[The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) brings you the thirteenth in a series of “Peer-Reviewed Article Reviews” in which we present a collection of journals and their articles concerned with the Middle East and Arab world. This series will be published seasonally. Each issue will comprise one-to-three parts, depending on the number of articles included.]


Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (Volume 83, Issue 2)

Ḥusayn b. ʿAbd al-Ṣamad al-ʿĀmilī’s draft letter to his teacher: The culture of scholarly correspondence and the Islamic republic of letters in the sixteenth century

By: Devin J. Stewart

Abstract: This study focuses on a draft letter by Ḥusayn b. ʿAbd al-Ṣamad al-ʿĀmilī (d. 984/1576) for his teacher Zayn al-Dīn al-ʿĀmilī (d. 965/1558); both were prominent Twelver Shiite jurists from the region of Jabal ʿĀmil in what is now Lebanon. Yūsuf Ṭabājah, who first published the text, argued that Ḥusayn wrote the letter while he was in Iraq c. 957/1550 and that it describes Zayn al-Dīn’s legal work al-Rawḍah al-bahiyyah. It is argued here that the book in question is more likely Zayn al-Dīn’s work Tamhīd al-qawāʿid, on legal and grammatical maxims, and that the letter dates to c. 958/1551. The text provides insight into the relationship between Ḥusayn and Zayn al-Dīn and the culture of scholarly correspondence.

BM 30617: An astronomical diary from the reign of Antiochus and his son Antiochus

By: Yasuyuki Mitsuma

Abstract: This is the first publication of the astronomical diary BM 30617 from Babylon. This clay tablet shows an example of “preliminary diaries”, which record primary observations of the sky and, if any, the Euphrates for one month or less. The cuneiform text of BM 30617 shows the primary day-by-day observations of the sky over the first four days of the Babylonian month IX (Kislīm). The recorded phenomena are dated to an unknown year during the joint kingship of Antiochus and his son (or stepson), also named Antiochus, of the Seleucid dynasty. Some clues in the diary, however, help us to narrow down the candidates for the year to which our month IX belongs.

Backgammon and cosmology at the Sasanian court

By: Iain Gardner

Abstract: The Middle Persian text The Explanation of Chess and the Invention of Backgammon (WČ) is dated to the reign of Xusrō I. It describes a contest between the Persian and Indian kings represented by their leading wise men. The famous sage Wuzurgmihr defeats his Indian counterpart at chess and invents the game of backgammon, the board being given cosmological significance with the turning of the counters and roll of the die corresponding to fate. This article presents a new textual source where many of the same themes are evident: the courtly context, the competition between rival sages from Persia and India, the interpretation in terms of cosmology and fate. However, this new source is from the fourth century ce or earlier and the personages involved are different, raising vital questions about the history of the topic and its development in Persian and other late antique literatures.


Dead Sea Discoveries (Volume 27, Issue 1)

Priesthood and Cult in the Visions of Amram: A Critical Evaluation of Its Attitudes toward the Contemporary Temple Establishment in Jerusalem

By: Robert Jones

Abstract: This paper evaluates the attitudes toward the contemporary Jerusalem priesthood and cult on evidence in the Visions of Amram. To the extent that this issue has been treated, scholars have generally argued that the Visions of Amram originated among groups that were hostile to the Aaronid priesthood. Such treatments, however, have left some of the most germane fragments unexamined, several of which deal directly with matters pertaining to the cult, Aaron, and his offspring (4Q547 5 1–3; 8 2–4; 9 5–7; 4Q545 4 16–19). My study incorporates these fragments into the larger discussion, and in so doing demonstrates that many of the views expressed in the secondary literature require revision. My analysis shows that, though the social location of the Visions of Amram is difficult to determine, we should not be too quick to dismiss the possibility that the writer was a supporter of the contemporary status quo in the temple, given the elevated status afforded to both Aaron and his eternal posterity throughout the text.

The Impurity of Stone Vessels in 11QTa and CD in Light of the Chalk Vessel Finds at Kh. Qumran

By: Yonatan Adler

Abstract: Scholars have argued that 11QTa and CD view stone vessels as susceptible to impurity. Chalk vessel finds at Kh. Qumran have presented a challenge to this idea, and solutions to date have been unsatisfying. The recent publication of final reports on these finds invites us to reconsider both the archaeological and textual evidence relating to the ritual status of stone vessels at Qumran. The typological profile of the Kh. Qumran assemblage parallels that found at Jewish sites elsewhere. It will be argued that both 11QTa and CD viewed stone vessels as unsusceptible to most kinds of ritual impurity—apart from corpse impurity. The pentateuchal basis for this understanding will be elucidated, and it will be argued that the position of 11QTa and CD on the matter was common among contemporary Jews. The foregoing will allow an investigation into the origins of the chalk vessel industry in the late 1st century BCE.


