Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.05.06
Marc Van de Mieroop, A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC. 2nd edition. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. Pp. xix, 341. ISBN 978-1-4051-4911-2. $37.95.
Reviewed by Peter Magee, Bryn Mawr College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Word count: 546 words
As I noted in my review of the first edition of this book (BMCR 2006.09.24), Van de Mieroop has done the Academy a great service by bringing together in an accessible fashion divergent historical sources on the Ancient Near East. To my knowledge, most reviewers agreed with this conclusion. I was somewhat surprised, therefore, to receive the second edition so shortly after publication of the first.
Van De Mieroop notes in his preface that it was primarily to increase its accessibility as a textbook that a second edition was produced. Indeed this seems to be the most obvious justification for the volume. Many maps, illustrations and translations have been added to increase its ease-of-use.
These include: new illustrations of an Uruk tablet; a cylinder seal used by Ilum-bani; a statue of a Syrian deity; a Kassite stele of the goddess Lama; a neo-Hittite orthostat from Tell Halaf; an Assyrian relief showing refugees; a plan of Babylon in the sixth century and the glazed brick representations of soldiers from Susa. All are perfectly situated in the text so that their relevance is clear.
Five new maps grace the volume. Most of these are general maps at the beginning of each section that indicate the location of the major settlements. The "Documents," essentially text-boxes that provide translations and commentary on specific periods, have also been considerably expanded. These now include lexical lists, an extract from a ration list, hymns to the Kings of the Ur III dynasty, an extract from the edict of King Ammisaduqa of Babylon, an account of early Hittite history, Babylonian literature, Hurrian writings, Middle Elamite inscriptions, later reflections on the Dark Age, an Assyrian description of the Zagros mountains, King Sargon and Dur Sharrukin, scholarly commentaries, Neo-Babylonian private contracts, and the Persian library at Sippar. These are very useful additions, especially since Van de Mieroop provides a full bibliography for the translations that he has quoted.
The "Suggested Readings" at the back of the book are greatly increased in number, which is also very welcome.
There are also textual changes that reflect new archaeological discoveries. For example the discussion on the Uruk Expansion (p. 37) now includes reference to the presence of beveled rim bowls from Miri Qalat in Pakistan and to the on-going excavations at Nurabad in southern Iran. This is not only important for issues of accuracy, but it also serves the purpose of reinforcing the point that archaeological research is still occurring outside of southern Mesopotamia that has a direct bearing on developments throughout the region.
Some of the issues raised in my review of the first edition still stand: There is very little discussion of the Sabaean Empire/State, and the section on the Achaemenid Empire still seems somewhat short (although it has increased by two pages from 13 in the first edition to 15 in the second).
Maybe the third edition will address these two points.
In the end, the additions to this volume have only added to its immense worth as both a textbook and a scholarly volume. Those who have not purchased the book before will be rewarded by its acquisition. Fortunately the price for the second edition softcover ($37.95) is not so excessive as to dissuade those who bought the first edition from purchasing the second as well.