vibrancy” that operates 149

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at every possible scale, from atoms to organisations to nation-​states. Matter is not inert—​it acts and is acted upon. Vibrancy gives matter the ability to change and to enact change (or exert agency) with respect to other things.7 It is the relational force that configures and reconfigures components and assemblages: organic materials decay, dress items shift, metal corrodes, animals burrow, later pits intrude, excavation processes disrupt, recording strategies represent, conservation alters, scientific analysis codifies and categorises materials into typologies. And each component in an assemblage is itself an assemblage that was brought into being through intra-​action of materials, people, ideas, senses, and so on, an infinitely recursive relationality that stretches over time and space. This dynamic reconfiguration of components moves us away from the Cartesian domains of matter/​exterior/​object (an external reality with stable properties that can be observed) and idea/​interior/​subject (human-​generated representations of, or ideation about, that reality) which lie at the heart of attempts by archaeologists to understand what “really” happened in the past, for example to produce a neat “interpretation” of the identity of an individual in an excavated burial. Instead, the “reality” of these assemblages is relational, as “these interconnections are always changing; they are immanent and in a constant process of becoming” (Jones and Alberti 2013: 21–​22). This accords with Karen Barad’s posthumanist formulation of agential realism, which probes the reality and representation of matter. Agential reasoning elaborates upon the work of Niels Bohr (Petersen 1985), Judith Butler (1990a; 1990b; 1993), and Joseph Rouse (1996), among others. Bohr had demonstrated that observation of matter produces, rather than identifies, the properties observed—​for example, that matter has the property of being composed of particles and of waves (but not at the same time), depending on the observational apparatus employed. Barad broadens this by arguing a theory of agential realism according to which there is no observable, stable reality, no subjects and objects, no interior and exterior. Instead there are phenomena which “mark the epistemological inseparability of ‘observer’ and ‘observed’ ” and manifest the “ontological inseparability of agentially intra-​acting ‘components’ ” (Barad 2003: 815). Phenomena are effectively assemblages: they are fluid, ephemeral, immanent, coming into being through the intra-​actions among matter, discourse, and practice (Barad 2003; 2007). When we look at the world, we are not observing stable entities outside of us as they “really” are, but instead are producing phenomena through the act of observing a fleeting tangle of materials, ideas, actions, and beliefs. The agency of agential reasoning is the dynamism that drives these intra-​actions and reconfigurations (Barad 2003: 823), a notion akin to Bennett’s characterisation of restless matter as vibrant. Agential realism thus collapses positivist distinctions between observing self and observed other, interior and exterior, “reality” and our apprehension of it. For this discussion, this suggests that archaeologists do not look at a stable, fixed-​in-​the-​past mortuary assemblage, observe its properties, and deduce meaning with objectivity. We are hopelessly entangled and implicated in our observations and understandings.

Sensorial assemblages and intersubjectivity Hamilakis (2017: 172) productively complicates the notion of an assemblage (or phenomena)—​the “temporary and deliberate heterogenous arrangement of material and immaterial elements,” to include “the affective/​sensorial, mnemonic/​temporal, and the political.” He frames sensoriality as “the transcorporeal mingling of bodies, materials and their environment” (Hamilakis 2013a: 417), an assemblage of dynamic, experiential encounters with materials and moments in time. The output of these sensorial encounters is not simply a relay of information about our environment or objects in the world, but the generation of emotions and relationships: senses activate and “enable affectivity … [and] establish [the] affective connections” by which we encounter, engage, 150

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and experience the world. Just as Barad’s agential realism erases the distinction between interiority and exteriority, minds and bodies, the notion of a transcorporeal encounter emphasises that senses are not confined to individual bodies or objects. Senses operate “in-​between, between bodies, things, substances, elements, the atmosphere” (Hamilakis 2017: 173), and our ability to sense is not confined to our bodies. Lambros Malafouris (2008; 2010) argues that a sword held in a warrior’s hand, like the stick in the hand of a visually impaired person, becomes a sensing organ, providing feedback, expanding the boundaries of a person beyond the skin, and connecting the interior to the exterior. As scholars, a critical component of the investigation of the sensorium in other contexts is awareness of one’s own “sensory and sensuous stratigraphy” (Hamilakis 2013b), acknowledging the Western privileging of vision (e.g., the evidential weight of eyewitness testimony), and the role of senses in class, racial (Geurts 2002), and gender hierarchies (Benay and Rafanelli 2015). Framing the sensorium as the aggregation of transcorporeal encounters is useful in that it firmly moves the discussion away from the Western, Aristotelian, five-​exteroceptive-​sense-​sensorium, and the understanding of human senses as separable, fixed entities with knowable properties, by which our bodies process outside stimuli (e.g., Geurts 2002; Howes 2019). Sensorial experience is far broader than the Western sensorium, it is always and infinitely “mingled and synesthetic” (Hamilakis 2013a: 413). It encompasses movement—​habitual and novel, real and imagined—​and kinaesthesia of our own and others’ bodies (Streeck 2015: 420–​421). I will point out that this differs from a phenomenological approach, which is predicated on notions of embodiment, of interiority and exteriority, of self and the outside world, as a framework for understanding human experience (e.g., Thomason 2019). This is not to negate the utility of a phenomenological approach to the dressed bodies in burials at Hasanlu, but we cannot assume, in the absence of evidence, the existence of archaeological selves who take in the world and make meaning of it through their individual bodies.8 Framing the dressed body as a sensorial assemblage or Baradian phenomenon structures personhood and embodied subjectivity in a way that does not assume “that the body, self, and individual are necessarily coincident,” a useful distinction when dealing with a non-​literate, proto-​historical society like that at Hasanlu (Bulger and Joyce 2013: 72–​73). More broadly, the idea that personhood itself is “not tied to a single human body” and can be relationally constituted (Harrison-​Buck and Hendon 2018: 9) is supported by the work of cognitive neuroscientists studying the role of social, intersubjective, and bodily engagement in the construction of identity (Pina-​Cabral 2016). To a great extent, the ways that humans process sensory inputs to generate perceptions and feelings are culturally determined—​not universal, natural, or pre-​cultural—​and challenging to understand from the outside. While the affective impressions afforded by sensorial assemblages in literate societies can be gauged in part through analysis of texts and language that deal with visuality, aurality, and other aspects of the sensorium (Winter 2007; Thomason 2019; Howes 2019; Rendu Loisel 2019), the impact of sensory experiences in non-​literate, proto-​historic sites like Hasanlu is less accessible. A useful avenue of inquiry into sensory experiences, including aesthetic experiences, is provided by neuroscientific studies that cut across cultural dimensions to illuminate the way the human brain processes sensory stimuli. In the eighteenth century, the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten first used the term “aesthetics” to describe the ways in which sensory stimuli are integrated in the mind to generate perceptions (Seeley 2006: 195) (see also Chapter 25, this volume). Nearly three centuries later, scholars in a wide range of fields investigate the same nexus of sensory and cognitive aspects to our understanding of the impact and integration of sensory information on human experience. According to the philosopher Henri Bergson (1991), perception “is never a mere contact of the mind with the object presented; it is impregnated with memory-​images which 151

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complete it” (quoted in Hamilakis 2013a: 413). Hamilakis emphasises the reciprocal relationship between “sensorial intensity and affective weight” and memory, both individual and collective, suggesting that while memories mediate the experience of sensory inputs, our senses also modulate remembering and forgetting: “every recollection generated through sensorial experience reshapes these memories, casts them anew in a continuous and dynamic process” (Hamilakis 2013a: 413–​414). In our brains, sensory information is linked with other components—​ motor imagery, semantic information—​to generate mental imagery that ultimately plays a role in personhood and identity (Starr 2013). This mental imagery, according to cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman, is produced as our brains dynamically process sensory inputs through a network of memories, associations, and emotions (Mark et al. 2010). Counter to a perceptual model that is representational or veridical—​that our perceptions apprehend true properties of objects in the world, Hoffman argues for an “interface theory of perception” by which our perceptions act as a simplifying interface between ourselves and the complexities of the world. Natural selection, he has shown, has favoured perceptual processes that produce useful images, not necessarily accurate ones (Hoffman 2016), and the “reality” that we perceive through our senses is one of our own construction. Functional studies of the brain by Gabrielle Starr show that the processing of the aesthetic and sensory inputs that generate these beneficial mental images of “reality” take place in an integrated brain centre called the “default mode network,” a brain area which has been associated with self-​awareness, identity, theory of mind (the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others), and social awareness (Starr 2013: 35). Neuroscientific research also demonstrates the way kinaesthetic senses connect us intersubjectively to others. The overlap between perceptual systems and motor systems in the brain causes our motor control systems (as well as our emotions) to react when we see others, or even images of others, moving in ways that are familiar to us (Freedberg and Gallese 2007). The so-​ called “mirror neurons” which fire in rhesus monkeys when they either perform an action or watch another perform it are not organs of sense or perception, but indices (memories? images?) of shared experiences (Streeck 2015: 44). Memories, shared experiences, and social awareness all connect to the way our sensory experiences generate images which are “historically and culturally embedded, humanly embodied, imaginatively structured … the meaning of which is always tied to a particular community” (Pongratz-​Leisten and Sonik 2015: 5–​6). Below, I will detail the ways the dress assemblage from Hasanlu might have, by engaging the senses, generated the kinds of meaningful aesthetic experiences that forge collective memories and identities.

Senses and power dynamics Sensorial assemblages, while not necessarily intentional, are deliberate, and their existence manifests the agency of the social entities involved. Because of their affective potential to shape experience and memory, selected components can produce political and social effects, and taken as a whole a sensory assemblage “can enable certain futures to emerge and others to disappear” (Hamilakis 2017: 175). Direction and control of sensory experiences is a form of political power enacted through control and manipulation of natural and built environments, a notion fully exploited by the Assyrian Empire in the construction and decoration of monumental temples and palaces in the heart of its capitals (e.g., Thomason 2016; Neumann 2018; 2019), as well as in the constitution of the Achaemenid king and empire through sensory manipulation and slippage at the Apadana in Persepolis (McFerrin 2017; 2019). In her study of the Peruvian site of Chavín de Huantar, Mary Weismantel shows how this pilgrimage site—​a deliberately unpredictable pathway—​impeded sightlines to sculpted decoration and repeated sculpted forms, resulting 152

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in intentionally “frustrating partial glimpses of complex designs.” Weismantel argues that this theatrical manipulation of the sensory experiences of visitors participated in what she calls the “manufacture of wonder.” Those experiencing the visual interruptions, spatial unpredictability, and repetition would “be left with a lifetime of memories” to process and assemble into a coherent and meaningful whole (Weismantel 2013: 130–​131). The space and its decoration were not designed to be easily parsed but were purposefully made complicated to immerse visitors in a difficult, confusing sensory entanglement that was so striking as to require cognitive effort on the part of visitors to generate indelible memories. In much the same way that elaborated spaces entangle the senses, provide shared aesthetic experiences, and impress themselves on the mental imagery and memories of a community, I will explore the ways that the dress assemblages in the burials in question directed and controlled the sensory experiences at Hasanlu.

Accumulated magnificence To return to the elite dress assemblages in the burials of five women at Hasanlu, like Hamilakis’ (2017: 169) well-​known example of feasting as a politically effective sensorial assemblage, this “temporary and deliberate heterogeneous arrangement of material and immaterial elements” explodes beyond the paradigm of the five Aristotelian senses with infinite, interacting sensorial modalities encompassing vision, smell, aurality, touch, and also movement, comfort, the passage of time, memories, pleasure, proximity to others, bodily awareness, restriction, and pain (Hamilakis 2013a; 2013b; 2017; Thomason 2019). The burials include three young (20–​34 years) adult women and two mature (35–​49) adult women.9 In addition to the long pins and garment pins discussed above, this sensorial dress assemblage features copper-​alloy and iron finger-​and toe-​ rings, beaded jewellery at the head, neck, shoulders, and chest, and a type of “very peculiar ornament” (Stein and Andrews 1940: 398) at the shoulder or chest featuring a triangular, rounded sheet-​metal object to which were attached various items, including beads, pins, rings, and metal tubes (see Marcus 1996: x). These classes of objects will be discussed below as elements in a sensorial assemblage that integrates individual and shared memories about the acquisition of each item (and perhaps their givers or previous owners), the bodies to which they are affixed, and the community within which these women moved and lived and died.

Pins Above, I argued that the long (up to 37 centimetres), heavy, sharp, potentially dangerous, metal pins found near the shoulders in these burials are not exclusively funerary dress, but fastened a garment at the shoulders in exactly the same fashion as the shorter, ordinary garment pins they were found alongside. These pins are made of copper-​alloy and (more rarely) iron. The iron pins are poorly preserved with no discernible decoration. The copper-​alloy examples have decoration of varying complexity. One has a flat head and plain shaft (HAS 64-​195B), another has a flat head and geometric incised decoration on the upper shaft (HAS 64-​194), and the remainder have domed heads and cast bead and reel decoration on their shafts (Figure 7.8). Excavation records indicate these pins are associated with bodies of women of childbearing age (as opposed to children and the elderly), suggesting a connection with that particular stage in the life-​course. These pins may have carried with them and reified the memories of the events and persons that occasioned their acquisition, as well as the transition from one social role to another. There is no question that such pins worn in concert with shorter garment pins would have presented logistical difficulties for the wearer. They are heavy and would have pulled at and weighed down the relatively lightweight fabric that characterises most textile production at 153

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Figure 7.8  Garment fastening using two pins at shoulders. From left, mid-​second-​millennium figurine from Susa (after Amiet 1966: fig. 146), drawings and photo of female figures from the Hasanlu Gold Bowl (beaker), HAS 58-​469 (Tehran 10712). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

Hasanlu (Love 2011), requiring the wearer to constantly adjust and interact with her garments. They are sharp, and unlike a sheathed sword suspended at the waist, could have posed a danger to wearers and anyone who might come into physical contact with them (Cifarelli 2017b). Wearers would have been constantly vigilant about their posture, the closure of their garments, the location of the sharp points relative to self and to others, and their wearing would therefore have entailed considerable discomfort, if not pain (Cifarelli 2018c; Thomason 2019). In order to avoid injury, their movements were likely slow, deliberate, and as conspicuous as the delicate “lotus” gait of the beautiful women with bound feet heralded in Chinese literature (Ko 2005: 200–​203). Wearing these pins, the daily activities of these young and mature women would have been curtailed—​it is difficult to imagine engaging in breastfeeding, childcare, household, industrial, or agricultural activities while wearing these enormous, exposed stiletto-​style pins. Heightening the visibility of the closure and impenetrability of garments, these impediments would have been visible to those nearby, and the careful movements of these women would have been apparent. As their bodies moved, multiple pins might have chimed against each other, helping others locate wearers in space (as would the tintinnabular chime ornaments discussed below), and their slower steps might have been easily recognisable to those listening. The haptic response of the wearer would have been mirrored by those who witnessed it (Freedberg and Gallese 2007; Streeck 2015). Observers might have empathetic responses activated, bodies tensing anxiously in reaction to the deliberate movements, wincing and recoiling at the possibility that the wearer could be pierced by a sharp point at any moment. I have argued elsewhere that this negative sensory effect on the wearers and observers is in fact the point, as it were, of wearing these dangerous pins. These pins can be understood as “costly” or honest signals of the special status of these women, signals which are effective in direct proportion to the extent to which they genuinely inconvenience or handicap the signaller (Cifarelli 2017b).

Finger-​ and toe-​rings The copper-​alloy (and in the case of the Stein burial, iron) finger-​and toe-​rings associated with these burials are of two general types: plain, thick (around 3–​4 millimetres) penannular rings with various degrees of lapping, and what the excavators called “archer’s rings”—​flat, hammered, sheet-​metal bands (lapping) with plain, oval bezels (Figure 7.9).10 Rings were worn 154

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Figure 7.9  Excavation photograph and drawings of finger-​rings. From left, stacked penannular rings (SK59; HAS 59-​100, UM 60-​20-​166) and “archer’s ring” (HAS 59-​103d, Tehran). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

on all fingers without evident preference, including the thumb. These rings were worn singly or stacked, on the first or second joint of the finger, with as many as six on a single finger. While it seems unwieldy, at times these rings were corroded together in such a way that it appears that the bezelled rings were worn on the same fingers as simple coils. One of the women was wearing 25 rings on her hands, her fingers so encrusted that it is hard to imagine these were worn in daily life. However, at least five of the bodies crushed in the wreckage of the citadel were wearing similar stacks of finger-​rings at the time of their death, indicating that this was indeed the practice. While rings are relatively common (50 per cent) on the hands of both men and women in Period IVb burials, toe-​r ings are extremely rare, known from only two instances (SK481, HAS 64-​196, UM 65-​31-​143, and Stein burial). SK481 wore a stack of three plain, rigid, thick (under 5 millimetres), copper-​alloy penannular rings on the big toe of her right foot. Remarkably, the Stein burial featured what appears to be a large iron “archer’s” ring on the toe of one foot (Stein and Andrews 1940: 399). Metal rings, particularly when worn by the dozen, would have provided considerable sensory feedback to the wearer and to the observer. Humans use their hands to facilitate communication; in fact primate studies suggest that hand gestures may have preceded vocalisations in the evolution of human language (Cartmill et al. 2012). The rings, and the hands bearing them, were intended to be noticed, drawing attention to and amplifying the communicative potential of the moving hands. While these rings might not have prevented their wearers from engaging in daily tasks (witness the thousands of videos on YouTube demonstrating the remarkable dexterity of hands with extremely long and delicately manicured fingernails), they were entangled with the senses of their wearers due to the affordances of their materials. The accumulated heft of stacks of metal finger-​rings would have heightened awareness of gestures. Their thermal conductivity would have made them cool to the touch when put on, then warmer as they adjust to the temperature of the skin. Their bulk would force separation of the fingers and contact between rings on adjacent fingers would press the rings into the flesh. Many of the rings are round in section and therefore potentially mobile on the fingers. Manipulating them would provide tactile stimulation (or calming), and even pleasure, like fingering the beads on komboloi (worry beads). A gentle clacking would accompany hands in motion as rings touch each other from side to side and slide up and down the moving fingers. The vibrant and reactive matter of copper and skin subtly alter each other—​oil, salt, and acid from the skin change the colour


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and sheen of the metal surface, as oxidation stains the skin green, brown-​red-​orange, or black where it contacts metal. Hands do not just move and feel, they reach out to the world where they touch and are touched by others. In this reaching out, the armature of rings could serve as a rigid barrier to, and a conduit of, sensory stimuli. Warmed by the wearer, the rings transmit that heat from one body to another without skin ever touching skin. And it is not hard to imagine a small child delighted and mesmerised by sliding the rings on their mother’s fingers like beads on the wire frame of a toy.

Head, neck, and body beads The recording of beaded jewellery by the excavators at Hasanlu is truly lamentable in its lack of precision regarding bead placement and number. Except in exceptionally rare instances (e.g., where photographs document beaded jewellery or the construction is otherwise evident) it is impossible to reconstruct the manner in which beads were worn at the neck, chest, shoulders, or on the head, at Hasanlu. Beads of an enormous range of materials, colours, sizes, and shapes were found on and immediately adjacent to the bodies of many of those buried during Period IVb. These are most often identified as “necklaces” in the excavation records and were restrung accordingly by excavators, but without any explanation for the reconstructed bead arrangement. While some beads may have been worn at the neck, the findspots sometimes indicate that they were incorporated into other forms of dress, including headdresses (Cifarelli 2018b; 2018c: 100–​102). Materials for beads commonly found in these elite Period IVb burials include carnelian (mostly poor quality and poorly cut), black and white stone, composite and vitreous materials including glass and Egyptian blue, bone, rare shells from the Mediterranean (Tritia gibbosula), and more common ones from the Persian Gulf (conus, cowrie, dentalium, and engina). Metal beads include small copper-​alloy barrel shaped beads, short copper-​alloy tubes, and flat, lentil shaped antimony beads (Figure 7.10). Gold beads are present in two shapes in these burials: gold-​foil covered composite spheroid, and three-​channel spreader beads in sheet gold (Figure 7.11). Aside

Figure 7.10  Sample bead types from elite women’s burials. Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum. 156

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Figure 7.11  Gold spreader bead from Burial SK448 (HAS 64-​355, UM 65-​31-​248). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

from these elite women, there is only one other instance of gold jewellery amongst the Hasanlu IVb burials, SK26, see (Cifarelli 2016). These three-​channel spreader beads and spreader beads in other materials elsewhere at the site indicate that beaded jewellery sometimes comprised multiple strands. The sizes, shapes, colours, textures, sheens, and materials of the beads clustered in groups were enormously varied, and arguably that was the aesthetic point of these aggregations, or assemblages within assemblages: to dazzle with variety, novelty, and the quasi-​divine innovation of the creation of a fragile “whole” from so many fragments (Di Paolo 2018; Pinnock 2018; Roßberger 2018). As for the semantic and symbolic potential of these materials and their combinations, accessible elsewhere through analysis of texts and some images (e.g., Baines 1985; Benzel 2013; Colburn 2019), we simply do not have access to thoughts and beliefs about the affectivity of colours, materials, and their juxtapositions at Hasanlu. The case of gold, however, presents an exception, and we can argue that visually the gold in these assemblages had great local resonance. While numerous gold objects, including beads, were found in the storerooms and temple treasuries on the citadel, it is exceptionally rare to find bodies dressed in gold amongst the Hasanlu burials. In Mesopotamia, the association between gold and the divine is well documented (Benzel 2015), but we cannot know the extent to which it played the same aesthetic and ideological role at Hasanlu. We can, however, gauge its value to the local community through its protected storage in temples and elite residences. That the aesthetic effect of gold metal was highly esteemed at Hasanlu is attested by the great lengths that local smiths at Hasanlu went to imitate its colour and sheen through a quasi-​alchemical manipulation of elements added to copper-​alloys (Fleming et al. 2011). The inclusion of even small quantities of gold in the dress ensembles of these women would have distinguished them from others and pulled into their sensory assemblages the knowledge of the seats of power on the citadel and memories of the gold objects stored, and as was likely the case for the famous Hasanlu Gold Bowl, displayed there. In the case of the three younger women (the Stein burial, SK59 and 503), beads found on and behind the heads indicate that they were wearing multi-​component beaded headdresses (Figure 7.12). SK59’s headdress comprised copper-​alloy tubes arranged horizontally in nine groups of six to seven tubes, with frit beads and small copper-​alloy hemispherical studs between. The studs have a shallow shank for attaching to a leather or textile substrate, rather than holes for stringing, suggesting that the beads and studs were attached to a fabric headdress. Similarly, the excavators noted hemispherical studs (since discarded) around the head of SK503, and Stein recorded the presence of shell, glass, frit, and silver beads “below the head” of the burial he excavated (Stein and Andrews 1940: 398). The head and face play significant roles in the performance, regulation, and transformation of identity, from veiling, to wreathing victors, to the donning of shamanic masks (Lee 2015; Stein 2019). Beads around the head are exclusive to young women at Hasanlu, perhaps, as was the case in Assyria, demonstrating the aestheticisation of the youthful female face (Gansell 2014; 2018). 157

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Figure 7.12  Drawing of headdress found under skull of SK59, HAS 59-​111 (UM 60-​20-​183; MMA 60.20.9a-​f). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

These beaded dress items clothe the body in a dynamically shifting, kaleidoscopic array of shapes, textures, and colours. Beaded dress items are inherently precarious, as fragile as the material that strings the beads together, and require sustained physical engagement for their continued utility and existence (Cifarelli 2018b: 52–​54). Like a burial itself, beaded objects gather together the histories and geographies of the elements that compose them, bringing old and new, near and far, private and public, into a new, temporary entity. In motion, beads created a ripple of sound as they shifted on their strings and the strands knocked into each other, and indeed these strings of beads can be classified as a type of rattle (Kolotourou 2007: 80). Parallels across numerous cultures for the social and ritual role of such suspension rattles abound, including necklaces shaken by priestesses of Hathor in Egypt and participants in saffron gathering rituals in the Aegean (Kolotourou 2007; Mikrakis 2011).These visual and aural sensory stimuli would engender an intense sensory experience in observers, linking the wearer to those nearby in a rich transcorporeal encounter. The experience for the wearer would integrate other bodily sensations as well. Beads on the body can be touched and manipulated, their differences in size, shape, and texture explored by the wearer. The weight and contours of beaded items would serve as an unremitting reminder of their presence and interaction with the body. For those wearing headdresses as they moved through their days, constant kinaesthetic focus would have been needed to keep the head erect enough to balance headdress elements.

Armour scale pectorals The most puzzling assemblage-​object within this dress assemblage is the decorated pectoral—​a multi-​component artefact found on the upper chest of all five women. These unique artefacts are crafted out of beads (see above), dense clusters of copper-​alloy tubes ranging in length from 2 to 10 centimetres, copper-​alloy rings, pins, and flat, rounded triangles of sheet copper-​alloy or iron measuring between 7 and 15 centimetres (Figure 7.13). At one time referred to as phallic “plaque pins,” based on the misreading of their central rib and hemispherical, riveted studs as an erect phallus (Marcus 1996), there can be no doubt that they are elements of scale armour.11 It 158

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Figure 7.13  Composite photograph of HAS 64-​193 (UM 65-​31-​113) including armour and some of the associated beads, based on photos of artefacts in situ. Source: Composed by author, courtesy of Penn Museum.

does not appear that scale armour was used at Hasanlu, although it is common throughout the ancient Near East from the Late Bronze Age forward (Hulit 2002). Outside of these women’s burials, most examples of scale armour at Hasanlu are fragmented: individual armour scales were found as votives in a treasury associated with the Temple BBII, and there were a few others scattered throughout the site (Cifarelli et al. 2018). These scales are not locally made or used, instead they are paralleled in Late Bronze and Early Iron Age burials in the Caucasus and along the Caspian coast (Morgan 1896: 47, 103; 1905, 296; Schaeffer 1948: fig. 233.21, 30; Cifarelli 2018b). In these few elite burials, an imported, intentionally fragmented element of male military equipment is transformed into an element of a women’s dress. Perhaps, as Joseph Maran has argued is the case for single armour scales used as votives in the eastern Mediterranean, these scales function synecdochally, “conveying the protective properties of the complete corselet” (Maran 2004: 24–​25). To these armorial objects were attached shell, stone, bone, glass, and metal beads, as well as tiered bundles of copper-​alloy rings and tubes, rendering the scale into a complex, multi-​ component dress item. For the most part these beads are of the same types appearing in the other beaded jewellery discussed, with one notable exception: SK503’s ensemble included a small, flat, bone pendant (HAS 64-​985, UM 65-​31-​213) whose anthropoid shape was described by excavators as a “gingerbread boy.” The added beads served as visual elaborations and perhaps they were chosen to create a meaningful array of colours, sheens, and materials. But we cannot neglect that they served as percussive elements that would have sounded against the metal scale and the attached chimes. Of course, the material stringing these elements together is gone, so a precise reconstruction is not possible. The tubular elements do not appear to have been pierced across one end for suspension (as were tubes incorporated into noisy equestrian dress found in the destruction of the citadel), and so they were likely strung longitudinally in multi-​strand bundles (Figure 7.13).12 As Stein and Andrews (1940: 398) observed, “This assortment of thin 159

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tubes and beads, when hanging over the lady’s breast, must have vibrated and produced a pleasant musical tinkling whenever she moved.” Unlike the rattling strings of beads, the tintinnabular clusters of tubes and rings are musical instruments in their own right (for the distinction see Kolotourou 2007), deliberately attached to dress items to make a musical noise, like the golden bells attached to the hem of the garment worn by the high priest of Israel (Palmer 2019, and Chapter 16, this volume). While it would be difficult to reconstruct the shimmering sounds these body chimes might have emitted, it is easier to imagine their aural effect, the way they would have transformed the sonic environment of their wearers. Whether worn daily or for particular occasions, like bells on cats they would have marked their wearers’ locations in time and space, the sound growing and diminishing as a proxy for the shifting physical and temporal distance between bodies in a complex transcorporeal engagement.

Conclusion Clearly, the exercise of considering each of these dress elements separately is artificial at best, misleading at worst, but it is one way to parse an ensemble that was (intentionally?) overwhelming to contemplate, to experience, or to wear. This panoply of elements transformed these women’s bodies into fantastic beings quite out of the ordinary for the site of Hasanlu. Shoulders bristling with pins, fingers enveloped in rings, bodies, necks, and heads garlanded with beads, an armour scale affixed at the breast, these women were not simply a feast for the eyes and the ears, although they were that. The sensory stimuli involved are as temporary and ephemeral as the sound of a note in the air or a glance at a body in motion, the assemblages constantly reconfiguring through performative, iterative intra-​action amongst vibrant matter, discourse, and practice. The aesthetic experience of this whirl of synaesthetic and kinaesthetic stimuli, semantic information, memory, social-​and self-​awareness forged a momentary, peculiar, particular identity for these women, an identity that is not inherent to them as individuals, but which operates among them and in between them and others. The “elaborate and cumbersome” (Stein and Andrews 1940: 399) sensorial assemblage to which these women and their dress items—​metal dress pins, finger-​and toe-​r ings, beaded body and head jewellery, and decorated, musical armour scales worn as pectorals—​contributed is not limited to objects and bodies, but includes the existential military threat under which this community lived, the evident rise of a masculine military culture, the history of the site, and the valued objects collected and preserved in its monumental buildings. This particular suite of dress items emerges in a time of crisis, and sensorially sets these women apart from all others at the site. The elite identity constructed through this assemblage involves the weaponisation of dress items through the amplification of ordinary dress pins into sharp stilettos. At the same time, we see the “dressification” of military gear through the fragmentation and transformation of actual protective armour into decorated pectoral ornaments, which were then sensorially magnified through the addition of musical elements. The protective nature of this dress ensemble is activated through the sensory and affective impact of fear-​(and empathy-​) inducing sharp pins and the apotropaic character ascribed to symbolic armour, colourful, rattling beads, and chiming bells. Even when death has stilled the living body and it has been interred (as at Hasanlu), when the pins and beads and armour scales cease to clash and the shine of the gold cannot catch the eye, the sensorial affordances of those vibrant objects endure. The intense affectivity of this ensemble, its unrestrained and even uncomfortable sensoriality, ensured its persistence in individual and communal memory at Hasanlu. The absence of the sensory effect of this assemblage


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would be as notable as its presence, for the political or social phenomena forged through the accumulated magnificence of this assemblage cannot be understood solely in terms of the sensory experiences of wearers or the perceptions of observers. The defining, affective, transcorporeal encounters that constitute both sensory experience and identity operate in the spaces between self and others; interior and exterior; past, present, and future. And like the distortions built into the Peruvian pilgrimage site of Chavín de Huantar or the elision between the dress of the king and the fabrication of the walls of the Apadana at Persepolis, the goal of this assemblage is the “manufacture of wonder” by overwhelming the senses, and indelibly searing these women into communal memory at the site.

Notes 1. For a bibliography of earlier excavations at the site see Danti 2013a: 10–​11. 2. Mirjo Salvini (1984) suggested that Hasanlu was the site of Meshta mentioned in Urartian descriptions, an identification that is possible but by no means established. 3. A study of the human remains stored in the Penn Museum was performed by Paige Selinsky in 2009. However, we must acknowledge that the phenomenon of sex determination is itself material-​discursive and is geared towards the reproduction of binary sex. The consequently inherent tautology of scientific sex determination in archaeological and living bodies is well known, see, e.g., Barad 2003, Geller 2009, and Marshall and Alberti 2014, and so I refer to these individuals as “male-​identified.” 4. Marcus (1994: 4) argued that the textile impressions on these pins and the order of placement of objects on the bodies, as determined by study of excavation photographs, indicate that these pins fastened fabric that wrapped the bodies of these women. Many metal objects that were not on the bodies, however, show evidence of textile pseudomorphs, almost as if they were individually “shrouded.” Moreover, the excavations were not conducted and recorded carefully enough to provide evidence for the order in which objects were layered on bodies. Pins found on the citadel include: HAS 58-​0249 (Tehran 10695), HAS 60-​0248 (Tehran), HAS 60-​0500 (UM 61-​5-​274), HAS 60-​0878 (UM 61-​5-​115, MMA 61.100.46), HAS 62-​1002 (MMA 63.109.8), HAS 62-​1003 (UM 63-​5-​243), HAS 62-​1004 (UM 63-​ 5-​244), HAS 70-​0498 (UM 71-​23-​373). 5. Contextual assemblages are distinct from those aggregated according to material, technique, typological, or stylistic qualities, see, e.g., Hamilakis and Jones 2017: 77. 6. The theoretical literature on assemblage and Actor Network Theory is vast and expanding, e.g. Deleuze and Guattari 2005; Crellin 2017; Fowler 2017. There is theoretical overlap between notions of an assemblage as a relational and dynamic complex of diverse components, and networks (DeLanda 2006), meshworks (Ingold 2012), gatherings (Webmoor and Witmore 2008), and entanglements (Hodder 2012; Hodder and Lucas 2017; Lucas 2017). 7. One of the central tenets of posthumanism, New Materialism, and symmetrical archaeology is the critique of human exceptionalism and acknowledgement of non-​human, material agency; for the archaeological implications see the review by Julian Thomas 2015. 8. This is in contrast, for example, to Assyria, where there is ample evidence for the coincidence of “body” and “person,” e.g. Thomason 2016; Verderame 2019. See Thomason 2019 for a lucid and convincing argument for the utility of a Merleau-​Pontian phenomenological approach to the study of dress in such societies. 9. Young women: Stein excavations burial; SK59 (Op. VIa, B10, UM 60-​20-​225); SK503 (Op. VIj, B4, UM 65-​31-​806). Mature adult women: SK448 (Op. VIc, B4, UM 65-​31-​732); SK481 (Op. VIf, B10, UM 65-​31-​733/​65-​31-​801). For sex and age determinations of the skeletons from the Penn excavations, see Selinsky 2009; Monge and McCarthy 2011. 10. While the excavators called these rings “archer’s” rings because of their shape, the actual rings used in archery are much later and are worn exclusively on the thumb to protect it when drawing a bowstring. 11. Careful examination of HAS 64-​193 (UM 65-​31-​113) in the Near Eastern Section of the Penn Museum revealed that there were holes for two additional rivets at the narrow end of triangular plaque; see Figure 7.13. With four rivets, any resemblance to a phallus effectively disappears. 12. Similarly, strung copper tubes are found on corded skirts in Bronze Age burials in Denmark, a form of suspension that would have made the tubes audible through movement, see Kristiansen 2013.


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Bibliography Alberti, B., and A. M. Jones. 2013. “Archaeology after Interpretation,” in B. Alberti, A. M. Jones, and J. Pollard, eds., Archaeology After Interpretation. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 15–​36. Amelirad, S., and E. Azizi. 2019. “Kani Koter, Iron Age Cemetery from Iranian Kurdistan.” Iran 59 (1): 57–76. Amelirad, S., A. R. Mohajernezhad, and M. Javidkhah. 2017. “A Preliminary Report on the First Season of Excavation at Mala Mcha Graveyard Kurdistan.” Iran 60: 171–​207. Amelirad, S., B. Overlaet, and E. Haerinck. 2002. “An Iron Age Zagros Graveyard Near Sanandaj (Iranian Kurdistan): Preliminary Report on the First Season.” Iranica Antiqua 47: 41–​96. Baines, J. 1985. “Color Terminology and Color Classification: Ancient Egyptian Color Terminology and Polychromy.” American Anthropologist, New Series 87 (2): 282–​297. Barad, K. 2003. “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs 28 (3): 801–​831. Barad, K. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Benay, E., and L. Rafanelli. 2015. Faith, Gender, and the Senses in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art. Aldershot: Ashgate. Bennett, J. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. London: Duke University Press. Benzel, K. 2013. “Puabi’s Adornment for the Afterlife: Materials and Technologies of Jewelry at Ur in Mesopotamia.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University. Benzel, K. 2015. “‘What Goes In Is What Comes Out’ –​But What Was Already There? Divine Materials and Materiality in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in B. Pongratz-​Leisten and K. Sonik, eds., The Materiality of Divine Agency. Berlin: De Gruyter, 204–​267. Bergson, H. 1991. Matter and Memory. Trans. N. Paul and W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books. Bulger, T. D., and R. A. Joyce. 2013. “Archaeology of Embodied Subjectivities,” in D. Bolger, ed., A Companion to Gender Prehistory. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 68–​85. Butler, J. 1990a. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” in S.-​E. Case, ed., Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 270–​282. Butler, J. 1990b. Gender Trouble. New York and London: Routledge. Butler, J. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York and London: Routledge. Cartmill, E. A., S. Beilock, and S. Goldin-​Meadow. 2012. “A Word in the Hand: Action, Gesture and Mental Representation in Humans and Non-​Human Primates.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367: 129–​143. Cifarelli, M. 2013. “The Personal Ornaments of Hasanlu VIb–​IVc,” in M. Danti, ed., Hasanlu V: The Late Bronze and Iron I Periods. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 313–​323. Cifarelli, M. 2014. “Personal Ornaments at Hasanlu, Iran.” Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, Special Papers, 23 (2): 297–​316. Cifarelli, M. 2016. “Masculinities and Militarization at Hasanlu, Iran: A View from the Burials.” Near Eastern Archaeology 79 (3): 196–​204. Cifarelli, M. 2017a. “Archaeological Evidence for Small Scale Crisis: Hasanlu Between Destructions,” in T. Cunningham and J. Driessen, eds., From Crisis to Collapse: Archaeology and the Breakdown of Social Order. Louvain la Neuve: UCL Presses, 205–​231. Cifarelli, M. 2017b. “Costly Choices: Signaling Theory and Dress in Period IVb Hasanlu, Iran,” in M. Cifarelli and L. Gawlinski, eds., What Shall I Say of Clothes: Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to Dress in Antiquity. SPAAA 3. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 101–​119. Cifarelli, M. 2018a. “East of Assyria? Hasanlu and the Problem of Assyrianization,” in V. Herrmann and C. Tyson, eds., Imperial Peripheries in the Neo-​Assyrian Period. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 210–​239. Cifarelli, M. 2018b. “Entangled Relations over Geographical and Gendered Space: Multi-​Component Personal Ornaments at Hasanlu,” in S. Di Paolo, ed., Exhibiting an Imaginative Materiality, Showing a Genealogical Nature: The Composite Artefacts in the Ancient Near East. Oxford: Archaeopress, 51–​61. Cifarelli, M. 2018c. “Gender, Personal Adornment, and Costly Signaling in the Iron Age Burials of Hasanlu, Iran,” in A. Garcia-​Ventura and S. Svärd, eds., Studying Gender in the Ancient Near East. State College, PA: PSU Press/​Eisenbrauns, 77–​112.