Iran (Volume 58, Issue 2)

Cutting the Mustard: New Insights Into the Plant Economy of Late Neolithic Tepe Khaleseh (Iran)

By: Jade Whitlam , Hamid Reza Valipour, Michael Charles

Abstract: Excavations at Tepe Khaleseh, a small-settlement mound in the Zanjan Province of northwest Iran, have uncovered numerous structures dating to the second half of the sixth millennium B.C., including a pottery kiln. The charred plant remains recovered from the site provide evidence for the cultivation of a diverse spectrum of cereals, along with pulses, which are rare at contemporary sites in the region. Analysis of the archaeobotanical assemblage has also permitted a reconstruction of fuel use at the site, with wild mustards identified as having played a key role in the settlement’s fuel economy. The results presented here expand significantly on our understanding of plant management in northern Iran during the Late Neolithic, a period when we see the spread of farming out of the Fertile Crescent and into Eurasia.

Sequential Casting Using Multiple Materials: A Bronze Age “Royal Sceptre” From the Halil Rud Valley (Kerman, Iran)

By: Nasir Eskandari , Francois Desset , Lara Maritan , Arnaldo Cherubini, Massimo Vidale

Abstract: This paper deals with a unique artefact currently on exhibit at the archaeological Museum of Jiroft (Kerman, Iran), a large-sized copper or bronze staff inlaid with shell mosaics of contrasting colours. Unfortunately, as it was confiscated with many other objects by the Iranian security forces from illegal excavators, nothing is known of the whereabouts or context of its discovery. It might be one of the largest copper artefacts ever found in Bronze Age sites of the eastern Iranian Plateau. Because of its form, such a unusually elaborated, costly and visually imposing staff must have performed a highly formal symbolic function, hence the hypothetical label of “royal sceptre” (in quotes) proposed in the title. The authors attempt a reconstruction of the original form and manufacturing sequence of this large artefact, discussing its role in the poorly known landscape of the protohistoric metallurgy of south-eastern Iran.

Locating the Ancient Toponym of “Kindāu”: The Recognition of an Indo-European God in the Assyrian Inscriptions of the Seventh Century BC

By: Iraj Rezaie

Abstract: “Kindāu” is the name of an ancient fortress located in the west of Iran, which has been mentioned three times in the inscriptions of the Assyrian king, Sargon II. So far, no comment has been made by researchers about the location and terminology of this toponym. The author believes that the second part of this name, i.e. “dāu”, represents the ancient god of the “sky” in the beliefs of Indo-European peoples. This new view opens a new perspective to the dark field of Median religion studies. The results of this research reveals that despite religious revolutions and the obvious opposition of Zoroastrianism against some ancient gods, the belief in the god of heaven was common in the ancient land of Medes, and amazingly, this belief has continued up to the contemporary era. The author believes that “Dāwūd” and “Tāwūs”, two main angels in “Ezdī” and “Yārī” religions, are probably, the same old god of the “sky”. In addition, the author believes that a feasible option for locating “Kindāu” is probably, the district of “Kal-i- Dāwūd” near the city of “Sar-i Pul-i Zahāb”.

Largest Ancient Fortress of South-West Asia and the Western World? Recent Fieldwork at Sasanian Qaleh Iraj at Pishva, Iran

By: Mohammadreza Nemati , Mehdi Mousavinia , Eberhard Sauer, Carlo G. Cereti

Abstract: Protected by a massive wall, but devoid of permanent buildings in its vast c. 175 ha interior, the rectangular compound of Qaleh Iraj near Tehran must be a military base – and as such, it is arguably the largest fortress in the ancient world to the west of modern Afghanistan. Investigations carried out previously have been based on surface finds and architecture and there had been no agreement on the date and purpose of this monument. Excavation, survey, in-depth studies of its architecture, satellite images and historical sources and the application of scientific dating have now enabled us to precision-date the earliest activity in the south-eastern gateway and the likely construction date of the fortress and to place it in its proper historical context. Sasanian Qaleh Iraj may have played a pivotal role in the northern defensive network of one the Ancient World’s most powerful empires and the fortress sheds significant new light on its military capabilities.

Trial Trenching and Discovery of a Columned Building in Bazeh-Hur (North-East Iran)

By: Meysam Labbaf-Khaniki

Abstract: The Bazeh-Hur archaeological project carried out in May–June 2017 led to identifying the limits of the settlement is bounded by chahartaq and Qale Dokhtar respectively in the north and south. The investigations have also shed significant lights on the structure and plan of a columned building abutting the eastern side of the chahartaq. Excavations at this area revealed some remains of the round columns that might have once supported the ceiling of a 16-columned building. Considering the comparable Sasanian monuments, the unearthed columned building of Bazeh Hur was served as an ayvān or reception hall dating back to the second half of the Sasanian period.

Squinches and Semi-domes between the Late Sasanian and Early Islamic Periods

By: Giuseppe Labisi

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to present a first attempt at a comprehensive classification of squinches related to semi-domes, in Persian kāna pūsh, in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran between the late Sasanian and early Islamic periods. This feature is a characteristic of the Persian architectural tradition: all the preserved examples are in buildings of considerable importance (most are related to the architecture of the élites) and demonstrate a typological evolution. Furthermore, their origin can also be backdated to between the late Sasanian and early Islamic periods.

