Item description for Origins: The Ancient Near Eastern Background of Some Modern Western Institutions (Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East, V. 6) by William W. Hallo & Klaas Dijkstra...
Origins is the first fully comprehensive study of the debt owed by modern western culture to Ancient Near Eastern civilization - a debt touched upon by standard histories of the Ancient Near East but never as systematically investigated as here by William W. Hallo. The author, who has devoted a lifetime to the study of the Ancient Near East, places the emphasis on the way the Ancient Near East continues to shape our Western world. He takes an in-depth look at the ancient origins of many institutions that are most essential to contemporary life - and most often taken for granted. In the exploration of the "first half of history", Hallo shows that modern ideas of urbanism and the formation of capital were first developed between 3000-500 BC and that aspects of 20th-century agriculture, manufacturing and trade go back to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel. Special attention is given to the role played by women, arguing that this was an often non-traditional one; for example, women are shown to have been among the first authors in history who are actually known by their names. The scope of the work is vast: Hallo methodically examines a wide range of topics, from the order of the alphabet to the coronation of kings, and from schooling to the calendar. An intriguing touch is provided by sections on games and on the world's oldest cookbooks. This ground-breaking study leaves the reader with a full appreciation of the legacy of the Ancient Near East to modern Western society, in all its aspects. It will be essential reading for researchers and general readers alike who are interested in the cultural history of the West as well as the history of the Ancient Near East.
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William W. Hallo is the William M. Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature and Curator of the Babylonian Collection at Yale University. He holds degrees from Harvard, Leiden, and Chicago. He is author or co-author of "Seals and Seal Impressions" (2001), "The Ancient Near East: a History" (1998, 1971), "Origins" (1997), "The Book of the People" (1991), "Scripture in Context" (4 vols. 1980-1991), "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews" (2 vols. 1984), "The Tablets of Ebla" (1984), "Sumerian Archival Texts" (1973), "The Exaltation of Inanna" (1968), and "Early Mesopotamian Royal Titles" (1957). K. Lawson Younger, Jr., Ph.D. (1988) at the University of Sheffield is Professor of Old Testament, Semitic Languages and Ancient Near Eastern History at Trinity International University -- Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of "Ancient Near Eastern Conquest Accounts: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing" (1990), co-editor of "Mesopotamia and the Bible" (2002), as well as numerous scholarly articles and reviews.
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Continuity of ancient innovations in the modern world. Jan 28, 1998
The author of this book, William W. Hallo, is a specialist in Near Eastern languages and literature and is a professor of Assyriology and Babylonian literature at Yale university, where he has taught since 1962. According to the author the object of the book is "... to show how ancient Near Eastern innovations or their consequences have survived into our own day and age.", and "To put it another way, I will try to assess the extent to which our modern western world is indebted to the ancient Near East." Although the author links those Near Eastern innovations to developments within Western history and by extension the modern western world, he avoids linkages and continuities to developments within Islamic civilization and therefore by extension to the Islamic world as we know it today. Had the author done so, the book would truly be more comprehensive and valuable. In fact it would have been much easier to trace the path which some of the innovations have traveled to reach parts of the western world. I have included details of the book's contents* for conveying to the reader the rational for its structure and the institutions it covers. Part I, for instance, is based on the notion that civilization's three-leg tripod is based on urbanism, capital formation, and writing. The Appendix is very useful as the author skillfully summarizes centuries of history in a short and very readable synoptic of the three cultural regions which the book addresses. Part VII on Religion is disappointing, as the the Near East was the birthplace of the three monotheistic religions, and therefore a more thorough analysis of the religious contextuality of the region is warranted. It is quite possible that a separate volume would be needed to address this topic. One of the book's strengths is the abundance of bibliographic references cited at the end of each chapter. There are also abundant footnotes on almost every page of the book. This is a very valuable contribution for all those who are interested in tracing some of the contributions which the ancient Near Eastern civilizations have gifted to the western world and to the world at large. It is particularly useful for the specialist or the serious inquirer as a first step for more detailed information available through the extensive bibliographic references. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- *Introduction; I. Essentials of Civilization: urban origins, capital formation, writing; II. Secondary Aspects of Civilization: manufacturing, agriculture and animal husbandry, trade; III. Refinements of Civilization: travel and geographical knowledge, culinary arts, games; IV. Calendar: hour, week, era; V. Literature: creativity, genre, and canon, bilingualism and the beginnings of translation, the birth of rhetoric; VI. Kingship: royal titles, inscriptions, hymns, royal lifetime, royal afterlife; VII. Religion: the sacrificial cult, public prayer, individual prayer; VIII. Women: in law, in public life, as authors; IX. Appendix- The First Half of History: the land between the rivers, the gift of the Nile, the land of `milk and honey'; X. Conclusion: the legacy of the ancient Near East; Index.