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Cifarelli, M. 2019a. “Hasanlu, the Southern Caucasus and Early Urartu,” in P. S. Avetisyan, R. Dan, and Y. Grekyan, eds., Over the Mountains and Far Away: Studies in Near Eastern History and Archaeology Presented to Mirjo Salvini on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday. Oxford: Archaeopress, 144–​156. Cifarelli, M. 2019b. “The Iron Age at Hasanlu, Iran: New Perspectives,” in Y. Hassanzadeh, A. Vahdati, and Z. Karimi, eds., Proceedings of the International Conference on Iron Age in Western Iran and the Neighboring Regions. 2–​ 3 November 2019, Kurdistan University, Sanandaj, Iran, Vol. 2. Tehran/​ Sanandaj: Iran National Museum, 21–​44. Cifarelli, M., M. Castelluccia, and R. Dan. 2018. “Copper-​Alloy Belts at Hasanlu, Iran: A Case Study in Hybridization and Heteroglossia in Material Culture.” CAJ 28 (4): 539–​563. Colburn, C. 2019. “A Proposal for Interpreting the Role of Colour Symbolism in Prepalatial Cretan Body Adornment,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 75–​88. Crellin, R. J. 2017. “Changing Assemblages: Vibrant Matter in Burial Assemblages.” CAJ 27 (1): 111–​125. Danti, M. 2013a. Hasanlu V: The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Danti, M. 2013b. “The Late Bronze and Early Iron Age in Northwestern Iran,” in D. T. Potts, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 327–​376. Danti, M. 2014. “The Hasanlu (Iran) Gold Bowl in Context: All That Glitters ….” Antiquity 88 (341): 791–​804. Danti, M., and M. Cifarelli. 2015. “Iron II Warrior Burials at Hasanlu, Iran.” Iranica Antiqua 50: 61–​157. Danti, M., and M. Cifarelli. 2016. “Assyrianizing Contexts at Hasanlu IVb? Materiality and Identity in Iron II Northwest,” in J. MacGinnis, D. Wicke, and T. Greenfield, eds., The Provincial Archaeology of the Assyrian Empire. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 357–​369. DeLanda, M. 2006. A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. London: Continuum. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari. 2005. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Bloomsbury. Diaz-​Andreu, M. 2005. “Gender Identity,” in M. Diaz-​Andreu, S. Babic, and D. N. Edwards, eds., The Archaeology of Identity: Approaches to Gender, Age, Status, Ethnicity and Religion. London: Routledge, 13–​42. Di Paolo, S. 2018. “From Hidden to Visible: Degrees of Material Construction of an ‘Integrated Whole’ in the Ancient Near East,” in S. Di Paolo, ed., Exhibiting an Imaginative Materiality, Showing a Genealogical Nature: The Composite Artefacts in the Ancient Near East. Oxford: Archaeopress, 7–​20. Dyson, R. H., and O. W. Muscarella. 1989. “Constructing the Chronology and Historical Implications of Hasanlu IV.” Iran 27: 1–​27. Entwistle, J. 2000. The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Social Theory. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Fleming, S. J., S. K. Nash, and C. P. Swann. 2011. “The Archaeometallurgy of Period IVB Bronzes at Hasanlu,” in M. de Schauensee, ed., People and Crafts in Period IVb at Hasanlu, Iran. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 103–​134. Fowler, C. 2017. “Relational Typologies, Assemblage Theory and Early Bronze Age Burials.” CAJ 27 (1): 95–​109. Freedberg, D., and V. Gallese. 2007. “Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Esthetic Experience.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (5): 197–​203. Gansell, A. R. 2014. “Images of Conceptions of Ideal Feminine Beauty in Neo-​Assyrian Royal Contexts, c. 883627 BCE,” in B. Brown and M. Feldman, eds., Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art. Berlin: De Gruyter, 391–​420. Gansell, A. R. 2018. “Dressing the Neo-​Assyrian Queen in Identity and Ideology: Elements and Ensembles from the Royal Tombs at Nimrud.” AJA 122 (1): 65–​100. Geller, P. L. 2009. “Identity and Difference: Complicating Gender in Archaeology.” ARA 38 (1): 65–​81. Geurts, K. L. 2002. Culture and the Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hamilakis, Y. 2013a. “Afterword: Eleven Theses on the Archaeology of the Senses,” in J. Day, ed., Making Senses of the Past: Toward a Sensory Archaeology. Occasional Paper 40. Carbondale, IL: Center for Archaeological Investigation, Southern Illinois University Press, 409–​419. Hamilakis, Y. 2013b. Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hamilakis, Y. 2017. “Sensorial Assemblages: Affect, Memory and Temporality in Assemblage Thinking.” CAJ 27 (1): 169–​182. Hamilakis, Y., and A. M. Jones. 2017. “Archaeology and Assemblage.” CAJ 27 (1): 77–​84. 163

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Harrison-​Buck, E., and J. A. Hendon. 2018. “An Introduction to Relational Identities and Other-​than-​ Human Agency in Archaeology,” in E. Harrison-​Buck and J. A. Hendon, eds., Relational Identities and Other-​than-​Human Agency in Archaeology. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1–​28. Hodder, I. 2012. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things. Malden, MA: Wiley-​Blackwell. Hodder, I., and G. Lucas. 2017. “The Symmetries and Asymmetries of Human-​Thing Relations: A Dialogue.” Archaeological Dialogues 24 (2): 119–​137. Hoffman, D. D. 2016. “The Interface Theory of Perception.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 25 (3): 157–​161. Howes, D. 2019. “Resounding Sensory Profiles: Sensory Studies Methodologies,” in A. Schellenberg and T. Krüger, eds., Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East. Atlanta: SBL Press, 43–​54. Hulit, T. 2002. “Late Bronze Age Scale Armour in the Near East: An Experimental Investigation of Materials, Construction, and Effectiveness, with a Consideration of Socio-​Economic Implications.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Durham. Ingold, T. 2012. “Toward an Ecology of Materials.” ARA 41: 427–​442. Jones, A. M., and B. Alberti. 2013. “Beyond Representation,” in B. Alberti, A. M. Jones, and J. Pollard, eds., Archaeology After Interpretation. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 277–​280. Joyce, R. A. 2001. “Social Memory, Identity, and Death: Anthropological Perspectives on Mortuary Ritual.” Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 10: 12–​26. Joyce, R. A., and J. Pollard. 2010. “Archaeological Assemblages and Practices of Deposition,” in D. Hicks and M. Beaudry, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 291–​309. Ko, D. 2005. Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kolotourou, K. 2007. “Rattling Jewellery and the Cypriot Coroplast.” Archaeologia Cypria 5: 79–​99. Kristiansen, K. 2013. “Female Clothing and Jewellery in the Nordic Bronze Age,” in S. Sabatini, ed., Counterpoint: Essays in Archaeology and Heritage Studies in Honour of Professor Kristian Kristiansen. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 755–​769. Kroll, S. 2005. “The Southern Urmia Basin in the Early Iron Age.” Iranica Antiqua 40: 65–​85. Kroll, S. 2010. “Urartu and Hasanlu.” Aramazd Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies 5 (2): 21–​35. Kroll, S. 2013. “Hasanlu Period III—​Annotations and Corrections.” Iranica Antiqua 48: 175–​194. Lee, M. 2015. Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece. New York: Cambridge University Press. Love, N. 2011. “The Analysis and Conservation of the Hasanlu Period IVB Textiles,” in M. de Schauensee, ed., People and Crafts in Period IVb at Hasanlu, Iran. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 43–​56. Lucas, G. 2017. “Variations on a Theme: Assemblage Archaeology.” CAJ 27 (1): 187–​190. Malafouris, L. 2008. “Is It ‘Me’ or Is It ‘Mine’? The Mycenaean Sword as a Body-​Part,” in J. Robb and D. Boric, eds., Past Bodies. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 115–​123. Malafouris, L. 2010. “The Brain-​Artefact Interface (BAI): A Challenge for Archaeology and Cultural Neuroscience.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 5 (2–​3): 264–​273. Maran, J. 2004. “The Spreading of Objects and Ideas in the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean: Two Case Examples from the Argolid of the 13th and 12th Centuries BCE.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 336: 12–​30. Marcus, M. I. 1989. “Emblems of Authority.” Expedition 31 (2): 53–​63. Marcus, M. I. 1994. “Dressed to Kill: Women and Pins in Early Iran.” Oxford Art Journal 17 (2): 3–​15. Marcus, M. I. 1996. Emblems of Identity and Prestige: The Seals and Sealings from Hasanlu, Iran; Commentary and Catalog. Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. Mark, J. T., B. B. Marion, and D. D. Hoffman. 2010. “Natural Selection and Veridical Perceptions.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 266: 504–​515. Marshall, Y., and B. Alberti. 2014. “A Matter of Difference: Karen Barad, Ontology and Archaeological Bodies.” CAJ 24 (1): 19–​36. McFerrin, N. 2017. “Fabrics of Inclusion: Deep Wearing and the Potentials of Materiality on the Apadana Reliefs,” in M. Cifarelli and L. Gawlinski, eds., What Shall I Say of Clothes: Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to Dress in Antiquity. SPAAA 3. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 143–​159. McFerrin, N. 2019. “The Tangible Self: Embodiment, Agency, and the Functions of Adornment in Achaemenid Persia,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 233–​248.


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Mikrakis, M. 2011. “Technologies of Sound across Aegean Crafts and Mediterranean Cultures,” in A. Brysbaert, ed., Tracing Prehistoric Social Networks through Technology: A Diachronic Perspective on the Aegean. London: Routledge, 48–​71. Monge, J. M., and C. McCarthy. 2011. “A Life of Violence: When Warfare and Interpersonal Violence Intertwine at Hasanlu, Period IVB,” in M. de Schauensee, ed., The People and Crafts of Period IVb at Hasanlu, Iran. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 183–​193. Morgan, Jacques de. 1896. Mission Scientifique en Perse. Tome Quatrième, Recherches Archéologiques. Première Partie. Paris: Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse. Morgan, Jacques de. 1905. Recherches au Talyche 1901. Paris: Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse. Muscarella, O. W. 2006. “The Excavations of Hasanlu: An Archaeological Evaluation.” BASOR 342: 69–​94. Neumann, K. 2018. “Reading the Temple of Nabu as a Coded Sensory Experience.” Iraq 80: 181–​211. Neumann, K. 2019. “Laying the Foundations for Eternity: Timing Temple Constructions in Assyria,” in A. Schellenberg and T. Krüger, eds., Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East. Atlanta: SBL Press, 253–​278. Palmer, C. 2019. “Israelite High Priestly Apparel: Embodying an Identity between Human and Divine,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 117–​127. Petersen, A. 1985. “The Philosophy of Niels Bohr,” in A. P. French and P. J. Kennedy, eds., Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 299–​310. Pina-​Cabral, J. de. 2016. “Brazilian Serialities: Personhood and Radical Embodied Cognition.” Current Anthropology 57 (3): 247–​260. Pinnock, F. 2018. “Polymaterism in Early Syrian Ebla,” in S. Di Paolo, ed., Exhibiting an Imaginative Materiality, Showing a Genealogical Nature: The Composite Artefacts in the Ancient Near East. Oxford: Archaeopress, 73–​84. Pongratz-​Leisten, B., and K. Sonik. 2015. “Between Cognition and Culture: Theorizing Materiality of Divine Agency in Cross-​Cultural Perspective,” in B. Pongratz-​Leisten and K. Sonik, eds., The Materiality of Divine Agency. Berlin: De Gruyter, 3–​69. Rendu Loisel, A.-​C. 2019. “The Doors of Perception: Senses and Their Variations in Akkadian Texts,” in A. Schellenberg and T. Krüger, eds., Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East. Atlanta: SBL Press, 279–​292. Roach-​Higgins, M. E., and J. Eicher. 1992. “Dress and Identity.” Clothing and Textile Research Journal 10: 7–​18. Robb, J., and O. J. T. Harris. 2013. Body in History: Europe from the Palaeolithic to the Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Roßberger, E. 2018. “Shining, Contrasting, Enchanting: Composite Objects in the Royal Tomb of Qatna,” in S. Di Paolo, ed., Exhibiting an Imaginative Materiality, Showing a Genealogical Nature: The Composite Artefacts in the Ancient Near East. Oxford: Archaeopress, 39–​50. Rouse, J. 1996. Engaging Science: How to Understand Its Practices Philosophically. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Rubinson, K. S. 2012a. “Some Metal Belts from Hasanlu,” in H. Fahimi and K. Alizadeh, eds., NĀMVARNĀMEH: Papers in Honour of Massoud Azarnoush. Tehran: Iran Negar, 107–​112. Rubinson, K. 2012b. “Urartian (?) Belts and Some Antecedents,” in S. Kroll, C. Gruber, U. Hellwag, M. Roaf, and P. E. Zimansky, eds., Biainili-​Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12–​14 October 2007. Leuven: Peeters, 391–​396. Salvini, M. 1984. “Storia Della Regione in Epoca Urartea,” in P. A. Pecorrella and M. Salvini, eds., Tra Lo Zagros e L’Urmia. Ricerche Storiche Ed Archeologiche Nell’Azerbaigian Iraniano. Rome: Edizioni Dell’Ateneo, 9–​51. Salvini, M. 2005. “Archaeology and Philology: Reconstructing the History of Northwest Iran in the Urartian Period (9th–​ 7th Centuries B.C.),” in M. Azarnoush, ed., Proceedings of the International Symposium on Iranian Archaeology: Northwestern Region. Tehran: Iranian Center for Archaeological Research, 65–​76. Schaeffer, C. 1948. Stratigraphie Comparée et Chronologie de l’Asie Occidentale. London: Oxford University Press. Seeley, W. P. 2006. “Naturalizing Aesthetics: Art and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Vision.” Journal of Visual Arts Practice 5 (3): 195–​214. Selinsky, P. 2009. “Death a Necessary End.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. Sørensen, M.-​L. S. 1997. “Reading Dress: The Construction of Social Categories and Identities in Bronze Age Europe.” Journal of European Archaeology 5 (1): 93–​114.


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8 Beyond the flesh Sensing identity through the body and skin in Mesopotamian glyptic contexts Sarah J. Scott

Introduction To engage in haptic sensorial exploration is to actively investigate other objects through touch. Relying on the subject’s movement over or through a surface, haptic perception is the pursuit of sensorial experience with the expectation of intimate knowledge. Such intimate knowledge through meso-​perceptual and inter-​cutaneous exploration leads to a deeper understanding of the self and one’s existence in the world.1 Skin is the bodily organ through which haptic sensing proceeds; as it contributes to one’s somatic experience in the world, we understand it to be the organ most responsible for conveying these active engagements to our conscious and subconscious. Simultaneously, as proprioceptors are engaged through the skin, the conscious and subconscious mind affects and is affected by culturally specific knowledge and memory. In this chapter, my aim is to explore how the act of sealing in Mesopotamia from the fourth to first millennia BCE , as a bodily act, afforded its users a somatic sense of legitimacy as a result of associations with concepts of the body through materials of stone and clay. Cylinder seals were used in the broader ancient Near East (Iraq, Anatolia, Syria, Iran, the Levant) and throughout the Mediterranean as early as the fourth millennium BCE .2 Here, I focus on seal practice in ancient “Mesopotamia”—​the heartland of the ancient Near East along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern Iraq and eastern Syria—from their origin to the last centuries BCE . Seals impressed intaglio imagery into clay: most typically either lumps of clay that secured or locked containers (either portable—​such as jars, or stationary—​such as entire rooms) (Figure 8.1) or clay cuneiform documents (texts) (Figure 8.2a–​b). Seals functioned visually as communicative tools; their impressed imagery was linked to the user’s identity. They often functioned apotropaically and were sometimes used in healing rituals (see, in particular, Bock 2003). While of great value for an exploration of the ancient world, visual and iconographic investigations are outside the scope of this chapter.3 Here, I will focus on their functional role to officiate, even mediate, physical transactions between individuals and groups. Seals were worn on the body either against the skin on a belt or dangling from a string (Figure 8.3). Most importantly they were grasped in the hand and rolled across wet clay; the hand would have sensed the

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-9


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Figure 8.1  Early Dynastic cylinder seal impression in clay from Ur, Iraq. Penn Museum (31.16.607). Source: Photo by author.

movement of the seal’s surface over the skin (hardness, pressure, temperature), and in muscular pressure points, spots called proprioceptors, and thus had a haptic affective nature. My approach to the haptic sense of sealing rests on two fundamental arguments. First, seals were “things”—​ capable of mediating social relationships. Informed by the post-​ processual work of Lefebvre (1991), Gell (1998), Ingold (2008), and Hamilakis (2013), my approach is object-​centric and sensory; the seal operated within a landscape populated with other animated movements, kinaesthetic interactions, and circulating materials. Gell asserts that objects are entangled with our bodies; they are abductors of agency because of non-​aesthetic properties that facilitate their function within an active system of change. Additionally, theories of embodied interaction and body schema offer avenues for considering how human cognition perceives bodily interactions with objects. Body schema, a neurological theory, explains how our bodies perceive objects as extensions of our limbs (Malafouris 2008). Indeed, seals, as they are handled, and sensed, become artefacts that index another presence. Concepts of haptic object-​interaction from cross-​cultural perspectives shed further light on ways we might ask new questions about the link between human–​object entanglement and the senses in ancient Mesopotamia. Theories of Skin Ego, and suture, establish a context where clay’s surface (either a tablet or a sealing on a container or door) functioned as a medium ripe for the receipt of the seal’s impression as an imprint of seal user’s identity (Figure 8.4). Second, Mesopotamian notions of the self and the body suggest the sealing process functioned in part through haptic engagement. While a vast question in and of itself, the essential point is that the body was the whole self—​whether human or divine—​and part of a physical landscape, formed of materials that could affect or be affected by others. Through material engagement and/​or the manipulation of materials, the body could be altered, even made suitable for possession of divine agency. Recent considerations have referred to this phenomenon of physical bodies’ possession of divine energy as “presencing” (Pongratz-​Leisten and Sonik 2015), a term I, too, will use. I attempt to show that the seal could be understood as an index of the body/​self, a secondary and possibly divine agent of the body, but also as an extension of 168

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Figure 8.2  Tablets with seal impressions. (a) Proto-​cuneiform tablet, Jemdet Nasr Period (c. 2900 BCE ). Metropolitan Museum of Art (1988.433.1). (b) Cuneiform extispicy text from Umma (c. 2200 BCE ) (CDLI no. P273414). Archives & Special Collections, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA.

one’s human body through its material qualities. Drawing on aspects of object agency above, the Mesopotamian concept of melammu (visually alluring radiance, awe-​inspiring sheen) was a perceptible embodiment of energy of the divine—​something transmitted to the material world and manifest there as light. It was present in materials and objects (Pongratz-​Leisten 2011; Winter 1994; 2007; Sonik 2015; Bahrani 2003; 2008; Benzel 2015). Clay, too, could be thought of as a body part and we will also see that through culturally specific evidence and recent theoretical application, clay can be understood as a mantic medium—​akin to human skin—​onto which signs and messages were written. It therefore served as an appropriate medium to receive the imprint of a seal. 169

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Figure 8.3  Inlay of a woman wearing a cylinder seal and playing a flute from Nippur, Iraq. Metropolitan Museum of Art (62.70.46).

Figure 8.4  Rolling the cylinder seal: a student gently rolls the cylinder seal in the clay, creating an impression of the detailed design etched on the cylinder. Source: Courtesy of the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures, University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign.


Sensing identity through body and skin

In this volume, as we explore the senses in the ancient Near East, the reader is likely engaging in various scholarly approaches. Prior to these discussions, we find that sight had been prioritised over sound, smell, space, and touch. Our current moment of scholarly inquiry demands critical cognisance of the historicity of our sources, and asks us to use our own sensorial exploration as a useful alternative (Hawthorne and Rendu-​Loisel 2019: 7). Recent scholarship emphasises multisensorial and synaesthetic experiences; for example, the Neo-​Assyrian temple and palace both afford deeper engagement with the divine through sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch (Neumann 2019; Portuese 2019). The sense of touch is perhaps the most essential in religious, magical, and sacred experiences, since through the haptic sense objects, things can serve to transfer agentive qualities across users (Downes et al. 2018: 13; Brown 2001: 7; Woolgar 2006: 29–​32). Further, certain haptic habits are formed, whereby active rubbing, touching, and recursive movements become second nature to an object’s user. In such cases, the cutaneous sensation becomes intrinsically linked to the function of such an object (Lingis 2011: 81). I argue this habit was integral to seal use, serving to bind the user both cognitively and sensuously to that practice (see also Chapter 1, this volume).

Things, cognition, and the haptic sense Seals and their impressions were things: objects acting to mediate social relationships. Drawing on frameworks outlined below, followed by cross-​cultural case studies that seek to offer parallel modes of questioning, the cognitive architecture for an interrogation of the sensorial experiences of sealing is established. We should recall two aspects of Gell’s theory of art and agency. First, he asserts that objects, as physical agents in culturally specific social interactional spheres, can function indexically to mediate agency. The material “index” permits “the abduction of agency” by the observer (Gell 1998: 13). In the case of the seal, an interaction sphere is established between the seal and the user, positioning the seal as an index of the user, allowing for the clay to function as the recipient, or patient of the index. Second, Gell develops his concept of object “enchantment.”Through the manufacture of objects, the “expert artist” (creator agent) composes certain physical attributes in an object capable of beguiling the viewer to believe in something more than the physical, where the creation is rendered animate, thus supporting the object’s affectiveness (Gell 1992: 44).4 Following on Gell’s theory of abduction, Malafouris (2008: 120) draws upon the concept of body schema, whereby an object/​index, as a tool for the body, can change and shape our bodies through transforming and extending the body’s physicality.5 This concept of embodied cognition understands the body not as a passive shell, but as an active partner with the conscience. In Bronze Age Aegean (Mycenaean) contexts, Malafouris (2008: 120–​121) argues that the presence of swords in the toolkit of conflict directly altered the embodied cognition and identity of their users. The sensorial experience of grasping the sword cognitively blurred the boundary between body and matter, transforming the sword into an animate extension of the body, thereby making the Mycenaean who he was. More than simply an agent, the sword became part of the body. Similarly, Anderson (2019) considers the seal within Bronze Age Aegean contexts as a liminal boundary, intimately juxtaposed between the body of the user and the clay, and facilitating a sensory rupture as it is lifted from the clay’s surface. Understanding the possible ability for seals to act as bodily extensions of the self, we can now address how the haptic sense of the seal against the skin, and as it impressed clay, contributed to this effect. Across time and space skin is the conduit through which the whole body (and self) interacts with the world—​a meso-​perceptual organ through which sensation passes. Indeed, it is through our sense of touch on skin that we physically explore and ultimately understand our surroundings; it is how we partake of the world as sentient beings (Merleau-​Ponty 1964: 140–​50). 171

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Touch is pivotal in our current scholarly questions of ancient social engagement and cultural meaning in diverse settings (Hamilakis 2013: 6–​9; Harries 2017). Similar constructs abound in European Medieval contexts; the soul (metaphysical self) is not made real until skin binds the flesh (physical self); flesh is the form, and skin is the container. Although in the Medieval tradition the two (spirit and body) can be separate (Walter 2013: 122–​123), the flesh and skin were understood as part of a homogeneous biological body. Skin was not conceived of as a boundary at all; rather it was perceived as a three-​dimensional space, a porous material, one that allowed for fluxes to move in and out of the body and served as a nexus between the body and world (Benthien 2004: 37, 62). For Hamilakis (2013: 197) as well, skin is also a liminal medium, it acts as a prosthesis to the body, binding the body to the outer world, thereby functioning as an essential tool for practice and social memory construction. Such an understanding of the sense of touch through and with skin is paramount for us here, as it establishes the medium through which scholarship acknowledges the navigation of the entanglement between the self and the world (Ingold 2008; Lefebvre 1991). Gell’s theory of enchantment is fundamental to understanding how material properties of objects may embody the divine, thereby facilitating their agentive role. Following on the heels of this concept, Brown (2001: 7) also asserts that it is the tactile relationship we have with objects that affords the channelling of the divine. Similarly, touch may arguably be the sense that affords the most potent experience of divine transference (Woolgar 2006). We will see below that this concept is particularly culturally bound in Mesopotamia through the concepts of ṣalmu and melammu. A cross-​cultural example is found in Byzantine icons of the Christ figure, where various three-​dimensional techniques of soldering, repoussé, and enamelwork were essential in creating affects for the audience. For example, flickering candlelight created a life-​like effect when moving across the surface of a multi-​surfaced icon, and cast iridescent effects, setting the stage for mimesis of divine flesh.6 This ability of the icon to affect supported the belief that it was a positive physical imprint of the divine shape of Christ’s flesh (Pentcheva 2010: 96–​99).7 In the absence of real flesh, materials provided a radiant and haptic surface as an interaction sphere for the viewer (typically a patient seeking healing) to communicate with the divine. The psychoanalytical concept of the Skin Ego provides a contemporary comparative framework for exploring how skin functions as an abductor of agency (Weismann 2019). According to Anzieu (1989: 1–​9), organic and imaginary skin protects individuality while also allowing for interaction with others; for haptically knowing one’s self (inner psyche) and the world (social identity).8 The way we think about and construct ourselves, from the moment we are born and start interacting with the world through our skin, is as a series of co-​mingling surfaces, layers, and envelopes. An understanding of our cohesive being is mapped out as a result of sensations we feel on our skin. We must become intimately aware of our skin as a haptic sensory organ as we sense pressure, pain, cold, and heat and connect these sensations multisensorially and synaesthetically with other senses such as smell, sight, taste, sound, and bodily awareness of balance and movement (proprioception). While we understand ourselves through a sense of touch and build our identities metaphorically and sensually as we explore our own bodies, we eventually use our skin to explore socially. As infants approach the age of six months, they become aware that they are external to their mothers; they develop their first sensorial mechanisms that signal to their brain through touch as their skin touches that of another, and then by taste (as they seek to explore the world by putting things in their mouths). Returning to the ancient world, this gives rise to the idea that the seal user, by impressing their seal into flesh, would have created a deeper connection between themselves and the process of sealing—​the process of validating one’s identity. As a system of several sense receptors and neural networks, one linked directly to our psychology of the self 172

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from infancy onward, skin is undoubtedly a tool utilised across time and space for capturing and communicating physical messages. Clay and skin both were media ripe for receiving signs, whether impressed or written by the human or the divine within Mesopotamian contexts. Clay provided an opportunity for Mesopotamians to engage with an animate surface akin to their own skin, and intensified the relationship between the seal user, their seal, and the impression. In the Medieval European manuscript tradition, we find a similar phenomenon where the medium ripens or reifies the experience of mark-​making and receiving. Referred to as the “suture,” manuscript readers became more deeply linked to their texts though the materiality of the vellum (skin) pages. Following upon the concept of Skin Ego, Kay (2006: 36) argues that both intellectually and physically the Medieval reader was cognisant of the process of flaying an animal for the page, and that this acknowledgement was part of the experience of reading. Close analysis of varying types of vellum reveals traces of their former existence as animal skin, such as skin pores, follicles, and marks left from cutting and stretching (Figure 8.5).9 Through this form of entanglement the reader of the manuscript draws upon their own cognition of the skin as an outer film,

Figure 8.5  Unicorn and lynx (second family) from a Medieval manuscript. St John’s College (MS 178, fo. 159v). Source: Reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, University of Oxford. 173

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which serves as a binding agent for inner contents, and intensifies the story’s content. Similarly, in Mesopotamia, this idea of sensed “suture” would have linked the identity of the seal user, or scribe, more closely to the clay. Seals—as haptically sensed, agentive objects used in recursive practice—mediated social relationships and contributed to individual and social identity and collective memory. They could have been perceived as a physical extension of the biological body; an experience intensified through the haptic and aural sensations of seal/​body impressing the clay surface. The concepts of Skin Ego and “suture” developed in other fields allow us to probe the sensorial experience of impressing seal into clay. We can imagine the pushing of the seal into the clay, imparting warmth and pressure to the matrix, while also causing aural sensations, such as the squishing and suction sounds emitted from the medium as the seal was separated from the clay’s surface. In Mesopotamian contexts, we can therefore understand such a disruption of clay, as it is penetrated by the force of the seal, would be a meaningful act about the disruption or imposition of identity. Following, we will explore how these tenets may be more specifically applied within Mesopotamian epistemologies of the body and materials.

The Mesopotamian body: a sense of the body, the divine, and stone Mesopotamian epistemologies underscore both the physical and meta-​physical body, which may be associated with certain materials such as stone and clay. In particular, stone may possess melammu, a radiant force present within and emanating from divine bodies. In the discussion that follows we will see how skin, as an organ of the body, functioned as a mantic extension of the body, ideally positioned to receive signs (impressed) from a body (seal). Concepts of the body played a major role in the Mesopotamians’ understanding of the physical world, as they understood that the body served as a repository for the mind and a sense of meaning and understanding of self (Asher-​Greve 1997: 432; Pongratz-​Leisten 2015). Indeed, a major tenet of self in Mesopotamian philosophy was that there were multiple and ever-​ regenerating selves. Through the ontologies of language (Sumerian and Babylonian) and the written form (cuneiform) we can understand the nature of Mesopotamian concepts of being whereby the individual could be present in multiple forms and fragments. Polyvalency and the generation of infinite meanings of language were driving components of Mesopotamian thought (Van De Mieroop 2017: 219). This directly informs the concept of the body: there was no dichotomy between the mind and the body—​they were one in and of the self. The Sumerian and Akkadian languages denote this: du (banû) meant form and shape of the body. The person was the body, yet it existed beyond the physical. The gods’ mind was expressed through the physical body. This important concept is explicated by Pongratz-​Leisten (2011: 39) as it applies to Neo-​Assyrian kingship—​she cites Esarhaddon’s (680–​669 BCE ) decree to demonstrate this singularity of mind and body, “I spoke with my heart (I thought it was over), I brought it together in my liver (I pondered over it)” (Borger 1956: 42, i 32). While the mind and the body were one, the entirety of the self was also existentially and fractally present in all parts of world, and was capable of diffusing its agency (Bahrani 2008: 76–​ 80). This philosophy of the body can be understood in part through the very status of the gods themselves; the divine body was transcendent, manifest in the physical world, and of a composite nature.10 For example, the starry sky was the abode of gods; the divine was visibly embodied in a planet or star, and celestial bodies—​viewed as images of gods—​were worldly objects manifesting divine agency (Rochberg 2009: 46–​47; see also Chapter 22, this volume). Omen and divinatory texts suggest gods had the ultimate power to decide, control, and command (Rochberg 2011: 283–​284). While such power and divinity were not for humans to wield, it was theirs 174

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to experience, absorb, and sense; their bodies felt and were affected by the divine. At the same time, the divine was modelled on the human form (Ornan 2009: 93). This fundamental aspect of Mesopotamian theology allowed for material things—​things accessible through touch—​to embody the divine. The physiological body (and stones, as we will see below) were given their identity by the gods. The spirit or ghost of humans comes from the god’s flesh, and intelligence from his blood. The spirit survives postmortem, but remains bound to the bones. The Akkadian words šīru and libbu broadly reference Sumerian su and ša3, with a range in meaning from self or person, to flesh, kin, and body (Asher-​Greve 1997: 447). Body parts of the ruler were associated with specific qualities, as Winter has shown in her analyses of the statues of the Mesopotamian kings Gudea of Lagash (c. 2100 BCE ), and Naram-​Sin of Akkad (2254–​2218 BCE ). Gudea’s sculptures communicate his ability to rule through a network of textual, visual, verbal, ritual, and metaphorical messages intimately bound into the physical sculpture itself—​Gudea’s actual body of flesh (Winter 1989). Naram-​Sin too, is understood as a potent ruler through his physical presence within the constructed monument of his “Victory Stele.” This culturally bound concept, ṣalmu in Akkadian, establishes image-​bearing objects not as representational, but as physical embodiments of particular qualities; the image was the real thing (Bahrani 2003; Sonik 2015). The viewer of such image-​bearing objects receives a series of ideal attributes of the royal body through engagement with the sculpture, for example Naram-​Sin’s “good form or breeding, auspiciousness, vigour/​ vitality, and specifically sexual allure or charm” (Winter 1996: 11). Certain physical aspects needed to be properly arranged in order for a ṣalmu to be present; image was not enough—​the proper materials, location, and context were also necessary (Sonik 2015: 181). While the concept of ṣalmu stipulates the self may be physically present in a material, in Mesopotamia the concept of melammu provides a vehicle through which the divine may be present in physical form. Melammu, a multisensorial radiance emanating from objects, inspired awe, indeed sometimes fear, into its beholders. The Mesopotamian mindset understood that luminosity possessed by certain physical materials was, in fact, the divine having become manifest in the real world (Rochberg 2009: 49; Winter 2002). Melammu was not just a quality, but a physical force-​ field that came from the inside (Winter 1994: 124–​128). Like ṣalmu, melammu articulates the pathway through which Mesopotamians understood the composite nature of the body and self and the ascription of agency (Winter 2007: 42–​53). Physical objects could project this divine energy: King Esarhaddon’s crown was “clothed (wrapped) in melammu, adorned (literally, sprinkled) with vital energy, bearing dazzling awesomeness, bathed in radiance” (Winter 1994: 127). Such an aura must be imagined as we view the seals or monuments where gods are depicted (Figure 8.6). Ordinary humans were not themselves divine, but as images or shadows of the king, they possessed a second-​hand relationship to the gods.11 While humans likely did not emit melammu themselves, they could partake in the corporeal coding of the divine inscribed across a variety of physical bodies, including seals, statues, and cities (Sonik 2015: 147–​150). We know of particular rituals through which objects became deified. “Rites of constitution” were performed in order to make an object functional in multiple ways, creating a cultural understanding of the ability for materials to possess and cast an energy force-​field (Winter 1992: 17). Therefore, to anyone holding and using a seal, the force emanating from the seal and then transferred to the material of clay could not have been far from the sealer’s mind. We can circle back to the work of Hamilakis, Malafouris, and Anderson here, remembering how the seal, as object, merges the body—​haptically and cognitively—​to the objectscape of the world. This zone of mediation, “where bodies meet” (Anderson 2019: 209), was what made the transference of identity possible, 175

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Figure 8.6  Modern impression of a cylinder seal from Iran depicting the goddess Ishtar welcoming a devotee. Walters Art Gallery (42.782).

while through the recursive, corporeal practice of sealing clay objects the community was bound together (Hamilakis et al. 2002: 129). Mesopotamian materials, specifically in their raw state (gold and silver in particular), had affective physical properties that contributed to their defined qualities as assigned by human agents (Benzel 2015: 96). Such properties activated the ritual efficacy of an object, including seals, by making the physical body more affective through constructs such as ṣalmu and melammu. Compounded through both the material of manufacture and the finished object—​as with the finished product of a cylinder seal with a gold cap—​purity and shine emanating from the material would affect other things with which it came into contact. As Jacobsen (1976: 7) writes, “the form given to numinous encounter may adjust to the content revealed in it.” Myriad documentary sources establish the effectiveness of melammu through stone, suggesting the phenomenon was “the combination of light-​plus-​sheen yielding a kind of lustrousness” emanating from the bodies (Winter 1994: 123). While shine was good, intensification of shine could convey power, thus affecting the receiver through the sense of sight and touch. In the Sumerian myth Lugal-​e, Ninurta, the god of spring thundershowers and floods, determines the character and use of various types of stones, including carnelian and lapis, so they can perform the duties ascribed to them (Jacobsen 1987: 261–​262). Ninurta was only able to animate his army because of the properties inherent in the stone. Stone also had cosmic qualities; ritual texts characterise stone amulets as possessors of magical agency. For example, rock crystal signified enlarged profits and a good name, green marble would bring favour, and lapis meant power and divine favour (Goff 1956: 27) (see also Chapters 3 and 15, this volume). Texts also note that for magical purposes seals should be made of precious stones (Reiner 1971: 137). Lapis lazuli, in particular, seems to have been favoured during the Early Dynastic period (c. 2900–​2300 BCE) for the making of seals (Collon 1987: 100); it was during this period, the third millennium BCE, that the social identities of elites were being established, and lapis lazuli was a material featured in much of the art that served this purpose (Figures 8.7a–​b). Known to possess, radiate, and embody divine qualities, it was valued economically and aesthetically (Winter 1999). The blue colour of lapis lazuli, as well as its radiance and sheen (it frequently contained inclusions of gold pyrite) contributed to its status as a favoured material (Thavalapalan 2019). Lapis lazuli frequently took the form of beards on sculpted figures, linking the material to the affective attribute. In her analysis of Naram-​Sin’s “Victory Stele,” Winter (1996: 1) identifies 176

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Figure 8.7a–​b  (a) Cylinder seal from Ur made of lapis lazuli; and (b) modern impression. Penn Museum (B16282). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum (image nos. 296103, 296104).

the positive attribute of vigour/​vitality (baštu) as present in the beard of the king. Additionally, we can imagine the sensorial link one might draw when imagining one’s own beard to be made of the material; the outward growth of the stone from the skin would itself be an emanation of divinity. In a Sumerian love song, the divine Inanna sings to her mortal shepherd Dumuzi, “My (beloved) with a lapis lazuli beard, … My beloved whose beard shines like a lapis lazuli crown … You are my pin, my gold …” (Alster 1985: 129–​135, PBS XII 52, quoting Kramer). Not only do these sources speak to the quality of the material related to identity, but to the multisensorial experience of the material and the effect of it: the stone shines—​it affects us visually; the beard can be caressed—​it affects us haptically. While stone, and lapis lazuli in particular, can be understood as ideal media for the presencing of one’s cosmic body, seals too can be understood as one’s physical body. The body was a multifaceted composition, including the organic parts, one’s name, images of the body, and their seal; 177

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any one of these could operate independently of one’s body (Pongratz-​Leisten 2011: 139). Through this concept of partible personhood, the seal could become the possessor of the individual it represented.12 By the end of the third millennium BCE , the seal as an administrative tool was intimately associated with an individual’s identity. Kanāku in Akkadian is the verb for the making of a seal imprint on clay, or to seal a document, or to place under seal. Excerpts in literature suggest that the process of doing so entrusted or shifted one’s agency to another thing. The seal and/​or sealing was the individual’s representation; and the seal may have been just as good as the body of the person themselves. In addition, examples from Sumerian epistolary texts especially highlight this with expressions such as: “Give his tablet and seal the boxes and entrust them”; “Seal the basket with your cylinder seal and put your clay tags on it”; and “He will store (the barley) in the storage bin, he should seal (it) with the boss’s and his own seal.”13 Thus, the Mesopotamian phenomenon of identity was deeply embedded in the organic body and the inorganic objects that were in contact with the body (Bahrani 2008: 78). This identity could radiate through deified objects and/​or melammu, leaving an imprint on objects around it. Within a highly sensorial environment, where culturally bound understandings of seal function were cognitively embedded, every time a user rolled a seal over a clay sealing or tablet, they would haptically reiterate the performance of identity. Not only might the seal become a fractal of the body, the wearing of the seal would encourage a haptic connection for the user. Stone embellishments on funerary garments and ritual regalia as evidenced in the tomb of Queen Pu-​abi at the site of Ur (Early Dynastic period) may have made affective her status as an abundant being, and perhaps linked her with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, as the latter was bedecked with lapis lazuli as she descended to the underworld in the Sumerian myth Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (Cohen 1973: 128–​135). Similarly, consecrated jewellery made of gold and stone worn by priestesses transferred divinity to their wearer (Benzel 2015: 93). In Neo-​Assyrian contexts, we see the wearing of seals as part of royal regalia that specifically embodied ideologies of feminine identity, mapping the queen’s personage directly onto ontologies of courtly context (Gansell 2018). Evidence exists for the wearing of seals and beads directly against the skin (Hurowitz 2012: 277); the objects spoke to the wearer’s favoured status in the eyes of the divine. Such was the case with an object found that was worn around Naram-​Sin’s neck, inscribed with the ruler’s name and referring to his favoured divine status (Ismail and Tosi 1976). The wearing of cylinder seals is one indication of their role as markers of bodily identity. Seals were additionally sometimes shaped into bodily forms, as in the case of early stamp seals dated to the fourth millennium BCE in the form of squatting human figures, or later seals in the shape of Pazuzu heads. They were worn both as sealing instruments and as part of dress, and thus took part in a visual communication about who one was, and the associations one had with others. In a Sumerian love poem to Šusin, the figure Kubātum, his beloved, is given a golden pin and a lapis lazuli seal as a gift (Alster 1985: 141, SRT 23, quoting Kramer). In these contexts, I argue that the pin and seal are stand-​ins for the body. And yet again, in a hymn dedicated to divine lovers Inanna and Dumuzi the male lover is compared to a pin and lapis lazuli seal: “My pure pin, my pure pin, your appeal is sweet; My brilliant pin onto which a lapis lazuli seal is attached, your appeal is sweet” (Alster 1985: 146, SRT 31).

The mantic body and clay Next, we will explore how skin, as an organ of the body, functioned as a mantic extension of the body. It was a text onto which cosmic signs and omens could be inscribed and made visible,


Sensing identity through body and skin

literally written on it. Thus, in the following discussion, the material of clay is assessed as an appropriate medium for the abduction of skin’s agency. Mesopotamian visual and literary evidence allows us to understand the skin’s surface as an active medium for carrying and communicating identity.14 The very nature of signs and writing were known to exist within objects (and humans) before they were seen or read. Practices of divination (in particular hepatoscopy and extispicy)15 relied on the belief that the world was laden with signs from the gods and they appeared on the skin, in the flesh, hair, nail clippings, or woven into fabric fragments. “Destiny was inscribed into the world: this should be understood not in a figurative sense of inscription but as a literal translation of the Akkadian word šaṭāru, to inscribe” (Bahrani 2008: 60–​63, 92, 99). The marking of the skin of humans by the gods required its own practice—​physiognomic observation. Here, certain marks on the skin of humans, particularly on the face, were examined as divine signs; for example, if the markings for the Sumerian sign BA were found on a man’s face in some form, he would “face” misfortune (Frahm 2010: 115). While hepatoscopy and extispicy were essential in the communicative exchange between the divine and human realms, physiognomy was more subjective; readings of the bodily forms could change and were unique with respect to the individual person being observed (Bock 2010: 203). Therefore, we see that writing on the surface of one’s skin was particularly linked with the self and identity. In the same way that seals were used as extensions of the user, and intimately connected to them alone, so too were the marks of the gods on individuals’ skins. Perhaps nowhere else do we see the skin as the formative surface for the carrying of identity more clearly than in the practice of tattooing. Texts dating to the fourth millennium BCE from Uruk (stratigraphic levels IV and III) use the word zag16 in reference to persons and animals owned by temple households indicating that they were branded for ownership. Brands and tattoos marked individuals as slaves or prisoners of war, as indicated through use of the Akkadian term šimtum, literally “identifying mark” in administrative and other texts (Ditchey 2016: 2–​5).17 These textual references suggest such body markings robbed individuals of agency over their own bodies, humiliating them through “denial of personhood” (Schildkrout 2004: 322).18 If we recall that, in this context, the body was the self, we can understand how profound this permanent marking of the skin was (Fox 2011). The marking, scarring, or puncturing of the flesh could damage or change the owner’s identity. This is particularly clear in textual slippages where šimtum may be used in reference to sealing as well as branding. A passage from The Sumerian Laws Handbook of Forms, a late Old Babylonian (second millennium BCE ) scholarly compendium reads, “they ordered him to brand a seal onto his forehead” (Roth 1997: 47, FLP 1287 obv. ii. 4–​6) and indicates such a relationship between sealing and skin. Another Sumerian term, tab, is found in association with branding and the validation of documents (Ditchey 2016: 8). These practices would have literally played into concepts of the mantic body already addressed above through the term šaṭāru (“to inscribe”). While skin can manifest signs and communicate forms of identity, it is also the means through which things are sensed. Worn fabric, as it brushes against the skin, mediates experience between the wearer and their surroundings (Neumann 2017). The clothed experience can provide a participatory sense of closeness to the divine, as the wearers such as kings liken their embodied experiences to those of wooden-​core statues overlaid with gold or silver. To a living, clothed human, therefore, the sense of wearing could remind us of our closeness to the divine (Winter 2000: 36). Architecture, too, could embody the divine, and haptically sense such presence through its own skin (see Chapter 9, this volume).19 Through various interactions with divinely radiant materials and practices, melammu activated the human somatic experience. The wearing of seals too, would have created a similar sensorial relationship between the seal and its owner.


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Haptic experience was featured in love poetry. In the Sumerian love poem of Šusin (mentioned earlier), the king’s lover implores him to “Put your hand onto a garment as with an awl, spread the garment with your hand as with a spatula” (Alster 1985: 137–​138; Ni 2461, 28–​29, quoting Kramer). Here we see the erotic play of the lover’s skin over the garment of the narrator, and a metaphor drawn between the hand of the lover as a piercing implement.20 Skin’s mantic status and haptic function can be related to clay. As skin and flesh was a medium for cosmic signs and identity, clay too could serve these purposes. A ubiquitous and easily obtainable material, it gave form to sealings, tablets, foundation cones and prisms, vessels, moulds, plaques, sculptures, and architectural embellishment; it served as a secondary index, in the Gellian sense, permitting the abduction of agency for the user and recipient. Scholars have argued that one of the most important agentive qualities of both baked and unbaked clay figurines is their ability to place their handler in the role of creator-​being. As clay was formed into various types of objects, including vessels of anthropomorphic form, their creators would have been very much aware that they were taking on the role of the first creators (Moorey 2003). In Mesopotamia and surrounding regions, clay bricks, moulds, and kilns were analogous to birthing processes and materials (Graff 2014: 382–​383). Clay vessels were shaped like bodies, and even embellished as if adorned with clothing or jewellery, as in certain African traditions (Sterner et al. 1988).21 Literary tradition suggests clay was understood to be the material of human creation; goddesses are cited frequently in Mesopotamian myth as having used clay to fashion the first humans.22 For example in the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, humans were created out of clay to ease the workload of the gods. Additionally, clay as a material for creation of flesh is well known to us through the Mesopotamian Atrahasis myth. Humans are again created to lessen the burden of the god; the god Enki directs Nintu to “mix clay with his flesh and his blood then a god and a man will be mixed together in clay” (Dalley 1989: 15). In Mesopotamia, clay was also the matrix for the carrying of cuneiform writing. As we have seen above, Mesopotamian literati believed that language and writing were deeply connected, and that the maintenance of knowledge and wisdom existed within words and signs. Such an inevitability of signage should make clear to us that the marking of a surface, whether it be an organ, the skin, or a clay tablet, can be understood in a broader sense of Mesopotamian epistemology. Here, the signs are an extension of the divine and the cosmos—​an omniscient form of communication that went both ways (Heessel 2010: 163). In the case of the various practices of divination discussed above, it was a secondary medium on which the scribes wrote their omen texts. Perhaps most clearly, however, hepatoscopy and extispicy texts existed as self-​ referential objects for flesh; divinatory readings appear written on clay tablets shaped like the liver (Figure 8.8). Writing, or inscription, of cosmic destiny was present in the flesh as it was also placed within clay matrices; such divinatory science aligns with Rochberg’s (2004; 2011) work on Mesopotamian ontology. Agricultural-​themed creation myths include references to soil and clay as part of the bodily flesh or skin and actions of penetration and puncturing. The tale Enki and Ninmah casts Enki as ˘ the provider of semen for the creation of humans by “digging his phallus into the levee, plunging his phallus into the canebrake” (Jacobsen 1987: 191–​192). Similarly, the Sumerian hymn to the E-​engu (Enki’s temple at Eridu) reads, “When in the year known as ‘Abundance born in heaven …’ The people had broken through the ground like grass …” (Jacobsen 1976: 112). Although humans here are likened to grass, they must penetrate the surface of the earth to come to life. In the tale, The Creation of the Pickax “Enlil, did verily speed to remove heaven from earth; So that the seed from which the nation could sprout up from the field; … So that the ‘flesh producer’ [Uzumua] could grow the vanguard of mankind” (Jacobsen 1976: 113). Enlil creates the pickaxe, and uses it to break open the rough crust of the earth so that the growing humans can break 180

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Figure 8.8  Liver tablet from Sippar. British Museum (BM 92668). Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

forth: [He] drove his pickax into the ‘flesh producer’ … the people of his land were breaking through the ground toward Enlil” (Jacobsen 1976: 114). In all of these cases, we see that through the physical process of the plough penetrating the soil life is created. We can imagine that the breaking through the material of the clay with the seal would recall such myths to one’s memory. As a medium for sealing, clay acted as an intercessor between a seal, the item it secured, and multiple groups or distinct actors involved in the haptic experience of securing a container at its origin and destination. The clay would be touched, balled up, discarded, or perhaps even crushed and recycled back into raw clay. The nature of the material—​its ability to be moulded, manipulated, re-​born, and contribute to the sensory experience of multiple hands—​was in and of itself somatically charged. Agents that sealed or wrote on clay documents would have been highly aware of the haptic qualities of clay against their own skin. Not only would they manipulate the material in their hands, but they sometimes used their own body or dress in lieu of seals for officiating clay documents. Scribes often left fingerprints on clay while manipulating the tablets. Fingernail and garment hem impressions, too, sometimes substituted for seal rolling (Taylor 2011: 13–​15). Tablets bearing impressed cuneiform signs frequently also carry inscribed figural motifs. One common motif found on tablets are stylised entrails (Figure 8.9), suggesting that the substance of clay did command a “suture” effect similar to the Medieval contexts above, deeply connecting the writer/​reader to their topic.