The Islamic Ancient Termez Through the Lens of Ceramics: A New Archaeological and Archaeometric Study

By: Verónica Martínez Ferreras , Agnese Fusaro , Josep M. Gurt Esparraguera , Enrique Ariño Gil , Shakir R. Pidaev, Andreas Angourakis

Abstract: This paper presents an archaeological and archaeometric study of a range of Islamic ceramics (9th-17th centuries) from Termez (south Uzbekistan), a city which has been proven to be both a production centre and a trading post. Pottery was manufactured in a number of workshops located in the lower city (shahristan) and its suburbs (rabad) and is consistent with the products of the most important Central Asian centres. For the first time, the fabrics of glazed and unglazed wares and two pottery moulds from two excavated areas at Termez were examined by WD-XRF, XRD and petrographic thin section analysis in order to determine the features of local manufacture and identify possible imports.

Words Clothed in Light: Dhikr (Recollection), Colour and Synaesthesia in Early Kubrawi Sufism

By: Eyad Abuali

Abstract: Islamic societies and cultures have been, and at times still are, regarded as phono-centric and placed in opposition to supposedly ocular-centric Western traditions. While these binary characterisations have been challenged, much remains to be understood regarding Islamic traditions and their own notions of a hierarchy of the senses. It is worth exploring Kubrawi Sufi thought in this regard since it betrays a movement towards ocular-centrism in twelfth and thirteenth century Sufism.
By analysing the work of early Kubrawi authors, this article investigates Sufi concepts of sound, speech and vision in discussions of dhikr, or recollection. For the early Kubrawiyya, recollection facilitates and induces the perception of coloured lights. While much attention has been given to the significance of visions in Kubrawi Sufism, the interconnection between auditory recollection and visionary experiences has not been the subject of a dedicated study. Nor, to my knowledge, has there been a study dedicated to the phenomenon of synaesthesia in medieval Islamic thought.
In this article I argue that early Kubrawi Sufis utilised theological notions of speech, and philosophical notions of colour, to arrive at a mystical theory that accounted for the phenomenon of auditory-visual synaesthesia in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In doing so Kubrawi thinkers developed a theory which facilitated an ocular-centric framework for mystical experiences. This study will also highlight the importance of synaesthetic experiences for the identity of the Kubrawi Sufi community.


Iran and the Caucasus (Volume 24, Issue 2)

Iranian Composite Creatures between the Caucasus and Western China: The Case of the So-Called Simurgh

By: Matteo Compareti

Abstract: In the light of recent investigations by archaeologists and historians of art, several textile decorative patterns that have been uncritically attributed to Sasanian Persia in the past should be considered most likely Central Asian creations. Typical Iranian composite creatures, such as the so-called simurgh, had become very popular in Eurasia since the 7th century A.D. However, for some reason not completely clear, the so-called simurgh was not adopted by Central Asian Buddhists who, on the contrary, accepted other Iranian (possibly Sogdian) motifs, such as the wild boar head, the winged horse and birds holding a necklace in their beak within pearl roundel frames. The presence of such Iranian decorative motifs in monumental arts or objects of luxury arts (textiles, metalwork, glass, etc.) could be a valid instrument to propose better chronologies for excavated artifacts on a very wide area, which includes Persia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Tibetan Plateau as well.

Just an Etymological Note: The Case of Megrelian aӡmax-i, azmax-i ‘puddle, pool, pond’

By: Uwe Bläsing

Abstract: It is a well-known fact that the stage of etymological research forms a quite slippery floor in particular when dealing with possible loans from tongues beyond the domain of one’s specialization. The present article is concerned with a case where a narrow, i.e. an internal caucasological view on the etymology of a word delivers already a quite plausible and convincing result, which, however, in a wider areal framing, offering a serious alternative, appears to be untenable. This alternative, definitely a preferable view, focusing on the word’s Turkish origin, will be introduced through a thorough discussion highlighting many aspects relevant for robust etymological research. The term in question is, of course, TURKISH azmak ‘marshland, swamp’.

A Matter of Metals: Finno-Ugric and Northern Iranian

By: Paolo Ognibene

Abstract: Vsevolod Miller in the third part of his Ossetic Studies considered the names of the metals both in Iron and Digoron, with particular reference to those of Finno-Ugric origin, in order to determine the way followed by the Alans to reach the Northern Caucasus in the first century A.D. In this paper Miller’s theory is examined in the light of the historical linguistic data currently available.

Fluctuations in Iran-Russia Relations During the Past Four Decades

By: Elaheh Koolaee, Hamed Mousavi, Afifeh Abedi

Abstract: Iran-Russia relations are highly affected by the shared interest of the two countries in confronting the influence of the United States in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus. However, the development of the relationship between the two countries has been hampered by the ongoing legacy of historical antagonism between them, casting doubt and pessimism upon the prospect of more constructive bilateral relations. Two groups of internal and external factors are the main obstacles to the expansion of cooperation between Iran and Russia. First, the lack of economic overlap or affiliation between Iran’s dependent economy and Russia’s energy exports, and the state-based nature of both economies, as well as their cultural and social differences. Second, despite the Nuclear Deal, the difficulties in relations between the West, Russia and Iran remain a barrier to the expansion of Iran-Russia cooperation.


