Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 23:2 (2013) p. 247
Bulletin for Biblical Research 23.2 (2013) 247–302 Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xxxii + 805. ISBN 978–0- 19–955730–1. $175.00 cloth.
The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture (OHCC) represents a major effort to highlight the importance, influence, and trajectory of cuneiform as a writing system in the ancient Near East, covering a period of more than three millennia. It contains 35 chapters written by an international group of both established and younger scholars who were asked to look beyond geographical or chronological frontiers to attempt a take on the bigger perspective. While the emphasis of the volume is definitely on the written word (and the complex writing system that was used to communicate it), the authors were asked to explore also territory beyond the boundaries of the word (p. xxviii).
Instead of structuring the volume by periods or geographical locations, OHCC is built around seven main themes, each containing five chapters. The broad historical coverage of the volume (within the confines of a handbook) requires an exemplary approach instead of the more exhaustive lexical approach. In their introduction, the editors underline the methodological probing of the chapters instead of comprehensively covering all available material for a given topic (p. xxx). In this sense, OHCC should contribute significantly to methodological discussions. Following the list of figures used in the volume (pp. ix– xiv), the editors included a section introducing the group of contributors alphabetically (pp. xv–xxi), thus providing helpful professional and personal context.
The first theme of the volume, Materiality and Literacies, contains five important studies. As is the case for all chapters, each study contains its own bibliography, ranging from one to six pages. Jonathan Taylor (“Tablets as Artefacts, Scribes as Artisans”) introduces the material characteristics of cuneiform writing (pp. 5–31). The chapter works well as an introduction to scribal activities for classes dealing with the ancient world. Robert K. Englund’s (“Accounting in Proto-cuneiform”) contribution discusses accounting practices in proto-cuneiform and focuses particularly on taxonomy and equivalencies (pp. 32–50), while Gregory Chambon (“Numeracy and Metrology”) highlights the complexity of the number system and its written representation (pp. 52–67). The next chapter by Niek Veldhuis (“Levels of Literacy”) invites a closer look (pp. 68–89)—especially considering the long-standing discussion of literacy in ancient Israel in which biblical scholarship has been engaged. Veldhuis distinguishes between three levels of lit...
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