Conclusion In Mesopotamia the mind and body were inextricably linked components of one’s identity. Seals can be understood as a physical extension of the body. For some seal users, an awe-​ inspiring force-​field of identity (known as melammu), through the affective properties of stone, radiated through and out from the cylinder seal. The seal, then, was capable of extending its agency through physical contact onto the clay. This body affected another body of flesh or skin. Through this practice, which at every stage was haptically sensed, a social contract was made concrete. In the mind of the Mesopotamians, the touch of the skin was key in an exploration


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Figure 8.9  Tablet with incised entrails, probably Old Babylonian or Middle Babylonian period (second millennium BCE ). Yale Babylonian Collection (YPM BC 016794). Source: Courtesy of the Yale Babylonian Collection.

of the self and divine. In the story “The Blessing of the Bridegroom,” the narrator speaks of the readying of Inanna’s bridal suite for her marriage to Dumuzi (Jacobsen 1976: 40): The pure (bridal) bed, a very semblance of lapis lazuli, Which Gibil (the firegod) was purifying for you In the Irigal (temple), Has the caretaker –​greatly fit for (ministering to) queenship. Inanna, in time, calls for the bed with much fervour, smooths the bedding out for her beloved, and speaks of how it sweetens the loins. Her hands and increasingly even more of her divine skin rub against sheets of lapis lazuli to make the world fertile. As the divine Inanna participates in a haptic experience where contact between skin and stone allow for creative power, so too could human agents use their seal on clay to bind their identity to a document. Documents were at the same time inherently well-​suited to carrying marks of identity; made of clay, which can be understood as skin, this medium received the mark, reified through the seal/​body’s energy, thereby possessing the identity of the seal user. The identity of the Mesopotamian self can therefore be found in sealed documents, which we can now be understood to have somatic ontological status analogous to Medieval manuscripts and Byzantine icons. In exploring the status of clay in Mesopotamian contexts, we can understand how it acted as a second body—​a body of flesh—​aptly suited to receive the imprint of identity from the seal user. Through concepts such as Skin Ego and body schema, we see the skin as a secondary “index” permitting the abduction of agency for the user and recipient as well as a liminal matrix through which object entanglement was negotiated.

Notes 1. The desire for meso-​perceptual sensing to probe surfaces, in particular skin, and be able to move through surfaces, is in many cases what drives us to handle and interact with objects. Surfaces are


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created and manipulated by artists and craftspeople to encourage such interactions while simultaneously concealing what lies within the surfacescape (Hay 2010: 91). 2. Anderson (2019: 211) offers a most recent case study in Bronze Age Aegean contexts. She identifies the intimacy of the bodily juxtaposition of the seal and physical person as being inherent in the clay impression. The impression possessed the vital energy of the process, akin to that which was in the seal itself: “It is crucial to recognise that this energy did not reside just in the impression—​it was present in the seal, the genetrix, and arose from the flow of interaction through the human, the seal, and the impression.” For Anderson, an essential component of the sealing process was the kinetic rupture that occurs in the process of sealing when the seal leaves the body and impresses the clay. 3. For basic introductory and overview literature on cylinder seals and sealings one might start with Frankfort 1939;Ward 1910; Gibson and Biggs 1977; Porada 1980; Collon 1987; 1990; Hallo and Winter 2001; Taylor 2006; Ameri et al. 2018. 4. See also Castor 2017: 86, who writes that through this aesthetic/​psychic experience objects possess a “halo-​effect.” 5. Neuroscientists have illustrated that the mind subconsciously feels our bodies’ positions and dynamic movements through space. Through the biological process of holding, touching, and using objects, the brain perceives such objects as extensions of ourselves. As Malafouris (2008: 115) states, “the mind does not inhabit the body, it is rather the body that inhabits the mind.” 6. Byzantine writers and philosophers perceived the ideal colour as light; gemstones were described as having “presence” effects such as glitter ebbing colour, spiralling depth, change, and mutability. Additionally, flesh-​coloured enamel possessed a semi-​transparency that functioned to tempted both touch and sight (Pentcheva 2010: 111–​114). 7. In post-​iconoclastic Byzantine philosophy, established “charakter was the ‘snow angel’ imprint of the divine shape (morphe) in matter which in turn was re-​imprinted (as typos) on another material surface, reversing the negative intaglio into a positive bas-​relief, solidifying the shape of absence. Eikon as typos became the isomorphos, positive imprint of the negative intaglion/​charakter” (Pencheva 2010: 96). The radiating affect of the materials and their three-​dimensionality approached a realistic divinity in the absence of the physical divinity. 8. By exploring the biological anatomy of the skin, Anzieu ascertains that one can better approach functioning of the mind. Through advances in neuroscience now understand, for example, the “center” (cortex—​outer grey matter of the brain) sits on top of the periphery (encephalon—​white matter). At the gastrula phase of embryonic development, the embryo goes from the form of a sac, folding in on itself (“invagination”), to ultimately form two layers, the endoderm and ectoderm. Brain and skin are both formed from the ectoderm—​they are both the thickest and hardest parts that face outward and are protective. Both organs serve to process sensations from the outer world through an exchange of information not through core/​periphery relations, but through relations between surfaces (Anzieu 1989: 9–​10). 9. The ideological narratives of flaying found, in some cases, on the bestiaries and the story of St Bartholomew, were made more potent because of their very presence on flayed skin. Kay (2006: 38) concludes that this “suture” between the physical page and the narrative would have acted as a form of communication which subconsciously prompted readers to more deeply consider their own drives towards death and self-​preservation. 10. See Porter 2010 for an overview. She draws upon a vast legacy of scholarship on this topic, including: Bottero 2001; Lambert 1990;Von Soden 1994. 11. See Sonik 2015 for extensive discussion. See also: SAA 10: 166; Stol 2000: 148; Machinist 2006: 173–​ 174; Frahm 2013: 112–​113. 12. And even more so, an imprint of personhood on an object had (possibly) endless bands of agentive action, capable of affecting multiple populations around it. See, for example, Porter’s (2010: 171–​173) discussion of the agency of the stamped building bricks of Naram-​Sin. 13. Translations from CAD K: 136; Musée du Louvre 1910: 4 33: 14; CAD K: 136; Kraus 1939: 1 105:11; and CAD K: 137; Kraus 1939: 1 46:14, respectively. 14. Different from Aristotlean or Saussurean philosophy, the Mesopotamian nature of the thing was inherent in the cuneiform sign, and could only be preserved and known through an understanding and preservation of that sign’s origin (Frahm 2010: 95). 15. The medical practice of examining the livers and entrails of sacrificed animals for divinatory signs. 16. These texts form the earliest evidence we have for writing in Mesopotamia. Likely reflective of the Sumerian language, such texts are considered to be a foundational aspect of culturally bound 183

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philosophy, and used as seminal evidence for how we understand social practice and behaviours. For introductory reading see in particular Englund 1998; for approaches to how these texts are relevant to image-​based communication, see Dittman 1986; Pittman 1991; Ross 2014. 17. There are few semantic differences between Akkadian and Sumerian. In situations in which we can be fairly certain of the method used, either through context or through orthography (as in the use of a particular determinative), branding seems to be more common. zag is associated with livestock in Uruk level IV and III texts, while Babylonian lexical texts equate zag with known Akkadian terms for marking, particularly šimtum, “identifying mark,” and ittum, “mark, sign, feature, or characteristic” (Ditchey 2016: 3–​6). 18. Body marking was always involuntary and associated with ownership by another human or deity (Ditchey 2016: 3). 19. Palaces existed as the body of and the embodiment of the king; stone wall surfaces can be understood as skin (Shafer 2015; Bahrani 2008: 204f.). Literary tropes treat sanctuary walls as shining brilliantly and emanating their divine light, through surface linings of precious metals. Esarhaddon (680–​669 BCE ) overlaid the walls of his cult places with gold and silver to make them shine (Winter 1994: 124). At Persepolis too, we can understand the Apadana’s surface as a metaphor for the dress of the royal cum divine. The king and the crown prince “are surrounded by the fabric that constitutes the depicted whole of the relief ” (McFerrin 2017: 153). 20. The words suppīnum and bu’du are translated as awl and spatula and are associated with the technical term describing the application of the tools to embellish a garment (Alster 1985: 78–​79). 21. Additionally, in formative Mesoamerican contexts hollow clay figurines are shaped in response to and in partnership with practices of modifying the body, body ornaments, and the processing of the body in death (Joyce 2008: 39). Here, in fact, the physical interaction of the crafters’ skin with the clay matrix makes more meaningful the indexical relationship between the living body and deceased body through the figurine’s production and related sensorial experiences. 22. See Jacobsen 1976; 1987; Dalley 1989; Simkins 1994.

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Pongratz-​Leisten, B., and K. Sonik. 2015. “Between Cognition and Culture: Theorizing the Materiality of Divine Agency in Cross-​Cultural Perspectives, in B. Pongratz-​Leisten and K. Sonik, eds., The Materiality of Divine Agency. Berlin: De Gruyter, 3–​69. Porada, E., ed. 1980. Ancient Art in Seals: Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Porter, A. 2010. “Akkad and Agency, Archaeology and Annals,” in S. R. Steadman and J. C. Ross, eds., Agency and Identity in the Ancient Near East. London: Routledge, 166–​180. Portuese, L. 2019. “The Throne Room of Aššurnaṣirpal II: A Multisensory Experience,” in A. Hawthorn and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns. Reiner, E. 1971. The Assyrian Dictionary, Volume 8, K: The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, ed. M. T. Roth. Chicago: Oriental Institute of Chicago Press. Rochberg, F. 2004. The Heavenly Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rochberg, 2009. “The Stars and their Likeness: Perspectives on the Relation Between Celestial Bodies and Gods in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in B. N. Porter, ed., What is a God? Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 41–​49. Rochberg, F. 2011. “Divine Causality and Cuneiform Divination,” in G. Frame, E. Leichty, J. Tigay, and S. Tinney, eds., A Common Cultural Heritage: Studies in Mesopotamia and the Biblical World in Honor of Barry L. Eichler. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 189–​203. Ross, J. C. 2014. “Art’s Role in the Origins of Writing: The Seal-​Carver, the Scribe, and the Earliest Lexical Texts,” in B. A. Brown and M. H. Feldman, eds., Critical Approaches to the Ancient Near East. Berlin: De Gruyter, 295–​318. Roth, M. T. 1997. Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Second Edition. Atlanta: SBL Press. Schildkrout, E. 2004. “Inscribing the Body.” ARA 33: 319–​344. Shafer, A. 2015. “Re-​Envisioning Information: The Maps We Make of Ancient Assyrian Palaces,” in D. Nadali and M. Micale, eds., How Do We Want the Past to Be? On Methods and Instruments of Visualizing the Ancient Reality. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 77–​88. Simkins, R. A. 1994. “The Embodied World: Creation Metaphors in the Ancient Near East.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 44: 40–​53. Sonik, K. 2015. “Divine (Re-​)Presentation: Authoritative Images and a Pictorial Stream of Tradition in Mesopotamia,” in B. Pongratz-​Leisten and K. Sonik, eds., The Materiality of Divine Agency. Berlin: De Gruyter, 141–​194. Sterner, J., N. David, and K. Gavua. 1988. “Why Pots are Decorated.” Current Anthropology 29: 365–​89. Stol, M. 2000. Birth in Babylonia and the Bible. Cuneiform Monographs 14. Groningen: Styx. Taylor, J. 2011. “Tablets as Artefacts, Scribes as Artisans,” in K. Radner and E. Robson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 5–​31. Taylor, P., ed. 2006. The Iconography of Cylinder Seals. Colloquium at the Warburg Institute on October 18 and 19, 2002. London: Warburg Institute. Thavapalan, S. 2019. “Stones from the Mountain, Stones from the Kiln,” in S. Thavapalan and D. A. Warburton, eds., The Value of Colour. Berlin: Exzellencluster Topoi Freuen, 177–​200. Van De Mieroop, M. 2017. Philosophy Before the Greeks. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Von Soden, W. 1994. The Ancient Orient: An Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Near East. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Walter, K. L. 2013. “The Form and the Formless: Medieval Taxonomies of Skin, Flesh, and the Human,” in K. L. Walter, ed., Reading Skin in Medieval Literature and Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 119–​140. Ward, W. H. 1910. The Seal Cylinders of Western Asia. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution. Weisman, R. 2019. Skin-​Ego. Burlington, VT: Burlington City Arts. Winter, I. J. 1989. “The Body of the Able Ruler: Toward an Understanding of the Statues of Gudea,” in H. Behrens, D. Loding, and M. T. Roth, eds., DUMU-​E2-​DUB-​BA: Studies in Honor of Ake W. Sjoberg. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 573–​583. Winter, I. J. 1992. “ ‘Idols of the King’: Royal Images as Recipients of Ritual Action in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Journal of Ritual Studies 16: 14–​32. Winter, I. J. 1994. “Radiance as an Aesthetic Value in the Art of Mesopotamia (with some Indian Parallels),” in B. N. Saraswati, S. C. Malik, and M. Khanna, eds., Art, the Integral Vision: A Volume of Essays in Felicitation of Kapila Vatsyayan. New Delhi: Printworld, 123–​132.


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Winter, I. J. 1996. “Sex, Rhetoric and the Public Monument: The Alluring Body of Naram-​Sin of Agade,” in N. B. Kampen and B. Bergman, eds., Sexuality in Ancient Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 11–​26. Winter, I. J. 1999. “The Aesthetic Value of Lapis Lazuli in Mesopotamia,” in A. Caubet, ed., Cornaline et pierre précieuses: La Méditerranée, de l’Antiquite à l’Islam. Paris: La documentation française/​Musée du Louvre, 43–​58. Winter, I. J. 2000. “The Eyes Have It: Votive Statuary, Gilgamesh’s Axe, and Cathected Viewing in the Ancient Near East,” in R. S. Nelson, ed., Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance: Seeing as Others Saw. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 22–​44. Winter, I. J. 2002. “Defining ‘Aesthetics’ for Non-​Western Studies: The Case of Mesopotamia,” in M. A. Holly and K. Moxey, eds., Art History, Aesthetics, Visual Studies. Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 3–​28. Winter, I. J. 2007. “Agency Marked, Agency Ascribed: The Affective Object in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in R. Osborne and J. Tanner, eds., Art’s Agency and Art History. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 42–​69. Woolgar, C. M. 2006. The Senses in Late Medieval England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


9 A sense of scale Proprioception, embodied subjectivities, and the space of kingship at Persepolis Neville McFerrin

Introduction: touch, sight, and productive entanglements In reliefs throughout Persepolis, senses are on display. Depicted hands reach out to touch fabric and skin; the open mouths of lions suggest the sound of snarls; cedar trees and rams, incense burners and horses evoke a rich scentscape. Such sensorial interplays emphasise connections between perception and experience. This deliberate depiction of polysensorial enmeshment invites the visitor to consciously focus upon sensorial interplays in which multiplicities of experiential modalities intertwine to generate, structure, and enliven interactions between viewers and the environment of the site. While such exchanges can be observed in reliefs, especially those of the Apadana, interchanges between visitor and depiction are especially charged in spaces of kinaesthetic interaction, where participation in the imperial system is underscored through movement. Through connections between bodies, architecture, and reliefs the site insists upon the relational nature of our senses, a notion that is highlighted through the manipulation of scalar references. This deliberately crafted space influences interpretations of sense input, as much as sense input provides the potential to define the environment. At Persepolis, this mutually informing immersive interaction not only presents visitors with a persuasive vision of inclusive imperial rule, it also highlights the utility of a mutually constituting system wherein the senses serve as a double for the relationship between ruler and ruled. Although the empire, and imperial processes, may transcend the experience and perhaps even the comprehension of the individuals who come together to define it, at Persepolis, the body and its sense modalities serve as mediators, enabling visitors to engage with concepts that might otherwise remain elusive. As figures depicted in wall reliefs directly reference familiar sense-​ plays, these interactions themselves intercede in the imposing scale of ceremonial capital and imperial power alike. Questions of inclusive engagement are central to the function of the site as a whole (see also Chapter 4, this volume). Begun by the Achaemenid King Darius I around 515 BCE following his successful campaigns in Egypt, Persepolis is a ceremonial administrative hub, a communicative zone within which Achaemenid imperial ideologies are simultaneously generated and performed (Schmidt 1957: 110; Root 1979: 103). Expressions of inclusivity are emphasised

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-10


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through the nomenclature of Xerxes’ monumental Gate of All Lands (Root 2014: 17), which directs and modulates the movement of visitors as they enter the site. Such notions reach a crescendo in the reliefs of the double staircases that grant access to the Apadana—​the massive 36-​columned audience hall, capable of accommodating some ten thousand people, that is the most elevated structure on the site, sitting atop its own 2.6 metre platform (Root 1979: 86). Two double stairways, on the north and east sides of the structure, give access to the hall. Upon the façades of Wing B of these stairways are depicted 23 groups of delegates from around the empire. The delegations, each led by Persian ushers, carry tribute to the king, who is depicted enthroned, with the crown prince standing at his back in the original central panels of the reliefs. Behind the crown prince, on Wing B, lines of Persian nobles gather (Root 1979: 86). Upon these reliefs, as depicted Persian ushers grasp the hands of meticulously rendered delegates from subject nations, synaesthetic entanglements mirror the interconnections between subject and ruler (Figure 9.1). The anthropologist Eduardo Kohn (2013: 1–​2) suggests that such reciprocity depends upon mutual perception; shared sensorial experiences—​joined gazes, grasping hands—​underscore similarity, crafting the potential for equitable interaction. On the reliefs of the Apadana staircases, the careful grasp of the Persian ushers indicates both the reciprocity of the imperial endeavour and of social actors within it (McFerrin 2019: 243). For these ushers and delegates depicted in reliefs, the medium of shared touch acknowledges that delegates are something more than an

Figure 9.1  Persian usher taking the hand of a member of the Babylonian delegation on the eastern stairway of the Apadana at Persepolis. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.


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object—​that they are agents capable of perception on par with their Persian hosts. Such mutually constitutive interactions extend both through the reliefs and beyond it. When groups of visitors traverse the site, they, too, are engaged in acts of simultaneous perception. If the capacity of the Apadana can serve as an indicator of crowd size, visitors would brush against each other as they moved about the site, their own movements generating momentary connections, extending the bonds suggested in the imaginal zone of the reliefs into the space beyond it. Indeed, touch is only one of a suite of senses through which such communicative contact occurs. Although touch, both accidental and deliberate, depends upon and reinforces connection, the depicted touches in the reliefs of the Apadana are brought to the visitor’s attention through recourse to sight, a sense that depends upon separation (McFerrin 2019: 242; Howes and Classen 2014: 8). Even as touch creates connection, the depiction of touch produces disjunctions—​conceptual separations—​by picturing sensations that, while comprehensible visibly, are not perceptible in their own right. These dynamic tensions highlight entanglements, enmeshments that are themselves a key component of the imperial programming. Touch thus illuminates connectivities that transcend the tangible. Imperial power and in-​g roup connection are constantly negotiated and ultimately fleeting, as are gestures that help to reify them. Yet, in the reliefs of the Apadana, such ephemeralities are made material. This juxtaposition, of ephemeral and material, in which touch is made visible, is one of a number of paradoxical interactions depicted. As the lioness who strides together with the Elamite delegation turns to admonish her cubs, she sounds a perpetual roar that is suggested visually by her open mouth, stretched widely enough that her teeth are visible and her muzzle is wrinkled. Yet, this roar cannot be heard (Figure 9.2). The ephemeral sound, which might, in reality, reverberate for a few seconds before fading, is given longevity in its transmutation from audio to visual, but this metamorphosis negates the ability to perceive the sound itself. In the central panel, incense burners flank the seated king, suggesting a shift in scentscapes that would further heighten the experience of his presence, yet visitors standing before this peripheral portion of the staircase are likely too far removed from the living king’s physical presence within the hall to discern such scents first-​hand (Figure 9.3). Even as the reliefs invite mimetic slippage, they preclude the possibility of fully inhabiting the imaginal zone of depiction through persistent reminders of inaccessibility, through the denial of full sensorial engagement. Yet, in foregrounding apparent distinctions—​ between object and agent, observer and observed, sight and touch, or scent, or sound—​the reliefs highlight entanglement. If, as physicist and feminist theorist Karen Barad (2007: 206) contends, “reality is an ongoing dynamic of intra-​ activity,” in which observers are a component of a system, rather than independent from it, then the imaginal zone both generated and populated by the reliefs of Persepolis comments upon the experience of the visitor, serving as a sort of representational asymptote that mimics the reality of the visitor without ever fully encapsulating it. Further, the constructed environment of the site, the wider landscape that it mediates, and the humans that interact with them are mutually constitutive (Merleau-​Ponty 2002: 106–​107; Tilley 2004: 16–​18). Such mutually constitutive entanglements are ubiquitous throughout the site. Yet while it is possible to perceive an individuated sense, as when sight is utilised to engage with the idea of sound, as in the case of the silently roaring lioness, experiences are predicated upon interplays of senses and upon the interaction of senses as a combinatory system. It is possible to distinguish between multiple sense modalities, but this distinction does not necessarily predicate disjunction. Our perception of individuated senses may itself be illusory; it may not be possible to fully disentangle our experiences of sensorial input (Tilley 2004: 15–​16). For, as Sally Promey (2014: 23) has cogently argued, sight, taste, scent, and hearing are each predicated upon touch.


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Figure 9.2  The lioness led by the Elamite delegation turns to roar at her cubs on the eastern stairway of the Apadana at Persepolis. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Light touches the retina to produce sight, just as taste-​buds must come into direct contact with a substance to generate an impression of it. This mode of enmeshed perception, in which senses are simultaneously mutually reinforcing and yet individuated (Howes and Classen 2014: 154), is itself a fruitful double for the relationship between a king and his subjects, an empire and its people. Although such interchanges are evident throughout the Apadana reliefs, they become even more apparent in those spaces in which depicted figures and visitors to the site actively engage in mirrored movements. To consider the ways in which multisensorial interactions enliven the immersive experiences of visitors, and the ways in which the persuasive aims of the site are underscored by multiple valences of sensorial entanglements, we turn now to some of the most intensely interactive reliefs at Persepolis.

Performative inclusion: mirroring, reduplication, and mimetic slippage Visitors ascend staircases across Persepolis, staircases that grant access to the Apadana (Schmidt 1953: pls. 23 A, 24 A, 50, 56 A, 56 C) and the Central Building (Schmidt 1953: pls. 66–​74, 82, 85–​86; Root 1979: 95–96; 2018: 201), to the Palace of Darius (Schmidt 1953: 132–​135, 152, 155–​156), and the Palace of Xerxes (Schmidt 1953: pls. 159, 161 B, 163–​165, 169–​172). On the reliefs lining the stairways of the Apadana, diminutive guardsmen stand atop each step. Each man faces forward, his eyes trained upon the back of the preceding fellow. With their upright posture, their hands clasped firmly around their spears, they wait, flanking the visitor in a slow, orderly procession (Figure 9.4). On the staircases of the nearby Central Building, situated between the 192

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Figure 9.3  Two incense burners stand before the enthroned king in a detail of one of the original central panels of the Apadana at Persepolis. Source: Courtesy of SEF/​Art Resource, NY.

Apadana and the Treasury (Figure 9.5), similarly undersized figures undertake a livelier ascent. In this space, well-​coiffed men wearing the round hat, long-​sleeved tunic, and trousers typical of Medes (Roaf 1974: 99), step from stair to stair. They turn back in communication with those who walk behind them. Some figures gesture, as if the visitor has happened upon them mid-​ conversation, although others reach to settle their hands upon the shoulders of those who stride ahead of them. Many of these men carry lotus blossoms; none wear or carry visible weaponry (Figure 9.6). While the reliefs of delegates progressing towards the king that greet visitors as they approach the Apadana emphasise entanglements between king and subject, these small figures who usher visitors into buildings elsewhere on the site affirm that visitors themselves are a part of this process. On the interior face of the stairs of the Central Building, the long strides of the depicted courtiers draw the attention of visitors both to the width of the steps themselves and to their own motions as they join the figures in their climb. It is through this interaction, in which depiction and reality intersect, and through the sight of depicted figures and the coinciding touch of stone under foot, that visitors have the opportunity to comprehend their connection to the reliefs and to the imperial enterprise that these reliefs help to mediate. The sense of paralleled action and shared purpose suggested by the reduplicative movement of depicted and living figures on such stairways generates slippage between visitor and depiction, prompting visitors to elide their experiences with the imaginal space of the depiction (see Chapters 12 and 15, this volume). 193

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Figure 9.4  Two guards stand atop the stairs on the inner face of a stairway leading into the Apadana at Persepolis. Source: Photo by W. Buss; © DeA Picture Library/​Art Resource, NY.

In a discussion of another access point at Persepolis, the double-​reversed stairway leading to Xerxes’ Gate of All Lands, Margaret Cool Root reminds her reader that the surfaces encountered by modern visitors to Persepolis are not those encountered by more ancient visitors to the site. As she argues, the masonry of the Takht would once have been “smooth, polished and mirror-​like,” allowing it to reflect the movement and form of visitors, transfiguring them into “a sharpening shadow on the wall of empire” (Root 2014: 16–​17). While the surfaces that Root describes do not include figural reliefs such as those on the stairways of the Central Building, the reflective interjection that she discusses may still be apparent in such spaces. If these reliefs were painted, as is the case for other reliefs throughout the site (Nagel 2010), then the background could offer the opportunity to similarly generate a reflective surface. In his discussion of an excavated relief at the top of the stairway of the Central Building, Ernst Herzfeld suggests that the brightly coloured reliefs of the site appeared against a polished background (Nagel 2010: 109–​110). Thus, on these stairways as well, the shadowed forms of living visitors could be projected into the space of their depicted counterparts. As such reflections conflate experience and depiction, they highlight a paradoxical duality, one that underscores the potentials of reciprocal perception. For, even as the imaginal zone of 194

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Figure 9.5  Plan of Persepolis. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

the reliefs is cognisant of the space of the viewer, it remains distinct from it. This distinction is constructed through a series of interactions, of embodied experience and depiction, of sight and touch, of tangible and ephemeral. Such mutually informing dualities are made evident through the juxtaposition of seemingly contradictory notions, further stressing the indivisibility of the experience of these concepts. Thus, the components of motion—​the bend of a knee, the press of a foot, the interaction between the surfaces of the body and surfaces beyond it—​are highlighted by curtailing that motion, by immobilising forms, literally objectifying them in reliefs. Similarly, the impermanent presence of a visitor is most firmly marked through collective action, through the repetition of the gestures of many such visitors, impressing signs of wear into stones and brushing oil from fingertips onto surfaces. Much as delegates on the Apadana reliefs, or courtiers on the balustrades of the Central Building are components of a whole, it is iterative acts that leave long-​term traces on these constructions. The contemplation of an individual as an individual happens within a moment, as a shadow moves across a wall, as a reflective surface doubles movement. Thus, motion is highlighted through immobility, by rendering figures in stone, and a tangible individual presence is underscored through the generation of a transient marker. 195

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Figure 9.6  Courtiers traversing the north stairway of the east wing of the inner north balustrade of the Central Building at Persepolis. Source: Courtesy of Margaret Cool Root.

These conflations of individual and collective, living and depicted, attest to the mimetic potentials of the reliefs, of their ability to encapsulate, converse with, and act upon the experience of the visitor. Although the interactions upon these stairways are fleeting, these ephemeral connections have the potential to craft more permanent bonds. From the sociable gestures of the courtiers on the Central Building balustrades, to the grip that joins the delegates on the Apadana to the Persian ushers who direct them, reliefs in Persepolis emphasise connection. As the site presents a novel conceptualisation of imperial rule (Root 1979: 284), it argues that a collective identity, in which all of its subjects participate, is at the heart of this new mode. Such connections, and the understanding of these connections, is both generated and maintained through mirroring. If we are able to understand the physical actions of others, if we can comprehend the capacity to similarly participate in those actions, regardless of whether or not we have yet done so, our capacity for comprehension and for learning is likely rooted in the activities of mirror neurons, neurons which fire not only when we perform actions, but when we observe others doing so (del Giudice et al. 2009: 350; Gallese 2009: 520). Mirror neurons, by creating what Vittorio Gallese (2009: 520)—​one of the team that first identified mirror neurons—​calls “a neurally instantiated we-​centric,” provide us with the capacity to understand that we are capable of performing actions that we observe others undertaking. Watching a person ascend a stairway activates neurons within the brain that would similarly fire if we were to perform the same action (Gallese 2009: 522). Such interconnections extend beyond the observation of other humans. As long as the observed action occurs through an analogous body, one that the observer has the capacity to map onto his or her own form, then mirror neurons are activated, and connections 196

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are made (Brucker et al. 2015: 28; Engel et al. 2008: 2034). The depictions of courtiers on the staircases of the Central Building and the guards on the balustrades of the Apadana correspond clearly to the forms of living humans; indeed, the addition of paint would render them even more comparable to their living counterparts, a notion that is underscored by the careful depiction of their dress. As such, these depictions have the capacity to prompt the excitation of mirror neurons, furthering the slippage between depicted courtier and visitor. If replicated action, through the intervention of mirror neurons, has the capacity to “enable the observer empathically to understand the actions of others while at the same time learning to perform a similar action” (del Giudice et al. 2009: 350), then the act of walking together is not only a gesture of welcome. It is also a learning process in its own right. The depicted figures, the Persian guardsmen on the stairways of the Apadana, the courtiers on the stairways of the Central Building, are all already integrated into the imperial system, and as such, the act of mirroring them helps to instruct visitors on how to become a part of this system themselves. Although the reliefs of the Apadana insist that all subjects are essential and respected components of the empire, not all subjects have equal access to each building on the site. Margaret Cool Root (2014: 22) argues that, when approaching the Apadana from the Gate of All Lands, “insider participants in court ceremonials” would have been directed towards the east side of the stairway, while visitors from farther afield could have made their way to the west side of the stairway, with this division of visitors doubling the reliefs on the stairway itself, where gift-​bearing delegations are depicted on the western side of the stairway, while Persian nobility are depicted on the east. Root’s observations that reliefs and visitor movement may correlate can extend to the reliefs depicted upon the inner faces of stairways as well. On the Apadana, both insider participants and visitors from abroad climb stairways alongside depicted guards; on the stairways of the Central Building, visitors ascend stairways together with genial Persian courtiers. While the guardsmen on the Apadana stairways stand rigid and separate, with each figure situated upon a single stair, facing forward with his legs together, the courtiers of the Central Building are often captured in the act of stepping. Some glance back, even as others reach forward, their gestures and posture more informal than their counterparts on the Apadana. If these reliefs can serve to prompt particular types of action in those who interact with them, then this variable deportment may itself help visitors to understand norms of interaction within these two spaces. Visitors to the Apadana, both insider and newly incorporated, are presented with reliefs that suggest that formal deportment, slow movement, and deliberate gestures are appropriate to the ceremonial space where one might gaze upon the king himself. However, such formality is perhaps unnecessary in the Central Building, with its bench-​lined central hall, which provided invited guests access to the Treasury and to the Hall of One Hundred Columns (Root 2014: 22–​23). By modelling these differing modes of behaviour, the reliefs may enable visitors to perform more effectively within these spaces. Such guidance may have been particularly welcome to those unfamiliar with Achaemenid modes of kingship and empire, for the Achaemenid imperial system offers a “new blueprint” for conceptualising the relationship between a king and his subjects (Wiesehöfer 2001: 25). Through these stairway reliefs, the site not only proposes a new system; it also seeks to help its visitors to participate within it. Much in the way a child learns to walk by observing the motions of his or her guardians, using their actions as a model, figures in the reliefs of Persepolis serve as guides, teaching new modes of interactions to subjects, and in so doing underscoring changes from previous iterations of imperial governance and the norms associated with them, together with reassuring visitors that they are properly adhering to the new system. By giving visitors these depicted models, the architects of the visual programme of Persepolis adhere to the tenets of inclusivity and communality suggested from the moment that visitors enter the site, through the gate that Xerxes 197

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Figure 9.7  Two members of the Assyrian delegation direct rams in procession on the eastern stairway of the Apadana at Persepolis. Source: Werner Forman Archive; courtesy of HIP/​Art Resource, NY.

named the Gate of All Lands (Root 2014: 17). Inclusion is not only nominal; through the mediation of reliefs and the engagement of mirror neurons it is both performed and embodied. This invitation, although insistent, is offered unobtrusively, through a shared undertaking rather than an overt dictate. In this, it doubles the careful interactions of ushers and delegates, delegates and animate gifts, on the Apadana reliefs. On the East Wing of the Eastern Staircase of the Apadana, two rams walk alongside two members of the Assyrian delegation (Figure 9.7). The two men who lead these animals direct their movement; each man rests a hand upon a ram’s neck. Although the positioning of the two rams obscures the form of the delegate in the background, the placement of his arm suggests that both delegates also tangle a hand in the tufts of wool that curl along each animal’s back. Although the touch of the delegates leads the rams along their path, it does not constrain their movements. In this delegation, no visible leads or restraints are used, suggesting that the rams, like their handlers, walk towards the king of their own accord, the touch of the delegate’s hand against the ram’s pelt acting as a double for the grasp of the Persian usher’s hand against that of the lead delegate (see also Chapter 4, this volume). Although not all animals depicted upon the Apadana are equally unrestrained, even those delegations that convey particularly dangerous beasts towards the king do not overtly correct the behaviour of their companions, except perhaps in the case of the two lion cubs carried by members of the Elamite delegation. In this case, while the young age of the cubs renders them incapable of appropriate decorum—​a fact that their mother may take pains to correct—​it is the relationship of the adult lioness to her handler which is of interest. Although the lioness is tethered, her range of motion is not curtailed. Even as she turns, teeth bared towards her cubs, 198

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in a gesture that could be threatening to a human form, her handler’s rod remains aloft and her tether is held loosely enough that she does not appear to strain against it. Her cubs, which, if carried before her, could serve as a lure, instead are carried behind her (Root 2003: 19–​20). She retains her bodily agency, as do the delegates themselves. Persian ushers take the hands of delegates to direct them, to inform them of appropriate order and procedure, an act that is paralleled both in the depicted actions of delegates and their charges, and in the interactions of visitors and reliefs, creating an iteratively reinforced suggestion. Just as the lioness in the Elamite delegation is free to turn at will, just as the ram who walks together with the Assyrian delegation is neither restrained nor tethered, visitors who ascend these stairways are not coerced. The stairway figures serve to reinforce a connection that is enacted through the presence of these visitors on the site, reassuring them that they are, like the depicted delegates of the Apadana, vital components in a collective. They do so in large part through offering the opportunity for active shared participation. While the idea of shared action, of phenomenological reciprocity between courtiers and visitors resonates with the conceptual aims of the site, in actually engaging the sensorimotor functions of visitors, stairway reliefs convert observation into action. Potential that is inherent in the simulations of mirror neurons is made tangible when visitors undertake the action that they view. Such dynamic engagement facilitates comprehension not only of connections between depicted figures and living visitors, but also of the message of the site as a whole, as learning processes are expedited, and abstruse concepts made more readily apprehensible, when the bodies of visitors are engaged (Brucker et al. 2015: 28). As reliefs in Persepolis engage and recall multiple sense modalities and mental processes, some beyond conscious control, the bodies of visitors themselves collude with the architecture of the site to convey and absorb the imperial message.