Iranian Studies (Volume 53, Issue 3-4)

A Linguistic Survey of Khorasan: Implications for Language Isolation, Language Change, and Contact Linguistics

By: Mohammad Dabir-Moghaddam

Abstract: This paper describes and analyzes data from a number of Modern Iranian dialects spoken in Khorasan in the east of Iran which are unusual among the other Western Iranian languages in that they have grammaticalized a split tense-sensitive alignment in indexation, compared to other Iranian languages whose indexation splitness is sensitive to both tense and transitivity. These dialects are the former dialect of Birjand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the present-day dialect of Ferdows, Khanik, and Se-Ghal’e. The findings are put in the context of the available data from the Classical Persian texts to show that the tense-sensitive splitness mentioned above is traceable in those texts. A number of external factors are discussed which seem to have been influential in the restructuring of the split-alignment of the former dialect of Birjand into a uniformly nominative-accusative alignment in terms of indexation as observed in the present-day dialect of Birjand. It is proposed that this restructuring is an instance of simplification. The three other dialects cited above are endangered in the sense that they can undergo the same kind of restructuring as happened to the dialect of Birjand.

The Perside Language of Shiraz Jewry: A Historical-Comparative Phonology

By: Habib Borjian

Abstract: This study concerns the native language of Shirazi Jews, most of whom live in diasporic communities outside Iran. The language Judeo-Shirazi belongs to the Southwest Iranian group, as do most other native languages spoken in southern Iran. As such, Judeo-Shirazi shows general agreements with native rural varieties spoken in inland Fārs. There are, however, phonological features suggesting that Judeo-Shirazi is an insular survivor of the Medieval Shirazi language, from which a sizable literature has survived dating back to the fifteenth century.

Final /n/ Deletion in Ghayeni Persian: Opacity in Harmonic Serialism and Parallel Optimality Theory

By: Bashir Jam , Pariya Razmdideh, Zohreh Sadat Naseri

Abstract: This paper explores the application and non-application of final /n/ deletion in Ghayeni Persian. In this dialect, final /n/ deletion is a productive phonological process whose application in different domains and environments is affected by several opaque counterbleeding and counterfeeding interactions as well as bleeding. This research presents new empirical data about these aspects which could be of general theoretical interest. It is also an attempt to make a contribution to current debate in phonological opacity. In so doing, it adopts Harmonic Serialism (HS) to accommodate counterbleeding opacity. It offers an analysis to survive a pitfall challenging HS in handling counterbleeding opacity in derived words. With regard to counterfeeding opacity, it adopts Parallel Optimality Theory (POT) using Local Constraint Conjunction (LCC). It discusses how POT and HS in particular could treat opaque interactions in Ghayeni dialect. In addition, this paper argues that a candidate which undergoes the same process twice in the same step could also be included in HS’s gradualness condition.

The Neo-Aramaic Dialects of Iran

By: Geoffrey Khan

Abstract: Spoken vernacular dialects of Aramaic, generally known as Neo-Aramaic dialects, have survived down to modern times in various regions of the Middle East and can be divided into various subgroups. There are some islands of Neo-Aramaic in the West of Iran, which are situated on the eastern periphery of the Neo-Aramaic area. These include dialects spoken by Christians and Jews belonging to the North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic subgroup in the West Azerbaijan, Kordestan and Kermanshah provinces and Neo-Mandaic spoken by Mandaeans in the Khuzestan province. This paper examines a number of distinctive features of the Neo-Aramaic dialects of Iran, including those that have been induced by contact with other languages in the area.

The Beginnings of Word Order Change in the Arabic Dialects of Southern Iran in Contact with Persian: A Preliminary Study of Data from Four Villages in Bushehr and Hormozgan

By: Dina El Zarka, Sandra Ziagos

Abstract: This preliminary study explores the hypothesis that Arabic dialects spoken on the Iranian side of the Persian Gulf exhibit the beginnings of contact-induced shift in word order from VO to OV. Although the basic VO order is still stable, there is some variation even in this very limited data set. Specifically two phenomena point to a change in progress: clause-final copulae and auxiliaries that are placed after the lexical verb, lending further evidence to the observation that a clause-final copula is an areal feature of western Asia. The study also investigates semantic and pragmatic factors that influence word order choice, pointing to a strong effect of information structure in terms of narrow focus and theme-rheme partition. Furthermore, the study also reveals an effect of semantic role, specifically as far as the preferred placement of goals and recipients in post-verbal position is concerned.

A Georgian Language Island in Iran: Fereydani Georgian

By: Lia Bakuradze , Marina Beridze, Zakharia Pourtskhvanidze

Abstract: This article describes a dialectal variant of the Georgian language in Iran, Fereydani Georgian, which has survived in Iran for about 400 years. Various relevant aspects of the history and research on Fereydani Georgian are analysed. The choice of topics and sources focuses on previously unknown or, for the English-speaking reader, inaccessible authors. Since 2009, a large part of the linguistic data has been collected in several field studies in Fereydan. They serve as sources and show a revealing perspective on the origin, preservation and existence of the Georgian language island of Fereydani in Iran.This article describes a dialectal variant of the Georgian language in Iran, Fereydani Georgian, which has survived in Iran for about 400 years. Various relevant aspects of the history and research on Fereydani Georgian are analysed. The choice of topics and sources focuses on previously unknown or, for the English-speaking reader, inaccessible authors. Since 2009, a large part of the linguistic data has been collected in several field studies in Fereydan. They serve as sources and show a revealing perspective on the origin, preservation and existence of the Georgian language island of Fereydani in Iran.