Persuasive stairways: proprioception and bodily interrogation In these stairways, architecture and depiction join to reinforce the visitor’s inclusion in the imperial process and to invite the visitor’s deliberate participation. On these stairways, such participation both signals and underscores reciprocity, in an interaction that unknowingly doubles the neural activities that underpin social interaction. Yet, even as sight suggests inclusion, to participate in this system requires recourse to alternate sensorial modes. In this as well, interactive stairway balustrades parallel the processes of mirror neurons. For mirror neurons do not only fire after an action is observed, they also engage when action is undertaken, and in so doing correlate one person’s activities with those of another. As Vittorio Gallese (2014: 2) argues, “Through the bodily self ’s resonance, others become second selves.” Although sight may suggest the potential for connection, this potential is realised through bodily engagement (Gallese 2014: 2–​3). Such is the observation of a cognitive neuroscientist, and such is the contention of stairways in Persepolis. These engagements invite metacognitive interrogation through the reconceptualisation of socio-​spatial performances, to the “diffraction rather than reflection” (Barad 2003: 803), of depicted figures and living visitors. These depictions do not only reference the experiences of the visitor, they influence them in a cycle of iterative recombination that is doubled both in the insistent repetition of reliefs across the site of Persepolis and in the kaleidoscopic permutations of sensorial perception. On the stairways of the Central Building, a construction of uncertain function which may serve as a transitional space limiting access to portions of the site, the depicted act of stepping, underscored by the exaggerated extension of the legs of the depicted figures is paralleled when living visitors walk up the stairs alongside their undersized counterparts. As the stairs themselves both direct and enable movement and access, structuring the visitor’s participation in the environment of the site, the reliefs facilitate reflection upon interactivity. While 199

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mirror neurons and senses such as proprioception and kinaesthesia can function without conscious engagement, these depictions invite visitors to consider these invisible interactions. For, as the joining of stairway, depicted figure, and the bodies of visitors suggests, mimesis is as experiential as it is conceptual. Indeed, as Michael Taussig (1993) has posited, the yielding of boundaries that is at the core of the mimetic process is predicated upon bodily copying, for the mind and the body are as enmeshed as are the senses themselves. Perception is shaped by the body. Taussig (1993: 46) states, “just as speech can be understood as thought activating the vocal cords and tongue, so thinking itself involves innervation of all one’s features and sense organs.” The architecture of both the Apadana and the Central Building collaborates with the bodies of visitors to incorporate these individuals into the imperial system, as the reliefs upon these staircases invite the same visitors to reflect upon this cooperative enterprise more overtly. Through the depiction of the act of stepping, through motion that is exaggerated in the lift and extension of undersized legs, the reliefs encourage the visitor to reconsider the movement of his or her body. The placement of foot against stone, the unyielding surface of the step pressing against pliable footwear in an inverse of the press of leather to malleable skin shifting atop rigid bone, provides input that distinguishes internal and external, delineating the edges of the body, even as the upward motion of the leg reinforces both the elevation of the site and the structures upon it. This engagement with elevation itself reiterates and internalises the experience of the metaphoric scale of the power of the king, an exchange that is further reinforced by scalar interplays on the stairways themselves. The courtiers on the interior faces of the stairways that grant access to the Central Building in some cases stretch their legs across the whole of a step, their knees lifted nearly level with their hips despite the shallow rise of the stairways themselves. While such exaggerated movements draw attention to the act of stepping itself, these motions concurrently emphasise the scale of the depicted figures. If a visitor of around 1.7 metres, the average height of an adult Persian man (Root 2018: 191), were to raise his or her foot to a similar height, he or she would stumble, for the stairs themselves do not require such effort to surmount. Although depicted delegate and living visitor share both space and experience, they do not share scale. It is unlikely that the mimetic interchange between depicted courtiers and living visitors would be so compelling as to prompt a visitor to trip. To generate a stairway that problematises, rather than facilitates, action would stand counter to multiple aims, but the appropriate function of these stairways does not depend solely upon sight or touch. Effective motion is performed through the intervention of proprioception. Proprioception is the sense that allows us to identify the position of our own body parts, without the intervention of sight (O’Dea 2011: 308). It is the sense that allows us to touch our thumb to each of our fingers, even when our eyes are closed. On the stairways of Persepolis, it is the sense that allows us to look at reliefs, even as we walk forward, without the need to stare at the surface against which our foot presses. Proprioception provides information regarding the location of sensation (Ritchie and Carruthers 2015: 357), allowing us to realise that it is our arm that itches, rather than our leg. Proprioception provides bodily awareness “from within,” allowing individuals to understand “the boundaries of the body as a whole” (Mandrigin 2021: 1888). As such, if there is a sense that governs agency, then perhaps proprioception is that sense. For, while agency may be the ability to choose between a set of intersecting identities, highlighting efficacious identities at will, it also depends upon the ability to take action (Harris et al. 2015: 7), and in that, on the sense of the body relative to other objects—​on proprioception. On the steps of the Central Building, then, multiple levels of agency are on display. Proprioception, as a sense, recedes unless it is highlighted (O’Shaughnessy 1995: 175). Dancers, athletes, and other professional motion-​makers may monitor proprioceptive input more overtly (Montero 200

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2016: 189), but for many, proprioception “takes a back seat in consciousness” (O’Shaughnessy 1995: 175). Although architects of Persepolis may have had no name for this sensorial mode, but depiction of the exaggerated motions of stepping courtiers draws attention to differing bodily schemas, luring a visitor’s sense of his or her own body in space to their mental foreground, and in so doing, highlighting another aspect of agency. The dress of depicted courtiers on the Central Building, like the groups of delegates depicted upon the Apadana reliefs, suggests participation in a hegemonic system. Alternatively, by drawing attention to differences in bodily scalar referents, the reliefs also highlight the differential experiences of multiple bodies in space, and to these differing modes of action. While, through the intercession of mirror neurons, we are capable of comprehending that we are similar to others, those senses that are only perceivable internally underscore distinction (Dokic 2003: 322). In this, the stairway reliefs of the Central Building again are entangled with the productive tensions of the Apadana reliefs, where iterative repetition and individuated dress join to promise Achaemenid subjects that hegemony and assimilation are not synonymous. Much as the reliefs of the Apadana are redolent with multivalent sensory and cognitive potential, so too does the scale of stairway reliefs on the balustrades of the Central Building and the Apadana also convey multiple simultaneous messages. The interaction between bodies, stair steps, and reliefs underscores the relational nature both of the senses themselves and of the interactions that they enable. If a visitor senses that depicted courtiers or guardsmen are small, they do so based upon their own bodily schema. Large and small are relative terms, and the relative scale to which we internally refer is that of the body itself. As Juhani Pallasmaa (2012: 69) states it, “We behold, touch, listen and measure the world with our entire bodily existence, and the experiential world becomes organised and articulate around the centre of the body.” We are each our own primary frame of reference. Such relational interplays are far from absolute. From moment to moment, as the body moves, proprioceptive perceptions shift, creating what Brian O’Shaughnessy terms “a short-​term body image” (O’Shaughnessy 1995: 183–​188). The capacity to understand relationships between body parts changes over time, as the body itself takes on new forms, as when, after the loss of a limb, an individual retains phantom proprioceptive input (Anderson-​Barnes et al. 2009: 556–​557). Similarly, the environments with which our senses interact have the capacity to influence our interpretations of sensorial input, as much as that sensorial input provides the potential to interpret these environments. When visitors to the Central Building encounter these diminutive courtiers, whose scale and interactive capacities help to externalise the internal process of proprioceptive perception, they do so within a larger relational system, within the constructed environment of Persepolis as a whole. These depicted forms are hardly the first depicted figures that visitors have encountered, nor is this scalar interplay singular. Visitors approaching the Central Building from the Gate of All Lands pass both the north and east stairways of the Apadana, the latter of which is situated adjacent to the Central Building itself (Root 2014: 23). It is here, in the original central panels of both the north and east stairway façades (Tilia 1972: 175–​198), that visitors in transit are confronted with a scene that is again redolent with scalar interchanges (Figure 9.8). The king, seated, with the crown prince at his back, faces an official, who bends at the waist, his hand raised in a gesture of respect, while behind them an entourage approaches. The king and crown prince rise above officials and delegates alike, as they stand atop a depicted dais; the king is elevated still further by the height of his seat. Thus, the ruler and his line are set aloft, elevated above the constituents of their empire. For the visitor, the elevation of the ruler is further underscored by his scale. For even as the depicted architecture within the scene raises the king above the rest of the figures, the oversized scale of his body, relative to crown prince, courtier, delegate, and living visitor alike, highlights his conceptual stature in a well-​attested mode (Root 1979: 296). 201

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Figure 9.8  Original central panel of the Apadana reliefs, excavated from the southern portico of the Treasury at Persepolis, depicting the king enthroned atop a dais, with the crown prince standing at his back. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Visually, this distinction in scale delineates the division between the ruler and his subjects. But as visitors move across the space of the site, interwoven depictions and constructions, entwinements of space and scale, when joined with proprioceptive interpretive capacities generate the potential for a more reciprocal interaction between the bodies of visitors and the outsized body of the king. Upon the stairways of both the Apadana and the Central Building, a similar scalar disjunction plays out around the bodies of visitors themselves. The small figures of guardsmen and courtiers, depicted on the Apadana and Central Building balustrades, measure approximately 75 centimetres tall (Root 2018: 201), almost a metre shorter than the average height of a Persian man in the Achaemenid period (Root 2018: 191). While the king depicted in the original central panels of the Apadana sits, his seated height is analogous with that of the crown prince at his back, around two metres in height. Were he capable of rising, his standing height would be close to three metres tall (Root 2018: 199), some 90 centimetres taller than his presumptive heir and the courtiers depicted alongside him, who stand only slightly shorter than their prince, at close to two metres in height (Root 2018: 198). When visitors to Persepolis walk alongside the depicted figures upon stairway balustrades, the difference in their scales doubles the difference in scale between depictions of the king and of his courtiers; when visitors walk upon these stairways, they experience the scale of their king. As their bodies are made comparable to the depicted body of the king, proprioceptive capacities allow visitors to embody the notion of inclusive cooperation that is central to the message of the site as a whole. Much as the reliefs of the Apadana suggest that the fabric of kingship is both crafted and constituted by the king’s subjects, these multisensorial interplays of scale and space suggest that the hierarchical relationship between ruler and ruled is one that is fluid, negotiable, and mutually reciprocal.

Immanent encounters: scale, mediation, and the body of the king The shallow rise of the Apadana steps, the courtly comportment of the guards who stand upon them, indeed, the procession depicted on the reliefs that adorn the façade of both the north and east stairways, prepare the visitor to experience the grandeur of the columnar hall, and the greatness of the king himself who at times may have been enthroned there (Root 2014: 23). 202

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Figure 9.9  View across the northern stairway of the Apadana at Persepolis onto the columns of the interior. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

As visitors move from the stairway into the columnar hall of the Apadana, they are confronted by yet another mediation of scale, one that may encourage further proprioceptive negotiation. Upon exiting the stairways, visitors would step onto a portico, where soaring columns topped by animal protomes offer another external referent against which visitors may reframe their conceptualisation of the relationship of body and environment (Figure 9.9). These columns, on the porticoes and within the hall, averaging 19.25 metres in height (Schmidt 1953: 80; Root 2018: 197), further underscore the verticality that visitors experience as they ascend the staircases themselves. As the child-​ like dimensions of depicted guardsmen generate an embodied experience of the king’s scale, the porticoes of the Apadana, and its columnar interior, encourage a return to a more bounded bodily perception, one in which the individual’s form is made to feel smaller in the space in which that visitor might encounter the king’s body in actuality, atop his throne on the west portico of the structure (Root 2014: 23). Such a shift might initially seem to reinforce a hierarchy in which architecture joins with the king to re-​emphasise the distinctions between ruler and ruled that were deliberately made 203

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ambiguous in and on the exterior portions of the structure. But such an understanding is complicated in multiple ways within the structure itself. As Hilary Gopnik (2010: 203) has argued, the multiplicity of vertical columns, coupled with the lack of clear central axis within such columnar halls, creates “a many to one—​instead of a focused one on one—​encounter with the central figure.” The reliefs of the Apadana indicate and the guardsmen who accompany visitors up the stairs underscore that subjects of the Achaemenid king do not stand alone; although they maintain many identities, one of these is the collective identity of members of his empire. The repetition of the columns themselves, like the repetition of delegates in the Apadana reliefs, puts the collective on display. Beyond this, the Apadana columned hall highlights scalar similarities between living bodies of all sorts. Even as one body is made small, so too is another—​even if that body belongs to the king. While the height of a throne can highlight the presence of the king within the space, much as the columns of the Apadana confront the visitor with the realisation of his or her scale within the larger imperial endeavour, highlighting the strength of the whole, all figures are writ small beneath columns which rise from lotus bases and are topped by animal protomes. Within this space, in which the floors themselves float atop depicted petals (Root 2014: 25), in which cosmic forces are referenced and momentarily harnessed, the king sits, framed against a panoramic view of the planted parks below the portico (Root 2014: 24) and the horizon beyond. Such multisensorial spatial interplays provide insight into the cosmic scales that are the purview of the king, once more allowing the visitor to engage with perceptions beyond their own norms, while simultaneously uplifting the office of the king, rather than the personage of an individual ruler. This interplay is predicated upon a broader mimetic slippage, wherein space is constructed and mediated to provide the opportunity for the sorts of conceptual body mirroring that are central to interpretation. Through such interactions, king and subject are once more conceptualised as mutually informing entities. Even as the columns of the Apadana frame the king, creating a visual field that sets him against and atop the landscape of the site, the presence of column and throne alike serve to reinforce the human scale of the king’s physical body. The intervention of additional scalar mediators, in the form of the throne which would have been situated on the western portico, provides another relational data point, making the king’s size, relative to the visitor’s easier to ascertain, even as it sets his own vantage point above theirs. Within such a performative zone, the throne of the king, and the dress of the king—​which, as the reliefs upon the Apadana suggest, likely involved metal attachments that would have reflected light as it streamed in across the portico—​constitute his office (McFerrin 2017: 152–​153). His individuality recedes behind his investiture. The throne of the king lifts him, furthering the emphasis on verticality that is underscored through the repeated interior columns (Gopnik 2010: 203), the need for such an intervention is itself a reminder that the king’s body is, in form if not in treatment, but of a type with the bodies of his subjects. Indeed, much as the site manipulates the perception of visitors, introducing depicted and architectural mediators into peripersonal space, it similarly suggests that for the king to have an experience of embodied kingship, he too must make recourse to spatial interventions, mediations which help to bound his body in space. To consider this further, we return now to another set of scalar interactions in a portion of the site that we have previously encountered: the Central Building. Much as visitors to the Apadana experience one set of scalar referents as they ascend the stairways that provide access to the structure and another when they step onto its porticoes and into the hall proper, so also do visitors to the Central Building encounter kingship through multiple scales. The companionable courtiers who clamber up the stairways together with a select group of visitors, like the guardsmen on the Apadana stairways, stand at a height of approximately 204

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75 centimetres, their undersized scale allowing visitors the opportunity to appreciate the king’s superiority. If as Margaret Cool Root (2018: 201) has described, these small forms feel like a “chatty gaggle of children,” this scalar interchange may also serve to reframe the powerful stature of the depicted king. If visitors feel fondly disposed to these small forms, and if the physical form of the visitor is analogous to that of the depicted king, and if such scalar distinctions do reference long-​standing norms of power and display, then perhaps the visitor’s reaction to these undersized courtiers is also experienced by the king, who, as the Apadana reliefs suggest, wishes not to overpower his subjects, but to add his might to theirs. On the north stairway of the Central Building, when visitors complete their ascent, they are met with another scalar mediator, this time, a representation of the king himself. After climbing the northern staircase at the main entrance of the Central Building, visitors move through a stone doorway, into a square hall (Root 1979: 97). As visitors move into this structure, the king is depicted walking out of it (Schmidt 1953: 116; Root 1979: 287) (Figure 9.10). On both doorjambs, the king walks ahead of two attendants. He faces the incoming visitor, his

Figure 9.10  The king stands under a parasol on the western doorjamb of the southern doorway of the Central Building, while a man stands alongside the relief to provide scale. Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. 205

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form, presented in profile, stares forward. His carefully coiffed hair and beard, the long folds of his once-​colourful robes (Schmidt 1953: 116), his tall crown and his oversized scale, relative to the two attendants who follow him, all attest to his authority. While Erich Schmidt (1953: 116) simply remarks that the king is “pictured at the exaggerated scale of royalty,” the inclusion of an adult man in his photographs of the northern doorway suggests that the king is just under twice the height of this individual (Schmidt 1953: pl. 75). Thus, in the Central Building as well as in the Apadana, visitors exiting stairways are met with additional scalar mediators that re-​ emphasise the scale of kingship. Yet, on the doorjambs of the northern doorway of the Central Building, the king, too, requires spatial mediation. As the depicted king moves from interior to exterior, one of his attendants holds a parasol above his head. Such dress accessories serve multiple functions. Parasols shield those beneath them from the sun, thus simultaneously signalling their user’s status as one who need not perform manual labour (Miller 1992: 95). Such a mode of conspicuous leisure, in which abstention from work serves as a mark of social standing is underscored in the doorjamb reliefs of the Central Building by the presence of attendants, whose own labour itself intersects with Thorstein Veblen’s (1899: 21–​31) conceptualisation of conspicuous consumption. The parasol also bounds the space that the king inhabits; as it arches above his head, it impedes his vertical line of sight, limiting his scalar world view to his eye level. By limiting his experiential field, the parasol prevents the king from interacting with scalar mediators that might encourage him to reconsider his own verticality. Such depicted interventions are most probably doubles of items utilised in actuality (Root 1979: 278). Parasols, like the baldacchino under which the king sits in the original central panel of the Apadana, generate a personal, portable ceiling, a conceptual opposite of the high ceiling and soaring columns in the interior of the Apadana, where these vertical forms reinforced the relatively small size of the bodies of visitors within the space. Enclosed spaces, by contrast, “can open and expand the physical sense of one’s self, not rebuff it” (McGilchrest 2015: 116). The generation of enclosures around the king provides him with the relational mediators necessary to maintain the use of his own bodily scale, even amidst architectural articulations that might seek to alter it. By measuring himself against the low ceilings made of fabric that are held and placed above him, the living king has the potential to experience a version of the outsized scale he enjoys in depiction, the sort of hieratic scale that visitors encounter in the liminal space of stairways. Thus, king and subject alike require intervention to encourage the bodily perception of conceptual rulership. As reliefs encourage visitors to understand the king as an individual who operates using the same modes of perception as his subjects, they also provide the opportunity to share in his oversized embodiment. In suggesting that both ruler and ruled are agents, reliefs such as the doorjamb reliefs of the northern doorway of the Central Building underscore the notion that, as a social actor, the king is not only an object to be viewed, but a subject in his own right, and as such, has his own embodied experiences.

Conclusions: the space of kingship The interactive zones of threshold and stairway serve as loci for the negotiation of larger constructs, with reliefs enabling visitors to draw connections between experience and depiction, and to better understand modes of participation in the Achaemenid imperial system. Reliefs, across the site of Persepolis constitute an enmeshed system, bilaterally informing and reciprocally engaged, mirroring Achaemenid conceptualisations of empire. As the double staircases of the Apadana provide parallel pathways for entrance, as depicted figures mirror the motions of their living counterparts, so are senses also inextricably intertwined. Although the architects 206

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of the visuospatial programme of the site were unaware of mirror neurons and gave no name to proprioception, the sensorial interplays that they acknowledge and consider in reliefs and in spatial mediations alike suggest that they were fully informed of the persuasive potentials of the multisensorial engagement. In many ways, the entanglements with which the site connects, of ruler and ruled, depicted and experienced, are themselves productive doubles for multimodal interactions. At Persepolis, interventions and entanglements between bodies and architecture extend beyond stairways and reliefs. In many ways, the site itself is conceptualised in bodily terms. Crenellations atop constructions across the site reimagine the structures of Persepolis as a crown (Root 2014: 10), a visual marker of the power, perhaps not of any individual, but of the institution of Achaemenid kingship. If these crenellations are the crown of this outsized body, then the figures depicted in reliefs across the site serve as doubles, not only for visitors, but also for embroidered bands of decoration, such as those which appear on the dress of these depicted figures themselves (McFerrin 2019: 237–​238; Tilia 1978: fig. 6). Such correlations are not only applicable to visitors; the king is both part of and informed by these connections. In depiction, he, too, acts as another adornment, as a component in the fabric of the imperial system. He is as physically small beneath the crenellations of his capital as visitors are beneath the forest of columns in the site’s hypostyle halls. These spaces of kingship incorporate king and subject alike, and in that incorporation, conceptualise hierarchies as variations on a theme, rather than as impositions of control. The king’s subjects experience diminished scale when confronted with the king; the king experiences diminished scale when confronted with his office. The senses constitute a mutually informing, intimately enmeshed system of experience, as do the components of the Achaemenid imperial system, with king and subject interwoven in a fabric of reciprocal experience and reciprocal generation. On the stairways of the Central Building and the Apadana alike, proprioception, the awareness of the body in space and of the body as space, perpetuates the inclusive vision of empire that is declared from the moment the visitor enters the site through the Gate of All Lands. The mutual constitution that is central to this message is insisted upon visually; in reliefs that eschew scalar differentiation between Persian ushers and the delegates they lead towards the king, imperial subjects are rendered compositionally equal. However, even as sight enables this communication, the reliefs of the Apadana suggest the enmeshment of the senses, depicting sight, touch, scent, and sound as an intertwined system. In the midst of this synaesthetic interplay, sense individuation is itself complicated as the senses themselves are conceptualised in reinforcing terms that parallel the links between king and subject. Yet, for all that the reliefs of the façade of the Apadana are persuasive, sight-​based interaction can itself be limiting. Visitors might glance at the reliefs, focusing their attention on those around them, or upon their destination. They might focus on one portion of the depictions, neglecting others. Sight can be consciously directed; one can choose how to look. Thus, at Persepolis, reliefs collaborate with the architecture of the site, entwining sensorial interactions. As visitors ascend the stairways of the Central Building, their bodies themselves become united with the imperial project, as proprioceptive engagements enable individuals to experience the outsized perspective of the depicted king. The shallow stairs of the Central Building could encourage visitors to slow their pace, as do the stairs leading to the Gate of All Lands (Root 2014: 17), recruiting proprioception—​a sense engagement that often occurs at an unconscious level—​to enjoin the visitor to adopt the norms of comportment of the site. The employment of sense modalities that recede behind the haptics of bodily interaction is itself persuasive; in some ways, the body of the visitor is enjoined to consider the message of the site 207

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before the visitor’s mind. Even here, however, slippages between living and depicted, message and medium, and the senses themselves are key. For as the stairways craft an unconscious interaction, the reliefs upon them, by generating a spatial disconnect, invite the visitor to consider the movement of the body itself. As visitors focus upon the act of stepping, their agency within the system is emphasised. While proprioception may rely upon input from muscle spindles which are not deliberately activated, it is “used for guiding intentional action; indeed, this seems to be its primary function” (Ritchie and Carruthers 2015: 365). At Persepolis, its primary function appears to be no different. Upon the façade of the stairways of the Apadana, ushers take delegates by the hand, leading them in procession through connection rather than coercion. On the interior balustrades of the nearby Central Building, this method is reinforced, with the connections between the senses themselves serving as potent doubles for the connection between king and subject.

Bibliography Anderson-​Barnes, V. C., C. McAuliffe, K. M. Swanberg, and J. W. Tsao. 2009. “Phantom Limb Pain: A Phenomenon of Proprioceptive Memory?” Medical Hypotheses 73: 555–​558. Barad, K. 2003. “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28 (3): 801–​831. Barad, K. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Brucker, B., A.-​C. Ehlis, F. B. Häußinger, A. J. Fallgatter, and P. Gerjets. 2015. “Watching Corresponding Gestures Facilitates Learning with Animations by Activating Human Mirror-​Neurons: An fNIRS Study.” Learning and Instruction 36: 27–​37. Del Giudice, M., V. Manera, and C. Keysers. 2009. “Programmed to Learn? The Ontogeny of Mirror Neurons.” Developmental Science 12 (2): 350–​363. Dokic, J. 2003. “The Sense of Ownership: An Analogy between Sensation and Action,” in J. Roessler and N. Eilan, eds., Agency and Self-​Awareness: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 321–​344. Engel, A., M. Burke, K. Fiehler, S. Bien, and F. Rösler. 2008. “What Activates the Human Mirror Neuron System During Observation of Artificial Movements: Bottom-​up Visual Features or Top-​ down intentions?” Neuropsychologia 46: 2033–​2042. Gallese, V. 2009. “Mirror Neurons, Embodied Simulation, and the Neural Basis of Social Identification.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 19: 519–​536. Gallese, V. 2014. “Bodily Selves in Relation: Embodied Simulation as Second-​Person Perspective on Intersubjectivity.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 369: 1–​10. Gopnik, H. 2010. “Why Columned Halls?,” in J. Curtis and S. Simpson, eds., The World of Achaemenid Persia: History, Art and Society in Iran and the Ancient Near East. London: I.B. Tauris, 195–​206. Harris, L. R., M. J. Carnevale, S. D’Amour, L. E. Fraser, V. Harrar, A. E. N. Hoover, C. Mander, and L. M. Pritchett. 2015. “How Our Body Influences our Perception of the World.” Frontiers in Psychology: Cognition 6 (819): 1–​10. Howes, D., and C. Classen. 2014. Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society. London: Routledge. Kohn, E. 2013. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mandrigin, A. 2021. “The Where of Bodily Awareness.” Synthese 198: 1887–​1903. McFerrin, N. 2017. “Fabrics of Inclusion: Deep Wearing and the Potentials of Materiality on the Apadana Reliefs,” in M. Cifarelli and L. Gawlinski, eds., What Shall I Say of Clothes? Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to the Study of Dress in Antiquity. SPAAA 3. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 143–​159. McFerrin, N. 2019. “The Tangible Self: Embodiment, Agency, and the Functions of Adornment in Achaemenid Persia,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 233–​248. McGilchrest, I. 2015. “Tending to the World,” in S. Robinson and J. Pallasmaa, eds., Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Future of Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 99–​122. 208

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Merleau-​Ponty, M. 2002. Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. C. Smith. London: Routledge. Miller, M. C. 1992. “The Parasol: An Oriental Status-​Symbol in Late Archaic and Classical Athens.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 112: 91–​105. Montero, B. G. 2016. Thought in Action: Expertise and the Conscious Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nagel, A. 2010. “Colours, Gilding and Painted Motifs in Persepolis: Approaching the Polychromy of Achaemenid Persian Architectural Sculpture, c. 520–​330 BCE.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Art History, University of Michigan. O’Dea, J. 2011. “A Proprioceptive Account of the Sense Modalities,” in F. Macpherson, ed., The Senses: Classical and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 297–​310. O’Shaughnessy, B. 1995. “Proprioception and the Body Image,” in J. L. Bermúdez, A. Marcel, and N. Eilan, eds., The Body and the Self. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 175–​204. Pallasmaa, J. 2012. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester: Wiley. Promey, S. 2014. “Religion, Sensation, and Materiality: An Introduction,” in S. Promey, ed., Sensational Religion: Sensory Culture in Material Practice. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1–​24. Ritchie, J. B., and P. Carruthers. 2015. “The Bodily Senses,” in M. Matthen, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 353–​370. Roaf, M. 1974. “The Subject Peoples on the Base of the Statue of Darius.” Cahiers de la Délégation archéologique française en Iran 4: 73–​159. Root, M. C. 1979. The King and Kingship in Achaemenid Art: Essays on the Creation of an Iconography of Empire. Acta Iranica 19. Leiden: Brill. Root, M. C. 2003. “The Lioness of Elam: Politics and Dynastic Fecundity at Persepolis,” in W. Henkelman and A. Khurt, eds., A Persian Perspective: Essays in Memory of Heleen Sancisi-​Weerdenburg. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut Voor Het Nabije Oosten, 9–​32. Root, M. C. 2014. “Achaemenid Imperial Architecture: The Performative Porticoes of Persepolis,” in S. Babaie and T. Gigor, eds., Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis. London: I.B. Tauris, 1–​64. Root, M. C. 2018. “Scaling the Walls of Persepolis: Toward an Imaginal/​Social Material Landscape,” in S. R. Martin and S. M. Langin-​Hooper, eds., The Tiny and the Fragmented: Miniature, Broken, or Otherwise Incomplete Objects in the Ancient World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 188–​217. Schmidt, E. F. 1953. Persepolis I: Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions. OIP 67. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Schmidt, E. F. 1957. Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries. OIP 69. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Taussig, M. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. London: Routledge. Tilia, A. B. 1972. Studies and Restorations at Persepolis and Other Sites of Fārs I. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. Tilia, A. B. 1978. Studies and Restorations at Persepolis and Other Sites of Fārs II. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. Tilley, C. 2004. The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology. Oxford: Berg. Veblen, T. 1899. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. London: Macmillan. Wiesehöfer, J. 2001. Ancient Persia from 550 BC to 650 AD. Trans. Azizeh Azodi. London: I.B. Tauris.


Part III

Ritualised practice and ceremonial spaces

10 Temple ritual as Gesamtkunstwerk Stimulation of the senses and aesthetic experience in a religious context Irene J. Winter

Introduction The field of material culture and cultic practices within ancient West Asian studies (amongst several other fields) has been characterised over the past few decades by a series of shifts from object history through art history to social history. Art historians and archaeologists have gone beyond catalogues of (excavated) objects with attention to classification and dating to issues of style, iconography, and meaning, and through these to use and function within specific cultural contexts. These moves have been aided by far greater availability of textual data, thereby permitting us to see material culture and practice through an ancient lens. The sum of all of the above has made it possible to explore not only the physical works but also to speculate upon the then-​contemporary experience thereof.1 Clearly, the literal equivalent of Gesamtkunstwerk as used in the present title does not appear in any known Sumerian or Akkadian lexicon. Signifying “total” or “combined” artwork, that is, making use of multiple art forms in a single work, the word was first coined in 1827 of our era by K. F. E. Trahndorff, in his article “Aesthetics, or (the) Theory of Philosophy of Art.”2 The term is perhaps best known in the context of the works of Richard Wagner, who actually used it in 1849 to signify the unification of multiple art forms known to the nineteenth-​century West—​music, dance, theatre, set painting, and sculpture—​within his own operas.3 But one could argue that the trend was already there earlier, as witnessed in the historical operas of Giuseppe Verdi—​particularly his first real success, Nabucco (i.e., the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar)—​ premiered in 1846 and set in Babylon at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.4 What I shall argue here is that within the context of the term’s early usage, Gesamtkunstwerk also had and continues to have ramifications for studies of affective sensory experience, hence “aesthetics” (see also Chapter 25, this volume). I therefore extend the term to signify the awakening of multiple senses in a single context, and so, applicable not only to operatic theatre but also to (descriptions of) ancient ritual practice and experience (see Bell 1997). In the study that follows, I shall confine my inquiry to the five principal senses identified in the West since Aristotle—​vision, sound, taste, smell, and touch—​arguing that they are congruent with the senses

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-11


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Figure 10.1  Spouted vessel, Tomb PG 800, Ur, Early Dynastic IIIA period. Penn Museum (U. 10861). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum.

Figure 10.2  Display case with Early Dynastic period spouted vessels. Oriental Institute Museum (A12439, A31584). Source: Photo by Kiersten Neumann.

articulated in ancient Mesopotamia (while at the same time, acknowledging that other traditions have identified additional sensory responses, on which, see below, n. 16, for recent work on this). But first, let us begin with a silver spouted vessel from Tomb PG 800 of the Early Dynastic period, excavated at Ur in southern Mesopotamia. The vessel has been selected as a work of material culture exemplifying potential for sensory engagement in ritual, although many other works could easily have been chosen. The vessel type in question (Figure 10.1) can stand as an archaeological artefact, extracted from its original depositional context for purposes of study. It is also familiar as an object of display (e.g., in the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago; Figure 10.2). 214

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Figure 10.3  Plaque showing spouted vessel in use, libation before the goddess Ninhursag (?), Tello (ancient Girsu), Early Dynastic IIIa (c. 2500 BCE ). Musée du Louvre (AO 276). Source: © RMN-​Grand Palais /​Art Resource, NY.

The characteristic spout, clearly intended for purposes of pouring the liquid contents of the vessel, is long and narrow in proportion to the body, springing upward from the shoulder of the body. As such, it is distinguished from many similar but not identical vessels of the period executed in clay, where the spouts tend to be shorter and more bulbous. This latter type is found in contemporary burials and domestic contexts.5 By contrast, the multiplicity of finds of the metal vessel type with its elegant elongated spout are attested from a variety of Early Dynastic sites such as Khafaje (ancient Tutub) and Kish and can be seen in use in several depictions on plaques from Tello (ancient Girsu) and Ur of the same period (Figure 10.3; published in Aruz 2003: catalogue no. 34; and see Müller-​Karpe 1993, as well as the textual evidence in Heimpel 1987). The gestures of pouring in proximity to sacred objects on the plaques suggest it was utilised as a ritual vessel deployed in ceremonial contexts (on which, see Braun-​Holzinger 1989; Selz 1996; Winter 1999; 2000a).6 To my knowledge, no such vessel has actually been found preserved in a temple sanctuary where it would have been used for libation as depicted, although it is found deposited in graves (e.g., at Ur). Nevertheless, while temple findspots would have been most fortuitous, in their absence the work of historian/​philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1984) enters into our discussion through his advocacy of the analogical as a historical tool, thereby laying the ground for the legitimacy of cross-​cultural comparison at times when the historical record under study is itself incomplete. Such analogy requires neither cultural contact nor ethno-​socio-​cultural-​linguistic identity, but must meet the requirements of rigorous and systematic cross-​cultural comparison.7 215

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Figure 10.4  Spouted vessel in use at ritual bathing (abhisheka) of Krishna, Rādharamāna temple, Vrindavan. Source: Photo by author, May 1991.

For our spouted vessel, an analogue of the Early Dynastic libation images may be seen performed by a Hindu priest in a temple of the Vaishnavite tradition in India devoted to the god Krishna (Figure 10.4). The temple is known by one of the epithets of Krishna: Rādharamāna, the “bearer (or carrier-​off) of Radha.”8 Mentally juxtaposing our Early Dynastic period vase with a spouted vessel in use in the Rādharamāna Temple, one has the opportunity to see in living context the performances of libation before the resident deity or symbol, as well as the ritual cleansing or hand-​washing for which we also have ample textual evidence in Mesopotamia (and for India, see Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts 1993). It has been argued elsewhere that the images depicting worship and the texts describing worship in Mesopotamian contexts may be fruitfully compared with formal representations of deities in worship in India in modern Hindu temples (Winter 1999; 2000a). The Mesopotamian sculptural forms of gods and rulers as well would have been installed within a chapel or temple context, as we know for statues of Gudea, ruler of Lagash, towards the end of the third millennium BCE , with the seated position taking precedence over standing figures and the resident deity surrounded by paraphernalia appropriate to his or her identity and devotion.

Sight In terms of the sensory affect of any such ritual activities, I would note (Winter 2000b; as has Neumann 2019) that the primary sense engaged within the temple setting was that of sight—​ first and foremost, the reciprocal visual encounter between the devotee and the object of devotion. The characteristic inlaid and enlarged eyes of Mesopotamian sculptures (Figure 10.5) stress stylistically the focused attention that would be operative in both directions (as depicted in the seal impression published in Klengel-​Brandt 1997: fig. 79; our Figure 10.6). 216

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Figure 10.5  Votive sculptures from the Square Temple, Tell Asmar, Early Dynastic Period (c. 2750–​2500 BCE ). Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Figure 10.6  Modern impression of a marble seal, likely showing the god dNanna/​Su’en seated before a shrine, Early Dynastic IIIb (c. 2350–​ 2250 BCE ), provenience unknown. Staatliche Museen, Berlin (VA 3878). Source: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin –​Vorderasiatisches Museum; photo Olaf M. Teßmer. 217

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That both Sumerian and Akkadian images of gods and (some) rulers were subject to rituals of enlivening, temple installation, and ongoing service no longer needs to be argued.9 What is striking is that we can assume from archaeological contexts such as the Early Dynastic temple hoard found at Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna) that images (whether of deities or attendant devotees) could also be de-​commissioned, removed from worship, and buried in the sanctuary (on which, see Evans 2013). The original placement of the 12 members of this cache remains unknown; yet we may still suggest that the standing figures were once properly installed in a sanctuary, whether severally or individually, with permanent focus upon a higher-​ranking (and presumably seated) figure of god or ruler.10 Analogues for Mesopotamian praxis could be cited for a number of other times and places, including the clothed and ornamented cult images in India and in pre-​Reformation Christian churches, despite theological distance from the idolatrous. Such figures are generally clad in rich garments and heavily adorned. Related practices can usefully serve as analogues for ancient Mesopotamian practices, but only when cultural criteria for both meaning and practice are demonstrable (Winter 2000a). In the built environment of the temple/​shrine, and in the course of ritual performance therein, the primacy of sight or vision would be paramount: the attentive vision of devotees in the place of worship when open to them; the intensely focused vision of the resident priesthood upon the deity served; and the reciprocal vision of the deity, believed to be conscious of and responsive to devotion. The precious materials on display—​exotic and costly—​would provide a sensory hook for this intense visual attention (see discussion in Suter 2015: 515 and passim). Furthermore, in the general absence of archaeologically preserved textiles and other costly materials from Mesopotamian sites, Hindu or Medieval European analogues flesh out the more-​abstracted and less-​detailed ancient representations. Dedicatory texts and inventories both describe rich votive gifts and materials attested in temple settings, as well as in funerary contexts (on which, see Leemans 1952; Steinkeller 1980; Evans forthcoming). Some early Sumerian illustrations depict the cult image in a shrine. One such example may be seen carved on the Early Dynastic period cylinder seal of unknown provenience presently in Berlin, clearly showing a seated deity in profile (Figure 10.6). The deity depicted is most likely the moon god Nanna/​Su’en, enthroned with various cultic accoutrements—​including the god’s bull calf attribute-​animal as part of the throne base and a likely offering table. Indeed, this imagery too may be closely compared with the ritual presentation of the installation of the enthroned god Krishna accompanied by his associated cows and votive delicacies observed in worship in Vrindavan (illustrated in Winter 2000a). Insistence upon Ricoeur’s analogical principle thus allows one to suggest, based upon the context of the Rādharamāna Temple in Vrindavan, what would have been a scintillating visual experience, attested in Mesopotamian texts and implied in some images. With the eye as principal sensory organ, what is evident is a particular kind of visual experience induced by the radiance of precious metals and the stimulus of light and colour upon the retina (see on the property of radiance, Winter 1994; 2012). The analogy would further enlarge the possibilities for adding interior light to the experience through the use of candles, clerestory architectural elements, or windows in the sanctuary when so few archaeologically known buildings retain their complete original structures (Ambos 2004; 2010). And finally, due to the rarity of associated pigments in both textiles and wall painting given the infrequency of their archaeological preservation, one can enlarge upon this sensory experience as well through cross-​cultural analogy (compare, e.g., Thavapalan 2020; also Pollock


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Figure 10.7  Plaque from Ishchali, adorned female (likely deity) from the Ishtar kititum temple, Old Babylonian Period. Oriental Institute Museum (A21203). Source: Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

2016: 51–​52; Stager 2016; and more broadly, see DeSalle and Bachor 2020 for colour in culture writ large). Colour was certainly noted and stressed in both Sumerian and Akkadian, as presented in the path-​breaking article of Benno Landsberger (1967). More recently, as Hartmut Waetzoldt (1980–​ 1983) and others have shown, the colour red was apparently reserved for deities, kings, and high priests in Mesopotamia, just as purple was in Medieval Europe. By its chromatic density red would certainly have instantiated a powerful visual response. In addition, Old Babylonian temple inventory texts seem to corroborate Old Babylonian period images such as that illustrated on a clay plaque from Ishchali (ancient Neribtum) (Figure 10.7), showing what would have been a heavily adorned goddess whose necklace chains cover much of her chest.11 This Mesopotamian temple treatment overlaps nicely with ornaments used on divine images manifest in Hindu temples, making it clear that jewels and garments provided elaborate sensory amplification of the physical form of the devotional image. And finally, as noted above, the power of the visual is stressed stylistically by the enlarged and inlaid eyes of early Mesopotamian statuary. It is also attested in the negative by targeted and destructive interventions, that is, acts of iconoclasm that damage eyes specifically, shown to have existed from antiquity through the European Middle Ages to the present.12 The stress on sight is not without reason. Of all the senses, it is probably the most complex. It is certainly the most relied upon for normative activity, and it is the most multivalent when augmented in contexts of desired emphasis. This augmentation, I would suggest, is achieved through the careful management of materials, light, shine, colour, form, and exemplary craft in order to convey the intensity required under special circumstances such as in the course of temple ritual.

Sound The second sense prominently attested in Mesopotamian cultic practice is that of sound. A rare study of the training associated with musical expertise has recently been presented by Piotr Michalowski (2010), suggesting that individuals from a wide range of social classes, from elites


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to captives, were subject to instruction. Many works from ancient Mesopotamia show scenes of music being played/​performed on important occasions, including the well-​known Assurbanipal Garden Scene wall relief of the seventh century BCE , with multiple drums, flutes, and lyres depicted (BM 124920). An earlier but comparable scene is preserved on the “Banquet” side of the so-​called “Standard of Ur,” from the Royal Cemetery, dated to the Early Dynastic IIIA period, c. 2600 BCE (Figure 10.8).13 This is also suggested for the early second millennium BCE , where a stele of the Old Syrian Period found at Ebla shows two musicians on either side of a large drum playing before seated banqueting figures (Matthaie 2008).14 Although the Ur “Standard” with its musical imagery was included in a tomb, a temple role for musicians and chanters is well-​attested across several periods. In the late third millennium such musical events are recorded in text and depicted on several stela fragments of Gudea from ancient Girsu (e.g., Figure 10.9, and see Suter 2000: appendix B; 2015) as well as on the reverse of the Stela of Ur-​Namma of Ur. Many of these fragments suggest contexts of cultic performance, attested in text as praise songs or hymns for both Gudea and the rulers of the Ur III Dynasty.15 The relationship between architectural space, light, and sound has been discussed by Augusta McMahon (2013). Indeed, it is difficult to think of a cultic tradition that is not in some way(s) or at some point(s) accompanied by devotional music (on which, see Butler and Nooter 2018). What is more, and important for our purposes, is that musicologist/​conductor Christopher Hogwood, in an article dealing with the eighteenth century ce (2008), refers to music as the “audible translation of Affekt.”This is a word I would associate with the experience I am attempting

Figure 10.8  Detail, “Banquet” side of the so-​called “Standard of Ur,” Royal Cemetery, Early Dynastic IIIA Period (c. 2600 BCE ). British Museum (BM 121201). Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum. 220

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Figure 10.9  Gudea stele fragment, large drum played in a ritual context, Tello (ancient Girsu), Neo-​Sumerian Period (c. 2100 BCE ). Musée du Louvre (AO 4578). Source: Photo by Kiersten Neumann.

to describe: works and events capable of exercising a powerful impact upon a viewer, as well as the consequences for individuals able to respond powerfully to said works or events.16 Apparently, the association was first attested in 1785, where Hogwood’s source noted that “musical affect is achieved not only by the notes written by the composer, but also by the realization of that music by … performers.” This is to say that the facts of performance and surround contribute to the experience of affect on the part of both performers and auditors. In our case, it can be argued that not only the priestly, royal, or lay constituents attendant upon ritual would have responded to the music; the enshrined deity in a given temple would also have been considered to constitute part of the (if not the) principal audience for aural stimulus. I find this congruent with the notion that the multisensory experience deriving from ritual performance can be directly relevant not only for the enactors and observers, but also for the object (subject?) of devotion. I shall return to this below as part of a discussion of heightened sensory affect as it activated aesthetic experience.

Taste When we shift to the sense of taste, the evidence appears mainly in texts. Archaeologically, vessels likely to have contained foodstuffs as well as spices and herbs, are found not infrequently (as, e.g., the recent discovery of vanilla in Middle Bronze Age tombs at Megiddo; see Cradic and Linares 2020). However, the systematic post-​excavation testing of contents of those vessels and surrounding soils are rarer than one would like; the sample insufficient for any generalisations regarding foodstuffs offered. Many studies of taste sensations have been written as explorations of specific cuisines and occasionally in philosophical perspective (see Korsmeyer 1999; Stoller 1989). However, for our purposes, in the special cases of both Mesopotamia and India it is important to recall the broader context of ritual practice in the temple. There, the resident devotional image is not only created as a representation of the divine. Rather, once enlivened through ritual action, the image is believed to take on living status in the temple—​that is, as a manifestation of the referent. 221

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Figure 10.10  Back of Gudea Statue B, with inscription, Tello (ancient Girsu), Neo-​Sumerian Period (third millennium BCE ). Musée du Louvre (AO 2). Source: © RMN-​Grand Palais /​Art Resource, NY.

It will come as no surprise, then, that the image must be treated as a living being in the temple, needing to be clothed, fed, and cared for (see on this the seminal paper of Oppenheim 1964: 190–​ 193). And indeed, on the reverse of perhaps the most well-​known of the Gudea images found at Girsu, the seated “Gudea B,” is a band of inscription on the upper part of the back in which a list is provided of the daily foodstuffs to be offered to the image (Figure 10.10)17—​just as meals are regularly provided for the deity in a Hindu temple. In fact, food offerings to the temple’s resident deity seem to be standard right through the Mesopotamian sequence, as Neumann has discussed in her paper (2019) and as referenced in Neo-​Assyrian ritual correspondence. What is more, in traditions in which cuisine is an important aspect of cultural investment, the foodstuffs presented to the deity often represent delicacies at the high end of the scale as a measure of devotional piety—​especially on feast days in the shrine 222

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Figure 10.11  Devotees receiving nectar from the bathing ritual of the deity Krishna, Rādharamāna temple, Vrindavan. Source: Photo by author, May 1991.

and in-​home worship (see, e.g., Ghosh 1995). In Indian temples at least, some of the food offerings are then re-​distributed to priests and congregants, where it is understood as highly auspicious, if not curative (Figure 10.11). And so, taste becomes part of the experience for the whole assemblage: deity, servitors, and devotees.