The Proverbial Wisdom of a Georgian Language Island in Iran

By: Tea Shurgaia

Abstract: The Georgian language island in Iran is not yet on the radar of international scholars. Studies by Georgian scholars have mostly focused on linguistic, ethnologic and historic issues concerning the Georgian community living in Isfahan province; no paremiological approach has been undertaken. This article is based on the analysis of Fereydani proverbs recorded from 1968 to 2014. Study reveals that the proverbs used by the Georgians of the Fereydan region in their mother tongue are: proverbs translated from Persian; proverbs of Georgian origin and proverbs existing in both Persian and Georgian paremiological funds. Archaic Georgian vocabulary preserved in proverbs is also considered. This paper highlights the need for a deeper paremiological approach to the proverbs of the Fereydani Georgians.

Major and Minor Turkic Language Islands in Iran with a Special Focus on Khalaj

By: Elisabetta Ragagnin

Abstract: This contribution offers a presentation of Turkic languages in Iran with special focus on Khalaj, a non-Oghuzic language spoken in the Markazī province. Attention is paid to features induced by contact with Iranian languages in particular with regard to the anaphoric pronominal stem bilä-, necessity constructions and the multifunctionality of ki/ke, providing new data on Khalaj and offering significant insights for further research.

Balanced Bilingualism: Patterns of Contact Influence in L1 and L2 Turkic and Bakhtiari Speech in Juneqan, Iran

By: Erik Anonby , Laurentia Schreiber & Mortaza Taheri-Ardali

Abstract: Most studies on language contact in Iran have focused on the effects of Persian on the country’s minority languages. There are also many cases where large regional languages such as Azeri, Kurdish, Balochi, Lori and Bakhtiari exert an influence on smaller regional languages, and a few studies have appeared on this topic. This paper examines the effects of language contact in the city of Juneqan in Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari Province, Iran, where the position of two minority languages—Bakhtiari and Qashqai Turkic—appears to be evenly balanced. The analysis is based on a comparison of L1 and L2 speech from two bilingual individuals with a different L1, as found in responses to the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI) questionnaire. Drawing on examples from lexicon, phonology and morphosyntax, the article argues that the equivalent influence of each language on the first- and second-language speech of members of the other language community is likely achieved not by simple equal status, but through the counterbalancing of regional Bakhtiari dominance with majority mother-tongue Turkic population in this city.


Islamic Law and Society (Volume 27, Issue 3)

Aḥkām concerning the ahl al-bayt

By: Nebil A. Husayn

Abstract: Although Islamic law generally identifies all free Muslim males as equal members of society, irrespective of race or ancestry, a peculiar exception is made for those who claim patrilineal descent from the Arab chieftain Hāshim b. ‘Abd Manāf, the great-grandfather of the Prophet Muḥammad. Drawing on hagiography and ḥadīth, Sunni and Shi‘i authors ascribe special nobility, privileges and customs to members of the clan of Hāshim. Jurists also incorporated their adoration of and respect for the Prophet’s family into their views of Islamic law. In particular, since the Prophet Muḥammad was revered as an individual who was pure (ṭāhir, zakī), some jurists held that Hāshimids possessed the same purity. The Prophet’s identities as an Arab and as a Qurashī also conferred certain legal privileges on members of these groups. After noting parallels to other high-status groups in early Muslim society, I examine more than a dozen laws that classical Sunni and Twelver Shi‘i jurists characterized as specific to the Prophet’s progeny and Household (ahl al-bayt).

The kitābī Wife’s Conversion to Islam: An Unusual Interpretation by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya

By: Antonia Bosanquet

Abstract: This essay analyzes Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s (d. 751/1350) teaching about the legal options open to a woman who converts to Islam while married to a Jewish or Christian husband. I argue that Ibn al-Qayyim’s preferred position is unusual for the eighth/fourteenth century in which he wrote, although it may derive from Ibn Taymiyya’s (d. 728/ 1328) teaching on the subject. In order to contextualize Ibn al-Qayyim’s view, I summarize the variety of approaches to single-spouse conversion that dominated in the first century AH, and the broad consensus on the topic that developed after this. Although female conversion to Islam has received some attention in historical studies, there has been less focus on the legal discourse surrounding this question. The essay seeks to contribute to this discussion.

Levity Makes the Law: Islamic Legal Riddles

By: Matthew L. Keegan

Abstract: This article traces the emergence of compilations of a particular kind of legal riddle in the 8th/14th century, with special reference to the compilation of Ibn Farḥūn (d. 799/1397). Ibn Farḥūn’s riddles could be solved only by someone with detailed knowledge of Islamic positive law (furūʿ), and he argues that they are both an appropriate form of restful entertainment and a kind of competitive pedagogy. At the same time, Ibn Farḥūn derived novel legal opinions on the basis of his riddles, which demonstrates that jurists used hypothetical, imaginative situations to derive new rulings. The article also traces the origins of furūʿ-based legal riddles in the more diffuse tradition of Islamic riddling and in the adab tradition of riddling.


Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (Volume 63, Issue 4)

Applying Digital Methods to the Study of a Late Ottoman City: A Social and Spatial Analysis of Political Partisanship in Gaza

By: Yuval Ben-Bassat, Johann Buessow

Abstract: This article takes the understudied Ottoman city of Gaza in southern Palestine at the end of the nineteenth century as a case study to illustrate the new possibilities available today to researchers of the Middle East by combining the study of historical sources with GIS and other digital technologies. It first surveys the main sources available for the study of this city, some of which have only become available to researchers in recent years. It then describes the construction of a comprehensive database based on these sources and ways to run statistical analyses based on it. Finally, it presents the research results on maps and aerial photos connected to a GIS system. The case of Gaza can thus serve as a model for studying other cities in Ottoman Greater Syria and the Ottoman Empire in general.

Royal Purple Industry in Lod during the Late Roman Period as Reflected in the Lod Mosaic

By: By: Amir Gorzalczany, Baruch Rosen, Naama Sukenik

Abstract: A mosaic discovered in luxurious Roman domus in Lod (Lydda, Diospolis) in Israel, depicted among other maritime creatures Royal Purple yielding mollusks and wicker traps used to catch them. Historical sources indicating that during Late Antiquity residents of Lod dealt in dyeing and exporting textiles (also Royal Purple) were reexamined. Clearly many city inhabitants were involved with textiles, and some of them had their hands permanently dyed. The mosaic hints that the mollusks contributed to their wealth. The problem of inland dyeing with Royal Purple was discussed, as well as the continuation of this industry in the area into the Islamic period.

Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 56, Issue 4)

The neglected sheikhdom at the frontier of empires and cultures: an introduction to al-Zubayr

By: Abdulrahman Alebrahim

Abstract: The history of the Sheikdom of al-Zubayr is an essential aspect of Gulf history as it closely relates to significant events that have helped shape the region. Due to the relative lack of research into this important sheikhdom, this article makes a significant contribution to the historical narrative of al-Zubayr focusing on its links between its sister city states of Najd. This paper notably investigates the political relationship between al-Zubayr and the Najd city states of Harma and Huraymila. In doing so, the article shows how this sheikhdom, has been socially, culturally and politically shaped by the Najdi city states. Hence, the article argues that al-Zubayr also occupies a central position in the political and religious landscape of that time as it acted as a de facto refuge for many powerful Najdi clans during the rise of the Saudi/Wahhabi movement. Based on a review of several Arabic primary sources, it is shown how the Najdi city states’ political conflicts were exported to the sheikhdom of al-Zubayr which witnessed a particularly violent political history shaped by the various conflicts between two main Najdi factions, Harma and Huraymila.

The evil genius of Iranian constitutionalism? ‘Bloody Shapshal’ at the Qajar court

By: Denis V. Volkov

Abstract: Late Imperial Russia’s multifaceted presence in Persia retains many fascinating life-stories of its actors, who often exerted crucial influence on the course of the history of Russian-Iranian relations of the time. Drawing on international scholarship about the Russian-Iranian relationships at the turn of the twentieth century, but mostly on documents from Russian and Georgian archives and the diaries of his contemporaries as well as his own private notes, this article examines the activities of Seraia Shapshal (1873–1961), focusing on his embeddedness both in the Qajar court and in Late Imperial Russia’s policy towards Iran during the period 1900 to 1908. The paper for the first time in Iranian studies sheds light in sufficient detail upon how Shapshal found himself in Persia and what enabled him to reach the highest levels of power at the Qajar court. In so doing, it also identifies his leading role in the June 1908 anti-constitution coup.

Domestic and external considerations in the struggle over regency in early Qajar Iran: The princely rivalry between ʿAbbas Mirza and Muhammad-ʿAli Mirza

By: Soli Shahvar

Abstract: One of the questions which characterized the first two decades after the rise of the Qajars to the Iranian throne was the fierce rivalry between the two leading princes during the reign of Fath-ʿAli Shah, namely, ʿAbbas Mirza Nayib al-Saltanah and Muhammad-ʿAli Mirza Daulatshah. The main cause of this rivalry was the nomination of the former to the position of crown prince and regent instead of the latter, who was the elder of the two. The aim of this article is to explain the reasons for this seemingly unjust decision on the part of Fath-ʿAli, and to discuss the intensity of this princely rivalry, analyzing its repercussions on various domestic and external affairs during the first decades of Qajar rule in Iran.

Religionization of politics in Iran: Shi’i seminaries as the bastion of resistance

By: Naser Ghobadzadeh, Shahram Akbarzadeh

Abstract: Four decades after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a wealth of scholarship exists detailing the failures and achievements of the ruling clergy. Such lines of inquiry explore not only the economic, political and foreign policies of the clerical establishment, but also the performance of the ruling clergy in the religious sphere. However, an important matter that has attracted scant interest is the ruling clergy’s policies regarding the Shi’i traditional orthodoxy, that is, their fons et origo. Reminding readers that governmental-Shi’ism emerged as a marginal discourse within the Shi’i seminary in the 1970s, this paper explains how the ruling clergy waged a calculated campaign aimed at transforming the flexible, pluralistic and independent nature of the traditional orthodoxy into a system dependent upon the state and submissive to its government-centric reading of Shi’ism. We argue that the ruling clergy have succeeded in establishing and making state-sponsored institutions important players in the seminary and Shi’i establishment. However, they have failed to abolish the traditional orthodoxy in which distance and independence from the state have remained foundational features.