Smell and touch I have less to say about the senses of smell and touch, although both may be inferred from materials mentioned in text and from extrapolation to have played a role in ritual performance in the early Mesopotamian temple. For smell, aromatics are frequently mentioned, disseminated through blossoms, from censors, or from fragrant woods (e.g., Figure 10.12a–​b). This would include scented incense (e.g., cedar in the Levant, sandalwood in India), comparable to the Christian use of frankincense and myrrh or the spices included as olfactory stimuli at the end of the Hebrew Sabbath (see Zwickel 1990). More work has been done on the “smellscapes” of ancient Egypt where scents/​fragrances in use are better recorded and recipes preserved for perfumes (see on this the recent work of Goldsmith 2019; also Green 2011; Kapiec 2018). The presence of incense burners in some temple contexts in the ancient Near East—​for example, in the Ishtar temple level G at Assur (published in Harper et al. 1995: fig. 6) and temples at Nimrud and Nineveh (Neumann forthcoming)—​certainly suggests aromatics, as do the first-​millennium BCE cedar fragments found at Khorsabad and Nimrud (Figure 10.12a), but little in the way of hard evidence has been presented.18 Archaeologists may just have to do a better job in future of gathering soil residues from 223

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Figure 10.12a–​b  (a) Fragment of cedar wood, Southwest Palace, Nimrud (BM 122117). (b) Devotional flowers for worship in India. Source: (a) © The Trustees of the British Museum; (b) photo by author, May 1991.

containers to document this for Mesopotamia, since Neo-​Assyrian texts make direct reference to perfumes or scents in the temple (Escobar 2017: 49–​56; Neumann 2019; forthcoming). But a relationship to the olfactory sense in Mesopotamia is clearly marked in a late bilingual (Sumerian and Akkadian) text in which it is noted that the temple image for which the “mouth-​opening” (e.g., enlivening) ritual has not been performed “cannot smell the [offered] incense.”19 That is, the sense of smell, hence the nose was understood to be actively engaged by the enlivened image, not merely the eyes, ears, and taste-​buds, and would account for the purposeful defacement of noses as well as eyes on various ancient images (on which see Nylander 1980 and more recently Simpson 2020 for later periods). It should also be noted that studies of the olfactory tend to focus upon the positive aspects of experience, particularly with respect to ritual: florals, aromatics, and spices. It would be interesting to also approach this class of sensory experience in the future from what has been 224

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called a “posthumanist” perspective, in terms of sacrificed animals for example. Such a study would include smells that clearly identify the animal as putrefied, blood smeared on door sills or left as offerings, or the presence of plants that do not smell wonderful (on which see Thomason 2016; also Wolfe 2010).20 For touch, the early distinction by Alois Riegl (1897–​1898) between the visual (optisch) and the tactile (haptisch) with respect to the experience of (art) works remains the source for understanding objects that make or call out for physical contact (see also Chapter 4, this volume). A recent paper delivered by Elisabeth Wagner-​Durand (“Images that you Feel: Haptic Aspects of Visual Culture in Mesopotamia,” 2019), brings this phenomenon into play. Furthermore, many such examples could be cited from instances of ritual performance, including an amazing moment in the temple in Vrindavan, as devotees holding containers reach towards priests dispensing ceremonial nectar, the result of auspicious liquids poured over the image of the deity in the preceding bathing ritual (e.g., Figure 10.11). For each individual in the throng, the very act of holding a receptacle and reaching towards the flow of nectar engages them in a direct relationship with the ceremony just witnessed—​a powerful instance of Riegl’s haptisch as distinct from the merely optisch. The combined experience would then address both touch and taste, once the auspicious nectar is imbibed. In addition, as Adrian Randolph (2014) has shown with respect to fifteenth-​century Italian painting, much of the tactile experience depicted in art is represented as hands making contact with body parts or objects, not unlike when the ruler Ur-​Namma of Ur pours a libation before the seated god Nanna Su’en on the stela carved in his name (illustrated in Winter 2008; here, Figure 10.13). The tactile is expressed every time a figure is shown holding something, from drinking vessels in banquet scenes to ceremonial lustration containers held by semi-​divine creatures on Assyrian reliefs, and has recently been discussed by Wagner-​Durand (2020). That same tactility is no less evident on the part of devotees (a) when auspicious products of ritual in progress are distributed,

Figure 10.13  Ur-​Namma stele fragment, detail of obverse, second register right, showing Ur-​ Namma pouring a libation before a seated deity presumably dUtu. Penn Museum (B16676.1A). Source: Courtesy of the Penn Museum. 225

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as in India (above), and (b) when the image of a deity is brought out of the shrine in procession. Those permitted to be the bearers of the image are considered especially blessed to be able to actually touch the (physical image of the) divinity, while pious observers along the route reach out to touch the passing image, bringing them, too, in direct contact with the divine. I would suggest that this auspicious tactility is no less evident when Christian images are processed at saints’ festivals, or when Torah scrolls are moved among the congregants at the Jewish High Holidays and worshippers reach out with the binding of their prayer books or the fringe of a prayer shawl to touch the scroll.

Kinetics This leads me to what I think may be a relatively under-​examined aspect of sensory experience with respect to worship, and of ritual engagement in general, and that is the kinetics (and kinaesthesia?) of bodily movement in space. This topic is often addressed by contemporary architects aware of movement and dealing with “the effects of superimposing (their work upon) a spatial organization based on logics of urban mobility” (Farjadi 2008: 148; see also Alexander 2017, on bodily sensation and movement, including processions and choreographed court entries). I will not dwell on this at present, but just wish to point out the degree to which processional approach and recession, ecstatic trance, dance, or physical circumambulation—​that is, movements which engage the whole body—​are also inscribed in ritual activity, and should be considered as part of the overall sensory experience (on this, see recent studies related to proprioception; also Suter 2015: especially 508–​509, 512; Thomason 2016; Wagner-​Durand 2020). And with this in mind, recent experimental studies of the brain’s response to gravity as a somatosensory force (on which, Tsubouchi et al. 2017) and mobility (Arber and Costa 2018; Tiriac and Feller 2019), plus recent scientific work related to tactility and neuro-​motor systems) may in future prove relevant to sensory studies in general, ritual studies in particular. What I would argue in closing this section is how sterile, how anaesthetic, so many archaeological reconstruction drawings seem in the face of a living tradition. It is almost as if sensory experience has been expunged from the ancient world. This is particularly true in reconstructions of architecture, both exterior and interior—​the drawings all too frequently conveying a geometric austerity (see, e.g., Figure 10.14, which represents the Nanna ziggurat complex at Ur, begun by Ur-​Namma in the late-​third millennium BCE , as an exterior view [Woolley 1939: frontispiece]; interior views of shrines with walls and doorways but no furnishings could also be cited). At least nowadays, thanks largely to landscape studies in archaeology, we are not unaware of the likely urban and/​or natural/​environmental surround for temples and the ritual practices that went on in relation to them. And it is here, too, that by analogy one can reference the incorporation of landscape/​environment and ritual practice in other comparable traditions as part of an attempt to reconstruct ancient Mesopotamian experience.

Gesamtkunstwerk In general, then, it is important to note that virtually every religious experience (Rappaport 1999), even the most austere, includes at least some sensory stimulus in devotional practice. Ancient Mesopotamia was no exception. Evidence for Mesopotamian ritual practice occurs across the full range of the archaeological, artefactual, and textual record, from the third millennium BCE as discussed here through the first (see on this Hamilakis 2013; Harvey and Hughes 2018; Hawthorne and Rendu-​Loisel 2019). From these data one can demonstrate that there was a rich tradition of visual, auditory, and olfactory experience in the course of most ritual praxes. 226

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Figure 10.14  Reconstruction drawing, Ziggurat and precinct of dNanna at Ur. Source: Woolley 1939: frontispiece; courtesy of the Penn Museum.

Touch and taste may further be adduced by inference, using textual data and comparative evidence from other traditions. Furthermore, when the sensorium of the resident deity or deities in a given temple is activated through ritual processes and that same sensorium is also stimulated for devotees and the local priesthood in the course of ritual performance, the extent and intensity of the experience is enhanced and concentrated for all parties. As such, the temple/​ritual experience can indeed be analogous to that proposed for the Gesamtkunstwerk in Western operatic tradition. The latter makes use of multiple art forms in a theatrical setting, while the former is organised to activate multiple senses as part of the religious ritual’s overall affect. I have taken the liberty of using the German term with respect to ritual performance first of all as I would count a choreographed ritual performance as no less a “work” than theatre, and second because both make conscious use of the hyper-​stimulation of the human sensorium as triggers for an intended experience, whether of the human or of the divine. What I would argue is that the multisensory experience of temple ritual may have been deemed appropriate (and may still be understood) in terms of a charged impact or marking a phenomenon of the extra-​normal. As Ellen Dissayanake (1988: 74–​105, especially 95) noted with respect to “art,” well before or beyond early modern Western aesthetics and recent brain science had pursued the phenomenon, the notion of making special was keyed to the multisensory, signalling in ritual time/​space a confrontation with the divine. I would take this one step further, however: that by including multiple senses along with several known art forms in a single “work” of ritual performance, the multisensory stimuli lead directly to “aesthetic experience,” which in turn becomes a significant component of religious experience!21 For the archaeological record, incomplete and partial by definition, the comparative premise articulated above underscores the utility of analogy for a non-​living and/​or incompletely preserved tradition. The informed scholar/​historian, conscious of both similarity and 227

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difference, can then find rigorous application of comparison useful in reconstructing potential experience in an ancient or distant culture.22 What is more, through a study of the senses we may establish a direct link to notions of aesthetic experience, hence “aesthetic theory.” This was clearly acknowledged with the initial coinage of the seemingly Greek-​based term in its original eighteenth-​century European context to indicate the study of knowledge derived from the senses (on which, see Barnouw 1993: 52–​53, 92–​93, with respect to the work of Baumgarten 1735/​1750 and before him, Leibniz 1689 on the nature of sensation).23 A scholarly exploration of the senses associated with ancient Mesopotamian experience, therefore, particularly in a ritual context, affords a direct pathway to being able to describe, hence understand, Mesopotamian aesthetics (see also Chapter 25, this volume). As aesthetic theory developed in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of our era into a response to that elusive property identified as “beauty,” this primary association with the senses and sensory perception began to dissipate; but it was clearly understood by Pierre Bourdieu (1968) to be fundamental to an understanding of art perception. The construct can be seen to run in either direction: starting with a lexicon for terms and concepts related to aesthetic experience, which in sum lead one to sensory perception, or starting with evidence for an engagement with sensory stimulation, which in sum leads to the effects thereof as appropriate to aesthetic experience. In either case, one is inexorably led to see the activated senses and aesthetics conjoined. Beauty, then, would function as a summary category—​appropriate in some circumstances, but culture-​specific and so not primary. For our purposes, and with no single lexical equivalent for “beauty” in ancient Mesopotamian languages except by inuendo, ritual activity as a multisensory performance/​Gesamtkunstwerk cannot and should not be disengaged from aesthetic response(s). Under these circumstances, current interest in the property and consequences associated with “affect” regarding both impact of and response to works (e.g., Leys 2011) becomes quite relevant in seeking a sense [sic!] of meaning for ritual performance. This multisensory aspect of affect has been pursued by Wagner-​Durand (2020: 220–​221), citing the importance of the work of Harris and Sørensen (2010: 146), who speak of “affective fields” (and see discussion above, under sound and smell, especially Green 2011, and Goldsmith 2019 for ancient Egypt). The literature is growing; the concept extremely helpful as one that implies the reflexive and intersubjective experience generated by the senses, hence appropriate in a ritual context to priest::temple praxis, or devotee::deity (see, e.g., Richard and Rudnyckyj 2009). Throughout, I have implied that the balance between the biological/​neurological stimulus of the senses and the cultural “field” noted just above is directly brokered by the historical moment under inquiry. It seems essential to address all three—​the neurological, the broad cultural context, and the specific historical moment—​in any attempt to understand the role of the senses, and therefore aesthetics, in any interaction between material culture and cultural performance with respect to ritual. Furthermore, for understanding the role of ritual performance with respect to a non-​living culture, I would argue that the broadest possible perspectives such as cross-​cultural comparison and neurological hard-​wiring are every bit as useful as the specific cultural and historical lexicon in evidence. Together, these strategies may hopefully yield a more nuanced and deeper understanding of ancient experience. In sum, then: attendance at/​performance in ritual would engage the cumulated senses of vision, sound, taste, smell, and touch, along with the kinetics related to that attendance/​performance. The study of ritual from this perspective adds to our understanding of the power of the culturally specific multisensory and affective experience, while simultaneously expanding our ability to unpack the role(s) of culturally constructed aesthetic values in conveying norms and values. Important is that the multisensory experience associated with ritual is not just an aspect of description, it is essential to understanding affect. The effect of the experience of that affect 228

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(noting the distinction between “affect” and “effect”), the somatic response to sensory hyper-​ stimulation, then, becomes a crucial component of the transport deemed appropriate to a confrontation with the divine.

Notes 1. The topics of ritual and ancient experience have occupied me for some time (see, e.g., Winter 1992). In the present case, I would cite my debt to Kiersten Neumann’s “Sensing the Sacred in the Neo-​ Assyrian Temple: The Presentation of Offerings to the Gods” (2019), which, as the result of a recent reading, led me to confine my present examples to the third millennium BCE , rather than also including the later materials. I am also intellectually indebted to historian/​philosopher Paul Ricoeur, whose Aquinas Lecture of 1984, The Reality of the Historical Past, has greatly helped to shape my approach here. (My thanks also go to Elizabeth Carter, Srivatsa Goswamy, Robert Hunt, Ian Hunt-​Isaak, Peter Machinist, Michael Meister, Holly Pittman, and Kapila Vatsyayan for many previous conversations and readings.) 2. Wikipedia, “Gesamtkunstwerk,” retrieved 10/​10/​2019. 3. Wikipedia, “Gesamtkunstwerk,” retrieved 10/​10/​2019. 4. The term has since been applied to architecture, relating to not only the construction, design, and decorative aspects of the exterior of a given building, but also its interior spatial organisation, decoration, and appointments. 5. See, e.g., Abu Salabikh: Martin et al. 1985: graves 1, 26, 28, 61, pls. xx: a, c; xxiii: b, c, etc.; Uruk: Nissen 1970: pl. 107; Pongratz-​Leisten 1988: nos. 9, 10, 286–​288, 290, 337, 400, 402, 410, 416. 6. Elsewhere (Winter 1999), I have suggested that these vessels were not merely luxury accompaniments for the deceased, but reflective of ritual activity at the time of interment. The effect of the combined shine of the metal and the colours of silver and gold are evidenced in the actual finds from funerary contexts, such as, e.g., in the undisturbed Royal Tombs nos. PG 1054 and 755 at Ur. The importance of shine with respect to divine images and their accoutrements goes back to Oppenheim 1964, and has been discussed in Winter 2012. 7. Discussed in Winter 1999. The officiating priest’s shaved head, evident in India, often speaks to prior rites of purification, equally attested in Mesopotamia. 8. This temple, dedicated to the god Krishna in Vrindavan, was a second research home to me for decades. I am most grateful to the Goswamy family of resident priests for that access. See, e.g., Winter 1992; 2000a. 9. See, e.g., Berlejung 1997; Walker and Dick 1998; Winter 1992; 2000a. 10. On this, see Winter 1999, with respect to the relative status of standing and seated images in shrines. Note that Evans (2012) has also suggested that some images could have been placed in courtyards or at shrine entrances. 11. On the Ishchali plaque (Hill and Jacobsen 1990; our Figure 10.7), the multiple strands of beads as necklaces illustrate well the works attested for the cult of Ishtar from an Old Babylonian period text known as “Ishtar of Lagaba and her Dress,” published by W. F. Leemans 1952. 12. This has been noted on the face of the Assyrian ruler Assurbanipal in his well-​known Garden Scene relief (BM 124920), also on the Akkadian copper/​bronze head found at Nineveh (Nylander 1980), and continuing on into more modern times, as on election posters in Jerusalem when B. B. Netanyahu was first running for Prime Minister of Israel, where the eyes were blacked out, not unlike the black X’s that appear on a Medieval East Anglian altarpiece, the defacement probably dating to a considerably later aniconic or anti-​Catholic phase (with thanks to conservator Spike Bucklow, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum). 13. As Jack Cheng argued in a paper given at Harvard University at the time of the Ur exhibition in 2002 (and later published in 2009), the musician at the upper right of the “Standard” (Figure 10.8) is accompanied by an individual with hands clasped, long hair, slightly raised chin, and apparently open mouth. Cheng concluded that this figure is likely to be a chanter or singer. 14. Note that among the earliest imagery of a group of instruments is that preserved on five small fragments of an Uruk period sealing found at Chogha Mish in Iran, often cited as the “Orchestra Seal.” It shows an ensemble of several musicians playing drum, harp, and possible horn, along with a possible singer, all facing to the right before a seated or squatting female figure (see Delougaz and Kantor 1996: 147, pls. 155, and 45N, likely to have been parts of a door sealing). 229

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15. See, e.g., illustrations and drawings in Suter 2000 and Canby 2001. Also see discussion in Suter 2015: 510, with respect to processional music. 16. This has a vast literature in India, related to the concept of rāsa, literally “juice,” conveying the essence of the material stimulus as it is perceived by the (informed and prepared) viewer/​recipient. See on this, Pollock 2016. Would that we had the sorts of treatises on music preserved in the Indian traditions; articles on but a single text are included in Bhalla 2019, for example. 17. RIME 3/​1: Gudea E3/​1.1.7, StB, 1–​16. Daily offerings include beer, bread, and wheat grains. Meats were presumably also offered on feast days, and fruits in season. 18. I am grateful to Elizabeth Carter for stressing this point in conversation. See also Curtis and Reade 1995: 105, no. 56 for our Figure 10.12a, and for the cedar fragments from the Oriental Institute excavations at Khorsabad, see Neumann forthcoming; and in the Oriental Institute Museum collection, object A11801. For Figure 10.12b, I am grateful to Kapila Vatsyayan. 19. Text cited in CAD Ṣ: 79, ṣalmu, and discussion in Winter 1992. 20. Note that Wagner-​Durand (2020: 217–​218) has also brought negative responses into the category of sensory experience: e.g., vertigo, temperature, or pain. I am most grateful to the author for having made a pre-​print version of the article available. However, I shall not address this issue here, as the negative does not really play a role in Mesopotamian ritual performance, at least in the evidence to date. 21. The important association between “sensory experience” and emotion is currently being explored, having begun with the work of Margaret Jaques in the late 1980s (see Jaques 2006; 2017) with respect to the Sumerian and Akkadian lexicon. See also Cohen 2005 for ritual experience with respect to burials. More recently, this has been taken up by Wagner-​Durand (2020) with reference to the work of Harris and Sørensen (2010), where the links are stressed between the neurological/​physiological stimulation of the senses and cultural/​individual processing. This pathway through the emotions is also not pursued here but should be noted. 22. And parenthetically, capturing that “experience” in an original context is something no modern museum or repository can fully do, precisely because it cannot replicate the multisensory environment of experience. The topic has been discussed in a symposium at the American Council for South Asian Art meetings of October 2017 in Boston, where a paper was given by Risha Lee (2017), at the time a curator at the Rubin Museum, New York. The talk was entitled “Amplifying the Museum,” presented as part of a session on “Histories of the Sensorium in South Asian Art.” Lee noted that “the museum space has been a site of sensory debate for some time now,” and described some of her attempts to go beyond “ocular-​centric” experience to provoke a multisensory engagement with the world and the materials on exhibit in installations. For the ancient Near East, see Evans and Green 2015. 23. See on this, Winter 2002 for a discussion of the “invention” by Baumgarten of the term “aesthetic” as derived from Aristotle’s term for sensory responses, and so distinct from the “anaesthetic” or absence of sensory response.

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Bourdieu, P. 1968. “Outline of a Sociological Theory of Art Perception.” International Social Science Journal 20 (4): 589–​612. Braun-​Holzinger, E. 1989. “REC 447.LÁ = Libationsbecher.” ZA 79: 1–​7. Butler, S., and S. Nooter, eds. 2018. Sound and the Ancient Senses: The Senses in Antiquity. New York: Routledge. Canby, J. V. 2001. The “Ur-​Nammu” Stela. University Museum Monographs 110. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Cheng, J. 2009. “A Review of Early Dynastic III Music: Man’s Animal Call.” JNES 68: 163–​178. Cohen, A. 2005. Death Rituals, Ideology and the Development of Early Mesopotamian Kingship: Toward a New Understanding of Iraq’s Royal Cemetery of Ur. AMD 7. Leiden: Brill; Boston: Styx. Cradic, M. S., and V. Linares. 2020. “Vanilla in the Middle Bronze Age: New Findings from Megiddo.” Ancient Near East Today 8 (1).​anetoday/​2020/​01/​vanilla-​in-​the-​Middle-​Bronze-​Age. Curtis, J. E., and J. E. Reade. 1995. Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Delougaz, P., and H. J. Kantor. 1996. Chogha Mish, Vol. I: The First Five Seasons of Excavations, 1961–​1971. OIP 10. Edited by Abbas Alizadeh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. DeSalle, R., and H. Bachor. 2020. A Natural History of Color. Berkeley: Pegasus Books. Dissayanake, E. 1988 What Is Art For? Seattle: University of Washington Press. Escobar, E. 2017. “Technology as Knowledge: Cuneiform Technical Recipes and the Material World.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. Evans, J. M. 2012. The Lives of Sumerian Sculpture: An Archaeology of the Early Dynastic Temple. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Evans, J. M. 2013. “The Tell Asmar Hoard and Rituals of Early Dynastic Sculpture,” in B. A. Brown and M. H. Feldman, eds., Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art. Berlin: De Gruyter, 645–​665. Evans, J. M. Forthcoming. Mesopotamian Temple Inventories in the Third and Second Millennia BCE: Integrating Archaeological, Textual and Visual Sources. Munich: PeWe-​Verlag. Evans, J. M., and J. Green. 2015. “Ground to Gallery: The Discovery, Interpretation, and Display of Early Dynastic Sculpture of the Iraq Expedition of the Oriental Institute,” in J. Chi and P. Azara, eds., From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 163–​193. Farjadi, H. 2008. Sense Formations: The Work of Farjadi Architects. Barcelona and New York: Actar. Ghosh, P., ed. 1995. Cooking for the Gods: The Art of Home Ritual in Bengal. Newark: The Newark Museum. Goldsmith, D. 2019. “The Smell of Mummification and Ancient Egyptian Afterlife.” Workshops, Berlin and Amsterdam. Green, D. A. 2011. The Aroma of Righteousness: Scent and Seduction in Rabbinic Life and Literature. College Park, PA: Penn State University Press. Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. New York: Cambridge University Press. Harper, P. O., E. Klengel-​Brandt, J. Aruz, and K. Benzel. 1995. Discoveries at Ashur on the Tigris: Assyrian Origins. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Harris, O. J. T., and T. F. Sørensen. 2010. “Rethinking Emotion and Material Culture.” Archaeological Dialogues 17 (2): 145–​163. Harvey, G., and J. Hughes, eds. 2018. Sensual Religion: Religion and the Five Senses. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing. Hawthorne, A., and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds. 2019. Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns. Heimpel, W. 1987. “Libation.” RIA 7. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1–​5. Hill, H. D., and T. Jacobsen. 1990. Old Babylonian Public Buildings in the Diyala Region, Pt. I: Excavations at Ischali. OIP 98. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Press. Hogwood, C. 2008. “The Clavier Speaks,” in S. Gallagher and T. F. Kelly, eds., The Century of Bach and Mozart: Perspectives on Historiography, Composition, Theory and Performance. Isham Library Papers 7. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Publications in Music, 345–​370. Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts. 1993. Prakriti: Man in Harmony with the Elements. New Delhi: IGNCA. Jaques, M. 2006. Le vocabulaire des sentiments dans les textes sumériens. Recherches sur le lexique sumérien et akkadien. AOAT 332. Münster: Ugarit Verlag. Jaques, M. 2017. “The Discourse on Emotion in Ancient Mesopotamia: A Theoretical Approach,” in S. Kipfer, ed., Visualising Emotions in the Ancient Near East. Fribourg: Academic Press, 182–​205. 231

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Kapiec, K. 2018. “The Sacred Scents: Examining the Connection between the ntjw and sft in the Context of the Early Eighteenth Dynasty Temples.” Études et Travaux 31: 195–​217. Klengel-​Brandt, E. Mit Sieben Siegeln Versehen: Das Siegel in Wirtschaft und Kunst des Alten Orients. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern. Korsmeyer, C. 1999. Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Landsberger, B. 1967. “Über Farben im Sumerische-​Akkadischen.” JCS 21: 139–​173. Lee, R. 2017. “Amplifying the Museum.” American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium XVIII, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Leemans, W. F. 1952. Ishtar of Lagaba and Her Dress. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Naabije Oosten. Leys, R. 2011. “The Turn to Affect: A Critique.” Critical Inquiry 37 (3): 434–​472. Martin, H. P., J. Moon, and J. N. Postgate. 1985. Abu Salabikh Excavations, Vol. 2: Graves 1–​99. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq. Matthaie, P. 2008. “Ebla,” in J. Aruz, K. Benzel, and J. Evans, eds., Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 34–​36, fig. 16. McMahon, A. 2013. “Space, Sound and Light: Toward a Sensory Experience of Ancient Monumental Architecture.” AJA 117: 163–​179. Michalowski, P. 2010. “Learning Music: Schooling, Apprenticeship, and Gender in Early Mesopotamia,” in R. Pruzinszky and D. Shehata, eds., Musiker und ihre Rolle bei der Verschlichtigung und Tradierung von literarischen Werken. Vienna: LIT Verlag, 199–​239. Müller-​Karpe, M. 1993. Metallgefässe im Iraq I. Prähistorische Bronzefunde. Abteilung II. 14. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag. Neumann, K. 2019. “Sensing the Sacred in the Neo-​Assyrian Temple: The Presentation of Offerings to the Gods,” in A. Hawthorn and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 23–​62. Neumann, K. Forthcoming. “From Raw to Ritualized: Following the Trail of Incense of the Assyrian Temple,” in A. Grand-​Clément, A. Vincent, M. Bradly, and A.-​C. Rendu Loisel, eds., Sensing Divinity: Incense, Religion and the Ancient Sensorium. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nissen, H. J. 1970. “Grabung in den Quadraten K/​L XII in Uruk-​Warka.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 5: 101–​ 191, pls. 29–​108. Nylander, C. 1980. “Earless in Nineveh: Who Mutilated ‘Sargon’s’ Head?” AJA 84: 329–​333. Oppenheim, A. L. 1964. “The Care and Feeding of the Gods,” in Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 183–​198. Pollock, S., ed. 2016. A Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press. Pongratz-​Leisten, B. 1988. “Keramik der Früdynastischen Zeit aus den Grabungen in Uruk-​Warka.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 19: 177–​319. Randolph, A. W. B. 2014. Touching Objects: Intimate Experiences of Italian Fifteenth-​Century Art. New Haven: Yale University Press. Rappaport, R. A. 1999. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology 110. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Richard, A., and D. Rudnyckyj. 2009. “Economies of Affect.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 15: 57–​77. Ricoeur, P. 1984. The Reality of the Historical Past. The Aquinas Lecture, 1984. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press. Riegl, A. 1897–​1898. Historische Grammatik der bildenden Künste. Edited by K. M. Swoboda and O. Pächt. Graz and Köln: Böhlau, 1966. Selz, G. 1996. “ne-​sag, bur-​sag und gu2-​ne(sa-​ga): Zu zwei Gefässbezeichunungen, ihren Bedeutungswicklungen und einem sumerischen Wort für (Gefäss)schrank.” Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici sul Vicino Oriente Antico 13: 3–​8. Simpson, St J. 2020. “Annihilating Assyria,” in I. Finkel and St J. Simpson, eds., In Context: The Reade Festschrift. Oxford: Archaeopress, 141–​165. Stager, J. M. S. 2016. “The Materiality of Color in Ancient Mediterranean Art,” in R. B. Goldman, ed., Essays in Global Color History: Interpreting the Ancient Spectrum. Gorgias Studies in Classical and Late Antiquity 19. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 97–​119. Steinkeller, P. 1980. “Early Dynastic Burial Offerings in Light of Textual Evidence.” American Oriental Society Annual Meetings, San Francisco. Stoller, P. 1989. The Taste of Ethnographic Things: The Senses in Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 232

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Suter, C. E. 2000. Gudea’s Temple Building: The Representation of an Early Mesopotamian Ruler in Text and Image. Cuneiform Monographs 17. Groningen: Styx. Suter, C. E. 2015. “Gudea’s Kingship and Divinity,” in S. Yona, E. L. Greenstein, M. I. Gruber, P. Machinist, and S. M. Paul, eds., Marbeh Ḥokmah: Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East in Loving Memory of Victor Avigdor Hurowitz. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 499–​524. Thavapalan, S. 2020. The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Thomason, A. K. 2016. “The Sense-​scapes of Neo-​Assyrian Capital Cities: Royal Authority and Bodily Experience.” CAJ 26: 243–​64. Tiriac, A., and M. Feller. 2019. “Embryonic Neural Activity Wires the Brain.” Science 364: 933–​934. Tsubouchi, A., T. Yano, T. K. Yokoyama, C. Murtin, H. Otsuna, and K. Ito. 2017. “Topological and Modality-​Specific Representation of Somatosensory Information in the Fly Brain.” Science 358: 615–​623. Waetzoldt, H. 1980–​1983. “Kleidung, Philologisch.” RIA 6: 19–​21. Wagner-​Durand, E. 2019. “Images that you feel: Haptic Aspects of Visual Culture in Mesopotamia.” 25th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Bern. Wagner-​Durand, E. 2020. “Sensual Emotions: Linking the Senses and the Emotions in the Ancient Near East,” in D. Nadali and F. Pinnock, eds., Sensing the Past: Detecting the Use of the Five Senses in Ancient Contexts. Proceedings of the Conference Held in Rome, Sapienza University, June 4th, 2018. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 217–​245. Walker, C. B. E., and M. B. Dick. 1998. “The Induction of the Cult Image in Ancient Mesopotamia: The mīs pî Ritual,” in M. B. Dick, ed., Born in Heaven, Made on Earth: The Making of the Cult Image in the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Winter, I. J. 1992. “Idols of the King: Royal Images as Recipients of Ritual Action in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Journal of Ritual Studies 6 (1): 13–​42. Winter, I. J. 1994. “Radiance as an Aesthetic Value in the Art of Ancient Mesopotamia (and some Indian Parallels),” in B. N. Saraswati, S. C. Malik, and M. Khanna, eds., Art, The Integral Vision: Essays in Felicitation of Kapila Vatsyayan. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 123–​132. Winter, I. J. 1999. “Reading Ritual in the Archaeological Record: Deposition Pattern and Function of Two Artifact Types from the Royal Cemetery of Ur,” in H. Kuehne, R. Bernbeck, K. Bartl, and H. J. Nissen, eds., Fluchtpunkt Uruk: Archäologische Einheit aus methodischen Vielfalt, Schriften für H. J. Nissen. Espelkamp: M. Leidorf, 229–​256. Winter, I. J. 2000a. “Opening the Eyes and Opening the Mouth: The Utility of Comparing Images in Worship in India and the Ancient Near East,” in M. W. Meister, ed., Ethnography and Personhood: Notes from the Field. Jaipur and New Delhi: Rawat Publications, 129–​162. Winter, I. J. 2000b. “The Eyes Have It! Votive Statuary, Gilgamesh’s Axe, and Cathected Viewing in the Ancient Near East,” in R. Nelson, ed., Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 22–​44. Winter, I. J. 2002. “Defining ‘Aesthetics’ for Non-​Western Studies: The Case of Ancient Mesopotamia,” in M. A. Holly and K. Moxey, eds., Art History, Aesthetics, Visual Studies. Williamstown, MA: Clark Art Institute, 3–​28. Winter, I. J. 2008. “Touched by the Gods: Visual Evidence for the Divine Status of Rulers in the Ancient Near East,” in N. Brisch, ed., Religion and Power: Divine Kingship int eh Ancient World and Beyond. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 75–​101. Winter, I. J. 2012. “Gold! Light and Lustre in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in R. Matthews, ed., Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, 12–​16 April 2010, Vol. 2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 153–​171. Wolfe, C. 2010. What Is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Woolley, C. L. 1939. Ur Excavations V: The Ziggurat and its Surroundings. London: The British Museum; Philadelphia: The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Zwickel, W. 1990. Räuscherkult und Räusschergerate: Exegetische und archäologische Studien zum Räuschopfer im Alten Testament. Freiburg: Universitäts Verlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.


11 Pure stale water Experiencing Jewish purification rituals in early Roman Palestine Rick Bonnie

Introduction Water is a necessity of life. It is also a substance of noticeable importance across various religions and part of their ritual practices (e.g., Oestigaard 2005; 2011). But water is not only seen; its continuous movement can also be heard: for example, dropping on roofs, flowing through pipes and channels, and pouring on the ground or into pools and cisterns. It smells and tastes differ according to its source, state, and quality. Water makes you wet. As I will argue, our senses play a large role in how we use and perceive water, yet these same senses are often overlooked when considering past ritual uses and behaviours.1 Water played an important role for the Jewish communities living around the turn of the Common Era in the southern Levant. Its importance also trickled down into religious practices. This is not only suggested by preserved literary sources (e.g., Lawrence 2006). Archaeological excavations have found several hundred stepped, plastered water installations dating to the period of the late-​second century BCE to second century CE that have been interpreted as ritual purification baths. Conventionally, these ritual baths have been primarily viewed by archaeologists and historians as a prop: that is, architectural features that do little more than enable the socio-​r itual process of purification. The questions of how people used and perceived these pools and their water, and of how the various architecture and contexts shaped this use and perception remain largely unexplored. This chapter explores how the different material qualities and contexts of these so-​called “stepped pools” shaped different sensory experiences of their users. It will lay out a framework for adding sense to our study of ancient Jewish ritual baths. Starting from how our conception of Jewish ritual baths today has been formed historiographically, I bring this notion back into the first modern identifications of ancient Jewish ritual baths. The idea of a common ritual bathing practice is embedded in the autonomous gaze of a modernist world, and has shaped past identities along formations structured by that world. As will be shown, this has had ramifications for how ritual bathing practices have shaped modern scholarly ideas of Jewish identities around the turn of the Common Era. From generic descriptions of ancient ritual baths and scholarship about them, I then move on to explore the material variety and its sensorial significance among a 234

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selection of four stepped pools from the sites of Jericho, Masada, Magdala, and Gamla. Ultimately, this chapter engages in a larger discussion on how diverse material contexts have meanings that are different for their users, and that those meanings create different sensory experiences, and shape different identities.

Modern mikva’ot and Western modernity When discussing sensorial experiences and ancient Jewish ritual purification bathing practices, we must begin with the rise of modern thinking about Judaism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mikveh (pl. mikva’ot) literally means “gathering” as in “gathering of water” (mikveh mayim; Lev 11:36). The term is used in Judaism to refer to a body of water used for the purpose of ritual immersion in order to achieve ritual purity. The main necessity for a body of water to be used for this purpose is that it was filled with “living water,” or naturally occurring waters that continually refreshed, such as from rivers, lakes, or springs, as well as from rainwater or groundwater. Mikva’ot can also refer to human-​made bathing structures that through engineering skills are directly fed by water from the sky, the ground, or a spring. It is commonly understood that this ritually pure water could not have been physically drawn by humans to fill the bathing structure (see, e.g., m. Mikv. 2:3–​9). Moreover, contemporaneous and later literary sources tell us that it had to contain a minimum volume of water for immersion. For example, the Damascus Document, an early Jewish text generally attributed to the first century BCE that discusses, among other things, legal aspects, specifies that “No man shall bathe … in an amount too shallow to cover a man” (CD X:10–​13; see also Jos., Ant. 3.263; Mark 7:3; Luke 11:38). Later rabbinic sources establish a minimum of 40 se’ah (m. Mikv. 1:7). However, how to convert a se’ah into litres remains debated, and equivalent measurements for 40 se’ah range from 250 to 1,000 litres (see Miller 2015: 17, n. 3, 85–​91). Today, mikva’ot are found primarily in orthodox Jewish congregations, usually as part of a (nearby) synagogue complex. The design of these modern mikva’ot can be sleek; the space evokes serenity, and the baths demonstrate a sense of purity and hygiene. The design of this “ritual” space did not come about naturally. It was a development of processes starting in Medieval Europe, perhaps even as far back as Classical antiquity. Its most important development in recent times came about with the rise of modernity during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By the nineteenth century in Europe, mikva’ot were public facilities that were often situated below synagogues in an underground cellar. They were used most frequently by women following childbirth and menstruation (Schlich 1995: 424). However, during the first half of the nineteenth century, this tradition of ritual bathing was criticised on grounds of hygiene. This has been particularly well documented by Thomas Schlich’s historical study (1995) of the medical criticism of Jewish ritual baths and the subsequent sanitary reforms undertaken in Germany. Schlich describes how various leading German physicians, some of whom were Jews, began to critique the older communal mikva’ot in their publications as unhygienic and associated them with various infectious diseases. For example, in 1843, the health officer G. Mezger portrayed the underground spaces in which these ritual baths were situated as “deep, cold, gloomy pits,” and “dirty cellars, shut off from daylight,” or as “damp, mouldy and corrupted.” The mikveh itself was viewed as “a big chamber pot,” “a large cesspit,” and as a “cave of horror” (Mezger 1843: especially 143–​144; as cited in Schlich 1995: 425). The described filthiness of these baths made them, according to these physicians, a primary source of infectious diseases, notably venereal ones.


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Since venereal diseases brought up moral connotations, ultimately these baths were associated with imagined Jewish immorality and irrationality (Schlich 1995: 425–​429; see also Mombert 1830: 286). Their traditional customs, thus, distinguished and separated Jews, notably Jewish women, from other citizens in cultural and social terms. Sanitary reforms for mikva’ot were suggested in order to improve not just their health, but with it their development as individuals (Bildung). In Germany at least, the state intervened and various decrees were put forward across different regions during the first half of the nineteenth century to regulate the daily functioning of these baths (Schlich 1995: 436–​437). This included the temperature of the water and changing the bathing water routinely. The regulations seem to have had a direct effect on the workings of these baths. For example, it led to the development of ’otsar installations, a reservoir with a minimum volume of rainwater adjoining the mikveh in order to regularly change the used water from the mikveh (Adler 2014: 273–​274). The discussions of Jewish ritual bathing and the regulatory changes brought about in mikva’ot in nineteenth-​century Germany were not isolated events, but were associated with wider social and cultural changes in the West at the time. As social historians have pointed out, controlling the senses, notably smell and touch, was an important development during the nineteenth century in the construction of modern Western cities and states and the consolidation of power and control by the middle and upper classes (Stallybrass and White 1986: 125–​148; Urry 2000: 94–​ 103; Hamilakis 2013: 16–​24). Constructing Western modernity in the sense of a colonial, white, male, and Christian culture meant a war on smells, as they represented otherness in class, gender, race, and ethnicity (Bauman 1993: 24; see also McClintock 1995: 207; Hamilakis 2013: 19). The result was an increasing devaluation of smell and touch in favour of sight (for discussion, see Classen 1993: 15–​36). Now not only bad smells, but also poor lighting was considered a serious social health and morality problem (Howes and Lalonde 1991: 132). The nineteenth century also embodies the emergence of autonomous vision, in which vision, through different representational innovations and devices, became disembodied from the other senses. The era produced modern photography, museums, world fairs, and professional archaeology (Crary 1990; Classen and Howes 2006; Candlin 2008; Classen 2012; Hamilakis 2013: 21–​24, 34–​55; Krmpotich 2020: 96). For archaeology and museums this meant that objects were taken out of their sensorial context and became appreciated on their own. “The rich texture of the object world,” as Hamilakis puts it, “was replaced with the smooth but dull homogeneity of the glass case” (2013: 48). Nineteenth-​century concerns about bad smells, poor vision, health, and morality are directly associated with the above-​noted sanitary regulations on mikva’ot in Germany. In his study of the nineteenth-​century reforms of Jewish ritual baths, Schlich (1995: 439) described this development as follows: Those who criticized the mikwe aimed at integrating the Jews into a culture that was universal, enlightened and healthy. … Bourgeois behaviour was healthy behaviour. And the bourgeoisie was the reference group of the ideologues of emancipation, who, intent on joining it, emulated its culture. Discussing the development of modern mikva’ot within the broader context of the construction of Western modernity and anti-​Semitism is important for understanding the birth of the Jewish ritual bath in Classical antiquity, that is, those stepped pools dating from the late second century BCE into the second century CE that have been found in the hundreds during excavations and surveys in the southern Levant (Figure 11.1). The distinctive sensorial regime of the modern mikveh, a particular construct of Western modernity, gives important (but so far undiscussed) 236

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Figure 11.1  Distribution map of stepped pools in the southern Levant; case study sites are marked by black dots. Source: Map by author; data from Adler 2011.

context to the original identification of these stepped pools as ancient Jewish ritual baths. As we will see below, from their first identification, the autonomous modern gaze of archaeologists upon these stepped pools (with the exclusion of other senses) highlighted a historical narrative of ancient Jewish uniformity (see also Chapter 25, this volume). This narrative emphasised a shared observance of purity regulations from the Hebrew Bible and adherence in practice to the standards set by the Jewish upper classes in antiquity (whether Hasmoneans, rabbis, priests, or Pharisees). Perhaps (subconsciously) informed by ideas about modern mikva’ot, the “rich texture” of the individual ancient baths, to quote Hamilakis again, was replaced by archaeologists in their interpretations with a “smooth but dull homogeneity” of common Jewish religious 237

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practice. One could argue that our understanding of ancient Jewish ritual bathing remains essentially a deodorised one.

The archaeology of ancient Jewish ritual baths The generic ancient Jewish ritual bath2 was born on Masada in the summer of 1964. Masada is a rock plateau in the Judean desert on which the fortress-​palace of Herod the Great (reign 37–​4 BCE ) was exposed (for its architecture, see Netzer 1991). After the discovery of a suggested ancient ritual purification bath (labelled Southern Mikveh) dating to the First Jewish Revolt (66–​70/​74 CE ) was announced at a press conference, two distinguished rabbis arrived at the site from Jerusalem to see the stepped, plastered installation for themselves (see Yadin 1966: 164–​ 167). After careful inspection, Rabbi Muntzberg confirmed its identification: “among the finest of the finest, seven times seven” (Yadin 1966: 166). The baths at Masada demonstrated, according to the excavator Yadin (1966: 167), its builders’ “scrupulous conformity with the injunctions of traditional Jewish law.” This was not the first time that such stepped, plastered pools had been found in the region. Similar ones were exposed previously at Khirbet Qumran and Beth She’arim. However, “that moment,” that interpretation on the rock plateau of Masada, captured in an iconic photograph (Figure 11.2), “very much defined how ritual baths would be studied for the next half a century,” as Stuart Miller (2015: 17) recently noted. Today, archaeology has uncovered hundreds of such stepped pools in the region. Due to their strong diversity in shape and size, no consistent appearance of a ritual purification bath exists and, hence, their exact number remains contested among scholars (for discussion, see Bonnie 2019a; Reich 2013 identifies 459 ritual baths, while Adler 2011 identifies 850). The scholarly

Figure 11.2  Rabbi Muntzberg and others inspecting the Southern Mikveh at Masada. Source: Yadin 1966: 167; courtesy of the Israel Exploration Society. 238

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consensus is that these stepped pools were used primarily as Jewish ritual purification baths. This idea is based on the particular geographic distribution of these stepped pools within the southern Levant, their lack of resemblance to other types of water architecture, and the fact that contemporary authors (c. 63 BCE –​100 CE ) indicate that ritual bathing practices among Jews had gained traction. Such baths were used by people for ritual immersion and purification from the state of impurity caused by, for instance, contact with sexual fluids or diseases, but were also used for immersing impure material objects (Balberg 2014; 2015). Some of the pools are found near tombs and agricultural installations, as well as near the Temple of Jerusalem, the primary centre for Jewish worship that was destroyed in 70 CE (see Zissu and Amit 2008: 51–​61). The large majority of them, however, have been found within early Jewish household contexts. The widespread attestation of these stepped pools in the southern Levant during the first century BCE and CE (see Figure 11.1) has especially dominated scholarship over recent decades. It is commonly argued that the growing number of these stepped pools appearing in Jewish households during this period occurred as a result of the territorial expansion of the Hasmonean kingdom during the late-​second to mid-​first century BCE in combination with a heightened concern with ritual purity among the Jewish population (see, most recently, Adler 2018; Steen Fatkin 2019). Put differently, a stepped pool was a common structural feature in a Jewish household primarily because its members observed a shared notion of purity regulations. Subsequently, this material has become a cornerstone for the argument that purity laws, as known from contemporaneous and later textual traditions, were generally observed in everyday Jewish life (e.g., Regev 2000: 184–​185; Zissu and Amit 2008: 48; Adler 2013: 240; Miller 2015: 21).3

Sensing stepped pools What do we know about how individual stepped pools were experienced and used? Were there different ritual traditions among different households? And how did any such difference, if existing, affect the general tradition of ritual purification? The later rabbinic sources, at the least, suggest rather divergent ideas of what ritual baths looked like and how they functioned and were experienced. Miller (2015: 44), based on a careful examination of the rabbinic understanding of the mikveh and beth tevilah (“house of immersion”; e.g., m. Parah 3:7; Yoma’ 3:2–​3), has argued that the mikveh was not “a monolithic institution with a single application, form, or history.” Not only was there no single way of using a mikveh, Miller (2015: 32) also noted that “[w]‌hat the rabbis considered to be a ‘typical’ miqveh would be hard to depict, very likely because they had no … fixed conception of the ritual bath.” This diversity of understandings of the later rabbinic concept of a mikveh stands in stark contrast with the monotony by which ritual bathing practices are interpreted from the earlier-​dated archaeological stepped pools. To the autonomous and visually privileged gaze of the researcher, leaving archaeological and sensorial contexts aside, these archaeological features look quite the same. For example, Morten Jensen (2013: 16) described the ritual bath as a “peculiar stepped pool structure” and Eyal Regev (2000: 184) noted little more than that it was “a plastered immersing pool with a few stairs leading into it.” A lack of deeper engagement with the material evidence itself is often revealing. Only rarely can one find a description detailing and explaining the role of the different features out of which the installation was made (but see Adler 2013: 242–​ 243; Bonnie 2019a). Yet, only describing and analysing the material characteristics of these pools misses the point of how people made sense of these archaeological installations. As Jokiranta et al. (2018: 14) noted, studies have been lacking that examine how the materiality of these pools affected how they were used, how they shaped life around them. Instead, primary focus has been given to their 239

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identification and, to a lesser degree, to explaining their appearance and eventual disappearance from the archaeological record (e.g., Miller 2015; Adler 2017; Bonnie 2019b: 287–​304; Steen Fatkin 2019). It remains undiscussed, to a large extent, whether ordinary users across the region viewed, smelled, touched, and used these stepped pools in similar ways.

Getting wet! Towards a sensorial experience of stepped pools Ways of practising sensory archaeology have received more discussion during the last decade, and most certainly no single answer to this can or should be provided (for discussion, see notably Skeates 2010; Hamilakis 2013; Skeates and Day 2020; note especially the range of approaches in Tringham and Danis 2020). By considering the local archaeological contexts and wider social environments of stepped pools, recent scholarship has shown more interest in the sensorial experiences of ancient ritual bathing practices. For example, Regev (2011: especially 63–​65) studied the accessibility and significance of stepped pools found in the Hasmonean palaces at Jericho. He showed that visual privacy played an important role in the Hasmoneans’ ritual actions. Recently, in a short experimental essay, I have tried to inject other senses, notably smell and touch, into this discussion as well. I did so through a biographical narrative approach of one non-​specific stepped pool. Drawing inspiration from Stewart’s Ordinary Affects (2007), the essay tried to describe a brief moment in the pool’s life with a focus on the contact zone between pool, environment, water, and people (Bonnie 2018). Stewart’s writing tries to captivate the reader in the moment, so to speak, without attempting to explain. Adopting different styles of writing and other forms of communication surely provide a way to elucidate the complex reality that shaped and took place in these archaeological features we are studying (for different communicative styles, see Tringham and Danis 2020: 62–​68). In this chapter, the aim is to explore the contact zone between pool, environment, water, and people further but from a different angle. The pools themselves, the natural and material context in which they were built, and how this particular context shaped water flows and thus altered sensorial experiences need further study. Recently, Miller has started to examine more closely the complex workings of a few individual stepped pools at Sepphoris (see, e.g., Miller 2015: 189–​197; 2018: 455–​458), but did so without yet connecting this to how these pools may have been perceived and used differently. By exploring the contact zone between the materiality of the stepped pools and the touch, smell, sight, and sound they evoke, we get a sense of how different pools shaped different lives around them. Thus, rather than narrating the complexity of a pool’s life by focusing on a single moment, this chapter explores the diversity of experiences across a range of different stepped pools. The differences in the shapes and sizes of the stepped pools found in the region, the different water types the pools made use of, and the different environments in which they occurred all have a significance in shaping the experiences for those using and perceiving these pools. Ultimately, such studies diversify our conception of what being part of a Jewish community meant to the different users of these pools.

Changing settings, changing sensorial experiences To explore how the senses played out upon the functioning of ritual baths, I concentrate on four different case studies from the period under discussion: Jericho, Masada, Magdala, and Gamla (see Figure 11.1). These four sites developed during the late ​second and first centuries BCE and are important for our understanding of Jewish life during this time. In the south, Jericho was an important Hasmonean seat with several palace complexes, while Masada’s palace-​fortress played 240

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an important role during the subsequent Herodian era and the First Jewish Revolt (66–70/74 ce). On the other hand, the towns of Gamla and Magdala developed as administrative centres in the north, showing Hellenistic architectural influences, and reaching regional importance during the first century CE . Yet, each of these four sites developed in close relation to its particular geographical and environmental setting. It will be explored here how this difference affected how its respective Jewish community viewed, smelled, moved, and touched the pools in which they regularly immersed for ritual purification.

Ritual bath AA209 in the Hasmonean Buried Palace, Jericho We start on the fringes of the dry and hot Judean Desert, at Jericho. From the late-​second century BCE up to the first century CE , Jericho was home to several Hasmonean and Herodian palace complexes (Netzer 2001a; 2001b). Apart from this, the excavations also revealed evidence of almost 40 stepped, plastered pools that were identified as Jewish ritual baths (Adler 2011: 328–​329). Here I focus on what has been suggested to be the earliest known ritual bath in the southern Levant. It was found in the remains of the Hasmonean Buried Palace, which was constructed around 125 BCE by the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus I. Like the palace itself, the ritual bath had only a short life and went out of use when the entire palace was eventually buried no later than 85 BCE (on its dating, see Steen Fatkin 2019: 161–​163). The bath has recently stood at centre stage in discussions on the cultural origins of these stepped immersion pools (Adler 2018: 8; Steen Fatkin 2019). I instead wish to explore in more detail the way users experienced it. The ritual bath was part of a complex in the Hasmonean Buried Palace consisting of two adjoining deep pools in a small, roof-​covered rectangular room that, based on access analysis, was rather private and isolated (Figure 11.3) (Netzer 2001b: 38–​43; for the access analysis, see Regev 2011: 51–​52). Both pools were 2.9 metres deep, but the suggested ritual bath was somewhat larger in size than the adjoining pool to its south. Each pool could be accessed individually from an entrance hall on the east. However, while the ritual bath could be entered via a flight of stairs along three sides of the pool, the adjoining pool had no steps by which to access it. Both pools were joined by a narrow lead pipe, located about 30 centimetres below the rim. A plastered in-​ ground channel on top of the stepped pool’s northern rim served as a water outlet. The Buried Palace as a whole, as well as this ritual bathing complex in particular, received water through aqueducts that carried spring water from three springs in Wadi Qelt (Garbrecht and Netzer 1991). This water would first flow into the non-​stepped pool through a large rectangular lead pipe. Once this pool was filled, the connecting pipe would start filling the ritual bath. Eventually water levels would reach so high that any overflow would be poured out through a water outlet in the northern wall. The fact that the ritual bath complex was fed by spring water meant that water could pour in continuously throughout the year from the aqueducts (Netzer 1982: 108; 2001a: 42), and that water levels in both pools would be at their highest levels most of the time. Only if the bottom of both pools were to be cleaned of sedimentation, which doubtless had to happen occasionally, would the aqueducts’ water flow probably be diverted away from the complex. The non-​stepped pool may have served as a settling pool in order for impurities in the water (e.g., calcium, silt) to settle before the water entered the stepped immersion pool.4 This and the fact that water flow was continuous suggest that water in the ritual bath was kept relatively clean. As we will see below, this is not common for most ritual baths in the southern Levant and the clear and continuously refreshing water probably led to quite a different sight, smell, and touch experience for this pool as well as others found in Jericho. Moreover, the cool spring water 241

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Figure 11.3  Jericho, the Hasmonean Buried Palace, ritual bath and settling pool, looking south. Source: Netzer 2001a: ill. 55; courtesy of the Israel Exploration Society.

created a strong contrast to the hot and dry desert climate of Jericho, making immersion a rather pleasant experience. However, the other striking feature of the ritual bath at Jericho is its considerable depth. Its water level would reach up to 2.6 metres from the pool’s bottom. Netzer pointed out in a profile drawing that with such deep water levels, a bather was able to stand only up to the pool’s third-​lowest step (Netzer 1982: 109). This seems to have been imagined from the perspective of a modern male (1.7–​1.8 metres tall). One can only wonder how other age groups, in particular children, perceived this immersion pool. While children, the elderly, or those with physical disabilities may have descended only a few steps in order to bathe, that part of the pool that had no steps still provided a considerable risk of drowning or, at least, near drowning experiences. The pool’s depth is indeed a striking feature that remains ill understood. If the pool adjoining the ritual bath primarily served as a settling pool, then it would not have to be almost 3 metres deep, nor would it have needed a separate entranceway into the room.

The Southern Mikveh, Masada Moving further south, we encounter the large rock plateau of Masada, where Herod the Great built a large fortress-​palace in the late ​first century BCE . This fortress-​palace was reused as a fortification by Jews against the Roman military during the First Jewish Revolt. While several stepped pools have been exposed at Masada, the most iconic one is the Southern Mikveh5—​ the first stepped pool in antiquity to be identified as a Jewish ritual purification bath. It is 242

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Figure 11.4  Masada, Casemate room 1196, the Southern Mikveh complex, looking east. Source: Netzer 1991: ill. 791; courtesy of the Israel Exploration Society.

located in the southeastern section of the casemate wall surrounding the plateau, in a room near the southern gate, and consists of three adjoining plastered pools (Figure 11.4) (Netzer 1991: 507–​510). The largest of the three pools, in the northeastern corner of the room, was accessed in its northwest corner by descending three steps. A smaller pool, with three relatively high steps in its southwest corner (of which the two lowermost are preserved), adjoined this pool to the south. Both pools were 1.2 metres deep and were connected by a small pipe-​hole about 30–​35 centimetres below the rim. A third pool, the smallest in size and only 50 centimetres deep, was built against the latter pool. As shown by the numerous cisterns, reservoirs, and plastered pools found on the plateau, the occupants of Masada relied solely on rain for their water consumption. In the case of the Southern Mikveh, an open channel supplied rainwater from an adjacent room into a small and shallow basin, from which it would flow via a pipe into the larger pool and eventually into the smaller adjacent pool. The third and smallest pool, however, was not directly fed by rainwater, and it remains unknown if and how water was received into this pool (it may have been drawn). Exactly how this pool complex was put to use remains uncertain. Yadin reasoned that the first and largest pool that received water was used solely for storage during the short rain season (much like a modern ’otsar installation) (Yadin 1966: 166–​167; see also Grossberg 2007: 113). The second and smaller pool was, according to him, the actual ritual bath. However, to get to this immersion pool, a person had to cross the third and smallest pool. This pool may have been used for hygienic cleaning purposes before ritually immersing oneself, but, as noted, it is unknown how water in this pool was received. Recently, based on the fact that both the two largest pools 243

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could be accessed via steps in the corner, Adler (2014: 280) has suggested that the complex had not one but, in fact, two separate ritual baths. It is not much elaborated, however, how two adjacent ritual baths would have functioned in practice. Not only do two adjacent immersion pools seem odd in light of the little and irregular rainfall in the area, it is also the particular order of pools (in which the larger immersion pool would have to be filled completely before water would flow into the smaller pool) that makes such a suggestion unlikely. Equally odd remains the location of the steps in both larger pools, as in both cases access to them seems blocked or, at least, hindered by the two smaller and shallower basins directly in front of them. Should these oddities be seen as design failures? Or was this pool complex perhaps used in an entirely different manner? In any case, the Southern Mikveh was experienced in quite different ways from the ritual bath in the Hasmonean Buried Palace at Jericho. The fact that water levels in the larger pools could go up to about 85–​90 centimetres only, means that the act of immersion would have been rather different. Instead of walking down the stairs, as in the case at Jericho, at Masada one had to crouch down in order to fully immerse oneself—​at least, in the case of most adults. Yet, with water levels of 85–​90 centimetres, most people would not have been able to sit down in these pools either. The pool’s water level also would make it more accessible to younger children and the elderly, though the positioning of the steps remains odd and could be seen as a hindrance. A more significant difference was the climatic impact on the functioning of the Southern Mikveh at Masada. While the region during the early Roman period (c. 63 BCE –​100 CE ) was likely less arid than today (Yakir et al. 1994; for discussion, see also Bonnie 2017: 32–​33), the Judean Desert was still a hot and hostile environment with little and irregular rainfall, primarily during the winter season, and a high risk of several years of drought. As the pools were solely dependent upon rainwater and were left open and exposed, it is most likely that the Southern Mikveh may not have functioned—​or at least not functioned properly—​during particular (and for longer) periods of time. Aside from the visual impact of these empty or nearly empty pools, this also obviously affected their tactile and olfactory experiences, and ritual functions. Different again from the spring-​fed pools at Jericho, the water in the rain-​fed Southern Mikveh was ultimately stagnant and may have cultivated a rather different, at times probably unpleasant, experience for its users (for a discussion on the issues of stagnant water, see also Bonnie 2016: 21–​22). While stagnant water, such as that from cisterns, was considered potable and usable in Classical antiquity, it was generally understood to be of lesser quality than spring water.6 Moreover, before the discovery of micro-​organisms and germs during the nineteenth century, people assessed water quality by relying primarily on their senses—​its smell, look, and taste. Different from the continuously flowing spring water in the ritual bath in Jericho’s Hasmonean Buried Palace, the clarity and freshness of the stagnant Southern Mikveh probably varied much over time. Those using these pools had to continuously assess through their sight, smell, touch, and taste whether the pools were safe to use. Moreover, as noted by Klingborg (2017: 86) in the case of Greek cisterns, “The dangers arising from unhealthy water are unevenly spread across the population. Both the elderly and young, as well as people with a compromised immune system, are more susceptible to waterborne diseases than others.”7 Rainwater-​fed stepped pools, therefore, required more regular cleaning, which probably occurred just before the rainy season began, when water levels were at their lowest or the pools may have stood empty. While there is no evidence for regulations on cleaning and maintenance in the case of Jewish ritual baths, such regulations do appear to have existed in the case of cisterns (for discussion, see Klingborg 2017: 91–​92). For example, the second-​century CE Astynomoi inscription from Roman Pergamon in Anatolia, an administrative text referring to legislation 244

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originally passed in the second century BCE , refers to an annual inspection of cisterns to ensure that nothing was thrown in, that is to say their cleanliness (Saba 2009).

Stepped pool “Mkv1,” Magdala Like the Southern Mikveh at Masada, the large majority of stepped pools found in the semiarid-to-arid region of the southern Levant were fed by rainwater, and thus their water quality and usage was affected by seasonal and long-​term periods of drought. However, we now turn to an unusual example of a stepped pool found more recently in the Hasmonean and early Roman town of Magdala (for its archaeology, see De Luca and Lena 2015). Because this town was built on alluvial soil on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, its groundwater level was relatively high. Different from almost all stepped pools in the southern Levant, which were typically plastered, the pools at Magdala were not plastered and were fed by groundwater that seeped through the joints of the pools’ stonework (see Reich and Zapata Meza 2014; 2018). Due to their uniqueness, their identification as ritual baths still remains contested among archaeologists (De Luca and Lena 2015: 307).8 Our example from Magdala (Figure 11.5) was built into a small rectangular room of a still partly exposed house on what may have been the northwestern outskirts of the town (Reich and Zapata Meza 2014: 65–​68; 2018: 113–​116). The roughly square-​shaped pool could be accessed from the southeast through a seven-​stepped descent spanning the pool’s full width. The pool area was 2 metres at its deepest point. The stepped pool was connected to other water installations, including another stepped pool, via two large, rectangular openings in each of its side walls. These openings likely stabilised the water level across different installations. A little

Figure 11.5  Magdala, stepped pool “Mkv3,” a nearby situated stepped pool that is more or less similar in style as example “Mkv1.” Source: Photo by author. 245

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higher, in the corner of the pool’s back wall, there is an overflow channel with a flat-​lying protruding stone, which in the case of a high groundwater table would feed the overflow to an adjacent alley. A little higher still, but just below the room’s floor level, a smaller opening was found on the side of the highest step. Its position suggests that it may have functioned as an additional water inlet (perhaps from a nearby spring source). Because of its rather rare water feeding mechanism, it was the surrounding groundwater level that determined the water level in this stepped pool. This meant that during dry summer months, the pools’ water level would roughly equal that of the adjacent Sea of Galilee. However, the water in these pools probably completely receded in summertime, only to gradually fill up again during the following winter season (Reich and Zapata Meza 2014: 69).9 How then did its users ritually purify themselves during the summer months when these pools lay empty? In Magdala, this problem could easily be solved since the nearby Sea of Galilee, consisting of “living water,” would qualify as a natural source for ritual immersion. But this provides a conundrum. If the nearby Sea of Galilee could be used as such, why put out the resources to build a private ritual bath? The excavators suggested that there may have been a taboo on public visual nudity in this community (Reich and Zapata Meza 2014: 70). But this suggestion cannot hold in the case this private ritual bath would not have functioned properly during summer and its users had to use other sources, such as the nearby Sea of Galilee, for ritual purification. Moreover, without providing clear evidence, the excavators’ interpretation imposes modern Western social attitudes towards nudity upon Magdala’s ancient Jewish community. Another possibility, not suggested by the excavators, is that a private bath was a marker of socio-​economic status among some members of Magdala’s Jewish community, even though it may have stood empty for certain times of the year. Whatever the reasons may have been for building a private ritual bath, this stepped pool exemplifies how, within one Jewish community with access to a lake, different attitudes towards ritual bathing could exist. Moreover, the different construction technique used in this particular stepped pool ultimately shaped different perceptions and reactions. By not lining the walls of the stepped pool with white plaster but instead using dark, smoothly finished basalt stone slabs in its construction, the look and touch of this stepped pool at Magdala contrasted completely with that of most stepped pools in the southern Levant. Stepped pools with plastered surfaces had to be regularly checked by their users for cracks and occasionally required repairs and a new plaster surface. If not done properly, a leak could occur and precious rainwater would seep through the pool and into the porous limestone bedrock. The occupants of the house with the basalt-​slabbed pool at Magdala did not have such worries, as their pool was fed by groundwater and the basalt slabs that they used were very durable. The fact that groundwater would seep through the joints of the pool’s stonework also meant that its waterflow was continuous and, as in the case of the ritual bath in Jericho’s Hasmonean Buried Palace, remained relatively clean. However, basalt slabs, if wet, are known to be slippery and thus users had to tread the pool’s steps slowly and carefully in order to avoid potential injuries from falling.10 In the end, the practical choice for using groundwater in this particular stepped pool at Magdala (instead of the more common rainwater) required the use of different construction materials and methods. As different materials bear different qualities and characteristics, this decision also affected the manners by which potential bathers had to move around the space and how they perceived it, as well as their bathing expectations (e.g., in the case of this particular pool’s water quality). It is certainly a possibility—​even though not often considered by scholars today—​that a user of this basalt-​slabbed pool at Magdala would neither expect nor recognise the white plastered pools in other towns and villages to have had a similar function. 246

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Ritual bath L1060, Gamla Going eastwards, crossing the Sea of Galilee, we turn to the site of Gamla, a town that largely developed under the Hasmoneans from the early first century BCE onward until its destruction by Roman forces during the First Jewish Revolt in 67 CE (Syon 2002). Unlike Magdala, Gamla was a hilltop settlement built on a ridge and protected from intruders along three of its sides by steep ravines. Aside from domestic buildings and an early monumental synagogue (for its architecture, see Syon and Yavor 2010), the excavators also exposed evidence of four stepped, plastered pools identified as Jewish ritual baths. Among this is a larger ritual bath (Figure 11.6) which I consider here because of its apparent public context. Its nearness, orientation, and evidence of water channels suggest that this ritual bath was closely connected to the nearby synagogue (Yavor 2010a: 58–​60). The ritual bath shows evidence of two different phases. During its earliest phase, the bath was at its largest and apparently consisted of only its outer walls. The pool had no stone-​cut steps during this phase, although it is possible that stairs made of perishable material were used. Sometime later, when exactly is unknown, the pool was modified, which shrank the pool by about a third of its size. Directly adjacent to the ritual bath lay a small square, plastered basin. A narrow channel on this basin’s southern rim functioned as an overflow channel into the ritual bath. Though no water inlet for this basin was found, it possibly functioned as a settling pool for impurities before the water poured into the larger ritual bath. The ritual bath appears to have received water through an intricate channelling system fed by the town’s two large cisterns to the northeast (Figure 11.6) (Yavor 2010a: 52–​54).11 While no direct connection has been found, the excavators suggest that one of these cisterns was connected to a stone slab-​covered, plastered channel that passed through Gamla’s defence wall,

Figure 11.6  Gamla, ground plan of ritual bath L1060 and synagogue area. Source: After Yavor 2010a: plan 2.11; courtesy of the Gamla Excavation Project. 247

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through the synagogue’s interior and its western façade, to ultimately empty into the ritual bath, probably via the settling pool. While still being fed by either rain or spring water, this ritual bath’s large size and central public setting next to the town’s synagogue is a clear differentiation from the previously discussed stepped pools. In theory, several adults easily fitted into the ritual bath simultaneously. Yet, with the bath being 3 metres deep and its stone steps built along one side only, much of its potential bathing area was challenging to use when water levels were high. As noted earlier in this chapter, Miller (2015) has pointed out that textual traditions indicate that the water in ritual baths could have had other purposes as well. In the case of Gamla’s public ritual bath, its central location and its large size may indeed speak for its simultaneous functioning as a communal cistern from which town people could draw water for household activities. Such functioning is supported by the fact that the hilltop town of Gamla, despite extensive excavations, shows little evidence for domestic cisterns (Yavor 2010b: 157). Furthermore, since the bath’s users were rather visible to the community due to its centrality, at least upon entering, how the particular bathing ritual was perceived and experienced by these users was very much dictated by the expectations and reactions of potential viewers. Hence, for any users, bathing here required other ways of logistical and mental preparation as well as possible rehearsal of ritual performance, much like a public ceremony. Such preparation and rehearsal were needed to a much lesser extent in the more private setting of domestic stepped pools, where individual bathing performances were not guided by viewer expectations and reactions other than those of family. If we also take into consideration that ritual immersion may have occurred alongside12 town people drawing water for domestic purposes, the entire experience of purification in this specific stepped pool was much different from those previously discussed. The fact that this ritual bath was dependent on water that ran via a complex channelling system through the synagogue is equally noteworthy. The long route between its water collection area outside Gamla’s defence walls and its ultimate terminus provides added (but, for its users, seemingly unnecessary) risks in terms of spillage, repairs, and contaminants in the water. To this should be added that the peculiarity of the water route also made the bath’s functioning dependent on those people within Gamla’s community that had access to the synagogue. Research suggests that the Gamla synagogue may have been a rather closed-​off space to which only the town’s elite probably had access.13 One possibility is that those community members with access to the synagogue were required to immerse into this pool prior to entering. The placement of the pool’s steps away from the synagogue entrance, however, speaks against such an interpretation. Another possibility is that the pool symbolised an act of power by those people inside the synagogue (as having control over the pool’s water flow) to those without access. The latter had to come near to the synagogue for access to (ritually pure) water but were not allowed to access this building. With only a certain group having deciding power on when and how much water was fed into this stepped pool, then for those people without access to the synagogue the act of seeing and hearing the flowing water leaving the synagogue and gushing into the public ritual bath was a personal and emotional event that may have been met with awe and wonder, among other things (see also Chapter 16, this volume). This uncertainty of water access for some groups at Gamla contrasts to the relatively constant spring-​water flow of Jericho’s ritual bath and the quite reliable, even though seasonal, groundwater level at Magdala.

Conclusion I have tried to provide a reconstruction of the archaeologically attested stepped pools as to how they were used and experienced by their respective communities: one that focused on the 248

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particular architectural qualities of the pools themselves within the context of their surroundings. In doing so, I have attempted to move beyond the traditionally smooth and homogeneous explanations of these stepped pools as Jewish ritual baths by reflecting on these installations in terms of their power to shape diverse practices and experiences. While conventionally these pools have been heralded for their commonality in spreading a particular ritual to the so-​called masses (top-​down), this study has highlighted their richness in diverse experiences within and across communities. As I argued in this chapter, ritual purification was deeply communitydependent and a vague resemblance in shapes and materials by no mean signifies a resemblance in experience and meaning. Of particular importance was how these stepped pools shaped the context of water—​not only spatially, but also in terms of its impact upon the senses, creating different soundscapes, smellscapes, and ultimately a distinct sense of place (Strang 2005). These local geographies that were created through this engagement were the building blocks for considerable differences in how purification rituals were perceived by different Jewish communities across the southern Levant.

Notes 1. The research was made possible thanks to various institutions and funders: the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Michigan; the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation; the Centre of Excellence in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions and the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires; and the University of Helsinki. 2. The naming of these archaeological installations remains ambiguous and problematic. Some scholars have favoured the use of the rabbinic term “mikveh” for these installations (see, e.g., Netzer 1991; 2004; Meyers and Gordon 2018). However, as Katharina Galor and others have pointed out, the use of this later term (first mentioned in the Mishnah, c. 200–​220 CE ) to describe pre-​third century CE archaeological installations is an anachronism and should be avoided (Galor 2007: 201–​202; see also Steen Fatkin 2019: 157–​160). Therefore, I primarily use the terms “stepped pool” and “ritual (purification) bath.” 3. The majority of stepped pools fell out of use as ritual baths in the later first and second centuries CE . The exact reasons for this remain still debated. For an overview of the discussion, see Adler 2017; Bonnie 2019b: 291–​304. 4. Netzer (1982: 107, 109) originally suggested that this pool served as an ‘otsar installation, a water reservoir to regularly change the used water from a ritual bath, but Adler (2014) has shown that such installations were a much later innovation and did not occur in antiquity. 5. The excavator’s naming uses the anachronistic, later rabbinic term mikveh to designate a first-​century Jewish ritual bath. I use the term here solely for naming purposes. 6. On the written source material, see van Tilburg 2013. For discussion of water quality in relation to fountains, see Richard 2012: 176–​182; and in relation to cisterns, see Hellmann 1994 and Klingborg 2017: 83–​86. 7. It is interesting to note that in later rabbinic sources, notably in the Babylonian Talmud, intestinal diseases form a matter of ambivalent discussion, where such diseases are viewed as “both excruciating and humiliating” as well as heralded as “a prerogative reserved for righteous persons” (Balberg 2017: 275–​281, quotation from 278). Balberg (2017: 279–281) believes that this seeming paradox is because such diseases had both a figurative and concrete cleaning purpose. Since the cause of such diseases is very much linked to the use of stale and warm waters, especially when communally shared (see Scobie 1986: especially 407–​422; Mitchel 2017: 54), it remains possible that ritual bathing practices (or traditions related to such practices in late antiquity) may have had something to do with it. 8. It surely remains a possibility that this stepped structure (also) functioned as a water well from which the household could easily draw groundwater for other activities. However, this usage would not necessarily exclude a possible ritual functioning. 9. The stepped pool’s lowest level (–​208.48 metres) is considerably higher than the Sea of Galilee’s lowest lake level during this period, which is based on evidence from Magdala’s harbour that fluctuated between –​208 and –​209.5 metres (De Luca and Lena 2014: 144). 249

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10. While no direct sources are known to me for slippery bathing surfaces, literary sources from antiquity do show awareness of slippery basalt road surfaces in wet conditions. See, e.g., Tacitus, Hist. 3.82; Martial, Epigr. 5.22. For further discussion, see Laurence 2013: 251. 11. Whether these two cisterns were fed by rain or spring water is uncertain. Yavor (2010b: 156) suggests a possible connection with a nearby spring, though later changes have destroyed any evidence of a connecting channel. 12. Here “alongside” can mean either simultaneously or after one another, as we do not know whether and how ritual and secular water activities were regulated for this particular bath, if it indeed had both a ritual and secular purpose. 13. This can be suggested from the synagogue’s relatively low seating capacity, its restricted level of access, and its visual privacy. For further discussion, see Bonnie forthcoming; Spigel 2012: 75–​90.

Bibliography Adler, Y. 2011. “The Archaeology of Purity: Archaeological Evidence for the Observance of Ritual Purity in Ereẓ-​Israel from the Hasmonean Period until the End of the Talmudic Era (164 BCE –​400 CE).” Ph.D. Dissertation, Bar-​Ilan University. Adler, Y. 2013. “Purity in the Roman Period,” in D. M. Master, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology. New York: Oxford University Press, 240–​248. Adler, Y. 2014. “The Myth of the ’ôsār in Second Temple-​Period Ritual Baths: An Anachronistic Interpretation of a Modern-​Era Innovation.” Journal of Jewish Studies 65: 263–​283. Adler, Y. 2017. “The Decline of Jewish Ritual Purity Observance in Roman Palaestina: An Archaeological Perspective on Chronology and Historical Context,” in O. Tal and Z. Weiss, eds., Expressions of Cult in the Southern Levant in the Greco-​Roman Period: Manifestations in Text and Material Culture. Contextualizing the Sacred 6. Turnhout: Brepols, 269–​284. Adler, Y. 2018. “The Hellenistic Origins of Jewish Ritual Immersion.” Journal of Jewish Studies 69: 1–​21. Balberg, M. 2014. Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press. Balberg, M. 2015. “Artifact,” in C. M. Chin and M. Vidas, eds., Late Ancient Knowing: Explorations in Intellectual History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 17–​35. Balberg, M. 2017. “In and Out of the Body: The Significance of Intestinal Disease in Rabbinic Literature.” Journal of Late Antiquity 8: 273–​287. Bauman, Z. 1993. “The Sweet Scent of Decomposition,” in C. Rojek and B. S. Turner, eds., Forget Baudrillard? London: Routledge, 22–​46. Bonnie, R. 2016. “Studying Stepped Pools and Jewish Water Rituals in Galilee, Northern Israel.” Fossa: Societas Archaeologiae Classicae Fennica 51: 17–​25. Bonnie, R. 2017. “From Stadium to Harbor: Re-​Interpreting the Curved Ashlar Structure in Roman Tiberias.” BASOR 377: 21–​38. Bonnie, R. 2018. “Water,” in R. R. Neis and J. Veidlinger, eds., Frankel Institute Annual 2018: Jews and the Material in Antiquity. Ann Arbor: Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, 30–​32. Bonnie, R. 2019a. “Bath/​Mikveh,” in D. G. Hunter, P. J. J. van Geest, and B. J. Lietaert Peerbolte, eds., Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online. Leiden: Brill. Bonnie, R. 2019b. Being Jewish in Galilee, 100–​200 CE: An Archaeological Study. Studies in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology 11. Turnhout: Brepols. Bonnie, R. Forthcoming. “Monumentality and Space: Experiencing Synagogue Buildings in Late Second Temple Palestine,” in R. Hakola, J. Orpana, and P. Huotari, eds., Scriptures in the Making: Texts and Their Transmission in Late Second Temple Judaism. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology. Leuven: Peeters. Candlin, F. 2008. “Touch, and the Limits of the Rational Museum, or Can Matter Think?” The Senses and Society 3: 277–​292. Classen, C. 1993. Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and Across Cultures. London: Routledge. Classen, C. 2012. The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. Classen, C., and D. Howes. 2006. “The Museum as Sensescape: Western Sensibilities and Indigenous Artifacts,” in E. Edwards, C. Gosden, and R. B. Phillips, eds., Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture. Wenner-​Gren International Symposium Series 5. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 199–​222. Crary, J. 1990. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


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De Luca, S., and A. Lena. 2014. “The Harbor of the City of Magdala/​Taricheae on the Shores of the Sea of Galilee, from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine Times: New Discoveries and Preliminary Results,” in S. Ladstätter, F. Pirson, and T. Schmidts, eds., Harbors and Harbor Cities in the Eastern Mediterranean from Antiquity to the Byzantine Period: Recent Discoveries and Current Approaches. Byzas 19. Istanbul: Yayınları, 113–​163. De Luca, S., and A. Lena. 2015. “Magdala/​Taricheae,” in D. A. Fiensy and J. R. Strange, eds., Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods, Volume 2: The Archaeological Record from Cities, Towns, and Villages. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 280–​342. Galor, K. 2007. “The Stepped Water Installations of the Sepphoris Acropolis,” in D. R. Edwards and C. T. McCollough, eds., The Archaeology of Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, Class and the “Other” in Antiquity. Studies in Honor of Eric M. Meyers. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 60/​61. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 201–​213. Garbrecht, G., and E. Netzer. 1991. Die Wasserversorgung des geschichtlichen Jericho und seiner königlichen Anlagen. Mitteilungen 115. Braunschweig: Leichtweiss-​Institut für Wasserbau. Grossberg, A. 2007. “The Miqva’ot (Ritual Baths) at Masada,” in J. Aviram, G. Foerster, E. Netzer and G. D. Stiebel, eds., Masada VIII: The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1935–​1965. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 95–​126. Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hellmann, M.-​C. 1994. “L’eau des citernes et la salubrité: textes et archéologie,” in R. Ginouvès, A.-​M. Guimier-​Sorbets, J. Jouanna, and L. Villard, eds., L’eau, la santé et la maladie dans le monde grec. Actes de colloque organisé à Paris (CNRS et Fondation Singer-​Polignac) du 25 au 27 novembre 1992 par Centre de Recherche “Archéologie et systèmes d’information” et par l’URA 1255 “Médecine grecque.” Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, Supplément 28. Boccard: Paris, 273–​282. Howes, D., and M. Lalonde. 1991. “The History of Sensibilities: Of the Standard of Taste in Mid-​ Eighteenth Century England and the Circulation of Smells in Post-​Revolutionary France.” Dialectical Anthropology 16: 125–​135. Jensen, M. H. 2013. “Purity and Politics in Herod Antipas’s Galilee: The Case for Religious Motivation.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 11: 3–​34. Jokiranta, J., K. Antin, R. Bonnie, R. Hakola, H. Tervanotko, E. Uusimäki, and S. Yli-​Karjanmaa. 2018. “Changes in Research on Judaism in the Hellenistic and Early Roman Periods.” Studia Theologica, Nordic Journal of Theology 72: 3–​29. Klingborg, P. 2017. “Greek Cisterns: Water and Risk in Ancient Greece, 600–​50 BC.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Uppsala University. Krmpotich, C. 2020. “The Senses in Museums: Knowledge Production, Democratization and Indigenization,” in R. Skeates and J. Day, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. London: Routledge, 94–​106. Laurence, R. 2013. “Traffic and Land Transportation in and near Rome” in P. Erdkamp, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 246–​261. Lawrence, J. D. 2006. Washing in Water: Trajectories of Ritual Bathing in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature. Atlanta: SBL Press. McClintock, A. 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. London: Routledge. Meyers, E. M., and B. D. Gordon. 2018. “The Ritual Baths: Introduction and Catalog,” in E. M. Meyers, C. L. Meyers, and B. D. Gordon, eds., Sepphoris III: The Architecture, Stratigraphy, and Artifacts of the Western Summit of Sepphoris. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 391–​418. Mezger, G. 1843. “Ueber die religiösen Bäder der israelitischen Frauen.” Annalen der Staats-​Arzneikunde 8: 140–​155. Miller, S. S. 2015. At the Intersection of Texts and Material Finds: Stepped Pools, Stone Vessels, and Ritual Purity Among the Jews of Roman Galilee. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplement 16. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Miller, S. S. 2018. “New Directions in the Study of Ritual Purity Practices: Implications of the Sepphoris Finds,” in E. M. Meyers, C. L. Meyers, and B. D. Gordon, eds., Sepphoris III: The Architecture, Stratigraphy, and Artifacts of the Western Summit of Sepphoris. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 445–​475. Mitchell, P. D. 2017. “Human Parasites in the Roman World: Health Consequences of Conquering an Empire.” Parasitology 144: 48–​58. Mombert, M. 1830. “Das gemeinschaftliche Bad der jüdischen Frauen in Kellern, ein Gegenstand für die medicinische Polizei und für practische Aerzte.” Zeitschrift für die Staatsarzneikunde 10: 274–​294. 251

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Netzer, E. 1982. “Ancient Ritual Baths (Miqvaot) in Jericho,” in L. I. Levine, ed., The Jerusalem Cathedra: Studies in the History, Archaeology, Geography and Ethnography of the Land of Israel. Vol. 2. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 106–​119. Netzer, E. 1991. Masada III. The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–​1965: Final Reports –​The Buildings: Stratigraphy and Architecture. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Netzer, E. 2001a. Hasmonean and Herodian Palaces at Jericho: Final Reports of the 1973–​1987 Excavations, Vol. 1: Stratigraphy and Architecture. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Netzer, E. 2001b. The Palaces of the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Netzer, E. 2004. Hasmonean and Herodian Palaces at Jericho. Final Reports of the 1973–​1987 Excavations, Volume II: Stratigraphy and Architecture, The Coins. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Oestigaard, T. 2005. Water and World Religions: An Introduction. Bergen: SFU & SMR. Oestigaard, T. 2011. “Water,” in T. Insoll, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 38–​50. Regev, E. 2000. “Pure Individualism: The Idea of Non-​Priestly Purity in Ancient Judaism.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 31: 176–​202. Regev, E. 2011. “Royal Ideology in the Hasmonaean Palaces in Jericho.” BASOR 363: 45–​72. Reich, R. 2013. Jewish Ritual Baths in the Second Temple, Mishnaic and Talmudic Periods. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-​Zvi Press. Reich, R., and M. Zapata Meza. 2014. “A Preliminary Report on the Miqwa’ot of Migdal.” Israel Exploration Journal 64: 63–​71. Reich, R., and M. Zapata Meza. 2018. “The Domestic Miqva’ot,” in R. Bauckham, ed., Magdala of Galilee: A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 109–​126. Richard, J. 2012. Water for the City, Fountains for the People: Monumental Fountains in the Roman East. Studies in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology 9. Turnhout: Brepols. Saba, S. 2009. “Cisterns in the Astynomoi Law from Pergamon,” in C. Kosso and A Scott, eds., The Nature and Function of Water: Baths, Bathing, and Hygiene from Antiquity through the Renaissance. Technology and Change in History 11. Leiden: Brill, 249–​262. Schlich, T. 1995. “Medicalization and Secularization: The Jewish Ritual Bath as a Problem of Hygiene (Germany 1820s–​1840s).” Social History of Medicine 8: 423–​442. Scobie, A. 1986. “Slums, Sanitation and Mortality in the Roman World.” Klio 2: 399–​433. Skeates, R. 2010. An Archaeology of the Senses: Prehistoric Malta. New York: Oxford University Press. Skeates, R., and J. Day, eds. 2020. The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. London: Routledge. Spigel, C. S. 2012. Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 149. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Stallybrass, P., and A. White. 1986. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Steen Fatkin, D. 2019. “Invention of a Bathing Tradition in Hasmonean Palestine.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 50: 155–​177. Stewart, K. 2007. Ordinary Affects. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Strang, V. 2005. “Common Senses: Water, Sensory Experience and the Generation of Meaning.” Journal of Material Culture 10: 92–​120. Syon, D. 2002. “Gamla –​City of Refuge,” in A. Berlin and J. A. Overman, eds., The First Jewish Revolt: Archaeology, History, and Ideology. London: Routledge, 134–​153. Syon, D., and Z. Yavor. 2010. Gamla II: The Architecture. The Shmarya Gutmann Excavations, 1976–​1988. Israel Antiquities Authority Report 44. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority. Tilburg, C. van. 2013. “Greek and Roman Ideas about Healthy Drinking-​Water in Theory and Practice.” Eä: Journal of Medical Humanities & Social Studies of Science and Technology 5. www.ea-​​ images/​stories/​Art0501/​Articulo_​-​_​Van_​Tillburg_​-​_​Drinking_​water.pdf. Tringham, R., and A. Danis. 2020. “Doing Sensory Archaeology: The Challenges,” in R. Skeates and J. Day, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. London: Routledge, 48–​75. Urry, J. 2000. Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-​First Century. London: Routledge. Yadin, Y. 1966. Masada: Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots’ Last Stand. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Yakir, D., A. Issar, J. Gat, E. Adar, P. Trimborn, and J. Lipp. 1994. “13C and 18O of Wood from the Roman Siege Rampart in Masada, Israel (AD 70–​73): Evidence for a Less Arid Climate for the Region.” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 58: 3535–​3539. Yavor, Z. 2010a. “The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Eastern and Western Quarters,” in D. Syon and Z. Yavor, eds., Gamla II: The Architecture. The Shmarya Gutmann Excavations, 1976–​1988. Israel Antiquities Authority Reports 44. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 13–​112. 252

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12 Megaliths and miniatures Scale and the senses in the early Neolithic Sarah Kielt Costello

Introduction In recent decades, excavations have revealed the complex symbolic spaces in which critical transitions in human social and economic worlds took place during the early Neolithic period in the ancient Near East. These so-​called “first temples” at Göbekli Tepe (Schmidt 2008) have ignited our imaginations through their powerful architectural presence and rich visual imagery. While the original excavator, Klaus Schmidt, called them “temples,” the current director refers to them more circumspectly as “special buildings” (Clare 2020: 82). These buildings were distinct from the simple dwellings at the site because of the effort taken to quarry and carve the megalithic stones within them, the images carved on those stones, the non-​domestic function of the buildings, and the arrangement of benches that suggest a place for community gathering (Notroff et al. 2014). Here, I refer to them as “community buildings” to draw attention to the social work done through whatever activities happened there. This chapter will argue that, while the visual power of the megaliths and images is indisputable, the ritualised activities that took place in these spaces were amplified through a more varied set of sensorial experiences than we have previously accounted for. In this chapter, I focus on how plays of scale, experienced through sight, touch, and proprioception, would have intensified the “special” experiences within the community buildings at Göbekli Tepe. We are accustomed, in the art history of the ancient Near East, to understand scale in terms of hierarchy: greater size within an image means greater importance, and can furthermore indicate a step up the cosmological hierarchy. Examples include the fourth-​millennium BCE Uruk Vase, on which the top register, showing the focal female figure, is larger in scale than the register with human figures below, likely signifying both greater importance and a higher cosmological role, if we accept that the figure represents the goddess Inanna (Bahrani 2017: 46–​ 48); various stone reliefs from the fourth–​third millennia in which the king and/​or gods are shown larger than regular people; subtle but measurable hierarchy of scale in Assyrian reliefs; and the more exaggerated use of the effect in Achaemenid stone reliefs (see also Chapters 4 and 9, this volume). The concept of hierarchy of scale is harder to support in those terms when we look back to the Neolithic, however. For example, the late Neolithic stag hunt painting from Çatalhöyük in southern Turkey features an impossibly large animal surrounded by a group of tiny 254

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humans (Hodder and Meskell 2010: 35); the size of the animal may reflect its importance in that particular context, but not in a social, political, or cosmological hierarchy. The norms for the use of scale, and composition more broadly, were arguably not yet established in the Neolithic period. In order to better understand how to read scale in Neolithic images and monuments, we need to think about them from an embodied perspective: how a human body would have sensed the image or monument, and what those sense perceptions would have evoked. The site of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey, along with related sites in Turkey and Syria, offer an unusual opportunity to examine the sensory worlds of the people of the early Neolithic period. Göbekli provides us with an array of sensory contrasts: towering megaliths carved with diverse visual images as well as small stone objects carved with similar motifs; enclosed dark spaces and the broad open landscape, bright with sun by day and stars by night; and heavy, hard stones quarried and carried to a hilltop where they stood, still and rooted again in the earth. These structures and carvings were constructed in a world in which altered landscapes and permanent structures were new expressions of human thought and will. To fully appreciate their resonance at the time, we need to take account of the range of sensorial effects of those contrasts—​the scalar contrast of large and small, along with the visual disparity of darkness and light, and the proprioceptive extremity of the slow, burdened motion of carrying large stones compared to the easy fit of small stone items in one’s hand.