Arab Nationalist Constitutions of 1958 in the Context of the Cold War: the cases of the Egyptian-Syrian United Arab Republic, the Iraqi-Jordanian Arab Union, and the Republic of Iraq

By: Juan Romero

Abstract: Unlike many works on constitutions, this article focuses on non-legal aspects of the framing of Arab constitutions. This emphasis on the social and political in lieu of purely legal aspects of constitution-making allows us to place constitutions in a wider regional and not merely national context, and interpret them from a not strictly legal perspective. By adopting such an approach, historians can explain the extent to which the turbulence in the Arab world in the 1950s as a result of Arab nationalism, the creation of the state of Israel, the rivalry between revolutionary and monarchic Arab regimes, and the Cold War affected three Arab organic laws in the revolutionary year of 1958. This focus on contemporary social and political developments enables scholars to explain why the three different fundamental laws examined here reflect three different interpretations of Arab nationalism.

Ethnic stereotyping and the significant other: re-imagining the Kurd in early Turkish political cartoons

By: Ilkim Buke Okyar

Abstract: This article examines about a hundred cartoons published during the decade long Kurdish insurgency in the eve of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey from 1925-1938. It attempts to assess how the relational construction between colloquial culture, the cultural construction of national characters and the state discourse are intertwined in defining the self and the other in the development of Turkish national identity. The article seeks to highlight the importance of previously neglected late Ottoman and early Republican colloquial Turkish political cartoons. This approach is crucial to any attempt at capturing the voice of nationalist discourse in the early Republican period, where the perceived image of the Kurd as the significant internal other is tainted forever by its supremacist origins.

Stranded in geopolitics: the question of Turkish Armenians in Soviet-Turkish relations

By: Ruben Melkonyan, Vahram Ter-Matevosyan

Abstract: The Republic of Turkey of the 1920s and 1930s was a complex place to live. Kemalism came to nurture and embrace a new citizen who had no other choice but that of being a Turk as stipulated by the 1924 constitution. It was particularly challenging for Christian minorities, or what was left of them, because of ultra-nationalism and the highly ideological nature of the one-party regime of the Kemalist era. Many Armenians, who chose to stay or had to stay in Turkey, were not at ease with the existing state of affairs. Most of them were still looking for ways to leave Turkey for safer places. It became a particular matter of contention in the initial years of the Cold War when the Soviet Union launched a policy of encouraging Turkish Armenians to migrate to Soviet Armenia. Based on Russian, Turkish, and Armenian sources, the article presents hitherto unexplored features of that policy.

The mystery of intra-alliance intelligence: Turkey’s covert operations in the Cyprus conflict

By: İ. Aytaç Kadıoğlu, Egemen Bezci

Abstract: Intra-alliance intelligence is utilised to collect, process and evaluate information about allies. This task played a critical role when the Southern Flank of NATO, Greece and Turkey caused a severe dispute in Cyprus which has been Europe’s longest remaining cold conflict. The Turkish Secret Service’s operations in Cyprus during its origins in the Cold War and the intra-alliance intelligence task have been largely overlooked in the existing literature. The article aims to close this gap through a threefold analysis: support for resistance, operational assistance, and capabilities and war preparedness. The investigation of Turkey’s covert operations in Cyprus between 1953 and 1970 reveals the route of intra-alliance espionage in the Cyprus conflict and helps understanding how states act covertly against their allies. The article uses archival documents in the UK and Turkey that provide extensive declassified secret documents to assess the covert action of Turkish intelligence in the Cyprus conflict.

Anxiety and imagery in Attilâ Ilhan’s poetry

By: Melih Levi

Abstract: The article offers a detailed study of the twentieth-century Turkish poet Attilâ İlhan’s early work by focusing on the use of imagery and atmosphere. The critical term in Turkish literary studies for imagery is imge and the term has acquired an unsettlingly wide semantic range since its popularization with the rise of the İkinci Yeni poetry movement in the 1950s and 60 s. İkinci Yeni’s descriptive procedures continue to be the dominant influence on Turkish poetry today and this article turns the spotlight on Attilâ İlhan in order to trace alternative conceptions of imagery which were developed concurrently and in reaction to the İkinci Yeni movement. The article engages with relevant psychoanalytic and affect theories that help elucidate İlhan’s use of anxiety as a socially and poetically constitutive force.