Context: the early Neolithic period During the early Neolithic period in the tenth to ninth millennia BCE , small, mobile groups of hunter-​gatherers gradually began to establish roots and, in time, developed modes of food production, though foraging remained the principal mode of subsistence throughout the early Neolithic (Akkermans 2004: 281–​285). Those economic changes brought far-​reaching impacts affecting social structures, labour, political systems, and the environment—​effects we still feel today. Subsistence practices, however, were evidently not drivers of change but rather, collateral effects of an intensification of social behaviours that brought people together in ritual spaces (Cauvin 1994; Dietrich et al. 2019; Hodder 1990; 2010). The evidence for communal activity that appears to have been religious in nature is ample from early Neolithic sites in the region. Large, carefully built communal structures with embellishments including benches, standing pillars, wall carvings, wall paintings, and in some cases indications of “ritual” activity in the form of skull placement or burial, have been found at sites in Syria including Mureybet, Jerf el Ahmar, and Tell al ‘Abr (Akkermans 2004; Stordeur 1998; Stordeur et al. 2000). In southeast Turkey, special buildings were found at early Neolithic Çayönü and Göbekli Tepe, while artefacts with images suggestive of shamanism were found at Körtik Tepe and Hasankeyf Höyük (Benz and Bauer 2015). Remains of similar structures and objects have been found at a number of sites in the Şanlıurfa region of Turkey, and Nemrik in northern Iraq extends the region of related sites eastward (Güler et al. 2013; Özdoğan 2015). Akkermans (2004: 289) points to burials within settlements and the special treatment of skulls at various sites as further evidence of ritual; the deposition of human remains also suggests why places may have acquired lasting significance to semi-​nomadic people. Burials as a physical link between people and place, together with the emotional desire to return to a place where loved ones are buried, suggest how certain places could have grown in significance over time in a feedback loop towards a less mobile population and the attendant changes in social structure that sedentism would entail (see also Part IV, this volume). Göbekli Tepe is the most exciting of the early Neolithic sites in the region, due to the remains of numerous megalithic structures found at the site. Located outside the modern city of Şanlıurfa 255

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in southeastern Turkey, between the upper Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in the Germuş mountains, Göbekli Tepe appears to have been a gathering place for early Neolithic hunter-​gatherers in the region. Situated at the highest point for kilometres around, the site both is highly visible to and has visibility of the surrounding plains and hills. The cultural deposition is up to 15 metres deep, suggesting a long period of use (Schmidt 2010: 239). The hilltop of Göbekli Tepe is dotted with large, stone, semi-​subterranean circular enclosures. Eight have been excavated with at least ten more identified through geophysical survey (Notroff et al. 2014). These structures consist of as many as three concentric stone enclosure walls containing stone benches interspersed with large limestone pillars, 4 metres high, in a circle around two taller, central pillars (Figure 12.1; Notroff et al. 2014). The central pillars measure up to 5.5 metres. While excavator Klaus Schmidt referred to the structures as enclosures, leaving open the possibility that they were open air, more recent analysis suggests that they were partially subterranean and roofed, barely visible from the outside (Clare 2020; Özdoğan 2017; Schmidt 2010). In addition to these community buildings, there are also simple structures with hearths dated to the earliest levels at the site and cisterns cut into the bedrock, demonstrating that the site was residential for at least part of the year (Clare 2020). The eight community buildings do not hold typical features of domestic houses, such as hearths, so they have been understood instead as ceremonial places (Nostroff et al. 2014; Schmidt

Figure 12.1  View of Göbekli Tepe, Enclosure D. Source: Photo by Klaus Schmidt; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. #GT09_​N04-​31). 256

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2008; though see also Bernbeck 2013). Despite their monumental scale, they are comparable in concept to the round, semi-​subterranean buildings with benches at sites like Jerf el-​Ahmar, mentioned above. Thus, while Göbekli Tepe offers the richest, most dramatic evidence for ritual built spaces in the early Neolithic, it fits into a regional set of cultural practices and expressions. We can extrapolate from Göbekli Tepe to better understand related sites, and similarly, we can use evidence from places like Jerf el-​Ahmar, Mureybet, and Körtik Tepe to better understand Göbekli.

Megaliths The structures at Göbekli are evidence of large-​scale, repeated, construction activities. That such architectural labour was carried out at that early date for evidently social purposes, as opposed to basic shelter or protection, makes them all the more extraordinary in terms of how we understand the history of architecture. The megalithic pillars built into the structures at Göbekli are impressive for their scale, but also for the figural carving they bear. The upright, T-​shaped stones around the periphery of the structures feature predators and prey, mammals, reptiles and birds, including aurochs, boars, foxes, ducks, scorpions, and snakes. In each enclosure, a particular animal dominates the imagery, suggesting a structured context for the location of each motif; for example, the boar is the dominant animal in Enclosure C, foxes and snakes in Enclosure D (Dietrich et al. 2012: 679; Notroff et al. 2014). This carving has been understood largely from a visual perspective (see below); here I draw attention to the scale, as well, and the embodied perception that that scale entails. The T-​shaped pillars arranged around the edge of the enclosure encircle even larger T-​shaped pillars that have, in some cases, carved arms, hands, and clothing, including belts and loincloths, which allow us to read them as anthropomorphic (Dietrich et al. 2012: 679; Notroff et al. 2014: 88). The size of the pillars and their central position in the buildings, with benches encircling and facing them, would have meant that they were a visual focal point for people present within this space. Standing 5.5 metres high, these anthropomorphic representations would have presented a powerful scalar contrast to a human being in their presence. A person would have experienced them only at close range, restricted by the confines of the building. The visual sense would have been primary in such an encounter, but proprioception—​the awareness of one’s own body and its interaction with, and position within, the physical world—​would have also been key in experiencing the scale of this built environment. Understanding the powerful sensory presence of these anthropomorphic pillars is helpful in trying to understand their purpose. Given the visual power of the centrally positioned pillars, and their size, it is evident that they commanded a person’s attention. But what did the scale signify? In this case, as anthropomorphic representations at a height of 5.5 metres, far larger than life, it is tempting to interpret them as signifying divinities. Dietrich et al. (2012: 679) argue that they “clearly belong to another, transcendent sphere.” If they are evocations of gods, they transform our understanding of the human conception of divinity in the most ancient Near East, being by far the earliest representations of an anthropomorphic divinity. The continued controversy regarding how we read the late fourth-​millennium BCE Uruk Vase, discussed in a 2014 article by Claudia Suter, underscores how surprising such a representation would be: while Zainab Bahrani (2017: 46–​48) readily accepts the female figure on the Uruk Vase as an image of the goddess Inanna, Suter (2014: 551) observes that both Pierre Amiet and Astrid Nunn argue against the figure as a representation of the goddess, insisting that anthropomorphic images of the divine are not securely attested until the Early Dynastic period in the third millennium BCE . 257

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Something is not attested, however, until it is attested, and Göbekli Tepe has already spectacularly upended our understanding of Mesopotamian prehistory, so we cannot discount the possibility that these megaliths are images of the divine. It is their large scale that made Schmidt (2010) insist upon it; I argue below, however, that their scale is a part of a larger programme of sensory intensification at the site, part of what makes the imagery and monuments resonate with the human actors who experienced them. They are not representations of gods, but rather, representations of human, or perhaps special human power.

Miniatures The intentional use of scale at the site is evident not only through the large carved stones, but also through the presence of miniatures. Scale only has meaning in so far as it relates to something else. Within the frame of a set of images, one image may be larger than another; within the set of a species, one example may be larger or smaller than others. The point of reference for our perception of the largeness of the anthropomorphic pillars at Göbekli is the human body. Their scale is also amplified at the site, however, through the use of miniatures. Miniatures are present at Göbekli and related sites in the form of plaquettes, masks, and what the excavators call “porthole stones” (Dietrich et al. 2012; 2018; Schmidt 2010). Plaquettes have been found at a number of early Neolithic sites including Mureybet, Jerf el Ahmar, Tell el-​Kowm, Abr 3, Sefer Tepe, Tell Qaramel, and Göbekli Tepe (Dietrich et al. 2012: 685; Güler et al. 2013; Schmidt 2008: 208, abb. 96; Stordeur and Jammous 1995). Motifs carved on the plaquettes include those found also on the megaliths: snakes, scorpions, quadrupeds, and birds, as well as abstract motifs. At Göbekli Tepe several such artefacts have been found, including one engraved with an anthropomorphic figure with upraised arms between a snake and a bird (Figures 12.2–​12.5; Dietrich et al. 2012: 685). Some plaquettes have a groove incised on one side; these have been called “shaft straighteners” or grooved stones; I am grouping these together as variants of the same artefact type. They often bear images or abstract markings on one or both sides, and fit into a long glyptic tradition in the

Figure 12.2  Stone plaquette from Göbekli Tepe. Source: Photo by Irmgard Wagner; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. # GT02_​0001_​00017). 258

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Figure 12.3  Stone plaquette from Göbekli Tepe. Source: Photo by Nico Becker; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. # GT11_​0176_​7057).

Figure 12.4  Stone plaquette from Göbekli Tepe. Source: Photo by Nico Becker; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. # GT11_​0180_​7045).

region, dating back to the shaft straighteners excavated at Epipaleolithic Natufian sites (Cauvin 1994; 2000: 48). Those do not bear images, but have a groove carved along the length of one side. Their formal similarity to objects from other traditions used to straighten the shafts of arrows led archaeologists to identify them as tools for that purpose, though Cauvin asserts that they should be seen instead as symbolic objects, representing a vulva and standing for a female divine power. That the early Neolithic examples do not always have the long groove argues against a purely functional interpretation as a shaft straightener, at least in some instances. The incised decoration, their small size, and the material also places them in the later glyptic tradition in the region, of objects we call seals. In later periods, seals were often used for sealing. In the 259

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Figure 12.5  Stone plaquette from Göbekli Tepe. Source: Photo by Nico Becker; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. # GT11_​0450_​9892).

late Neolithic, however, when seals are first attested, a sealing function is not always evident. At sites from the Halaf period (c. 6500–5500 bce), for example, stone seals are plentiful while seal impressions are exceedingly rare (see Bernbeck and Pollock 2003: 56). Restricting our notion of seals to the functionality of sealing limits our recognition of the significance of their images, portability, wearability, and overall materiality. Placing the early Neolithic plaquettes in the glyptic tradition enriches and expands our understanding of early “seal” use. These iconographically rich artefacts are connected, through motif, to the rest of the visual expression and ceremonial activities attested at these early Neolithic sites. Therefore, by recognising their place in the longer glyptic tradition, we are reminded of the foundational connection between glyptic/​ seals and ritual and religious contexts. As I have argued elsewhere, this is an important correction to the view of seals that sees them primarily in an economic context (Costello 2011). Miniature masks have also been found at Göbekli, including several made of limestone or flint, measuring between 4.5 centimetres and 5.7 centimetres (Figure 12.6; Dietrich et al. 2018). These correspond roughly, in style, to a larger version found at the site: a limestone mask 42 centimetres high. The larger example has an abstracted face, with eyes and a nose roughed out of the stone in a t-​shape that echoes the form of the large pillars (Dietrich et al. 2018: fig. 4). The miniature masks likewise emphasise the form of the nose and the hollows of the eyes. Neither the larger mask nor the miniatures seem designed to be worn, being either too large or too small (Dietrich et al. 2018: 17). The excavators suggest that they are stone versions of masks made of other (perishable) materials, which would have been worn, but leave no archaeological trace. Some of the stone masks were evidently intentionally buried in the structures (Dietrich et al. 2018). The creation and deposition of miniature stone masks that replicate perishable masks extends, in time and memory, the ephemeral event in which the perishable masks were presumably worn, memorialising the event, much like the construction of a stone arch in Roman times would memorialise the ephemeral celebration of a triumph. The other category of miniature artefacts listed in reports from the site is something referred to as a porthole or portal stone. The large versions of these are rectangular, somewhat flat slabs 260

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Figure 12.6  Miniature stone mask from Göbekli Tepe. Source: Photo by Klaus Schmidt; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. # GT01_​2502_​D12_​6047).

Figure 12.7  Porthole stone, Göbekli Tepe. Source: Photo by Irmgard Wagner; © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Göbekli Tepe Project (Neg. # GT02_​1548).

of stone with a roughly rectangular hole cut into them, “which could have been used to crawl through the stone” (Figure 12.7; Schmidt 2010: 250). Ranging from the “monumental” at 3 metres long to the majority at a “medium” size and last to the miniature, the porthole stone appears to have been a fairly common object type at Göbekli. Originally thought to be pillar bases, none were found supporting pillars. Several feature relief carving of snakes and other 261

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animals (Schmidt 2010: 252). Recent excavations show that portal stones were used to move from one storey of a building to a second storey, at least in the later PPNB (Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) buildings (Clare 2020), and, at least in one case, to mark wall niches (Kinzell and Clare 2020: 41–​42). Hopefully further excavation will more clearly reveal the purpose of these objects; that they were made in both miniature and monumental size supports the notion that scale was an intentional part of the sensory experience of the site. I will return to this point below.

A sensory perspective The rich set of representations found carved on the standing stones, plaquettes, and porthole stones indicates that vision was clearly a key part of how the built environment was intended to communicate with people at the site. The site’s builders used visual representations to convey meaning: while we may not be able to fully interpret that meaning, understanding it at some level would enhance our conception of this critical moment in human history. Various scholars have offered suggestions for what the animals depicted might have represented. The excavators of the site have proposed that the different enclosures, with their particular animal imagery, represent competition among groups, a sign of developing social complexity (Notroff et al. 2014: 97). They also argue that the fact that the animals tend to be male, predatory, and “dangerous” indicates that the site is a “boundary zone between this world and the next” and that the animals represent a “symbolism of life and death” (Dietrich and Notroff 2015: 85). Danielle Stordeur (2014: 124), excavator of the related site of Jerf el Ahmar, links attributes to each animal, such as masculine for horned animals, threatening for the panther, and wily for the fox. A growing chorus of voices argues for a shamanic interpretation (Benz and Bauer 2015; Costello 2011; Hodder 2010: 22; Stein 2019: 60). Benz and Bauer (2015: 10) summarise ethnographic and archaeological research on the topic. They pay special note to a suite of images on one of the pillars from Göbekli featuring a vulture, scorpion, snake, waterfowl, quadruped, and human, arguing for a shamanistic reading of these motifs. They suggest that the monumentality of the humanoid imagery at Göbekli indicates a threatened system and the need to assert shamanistic power, while the overall monumentality at the site suggests a need to assert human control (Benz and Bauer 2015: 4). Previously, I had similarly noted the recurrence of these motifs, especially of snakes, quadrupeds, and birds, in the glyptic tradition beginning with the early Neolithic plaquettes. These elements together represent a three-​tiered cosmos, in which a religious specialist (or shaman figure) plays a role. The human figure is frequently portrayed with a distorted head, which might represent a mask, costume, cranial deformation or spiritual transformation, or a combination of those (Costello 2011: 257–​258). In that earlier research, I note that a domesticated quadruped replaces the wild animal imagery later in the Neolithic, and the vegetal filling element appears at that time as well, both perhaps indicative of the growing importance of domesticated food resources (Costello 2011: 258). During the early Neolithic, however, wild animals naturally are the ones depicted at all three levels of the tiered cosmos. The role of the human in the figural cosmos of the early Neolithic is powerfully emphasised at Göbekli through the immense humanoid pillars. Diana Stein (2019: 60) takes up the identification of the depiction, arguing that it represents a shamanic figure based on its adornment with animal motifs, with actual animal skins depicted as clothing, and the deposition of a fox tail and other “ritual paraphernalia” in the enclosure. The masks, too, would fit easily into a shamanic interpretation, as noted by Stein (2019: 61). The megaliths discussed above, with their animal imagery and anthropomorphic form, resonate due to their superhuman scale. The centrality of the human figure in this architecture 262

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is matched by the presence on at least three of the plaquettes of a schematic human form, with motifs on either side that can be read as snakes and birds. Read as such, they are the earliest examples of what is often called a “master of animals” or “mistress of animals” motif—​a three-​part arrangement of figures with a human in the central, dominant position (Arnold and Counts 2010). Following this interpretation of the imagery, I argue that scale was intentionally employed at Göbekli Tepe to represent and emphasise a particular type of human power, that of the ritual specialist or shaman, within the cosmology represented by the imagery overall. The depiction of the cosmos onto the built environment would have created an almost virtual-​reality-​like experience, by taking advantage of a human’s proprioceptive sense of self within the built space and scaled images. Such an experiential encounter would intensify the shared cosmological view of the members of the community. Scale is operating at the site through a dialectic, a back-​and-​forth sensation of size. Similarly, the T-​shaped pillars’ visual presence as human representations is dialectic due to their abstraction; they require a sort of unmasking to be recognised. They suggest humanness, but demand focused visual attention to communicate that meaning, since one must notice and connect the arms, hands, and clothing on the abstract form of the stone. They therefore communicate through a seeing/​not-​seeing duality; one must work to see the humanness, at which point the scale makes the image overwhelming. Such duality might have been enhanced through the manipulation of light and darkness. The roofed buildings would have been dark, a powerful contrast to the harsh sunlight of the limestone hills of southeastern Turkey. Within that darkness, the anthropomorphic qualities of the pillars could have been selectively emphasised through focused lighting and the addition of clothing, as suggested by Stein (2019: 60). Trevor Watkins (2006: 15) describes the community buildings as a “theatre of memory,” a symbolically charged locus for community interaction. The tiny images and objects function in a much more personal way: held, exchanged, cached, stored, or displayed, but however they were “used” or manipulated, they would have served to transfer the ideas contained in the images from mind to hand, hand to hand, moment to later moment. Watkins (2006: 22) argues that PPNA (Pre-​Pottery Neolithic A) architecture functioned as “symbolic storage”; he writes, “the built environment … offered an arena within which abstract ideas about the structure of the community, the relationship of the community with their world, and even the structure of that world could be articulated.” It is no coincidence that at the very moment humans began to express abstract ideas through a powerfully built environment, they also created external symbolic storage in the small scale, in the masks and the motifs on the plaquettes. As a scholar long interested in symbolic storage and in particular, seals, I cannot help looking backwards to see the miniatures, especially the plaquettes, as the beginning of an information-​ storage tradition, but also, and more helpfully, looking forward from this starting point to later seal use. Beginning to imagine the context in which the concept of “seal” began reminds us of the power of the image, carved into stone, held in the hand. A small version of the cosmology-​ writ-​large at Göbekli Tepe, these must have been steeped in ritual and belief. We know from later contexts in the ancient Near East that some images were believed to house actual power: a me, a divine presence, engendered through rituals enacted in the creation of the work (Bahrani 2002; Feldman 2009; Suter 2014) (see also Chapters 10 and 15, this volume). Beyond affect, or agency, images in the ancient Near East could actually hold power, and objects like these might let a person hold that supernatural power in her hand. Seals certainly served, later, as devices to secure or control transactions, but also as physical means to store information, ideas, and divine power; it is that powerful aspect that we can find at this point of origin. 263

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The miniature plaquettes, masks, and portholes, thus, may have stored symbolic information, their images and appearance enhancing the memory of the events in the community building. Beyond their visual appearance, they contributed to the dialectic of scale, as discussed above. They also have other physical qualities that would lend to the sensory experiences at the site. For the masks, the replication of ephemeral objects in stone lends permanence to the items, while also connecting them, materially, to the stone construction of the buildings. The small size of the plaquettes and masks allows them to be held in the hand, adding the sensory quality of touch to the visual and auditory memory of whatever events took place in the buildings. The hand-​held quality of the miniatures also personalises them, as the hand can envelop the object, perceiving it with the same haptic feedback that we experience today when we shop, seeking to touch and feel the items we are browsing. We touch not only to perceive the material quality of a thing, but to sense it in a more fully embodied manner. The megalithic pillars themselves would also have been touched. We cannot know how or by whom they were touched once they were in place in the buildings, but the act of building would have been significant in its labour. The compact limestone was quarried from the ground near the site; it is the ground. People worked to carve it out of the ground, and to create an abstract human form from the hard stone. The stones, weighing up to ten metric tons (Notroff et al. 2014: 87), were carried to the site through the labour of bodies. Perhaps as an incentive for that labour, there were feasts (though Kinzell and Clare 2020 question the evidence for feasting at the site). Dietrich et al. add the (so far inconclusive) evidence for the consumption of alcohol (2012: 687–​690). If there was feasting at the site, crowds of people would have had their senses stimulated through food, drink, music, and dance (Garfinkel 2003), under a canopy of stars, bright against a dark night sky. Such a break from routine, along with the concomitant social bonds established at the event, would have had an impact on their memories. Feasts as an incentive for the work events seems a likely equation. Perhaps feasts were a part of construction, or more likely, construction was part of a cycle of meaningful activities at the site as buildings were built and repaired. Kinzell and Clare (2020: 37) assert that “[w]‌hat all the structures have in common are traces of continuous and diversified renewal, modification and rebuilding processes.” Bernbeck (2013: 43) envisages a similar, non-​static role for the structures, in which the carving of images on stone, erection of subsequent rings of walls, and ultimate destruction of the building were all part of a fluid set of practices in which the building was a changing actor. Critical to our sensory reimagining of the site, Bernbeck (2013: 43) asserts that the ongoing building and rebuilding, carving and recarving, of the structures implies “a constant desire to rework and restructure the material world.” The structures, he argues, were not containers or stages for a performance of ritual, but rather are material records of the meaningful activities themselves. This approach is in keeping with an understanding of Palaeolithic image-​ making that sees the making of the image as part of a ritual activity, or the repeated replastering and painting of houses in Neolithic Çatalhöyük as similarly done not for the final effect, but for the act of doing it (see, for example, Lewis-​Williams 2002). When we look at the images and monuments at Göbekli Tepe, great and small, we see a powerful natural world, and the desire to exert human control within it. The monumental images structure the cosmology, placing human power in the centre of it. These large, abstracted human forms are expressions of human power. The power might be supernatural, magical, or divine, but its human form represents the human ability to channel that power, through ritual and by ritual specialists. We cannot know the sensory order of a past society—​which senses they utilised and how those senses were prioritised; we cannot know how they perceived the world, in other words. But we can be certain that our reliance on visual perception in understanding Göbekli Tepe is inadequate. Visual perception


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would have been an integrated part of the larger sensorium, combined with touch, proprioception, and other phenomena experienced at the site. In the busy hum of our modern world, it is easy to forget the real darkness of a night sky, unpolluted by ambient night, the brightness of the stars in that sky, the quiet of a barren hilltop, even the visual power of an image in a world with very little visual culture, or of a built environment in a world with few buildings. The powerful sensory contrasts created at Göbekli Tepe would have made the transformative events that happened there stay for a long time in the memories of the participants.

Bibliography Akkermans, P. M. M. G. 2004. “Hunter-​Gatherer Continuity: The Transition from the Epipalaeolithic to the Neolithic in Syria,” in O. Aurenche, M. Le Mière, and P. Sanlaville, eds., From the River to the Sea: The Palaeolithic and the Neolithic on the Euphrates and in the Northern Levant. Studies in Honour of Lorraine Copeland. BAR International Series 1263. Oxford: Archaeopress, 281–​293. Arnold, B., and D. B. Counts. 2010. “Prolegomenon: The Many Masks of the Master of Animals,” in D. B. Counts and B. Arnold, eds., The Master of Animals in Old World Archaeology. Budapest: Archaeolingua, 9–​23. Bahrani, Z. 2002. “Performativity and the Image: Narrative, Representation and the Uruk Vase,” in E. Ehrenberg, ed., Leaving No Stones Unturned: Essays on the Ancient Near East and Egypt in Honor of Donald P. Hansen. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 15–​22. Bahrani, Z. 2017. Art of Mesopotamia. London: Thames & Hudson. Benz, M., and J. Bauer. 2015. “On Scorpions, Birds and Snakes: Evidence for Shamanism in Northern Mesopotamia during the Early Holocene.” Journal of Ritual Studies 29 (2): 1–​24. Bernbeck, R. 2013. “Religious Revolutions in the Neolithic? ‘Temples’ in Present Discourse and Past Practice,” in K. Kaniuth, A. Löhnert, J. L. Miller, A. Otto, M. Roaf, and W. Sallaberger, eds., Tempel im Alten Orient. Colloquien der Deutschen Orient-​Gesellschaft Band 7. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 33–​47. Bernbeck, R., and S. Pollock. 2003. “The Biography of an Early Halaf Village: Fistikli Höyük 1999–​ 2000.” Istanbuler Mitteilungen 53: 9–​77. Cauvin, J. 1994. Naissance des divinités, naissance de l’agriculture. Paris: Éditions du CNRS. Cauvin, J. 2000. Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Clare, L. 2020. “25 Years of Research at Göbeklitepe: A Summary of Past and Recent Results.” Lecture, University of Houston, Clear Lake, Houston, TX, March 11. Costello, S. 2011. “Image, Memory, and Ritual: Re-​viewing the Antecedents of Writing.” CAJ 21 (2): 247–​62. Dietrich, O., M. Heun, J. Notroff, K. Schmidt, and M. Zarnkow. 2012. “The Role of Cult and Feasting in the Emergence of Neolithic Communities: New Evidence from Göbekli Tepe, South-​eastern Turkey.” Antiquity 86: 674–​695. Dietrich, O., and J. Notroff. 2015. “A Sanctuary, or So Fair a House? In Defense of an Archaeology of Cult at Pre-​Pottery Neolithic Göbekli Tepe,” in N. Lanieri, ed., Defining the Sacred: Approaches to the Archaeology of Religion in the Near East. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 75–​89. Dietrich, O., J. Notroff, and L. Dietrich. 2018. “Behind the Mask: Early Neolithic Miniature Masks (and One Larger-​Than-​Life Example) from Göbekli Tepe (and beyond).” The Ancient Near East Today 4 (9). Dietrich, O., J. Notroff, S. Walter, and L. Dietrich. 2019. “Markers of ‘Psycho-​Cultural’ Change: The Early-​Neolithic Monuments of Göbekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey,” in T. B. Henley, M. J. Rossano, and E. P. Kardas, eds., Handbook of Cognitive Archaeology: Psychology in Prehistory. New York: Routledge, 311–​332. Feldman, M. 2009. “Knowledge as Cultural Biography: Lives of Mesopotamian Monuments,” in E. Cropper, ed., Dialogues in Art History, from Mesopotamia to Modern: Readings for a New Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 40–​55. Garfinkel, Y. 2003. Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture. Austin: UT Press. Güler, G., B. Çelik, and M. Güler. 2013. “New Pre-​Pottery Neolithic Sites and Cult Centres in the Urfa Region.” Documenta Praehistorica 40: 291–​303.


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Hodder, I. 1990. The Domestication of Europe: Structure and Contingency in Neolithic Societies. Oxford: Blackwell. Hodder, I. 2010. “Probing Religion at Çatalhöyük: An Interdisciplinary Experiment,” in I. Hodder, ed., Religion in the Emergence of Civilization: Çatalhöyük as a Case Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–​31. Hodder, I., and L. Meskell. 2010. “The Symbolism of Çatalhöyük in its Regional Context,” in I. Hodder, ed., Religion in the Emergence of Civilization: Çatalhöyük as a Case Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 32–​72. Kinzell, M., and L. Clare. 2020. “Monumental: Compared to What? A Perspective from Göbekli Tepe,” in A. B. Gebauer, L. Sørensen, A. Teather, and A. C. Valera, eds., Monumentalising Life in the Neolithic: Narratives of Change and Community. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 29–​48. Lewis-​Williams, J. D. 2002. The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art. London: Thames & Hudson. Notroff, J., O. Dietrich, and K. Schmidt. 2014. “Building Monuments, Creating Communities,” in J. F. Osborne, ed., Approaching Monumentality in Archaeology. IEMA Proceedings 3. New York: State University of New York Press, 83–​105. Özdoğan, M. 2015. “Understanding Göbekli Tepe: The Place of Göbekli Tepe in the History of Civilization.” Actual Archaeology 15: 18–​31. Özdoğan, M. 2017. “Solving the Mystery of Göbekli Tepe: The Oldest Temple on Earth?” AIA Lecture, Houston Museum of Natural Science, February 9. Schmidt, K. 2008. Sie bauten die ersten Tempel. Das rätselhafte Heiligtum der Steinzeitjäger. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. Schmidt, K. 2010. “Göbekli Tepe—​the Stone Age Sanctuaries: New Results of Ongoing Excavations with a Special Focus on Sculptures and High Reliefs.” Documenta Praehistorica 37: 239–​256. Stein, D. L. 2019. “Dressed to Heal, Protect and Rule,” in M. Cifarelli, ed., Fashioned Selves: Dress and Identity in Antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 57–​73. Stordeur, D. 1998. “Espace natural, espace construit à Jerf el Ahmar sur l’Euphrate,” in M. Fontin and O. Aurenche, eds., Espace habité en Syrie du Nord (10e–​2e millénaire av. J-​C). Lyons: Maison de l’Orient, 93–​107. Stordeur, D. 2014. “Domestication of Plants and Animals, Domestication of Symbols?,” in D. Bolger and L. C. Maguire, eds., The Development of Pre-​State Communities in the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honour of Edgar Peltenburg. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 123–​130. Stordeur, D., M. Brenet, G. Der Aprahamian, and J.-​C. Roux. 2000. “Les bâtiments communautaires de Jerf el Ahmar et Mureybet horizon PPNA (Syria).” Paléorient 26: 29–​44. Stordeur, D. and B. Jammous. 1995. “Pierre à rainure à décor animal trouvée dans l’horizon PPNA de Jerf el Ahmar, Syrie.” Paléorient 21: 129–​30. Suter, C. 2014. “Human, Divine, or Both? The Uruk Vase and the Problem of Ambiguity in Early Mesopotamian Visual Arts,” in B. A. Brown and M. H. Feldman, eds., Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art. Berlin: De Gruyter, 545–​568. Watkins, T. 2006. “Architecture and the Symbolic Construction of New Worlds,” in E. J. Banning and M. Chazan, eds., Domesticating Space: Construction, Community, and Cosmology in the Late Prehistoric Near East. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence, and Environment 12. Berlin: ex oriente, 15–​24.


13 Sensing salience in the landscapes of Egyptian royal living-​rock stelae Jen Thum

Introduction We often think of ancient Egypt as a culture of monumental building. The Egyptian landscape was peppered with structures that demonstrated, among other things, the command and successes of the royal establishment. Yet there are some cases where royal monuments were not erected from quarried stone, shaped into the symmetrical and orderly forms typical of Egyptian material culture, but were instead carved directly into otherwise unaltered natural features—​the medium of living rock, or stone that is still in situ. This chapter explores Egyptian encounters with one such type of monument, royal living-​rock stelae, to better understand the circumstances that led to this choice of medium. I argue that the monuments in the two case studies below, at Konosso Island and Nauri, were executed in living rock because their stone supports produced—​or were intended to produce—​a particular sensory experience brought on by their salience in the local landscape as people moved past them.1 The intended “audience” for Egyptian monuments was not always, or not always exclusively, human. However, since the sensory explorations in this volume treat the human lived experience and foreground embodied encounters with the “matter-​reality” of the past (Hamilakis 2011: 208), the case studies in this chapter centre on monuments that appealed, at least in part, to people on the ground. These stelae are located at two sites on expedition routes that people would have passed by regularly. Moreover, their inscriptions belong to three ancient Egyptian text types that were ostensibly directed at a human audience: the royal decree (wd-​nswt) and two genres of military inscription called the ỉ report and victory stela (wd n nḫtw). Both sites present interpretive challenges, as neither has much non-​epigraphic archaeological evidence. However, because the stelae in question are royal monuments, we may deduce that their locations and material characteristics—​which were the result of careful design and a choice from among many alternative places, forms, and media—​reflect plans for an “effective” reception by their intended audience. The stelae themselves offer strong evidence for how people were projected to have encountered them. Elite evidence is thus marshalled in the service of understanding the non-​elite bodily experience.

DOI: 10.4324/​9780429280207-14


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Sensing the stelae Egyptology is only beginning to explore its intersections with sensory studies. Richard Parkinson (2020) recently offered an overview of what might be possible for future work in this vein (see also Chapters 13, 21, 27, and 28, this volume). Judging from the available (elite) evidence, seeing and hearing appear to have been prioritised in the Egyptian experience (Parkinson 2020: 415), although what those actions really signified in the broader context of Egyptian sensoria may be less straightforward than we think. Some texts that one might assume were the object of seeing, hearing, or touching were, in fact, consumed (Ritner 1989). Certain words—​including, for example, the verb dp, “taste,” which has the broader meaning “experience” (Wb. V, 445.7–​ 9)—​suggest further cultural nuances that we cannot fully access. As Egyptologists continue to explore what the Egyptian sensory profile might have been like, a growing number of studies have made efforts to shift our focus away from vision, which has been privileged in research on the human past (Kroeter 2009; Hartley 2012; Frood 2013; Pellini 2015; Price 2018).2 On the contrary, the present chapter centres primarily on aspects of rock monuments that were appreciable by sight, because the stelae in question were undoubtedly meant to be seen—​the salience of their stone supports, I argue, was a major component of their design. However, whenever possible I integrate into my analysis the sounds, textures, and other sensory aspects of the stelae and their landscapes that may also have shaped the Egyptian experience with these monuments. Two main principles guide this exploration of the effects of the stelae at Konosso Island and Nauri on Egyptian bodies and minds. The first is to consider the materiality and context of these monuments as integral to their messages, and to the way they “worked.” Sensory experiences are themselves material, requiring materiality “in order to be activated” (Hamilakis 2011: 209), and recent Egyptological research on the materiality of texts, including rock inscriptions, shows great promise (e.g., Seidlmayer 2013; Brown 2015; Dieleman 2015; Hoogendijk and van Gompel 2018; Dirksen and Krastel 2020). In both of the case studies in this chapter, the stelae’s stone supports have been relatively little considered when compared with their texts—​that is to say, they have not been studied primarily as landscape monuments.3 Monuments are usually designed to be recognised, even when they cannot be fully understood by all members of a society (Moore 1996: 92). Most Egyptians were not literate (Baines 2007: 49), but that need not have prevented them from experiencing or (generally) absorbing the messages of such works. Foregrounding encounters with the whole monument, rather than its text alone, not only reflects what was likely a more realistic scenario for its ancient audience, but also encourages us to consider alternative ways of absorbing its message that may have been perceptible through multisensory means (see also Chapter 15, this volume). The second principle, following environmental historian Linda Nash (2005), is to acknowledge that the material world is not merely a structure for human actions. Human agency is not entirely separate from the non-​human environment, and the non-​human elements of the world we inhabit are not always secondary to our experience. Nash writes that aspects of the landscapes we dwell in can shape our intentions, not only our actions. This idea stems from Tim Ingold’s concept of the “whole-​organism-​in-​its-​environment,” a creature never separate from its surroundings (2000: 19). People do not always “develop their plans” abstractly in their minds (Nash 2005: 68); sometimes, it takes an on-​the-​ground interaction, a surprising sensory experience with one’s environment, to catalyse an idea. Natural features—​in this case, rock outcrops—​ can shape and support human agency, if not possess a form of “agency” themselves. The concept of an active and agentive non-​human world was in fact central to the Egyptian understanding of the universe, where aspects of the earth and cosmos, such as the sky and the Nile inundation,


Egyptian royal living-rock stelae

were deified and personified. In the words of Jan Assmann, the Egyptian idea of nature “was ‘super-​natural’ in a way that fundamentally prevented a concept of nature” (2001: 63). I contend that the Egyptian experience with certain rock landscapes—​the way features looked, the memories and images they recalled—​served as the impetus for the creation of some living-​rock stelae, including those I treat below.

Egyptian geologics—​and geoaesthetics Prior to an exploration of living-​rock stelae, it is first necessary to understand how rock, and more specifically living rock, was conceptualised in the Egyptian world: their “geologics.”4 For the Egyptians, the world came into being on a lump of rock, the benben-​stone, where the creator god stood amid the primordial waters (Quirke 1992: 27).5 This is according to the Heliopolitan cosmogony, the best-​known and perhaps the most important of several Egyptian creation stories (Lesko 1991: 91; Assmann 2001: 119–​120). The emergence of this primeval mound signified the start of the First Time (zp tpj), when the gods reigned upon the earth—​a state to which the Egyptians continuously endeavoured to return the world (Vernus 1995: 36–​42). Echoes of this myth permeated many areas of Egyptian life, from the design of temples, whose elevated inner sancta recalled the benben-​stone (Assmann 2001: 38), to the ebb of the Nile inundation, which repeated the moment of creation, when fields emerged from the flood with a fresh layer of fertile silt (Quirke 1992: 26)—​a phenomenon that perhaps accounts for the origin of this myth (Leclant 1969: 228). The Egyptians also imagined that the world was surrounded on two sides by walls of living rock, the eastern and western mountains (bᴈẖw and mᴈnw, respectively). These features marked the progress of the sun’s daily journey between the horizons, as is illustrated in the hieroglyph for the word Egyptologists usually translate as “horizon,” ᴈḫt (Wb. I, 17.12–​14), which depicts the sun rising between these mountains in cross-​section (𓈌). It is likely that the presence of cliffs and hills at the edges of the deserts that flank the Nile Valley influenced this line of thought. In its integral connection to the two most important organising elements of Egyptian life—​the flow of the Nile and the passage of the sun from east to west—​living rock was foundational to the very structure of the world. Three key terms help further explain Egyptian conceptions of this material. The first is dw, “mountain” (Wb. V, 541.7–​545.1), which refers to a range of living-​rock features including cliffs and escarpments (such as at Amarna; Murnane and Van Siclen 1993), wadi walls (such as in the Wadi Hammamat, known as dw n bḫn or “Mountain of Bekhen-​stone”; González-​Tablas Nieto 2014), plateaus (such as Gebel Barkal; see below), and other landforms (such as at Abydos and Thebes; see below). A dw was also the place where cut or quarried stone—​ỉnr (Wb. I, 97.12–​ 98.6)—​was obtained. Stone was viewed as a perennial material, linked to the concept of perfective time known as dt (Assmann 2003) and used to enter events, in the form of monuments, into that time (Vernus 2017: 475–​478). But while ỉnr was detached or detachable despite its persistence, dw carried a sense of storeyed mass and immobility, much like the word “mountain” does in English today. Metaphorically, as Hermann Grapow noted in his volume on Egyptian figurative expressions (1924), dw could be used to signify great size. For example, grain heaps were piled up “like mountains,” and monuments were made as big ( ᴈ) as them. Builders bragged that they had created “mountains of stone” (Grapow 1924: 52). The word also connoted permanence and stability: temple walls were equated with dw, because they were imagined to be everlasting, and the mortuary temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu was meant to persist like the eastern and western mountains mentioned above (Grapow 1924: 52). In the tomb of Ahmose at Amarna, the deceased declared his hope to remain in his place of rest until the mountains get up and move (de Garis Davies 1905: 32)—​that is, never. 269

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The other two terms, dw w  b and dhnt, speak to connections between living rock and the divine.6 In the Egyptian view, natural features—​especially rock features—​could house the divine numen (Aufrère 1993: 11–​12). The term dw w  b (Wb. V, 542.15–​17; Thiem 2000: 23–​34, n. 78), which has been translated as “pure mountain,” “holy mountain,” and “primeval mountain,” carried a sense of the mountain as a “sacred, untouched, virgin” place—​hence the adjective w  b, “pure” (Desroches-​Noblecourt and Kuentz 1968: 203–​205). This term was applied to mountains that served as seats of the gods, chiefly Amun-​Re and the Cataract Triad (Khnum, Satet, and Anuket) (Thiem 2000: 23–​34, n. 78). The designation dw w  b seems to have been given to one or two new locations in each of the reigns during which it is attested; each was politically important for the assertion of Egyptian royal power in Nubia and was connected with oracular or miraculous events (Thiem 2000: 23–​34, n. 78). The word dhnt (Wb. V, 478.6–​13) can refer to a peak, rock projection, or visually prominent rock face, but also to a “cultically active” rock feature on a mountain with primeval associations, as Faried Adrom (2004) has shown. The latter type served as a site of divine appearance and renewal, “a transitory boundary zone between the hidden (primeval) and the visible (earthly) planes” (Adrom 2004: 16, translation by author). It bears mentioning that the features into which Egyptian rock-​cut temples were carved were also understood to be interfaces between this world and the world of the divine; the choice of living rock as a medium for those monuments was not functional, but conceptual (Gundlach 2001).7 It follows that there must have been something conceptually different about living-​rock stelae as well. A number of the features designated as a dw w  b or dhnt were also the locations of rock-​cut temples, chapels, and stelae. Beyond Egyptian geologics, this chapter’s focus on encounters with rock features means that we must also consider what we can deduce about Egyptian geoaesthetics. The origins of this term lie in the “geophilosophy” of the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychoanalyst Félix Guattari (1987; 1991). It refers to the aesthetic perception of geological features and phenomena—​in other words, the effects of their physical properties on our senses.8 It is important to note that ancient Egypt was home to many “conceptualised landscapes” whose meanings were invested in natural features (Knapp and Ashmore 1999: 11; Richards 1999). Since elements of the earth and cosmos were regarded as active and influential forces on daily life, Egyptian landscape perception lent itself rather easily to the “mythicisation” of natural features and phenomena (Rummel 2016: 43). The question is, what sort of aesthetics might attract this kind of meaning? There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that certain characteristics of geological features in the Egyptian world—​namely, shape, and size—​could make them desirable places for the attachment of social significance. Some such features could function as “material metaphors” of divine action (Rummel 2016: 54). For example, Ute Rummel (2016) has demonstrated that the mythological significance of the Theban landscape was influenced by the geomorphology of its western mountains, which came to be viewed as an incarnation of the embrace of the goddess Hathor-​Imentet. She and other goddesses who were “seen” in the rock face were depicted as emerging from the mountain or seated inside of it (Bruyère 1929; Rummel 2016). The summit of these mountains, which is known today as el Qurn, “the Horn,” for its distinctive shape, was evocative of the primeval mound and referred to as “Mistress of the West” in antiquity. To take another example, Josef Wegner (2007) has argued that the profile of the cliffs at Abydos may once have been seen as an elephant, thus lending the site its name—​ᴈbdw, “Elephant Mountain”—​and later, when it came to be seen as jackal-​shaped, to the local toponym dw ỉnpw, “Mountain of Anubis.” Similarly, the spindly pinnacle of the Gebel Barkal, an immense sandstone plateau near the Fourth Cataract in Sudan (Figure 13.1), was imagined variously as the form of Osiris, the White Crown of Upper Egypt, and the royal uraeus (cobra), underscoring the place of this feature in the mythology of Egyptian kingship (Kendall et al. 2017: 158; Kendall 2008). It  was a dw 270

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Figure 13.1  The pinnacle of the Gebel Barkal, a dw w  b. Source: Photo by author.

Figure 13.2  Relief from the Temple of Mut (left) and a graffito on the exterior of the Gebel Barkal, both depicting the god Amun inside the mountain. In the relief, Mut is seated behind Amun and the pinnacle of the Gebel Barkal is depicted as a uraeus. Source: Photos by author.

w  b—​a designation no doubt supported by its unusual shape—​and Amun was shown inhabiting this sacred feature in both reliefs and graffiti there (Figure 13.2).9 At Abu Simbel, it has been argued that the extraordinary height of the mountains where Ramesses II carved his temples is what made that place a dw w  b: a natural high place, raised up from the human realm of the profane, “inviolable and inviolate” because it was reserved for the gods and their worship (Desroches-​Noblecourt and Kuentz 1968: 203). The sites of visually 271

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prominent landscape features are often centres of human activity and meaning-​making, in the ancient Near East and elsewhere (Tuan 1974; Tilley 1994; Bradley 2000; Bernardini et al. 2013; Harmanşah 2014; Ullmann 2014; Canepa 2014; Da Riva 2015; inter alia), although social significance can certainly become attached to places in other ways (Basso 1996). Conspicuous natural features, while not technically monuments themselves, can act like monuments and subsequently come to attract them over time (Bradley 2000: 35). What we know about Egyptian geoaesthetics from the sacred landscapes mentioned above might help us understand what made other outcrops attractive places to carve, and encounter, royal messages. By nature of their medium, living-​rock stelae were integrally linked to the places where they were carved. The royal establishment’s choice to harness a natural feature to suit its aims, when its message would inherently be constrained by the feature’s form and location, implies that certain characteristics of living rock were eminently desirable and could offer something to the royal patron that cut stone could not. In executing a monument of this type, there must have been something about the outcrop where it was carved that would constitute an essential part of the monument’s message. In the following sections, I argue that the material characteristics of the outcrops at Konosso Island and Nauri presented exceptional opportunities for the attachment of social significance and the broad transmission of royal messages. In both cases I contend that projected encounters with these features were shaped not only by their striking and symbolic forms, but also by the anticipated experience of passers-​by moving towards them, observing the landscape as they entered into view.

Stelae at Konosso Island, gateway to Egypt The First Cataract, a granite barrier in the Nile near modern-​day Aswan, was conceived as the southern boundary of Kmt, the Egyptian homeland (Figure 13.3).10 In fact, all of the boundaries of Kmt were conspicuous natural features: the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the First Cataract to the south, and the deserts to the east and west. These boundaries were considered to be permanent and timeless fixtures of the ordered world. When the margins of Egypt’s political authority changed, as they did periodically from the start of the second millennium BCE , Kmt remained as it was; new territories consolidated under Egyptian influence served as buffer zones to protect it. The First Cataract was strategically positioned not only between Egypt and Nubia, but also at the nexus of routes to the Eastern Desert, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean (Raue et al. 2013: ix). This area is known for its rock inscriptions, which number in the thousands (Petrie 1888: 6–​ 13; de Morgan et al. 1894; Delia 1993; 1999; Gasse and Rondot 2007; Seidlmayer 2013; inter alia). The Cataract’s granite boulders attracted mostly non-​royal messages, often made by stripping away the surface patina of the stone to reveal a lighter colour beneath. Rock inscriptions at the First Cataract were generally designed to be visible, although they do not always appear that way today (Seidlmayer 2013: 208). In studying the royal material at this location, one must therefore ask which places were the most visible, as that was undoubtedly one goal of placing royal monuments in this landscape. One First Cataract site in particular drew much royal attention in the pharaonic period: Konosso Island. It is a place known to many Egyptologists by name only due to a combination of its relative inaccessibility and the discipline’s traditional emphasis, until recently, on the textual content of monuments. This small island, whose ancient name is not known (LÄ III 684), is formed primarily by two tall granite boulders northeast of Bigeh Island, in the reservoir between the Aswan Dams. The boulders interface in such a way that, when viewed from above, they form a “v” shape that “opens” outward to the southeast, with a smaller centre boulder in between 272

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Figure 13.3  Map showing the locations of the First Cataract, where Konosso Island is situated, and Nauri. Source: After Google Earth; Landsat/​Copernicus; Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Naxy, NGA, GEBCO.

(Figure 13.4, inset). The dams have flooded the landscape such that today only the upper portion of Konosso protrudes from the water (Figure 13.5).11 However, little more than a century ago, things looked very different. For much of the nineteenth century Konosso was an intermittent island, separated from the mainland only during periods of high water. The situation might have been similar in antiquity, and the low water level in the pharaonic period must have been no higher than the lowermost rock inscriptions. As is sometimes the case with anomalous natural features, visitors to Konosso have tended to see figural analogies in its form. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the artist Dominique-​Vivant Denon, who joined Napoléon in Egypt as part of the Commission des Sciences et des Arts, described Konosso as having the form of an armchair (fauteuil) (Denon 1989: I, 135). The local name for the island in the present day also describes its recognisable shape: Sawabʿa, “Fingers,” because it now looks like an upturned fist when viewed from the north (Figure 13.6). Little archaeological evidence is known from the island apart from its rock inscriptions. Karl Richard Lepsius visited Konosso twice as part of the Prussian Expedition in 1843–​1844 and observed some sherds and a staircase that led up its south side (LD Text IV 128–​129). Although the nature of this evidence is lost to us, it is clear that there was some religious significance to the island. The First Cataract had its own triad of gods, Khnum, Satet, and Anuket, all of whom are invoked in local inscriptions, including those at Konosso (PM V 253–​255). Many of the approximately 65 inscriptions on the island mention Khnum, Lord of Kebhu—​the “cool waters.” These were understood to be the waters of the underworld, which arose at the mythical sources of the Nile. The First Cataract was one such source. Jacques de Morgan (de Morgan et al. 1894: 65) hypothesised that Kebhu was not only a general name for the Cataract but the name of Konosso itself, and suggested that Khnum must have had a small chapel on the island.12 273

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Figure 13.4  Map of the First Cataract area with an inset of Konosso Island as seen from above. Source: After Google Earth; Maxar Technologies.

During the Middle Kingdom, two relief scenes of Mentuhotep II (ruled c. 2051–​2000 BCE ) and two of Neferhotep I (ruled c. 1741–​1730 BCE ) were carved at Konosso, each depicting the king as an ithyphallic god alongside—​in various permutations—​Satet, Khnum, Montu, and Neith (LD Text II 150b–​c, 151f, h).13 These royal scenes were located on the northern and western sides of the island—​the sides that faced “inward” towards Egypt (LD Text IV 129–​130). But in the imperial period known as the New Kingdom (c. 1550–​1070 BCE ), there was a distinct change in the use of this outcrop: three royal stelae at Konosso were carved into the southeastern side of the island, which faced “outward” towards Nubia and the Eastern Desert. The stelae, two of Tuthmosis IV (ruled c. 1399–​1389 BCE ) and one of his son Amenhotep III (ruled c. 1389–​1349 BCE ), are the focus of this inquiry into the Egyptian sensory experience with the island. I will first describe their contents, and then treat the salience of their stone supports and the sensory aspects of their landscapes. All three of the New Kingdom stelae at Konosso relate to their patrons’ military campaigns and contain information that was apparently intended for broad transmission. The first stela of Tuthmosis IV, dated to Year 7, III Peret, day 8, is now entirely submerged, but a record of its scene and some of its remaining text are preserved in Lepsius’ Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien (Figure 13.7; see also Urk. IV, 1555–​1556). The scene shows the king smiting enemies before Ha, Lord of the Western Desert, and the Nubian god Dedwen. The inclusion of these deities suggests that the stela’s contents detailed military action to the south and possibly also to the west of Egypt. Behind the king is his queen and consort Iaret. Her name also appears on an 274

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Figure 13.5  Konosso Island, looking northwest. Source: Photo by author.

Figure 13.6  Konosso, or Sawabʿa, viewed from the north. Source: Photo by author. 275

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Figure 13.7  The scene from the Year 7 Stela of Tuthmosis IV. Source: After LD III 69e; from The New York Public Library.

inscription at Serabit el-​Khadim in Sinai from the same year, suggesting that both areas may have been visited on inspection tours in which Iaret participated (Bryan 1991: 198). The stela’s inscription almost certainly belonged to a public-​facing genre of military text known as thei ỉ report (Spalinger 1983).14 This genre hinges on the phrase ỉ r dd n ḥm=f, “one came to say to his majesty”—​a formula that was first introduced in the reign of Tuthmosis II (ruled c. 1492–​ 1479 BCE) in a living-​rock stela on the Aswan–​Philae road (Spalinger 1983: 1–​4), carved into a conspicuous collection of boulders that would have been readily visible to passers-​by and may also have been the site of a small shrine (Borrmann-​Dücker 2013; 2020). The ỉ texts offer a standardised summary of the basic information about a military campaign, with few specific details, apparently meant for broad transmission. In these texts someone notifies the king that his enemies have done something worthy of military action, he reacts, and he then justifiably dispatches his army (usually, it seems, without partaking in the campaign himself). The impetus for this genre was the rise of Egypt as an empire: its format allowed for the transmission of brief narratives summarising and publicising the operations that accompanied imperial endeavours (Spalinger 1983: 47). Tuthmosis’ second stela at Konosso, dated to Year 8, III Peret, day 2, depicts the king offering wine to Amun and Khnum (Figure 13.8; Urk. IV, 1545–​1548). It preserves most of another ỉ report chronicling a patrol on desert routes east of Edfu to protect Egypt’s gold mining operation (Bryan 1991: 333–​336).15 The report states that a group of Nubians was planning a rebellion against Egypt and was on its way from Wawat (Lower Nubia). Tuthmosis then petitioned Amun for an oracle and dispatched his army. The similarity in the dates of these two stelae, as well as another stela of Tuthmosis IV at Elephantine (from III Peret, day 6 of an unknown year), is telling. As Andrea Klug (2002: 354) notes, it is possible that the third month of Peret was the time of a yearly royal progress and festival in the area. This is alluded to in the Year 8 Stela, which reports that the king celebrated the tỉt-​ỉ (“image-​washing”) festival at Edfu 276

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Figure 13.8  The scene from the Year 8 Stela of Tuthmosis IV. Source: de Morgan et al. 1894: 66.

on his way south from Thebes before the enemy was thwarted. Betsy Bryan (1991: 335–​336) has suggested that the whole event may therefore have been staged as part of a pre-​planned royal tour of Upper Egypt. Such an event would surely have been meant to be seen by the broader populace, and it may even have been the case that the oracle itself was petitioned in public (see further Klug 2002: 350–​351). Alternatively, the date of this monument could refer to a celebration at the end of the hostilities that were described in the text (Murnane 1990: 83–​84). Tuthmosis’ monuments were accompanied by inscriptions of officials and members of the royal family, including the future Amenhotep III (de Morgan et al. 1894: 69–​74; Kozloff 2012: 44). This suggests a performance of some kind, perhaps on the occasions of the stelae’s completion. The dates of the stelae would have fallen during the middle of the growing season, when the waters of the inundation had long since receded and sailing through the Cataract would have been comparatively difficult—​but when carving and inaugurating rock monuments would likely have been easier, and there would have been less noise to compete with from the water rushing past (see below). Following in his father’s footsteps, Amenhotep III also commissioned a stela at Konosso (Urk. IV, 1661–​1663).16 It is dated to an unspecified day in Year 5 and also concerns the suppression of a Nubian rebellion. Its scene depicts the king wearing the blue crown, supported by Khnum and facing Amun-​Re, behind whom are the bound personifications of four Nubian groups (Figures 13.9 and 13.10).17 Its text is not an ỉ report, but more likely a wd n nḫtw, or victory stela (Trigger 1976; Spalinger 1978; Klug 2002: 428).18 Such monuments constituted “the bombastic, and often partly poetic, record of a king’s military victory or his mighty acts” (Redford 1986: 128, n. 3) and celebrated so-​called expeditions of nḫt in which he was personally involved.19 Amenhotep’s monument is one of three living-​rock stelae of his at the First Cataract, which contain complementary texts and images and should be regarded as part of the same monumental programme (Klug 2002: 428–​430). The other two—​an ỉ report and a text framed as a speech of Amun-​Re—​are carved into the cluster of conspicuous boulders on the Aswan-​Philae road where the ỉ report of Tuthmosis II was inscribed (Figure 13.4; Borrmann-​Dücker 2013; 2020).20 As all three of the royal stelae on the island and numerous private inscriptions attest, in the New Kingdom Konosso was a gathering point for expeditions leaving and returning to Kmt (Bryan 1991: 198). This was not only due to its location at the interface between Egypt and Nubia: it was also, I argue, because it was a geological landmark with a conspicuous and symbolic 277

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Figure 13.9  The scene from Amenhotep III’s stela at Konosso. Source: After LD III 82a; from The New York Public Library.

Figure 13.10  Amenhotep III’s stela at Konosso. Source: Photo by author.


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Figure 13.11  View of Konosso from the south, as it appears in the Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien. Source: LD I 103; from The New York Public Library.

shape. To my knowledge, the implications of the island’s shape and salience for the creation and perception of these monuments have not been fully considered.21 This is presumably because of the degree of change the First Cataract area has witnessed since the creation of the Aswan Dams. Since the island is now mostly submerged, archival material can help us better understand how it might have looked in antiquity. Illustrations and photographs from the nineteenth century reveal that Konosso once visually dominated the Cataract landscape—​not just in size, but also in shape (Figures 13.11–​13.13). When viewed from the south or southeast, the outcrop takes the form of a pylon: a (temple) gateway, which itself mimics the shape of the horizon (𓈌). This shape is rather appropriate to mark the landscape of the First Cataract, seeing as this area was the southern boundary of Kmt and an interface between Egypt and Nubia. Bigeh Island, immediately southwest of Konosso, was considered to be the northern boundary of Wawat (Zibelius-​ Chen 1972: 102–​104), making the island’s position especially significant. Upon entering Egypt from the south, the twin peaks of Konosso would greet those sailing downstream or approaching on land as an entranceway. Large boats could not navigate through the Cataract, forcing their crews onto land routes in order to bypass it. This is what made the Cataract an excellent natural boundary, and the sense of restriction as one drew nearer to the outcrop in this narrowing space must have served to further focus one’s vision on it. Klug (2002: 476) observed that several of the living-​rock examples in her corpus of early Eighteenth Dynasty stelae were located on “important paths” and suggested that their primary function was to safeguard Egypt’s borders and threaten its enemies. It is clear that the stelae of Tuthmosis IV and Amenhotep III were situated at the interface between Egypt and Nubia because they concern military action against their enemies to the south (Klug 2002: 476). To take this a step further, however, I suggest that Konosso’s symbolic shape—​which, in the Egyptian view, would have been understood as part of the predestined, ordered structure of the world—​was 279

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Figure 13.12  Frank Mason Good, View of Granite Rocks, Island of Philae, c. 1870. Source: Courtesy of the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

the impetus for the creation and location of these stelae. The island’s position already allowed all three monuments to face outward from Kmt, perhaps even at the road leading south on the east bank of the Nile (Klug 2002: 352)22—​a shift from the position of the (literally and metaphorically) inward-facing Middle Kingdom reliefs on the island. Its conspicuous shape would have allowed this to be achieved through a recognisable and undeniably Egyptian architectural form. As a form used in temples, the area’s long-​standing religious connections would surely have underscored the meaning of this feature. More than perhaps any other location in this rocky landscape, Konosso allowed the stelae’s messages to be recognised, if not read, by both foreigners and Egyptians, including members of the military returning from expeditions abroad (Klug 2002: 476). Beyond the island’s shape, the positions of the stelae on Konosso’s individual boulders must also be meaningful. Each of Tuthmosis’ stelae adorned one of the island’s two peaks, while his son’s monument occupied the smaller centre boulder (Figure 13.14; see also Figures 13.5 and 13.10). Tuthmosis carved his Year 7 Stela on the “western” peak (visible on the left in Figure 13.14).23 This may relate to that monument’s lost text, which—​judging by the inclusion of Ha, Lord of the Western Desert, in the lunette—​might have involved that area. Likewise, when he carved his Year 8 Stela on the “eastern” peak, it may have been because it involved the desert east of Kmt. The island’s peaks likely had more visual appeal than the centre of the outcrop, and this would have contributed to their use. They may have been seen as physical extensions of the stelae, making the monuments seem larger than life and underscoring their connections to the deep, “geological time” of the universe (Harmanşah 2018: 490). It is significant, then, that 280

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Figure 13.13  J. P. Sebah, Konosso. Les Rochers & Cataracte d’Assouan, second half of the 19th century; Konosso is at right towards the middle of the frame. Source: Courtesy of the Blatchford Photograph Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, American University of Beirut (photo no. 1/​497).

Amenhotep III carved his stela into the smaller centre boulder, and I offer two suggestions as to why this is. The first is that the position of this monument on the centre boulder placed it squarely between those of the king’s father, whom he would want to both imitate and surpass. Egypt was “a civilization of stone” that looked to an idealized past as a model for its future, where emulating (but improving on) the deeds of one’s forefathers was one of the only ways to achieve a historical singularity (Leclant 1969: 233; Vernus 1995: 54–​163). We see this in Amenhotep’s broader living-​rock monumental programme at the First Cataract: here the king chose two high-​traffic, highly visible locations that were linked to the temporalities and accomplishments of his predecessors, which he had also visited as a prince with his father. For him, the “mnemonic sensuous field” of this landscape would have been both deep as time itself and highly personal (Hamilakis 2011: 211). The second reason for the location of Amenhotep’s stela is that, if the shape of Konosso was indeed evocative of the horizon, then its inscription on the centre boulder would also place it in the position of the solar disk. This is surely not coincidental, given that all three of the king’s living-​rock stelae at the First Cataract involve the god Amun-​Re. Over the course of his reign, Amenhotep would develop a distinctive solar theology. The Konosso stelae’s deep incisions into the granite cast stark shadows in raking light, outlining the forms of their texts and images and emphasising the embeddedness of their messages in the timeless and permanent bedrock structure of the world. For those who could see but not 281

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Figure 13.14  Late ​19th-​century photograph by W. M. F. Petrie, Konosso, with Tablets, showing some of the inscriptions on the outward-​facing side of the island. The stela farthest to the left is the Year 7 Stela of Tuthmosis IV; the stela higher up on the smaller centre boulder belongs to Amenhotep III; and the stela farthest to the right is the Year 8 Stela of Tuthmosis IV. Source: Petrie photo no. 732; reproduced with permission of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford.

read them, the pictographic nature of the hieroglyphic script, picked out in this play of sun on stone, may have augmented their understanding of the royal messages. For the broader populace, these messages are also likely to have been heard, at least at the inaugurations of the stelae and perhaps on other special occasions (Klug 2002: 3). Orality was key in this largely non-​literate society, and official communications from the royal establishment may have been read aloud to assembled groups when the circumstances required it (Baines 2007: 73). Writing was composed primarily for speaking and thus for hearing, and “propagandistic” texts were usually inscribed in public places where they could be easily accessed (Bleiberg 1985: 9). The proclamation of the stelae would not have been the only sound at Konosso, however. When the water was high, those approaching Kmt from the south would have heard the Cataract coming, as it were. Especially at the outset of the inundation, the area was famous for its deafening and almost violent rushing of primeval water against primeval rock (Oestigaard 2020: 186–​187). The combination of this sound and the emergence of Konosso’s symbolically shaped peaks into one’s field of view, rising like a benben-​stone out of the water, would have produced quite an effect. The possibility of a yearly royal progress and festival in the area could also have lent a temporal aspect to sensory encounters with the stelae, wherein they were expected to be experienced in a certain way, perhaps with public retellings of their accounts, at a specific time each year. The level of the Nile’s waters would affect the appearance of the Cataract and set the stage in a manner unique to that 282

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point in the calendar. Repeated “public-​facing” experiences with the stelae would create a tradition, engraining memories into this landscape in a way that involved Egyptians on the ground, not just the royal patrons who commissioned their monuments in the landscape where their forefathers did the same. Perceiving the landscape is, after all, an act of remembrance (Ingold 2000: 189). The impact of the monuments of Tuthmosis IV and Amenhotep III on Egyptian bodies and minds was such that, centuries after the New Kingdom ended, the Saite kings Psammetik II (ruled 595–​589 BCE ) and Apries (ruled 589–​570 BCE ) had their own monumental cartouches carved on the outward-​facing side of the island on a massive scale (Figure 13.5, at right; Habachi 1974; Blöbaum 2013). They comprise part of a programme of inscriptions designed specifically for long-​distance perception in the First Cataract area (Blöbaum 2013: 18). In fact, these kings were emulating Tuthmosis IV quite closely: his cartouches are also present on the island, on the same boulder as the Year 8 Stela, facing south towards Nubia. Cartouches had been used since the First Dynasty to “annex” territories to Egypt (Brown 2015: 182–​183), as emblems that marked Egyptian intentions onto the landscape in a highly visible manner. In the landscape of rocks and water at the First Cataract, Konosso offered a conspicuous, outward-​facing stone support that could lend further gravity to the royal monuments sited there. A consideration of the material and sensorial aspects of the island suggests that the patrons of the New Kingdom stelae took advantage of its symbolic shape and prominent position, anticipating that its salience would amplify and extend their messages of military prowess at the gateway between Egypt and Nubia.

Shouting from the hilltops: the Nauri Decree stela The Nauri Decree of Seti I (ruled c. 1301–​1290 BCE ), also known as the Abydos Decree, is inscribed on a living-​rock stela located approximately 35 kilometres north of the Third Cataract in Sudan (Figures 13.3 and 13.15). This legal text dates to Year 4 of the king’s reign and concerns the implications for goods and personnel involved in provisioning the king’s temple for Osiris at Abydos. It was issued in order to protect the king’s economic interests in Nubia as they related to temple property (Gardiner 1952; Lorton 1977: 25–​27; Brand 2000: 294–​295). The decree is stated to have been conceived at the Egyptian capital of Memphis and bestows protected status on temple land, personnel, miners, animals, and boats travelling back to Egypt with goods for Seti’s foundation, outlining harsh punishments for those who would tamper with or steal them. The stela’s lunette contains a scene of Seti I offering mᴈ t to Amun-​Re, Re-​Horakhty, and Ptah (Figure 13.16). Notably, Osiris—​the principal deity of the temple at Abydos—​does not appear in the lunette (Griffith 1927: 195; Davies 1997: 277). Numerous scholars have translated and analysed the decree (KRI I 45–​58; RITA I 38–​50; RITANC I 48–​49; Griffith 1927; Edgerton 1947; Gardiner 1952; Davies 1997: 277–​308; Brand 2000: 294–​295; Maderna-​Sieben 2018: 229–​ 264), but for the purposes of this chapter, we need not be as concerned with the nuances of the stela’s text as with its relationship to the landscape at Nauri. A royal decree—​wd-​nswt, from which the term for “stela,” wd, originated—​was a manifestation of the king’s auctoritas: his applied authority and influence (Vernus 1991). In pronouncing a decree to his subjects, the king was replicating his own receipt of auctoritas from the gods. Since the main responsibility of every Egyptian king was to serve as a mediator between the gods and the people, royal decrees were therefore sanctioned and effectively “put into order” by the gods (Vernus 1991: 246). Despite the gravity of their conception, most decrees were not destined for display on public monuments and would simply be filed away once recorded on papyrus. However, those with implications for the general populace could be monumentalised on stelae as 283

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Figure 13.15  The Nauri Decree Stela of Seti I. Source: Photo by author.

Figure 13.16  Line drawing of the lunette of the Nauri Decree Stela. Source: Griffith 1927: pl. 39; reproduced with permission of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford and in consultation with the Egypt Exploration Society.

a form of “publication” (Hsu 2012: 273–​274). Stone supports would give such decrees “eternal validity” due to the perceived permanence of this medium (LÄ IV 4) and would also make their contents more widely accessible, if not legible. Decrees were therefore projected to have an effective impact on contemporary viewers through other types of visual cue—​or on contemporary listeners, to whom such works could be read aloud.


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Figure 13.17  The two sandstone hills at Nauri. Source: After Google Earth; Maxar Technologies.

The stela at Nauri couches the practical parameters of the decree within an ideological apparatus suitable for its monumentalisation by pairing the text with an offering scene and a royal eulogy detailing the king’s position as the son and rightful successor of Osiris (Vernus 1991: 243). The original document may have been reproduced numerous times, perhaps in stone, although the monument at Nauri is the only extant copy. The stela states that the decree was made known to a host of high officials. Presumably its contents would have been read aloud in the presence of those who needed to know the penalties it laid out, at places where it made sense to do so (Bleiberg 1985: 9–​10). Perhaps these were places in Nubia where temple goods were obtained, and also Nauri itself once the stela was completed. But what did Nauri, of all places, have to offer the king in this regard? Why was this location chosen to broadcast an important message about Abydos, which was crafted at Memphis, and why was that message made in living rock? I suggest that the answers to each of these questions lie in the sensory encounters Seti’s subjects would have had with the stela as they carried out the duties regulated in its text. The landscape at Nauri is dominated by two sandstone hills.24 These are not gently sloping features, but narrow buttes with roughly conical forms—​features of a type that does not exist anywhere else in the area. The hills are located approximately 500 metres apart from each other, on the southern bank of the river, and stand around 70 metres high (Figure 13.17).25 The stela is carved into the hill that is farther downstream, to the east. It sits approximately halfway up the rock face (Figure 13.18). The stela’s existence was first brought to the attention of Egyptologists in the early twentieth century. In 1924, Terence Gray attempted to make the first epigraphic squeeze of it. He brought with him “a moderate supply of squeeze-​paper,” but was daunted by what he found once he climbed up the side of the hill to confront it in person (Griffith 1927: 193). The stela was 2.8 metres high and around 2 metres wide—​much wider than expected, such that he was unable to make a full squeeze of the monument. The stela’s unusual proportions are due to the layout of its text. The lunette and the beginning of the decree follow the standard format of a round-​topped stela, but after line 59 the text continues from the bottom to an addition on its left, which is also rounded at the top, conforming to the curve of the stela’s outline (Figure 13.19). Although Francis Llewellyn Griffith (1927: 194) referred to this addition as the “supplementary 285

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Figure 13.18  Drone photograph looking eastward, showing the location of the stela on the hill. Source: Photo by Katie Simon/​CAST.

inscription” in his publication of the monument, it is actually a continuation of the decree text—​the transition from the bottom of the original stela to the top of the addition occurs, as Griffith himself noted, in the middle of a sentence. It appears that those responsible for executing the stela had not fully drafted the monument’s layout ahead of time and subsequently ran out of room. The stone at the bottom of the stela bears many fractures and must have been undesirable to work with, otherwise they might have continued in the space below (Figure 13.15). Although this was an “ideologised” copy of the original decree, the directive was apparently that its legal clauses should be reproduced faithfully (Vernus 1991: 243), and those responsible for the monument’s execution could not simply stop where the stone became unusable. But in their unconventional solution, we are inadvertently offered a clue to the stela’s purpose at Nauri. It is difficult to view the entire monument up close at once, let alone to read its contents, and straight-​on views are only possible with the aid of a drone or perhaps a ladder. A century ago, after Gray saw it from the bottom of the hill, he found himself unprepared to make a full squeeze because from afar the stela appeared to be of normal proportions (as it does today; Figure 13.20). This, I suggest, explains why the addition on the left side takes the peculiar shape it does. This monument must have been designed specifically to be encountered from far away, where it assumes the shape of an ordinary round-​topped stela. The ancient craftspeople must have known this, realising that it would appear as though nothing were amiss if they executed the rest of the text in this manner. It is possible that the stela would have been painted, but even the bare surface of the monument today makes it readily visible from some distance away. Sunk into the otherwise jagged face of the hill, the inscribed surface appears lighter in colour than the surrounding rock. In this fashion it almost functions like an icon, or hieroglyph, of a stela, indicating that the monument is there but not betraying any specifics.


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Figure 13.19  Line drawing of the layout of the Nauri Decree Stela. Source: Griffith 1927: pl. 38; reproduced with permission of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford and in consultation with the Egypt Exploration Society.

But why Nauri, and why its eastern hill? There are as yet no known pharaonic architectural remains at this site, and no archaeological evidence to suggest an Egyptian foundation or colonial outpost (Osman and Edwards 2011: 73, 350–​353). There is a unique reference in the stela’s text to a “fortress of Seti, beloved of Ptah, which is in Sekhmet” (line 84), the only specific toponym in the decree apart from Memphis and Abydos. Since this place is not mentioned in any other Egyptian text, Kenneth Kitchen felt it was possible that it was located somewhere at or close to Nauri (RITANC I 48–​49; see also Maderna-​Sieben 2018: 250–​251). This is a reasonable conclusion, but it would only make sense if the stela at Nauri were the only monumental copy made of the decree text. Nauri must have been an important location in order to receive such a monument, but in reality, we do not know how many copies of the text were made. Since the decree was conceived at Memphis, the fortress “in Sekhmet” could be anywhere. There are also three private living-​rock stelae on the same hill as the Nauri Decree Stela, although they do not offer further information about it. One, at the bottom of the hill, dates to the reign of Tuthmosis III and depicts a divinised Senwosret III, worshipped as a god of Nubia (Rondot 2008). The other 287

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Figure 13.20  The Nauri Decree Stela as seen from the bottom of the hill. Source: Photo by author.

two are illegible; they are immediately adjacent to the Tuthmosid Stela and the Nauri Decree Stela and probably postdate them. A different explanation for the stela’s presence at Nauri arises from a consideration of the sensory encounter with this monument as one moves through the landscape. Recall Nash’s (2005: 68) argument that people “develop their plans” as a result of practical, on-​the-​g round engagements with the world around them, making decisions when prompted by a barrier or an opportunity. The dearth of archaeological evidence for further Egyptian activity at Nauri suggests that it might have been the physical character of the landscape that prompted Seti to commission his stela there (and perhaps also to construct a fortress there, if it was indeed located at Nauri). In order to understand why that is, we must take a wider view of the site’s topography. There are two context clues in the landscape that make the eastern hill an ideal place for a royal monument meant to be encountered in motion from the Nile. First is the river’s dramatic right-​ hand turn. Approximately 15 kilometres west of Nauri, the Nile suddenly juts east at a near 90-​degree angle (Figure 13.21). It is hard to overstate the importance of the Nile’s south–​north direction in the rhythm of Egyptian daily life. It divided the land of the living in the east from that of the dead in the west, and its origin in the south governed Egyptian spatial orientation, such that the word for “left” (ỉᴈbt) was the same as the word for “east,” and so on. For people who were used to sailing north as they journeyed downstream, a change in the river’s course would surely have caught their attention.


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Figure 13.21  The location of the hills with respect to the course of the Nile. Source: After Google Earth; Landsat/​Copernicus.

Figure 13.22  The Nauri Decree Stela as seen from the river, in a still from a drone video. Source: Photo by Katie Simon/​CAST.

Second, there is the first hill, so very different in shape and size than anything else in the area. As it came into view it would have cued those on the river to look up, and to keep looking in anticipation of the second hill. The stela faces the Nile at approximately 295 degrees west-​northwest, which is in the upstream direction—​the direction facing those who would be returning to Egypt with the tribute of Kush for the king’s temple at Abydos (Figure 13.22). In The Visual and Spatial Structure of Landscapes, Tadahiko Higuchi (1983: 46) explains that because the most stable line of sight when standing is between 10 and 15 degrees below the horizontal, 289

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looking up produces a feeling of imbalance for the viewer that can result in an air of reverence for the object in view. I contend that at Nauri, after a series of dramatic visual cues initiated by downstream travel through the surrounding landscape, the experience of looking up at the contrasting form of the stela against its immense sandstone support would have produced a bodily sense of awe. To some, the two hills at Nauri may have seemed a wondrous formation, the likes of which they had never seen. But even for those who had made this journey before, they would have been an unmistakable landmark. The Nauri Decree was carved into the upstream side of the eastern hill as a material and mnemonic extension of the king’s auctoritas. The performance of this divinely ordained authority would have been especially important for Seti, who at this time was a relatively new king. The presence of three of Egypt’s most important deities in the lunette of his stela and the text’s legitimising rhetoric about his position as the rightful successor of Osiris make this abundantly clear. Mario Liverani (2001: 34) has described royal stelae as “substitutes” for Egyptian kings: since the monument at Nauri represented him, it was as if Seti were there himself looking down at the river. Recall that there is a propensity for human activity at the sites of visually prominent natural features. From the available evidence, we cannot speak of Nauri’s cultural or economic importance for the Ramesside royal establishment beyond the presence of the stela. However, the topography there presented an exceptional opportunity for the transmission of the king’s message, meant to be received from the river as his subjects sailed back to Egypt with the goods regulated in the stela’s text. The stela was an ever-​present mark in the sandstone fabric of the landscape that would look on perpetually, and portentously, as the king’s divinely supported orders were carried out.

The medium is the message In the ancient Near East, rock reliefs were often made at “geologically wondrous” places (Harmanşah 2013: 191). The extraordinary character of an outcrop—​high up, at a sacred location, or otherwise unique—​made the message seem all the more extraordinary. As a group, Egyptian royal living-​rock stelae conform to patterns shared with those of royal rock monuments made by other societies in the ancient Near East,26 including their concentration in liminal landscapes and boundary zones, their existence at sites of sacred significance, and their creation mainly during a period of imperial expansion (Thum 2019). Most notably, stelae of this type were usually inscribed into rock features that represented or were immediately adjacent to salient points in their local landscapes: outcrops that would likely have already seemed monumental to Egyptian sensibilities well before they were carved (Bradley 2000: 35; Thum 2019). The stelae at Konosso Island and Nauri are only a small sample of the monuments that follow this pattern, but they are important to our understanding of the Egyptian sensory experience with rock landscapes because their messages were aimed at the broader public. Their medium and locations were chosen by a royal establishment that had many options for getting those messages across. The choice of living rock for these stelae was deliberate and meaningful, and it reflects broader understandings of what this material symbolised and the ideas that it could generate. The stelae at Konosso Island and Nauri have usually been studied independently from the outcrops where they were carved. In the above exploration, these monuments are more than transcriptions, translations, and isolated images—​they are substantive and physical; they have mass; they evoke the deep time of the universe; and they interact with stone, water, sun, and people. This chapter has treated the outcrops where the stelae were carved as fundamental to their conception and design. Together, their textual genres, their positions on expedition routes, and the alterity of their stone supports suggest that they were meant to be experienced by people 290

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on the ground. We may infer that (for most people) the stelae were meant to be sensed, rather than read, and that their reception was curated by the royal establishment specifically for the landscapes where they were sited, and for the medium of living rock. At Konosso and Nauri, the royal establishment utilised landmark natural features as highly visible canvases for their monuments, anticipating the social significance that is known to have been attached to striking landforms in the Egyptian world. The outcrops where the stelae were carved were intended to be perceived as integral parts of the kings’ messages, the salience of their stone supports no doubt adding to their gravity.

Notes 1. I owe a great deal of thanks to the following people, institutions, and sources of funding for supporting my research: Ahmed Mohamed El-​Hassan and the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), Sudan; the Ministry of State for Antiquities, Egypt; the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE)/​United States Department of State ECA Fellowship and Theodore N. Romanoff Prize; the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC)/​Mellon Mediterranean Regional Research Fellowship; the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) and Katie Simon, who captured drone imagery through the support of the NSF SPARC Program (BCS #1519660); Ashraf Barakat; and Johanna Sigl and Linda Borrmann-​Dücker of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Immense thanks to Jim Allen, Miriam Müller, Julia Troche, Pinar Durgun, Inês Torres, Lisa Saladino Haney, and Rachel Kalisher for generously offering their comments on various drafts of this chapter. 2. See also contributions by Dorothée Elwart and Sibylle Emerit, Dora Goldsmith, and Meghan Strong in Schellenberg and Krüger 2019. Many thanks to Robyn Price for sharing her bibliography on this topic. 3. However, it is important to mention here the work of Andrea Klug (2002), whose volume on early Eighteenth Dynasty royal stelae—​which includes the stelae at Konosso—​considered the geographical contexts and orientations of these monuments. She also took the important step of distinguishing between freestanding stelae (which make up the bulk of her corpus) and those that were carved into “natural architecture” (see further Gundlach 2001). I build on some of Klug’s ideas about the Konosso stelae below. 4. This term was at the centre of a symposium organised by Jeffrey Moser and Felipe Rojas at Brown University in December 2018, Geologics: Comparative Epistemologies of the Earth, where it was defined as “systems of thought that have accounted for the relation between humans and what modern scientists consider geological features (caves, volcanos) and geomorphological processes (weathering, erosion, deposition)” (see​academics/​art-​history/​events/​geologics-​symposium). 5. See the entry for “Urhügel” in the Lexikon der Ägyptologie (LÄ VI 873–​875). The word benben is connected to the verb wbn, “to shine.” Attempts were rarely made to locate the original benben-​stone, but when they were, it was usually at Heliopolis, the centre of the solar cult and the purported origin of this particular creation story (Quirke 2015: 143). For the evolution of representations of the benben-​ stone over time and in various locations, see Kemp 2006: 137–​40, fig. 48. 6. Both of these terms originated in the New Kingdom, which is the era when most of Egypt’s royal living-​rock stelae were made. 7. All were constructed outside of the Nile Valley, despite the fact that “appropriate” cliffs also existed inside the Nile Valley, and the fact that freestanding temples were sometimes erected in rocky landscapes (Gundlach 2001). 8. For this definition of aesthetics generally, see Morphy 1994. For additional studies that engage with this term, see Shapiro 2004, Kim 2015, Elias and Moraru 2015, and Ray 2019. 9. Similar imagery appears at Abu Simbel; see Török 2009: 249. 10. Kmt literally means “Black Land,” the area of cultivable soil in the Nile Valley and Delta. It was conceived in opposition to dšrt (the “Red Land”), the desert that surrounded it on both sides. 11. The Aswan Low Dam was completed in 1902 and the Aswan High Dam in 1970. See Maspero 1906: figs. 452 and 454, for photographs of the changes to the landscape induced by the former. 12. Note that other special features of the Nile were also associated with living-​rock monuments. Egyptian rock-​cut temples were constructed at places that already had some cultic significance, including


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prehistoric cave shrines and bottlenecks of the Nile, which evoked the mythical sources of the river and its inundation (Gundlach 2001; Williams 2006; LÄ II 165). 13. On these unusual representations of the king, see Habachi 1963. 14. This is because its main portion begins with the proclitic ἰst- (“now …”), indicating the beginning of a setting, which is characteristic of this genre (Klug 2002: 355). See Klug 2002: 354 for a translation of the beginning of the stela’s text. 15. For translations of this text, see Bryan 1991: 333–​334 and Klug 2002: 345–​349. For a summary of some of the alternative interpretations of this military action, see Klug 2002: 350. 16. For a translation of this text, see Klug 2002: 425–​427. 17. See O’Connor 2001: 266–​268 for an analysis of the meaning of these personifications. 18. The root of the term is nḫt, “force,” an aspect of the king’s power present in the royal arm (Galán 1995: 69; Wb. II, 317). Donald Redford prefers “triumph inscription” (1986: 128, n. 3), which I find equally appropriate. Christopher Eyre translates the term as “literary stela” because of the contents of these monuments (1990), but I prefer the above translation because the function of such texts appears to have been the demonstration of the king’s victories. 19. Otherwise they would use the term ḫpš, instead of nḫt, to subtly indicate that the king was not present (Galán 1995: 97). 20. Some of the material in the stela of Amenhotep III was influenced by the stela of Tuthmosis II; see Klug 2002: 430. 21. Although the immense size of the island’s boulders has been noted in passing before (see, e.g., de Morgan et al. 1894: 65; Kozloff 2012: 44). Klug discussed the orientations of the Tuthmosid stelae; see n. 22. 22. Klug stated that both stelae of Tuthmosis IV face east and suggested that they overlooked the road on the east bank of the Nile running south, perhaps also facing the direction of the rising sun (Klug 2002: 352). Having visited Konosso in person and checked my observations against satellite imagery, I am confident that the stelae face southeast (to different degrees; the Year 7 Stela, which is entirely underwater, probably has a more southerly orientation based on the shape of the island). I therefore agree that they may have served to face the road, but not the rising sun. 23. Since this stela’s position can no longer be confirmed on site, I have deduced it based on the description given in LD Text IV 127–​128 and the photograph taken by Petrie (Figure 13.14). 24. In the early twentieth century these were referred to as the “Two Virgins,” although not locally (Griffith 1927: 194; Osman and Edwards 2011: 350). Griffith described the location of the stela on the hill but did not otherwise comment on the relationship between the monument and the surrounding landscape. 25. This figure was estimated from a 3D model generated using drone imagery taken by Katie Simon at Nauri. 26. See, e.g., Kreppner 2002; Shafer 2007; Glatz and Plourde 2011; Ullmann 2014; Canepa 2014; and Da Riva 2015.

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