Echoes across the iron curtain: the letters of Münevver Andaç to Nâzım Hikmet

By: James H. Meyer

Abstract: Nâzım Hikmet is perhaps Turkey’s best-known literary figure from the twentieth century, due at least in part to his dramatic life story and flight from Turkey to the Soviet Union in 1951. During the course of the ten years which followed, Nâzım’s common-law wife Münevver Andaç sent him more than 750 letters, only a handful of which have ever been cited in biographical works relating to Nâzım’s life. Drawing upon over 400 letters housed in Moscow’s restricted RGALI archive – to which no Nâzım Hikmet biographer has previously gained access – and another 100 located at the Aziz Nesin Vakfı outside Istanbul, this article constitutes the first time that any of these letters have been analyzed in a systematic manner. The letters, combined with other archival and published materials, are employed in this article as a means of gaining insights into Nâzım’s Soviet years, a notoriously understudied period of his life, as well as Münevver’s life in Istanbul and their shared relationship across the Iron Curtain.


Near Eastern Archaeology (Volume 83, Issue 2)

Twenty-Five Years of Research at Çatalhöyük

By: Ian Hodder

Abstract: Çatalhöyük is a 9,000 year-old tell site in central Turkey. First excavated by James Mellaart in the 1960s (e.g., 1967), a new project began in 1993 (Hodder 1996, 2000). At first the focus was on surface study and survey, and excavation began in 1995. Excavation ended in 2017 and there was a study season in Catania, Sicily, in 2018. This introduction summarizes the work over the last twenty-five years and describes some of the results outlined in the ensuing articles of this issue of NEA. An additional set of results will be published in the September 2020 issue.

Integrating Magnetic and GPR Survey at Çatalhöyük

By: Kristian Strutt, Stefano Campana, Jessica Ogden, Gianluca Catanzariti, Gianfranco Morelli

Abstract: As part of the 2010 and 2012 field seasons at the site of Çatalhöyük, geophysical survey was conducted with the aim of mapping parts of the subsurface remains at the site. While extensive excavations have been conducted on the East Mound, a considerable part of the area of this mound is still largely unknown in terms of the presence of archaeological deposits and possible Neolithic structures.

Çatalhöyük and Its Landscapes

By: Gianna Ayala, John Wainwright

Abstract: T he landscape surrounding the site of Çatalhöyük has been transformed by centuries of land use and agricultural improvements. The most recent transformations started in the early twentieth century aiming to improve agricultural productivity by carrying out extensive irrigation and land-reclamation programs (Roberts 1990). Irrigation water was brought via the Beyşehir-Sugla canal system which was completed around 1911 (Money 1919), bringing irrigation water from Lake Beyşehir to the south. Further regulation of water supplies in the 1950s and 1960s included the construction of the Apa Dam on the Çarşamba River (completed in 1962) and World Bank support for extending irrigation schemes. Unsurprisingly, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence from Çatalhöyük suggests significantly different environments at the time of occupation from that of the modern landscape. Therefore, it is essential for archaeological interpretations to be underpinned by robust palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.

The Seasonality of Wetland and Riparian Taskscapes at Çatalhöyük

By: Jesse Wolfhagen, Rena Veropoulidou, Gianna Ayala, Dragana Filipović, Ceren Kabukcu, Carla Lancelotti, Marco Madella, Kamilla Pawłowska, Carlos G. Santiago-Marrero, John Wainwright

Abstract: Seasonal variation in the natural world of Neolithic Çatalhöyük shaped the organization of daily life and the social world of its residents. Seasonal cycles in climatic patterns, hydrology, growing seasons of wild and domestic plants, and seasonal behaviors of herded, hunted, and gathered animals would have affected the overall productivity of the landscape and consequently the rhythms of social life (e.g., Fairbain et al. 2005; Pels 2010). These created social conceptions of seasonal patterns and activities shaped the ways in which people interacted with their local environments and structured the timing and spatial requirements of everyday tasks.

Common Ground: Reevaluating Open Spaces at Çatalhöyük

By: Justine Issavi, Kamilla Pawłowska, Milena Vasić, Rena Veropoulidou

Abstract: Investigations of open spaces within the context of the Southwest Asian Neolithic are varied in approach and in how explicitly they center these spaces within the study. The term “open space,” for this article, refers to any space not covered by an architectural feature such as a roof or other permanent covering. Open spaces have variously been discussed as arenas of daily or utilitarian activities, shared property or communal space, places of ritual, public spaces, courtyards (yards), conduits for movement, or undifferentiated spaces.

Thermal Alterations to Human Remains in Çatalhöyük

By: Cassie E. Skipper, Scott D. Haddow, Marin A. Pilloud

Abstract: The Neolithic East Mound at Çatalhöyük, dating to 7100–5950 cal BCE (Bayliss et al. 2015), in central Anatolia is well known as a large, early agricultural village. Like other Neolithic sites in this region, the site had distinct mortuary practices, which at Çatalhöyük are dominated by primary interments beneath house floors, accounting for 83 percent of stratified individuals recovered to date (Haddow et al. in press). While commingling of skeletal elements due to repeated use of house platforms as burial locations is common (Boz and Hager 2013; Haddow, Sadvari et al. 2016), there is also evidence of secondary burial practices including post-interment cranial retrieval and the occurrence of loose and partially articulated skeletal elements moved from a previous location (Haddow and Knüsel 2017). Such observations suggest the practice of delayed burial for certain individuals, a pattern that appears to increase in frequency over time (Haddow et al. in press).