Conducting Research on the Ancient Near East: A Selective Bibliography
By Jada Jones
For the purposes of this selective bibliography I will be exploring research on the Ancient Near East from the beginning of the Late Dynastic Period (Around 3500 BC) to the rise and ultimately complete takeover of the Persian Empire (Around 323 BC). Research on this grand a scale can be daunting so for this project I stick to the major civilizations and empires of the time period including Sumer (Located in what is known as Uruk), Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Both Assyria and Babylonia fell and rose again under the new empire names of Neo-Assyria and Neo-Babylonia which I will explore as well.
Civilizations of the time period are credited with the invention of many important things such as writing, a city-state government and also early democracy. The building of the first palaces is also attributed to these groups. The Sumerians also came up with a system of numbers used for timekeeping. They divided an hour into 60 minutes which of course we still use today. They were also thought to have created the first libraries with a very sophisticated system of classification and record keeping. The reasons for researching the peoples and cultures of the Ancient Near East are endless. This bibliography is a companion to my Libguide found here:
Conducting Near East Research
Dictionaries, Biographies, Atlases and Encyclopedias:
Bingham, Jane, and Anne Millard. The Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. Tulsa, OK: Published in the USA by EDC Pub., 2005. Print.
This is a beautifully illustrated encyclopedia with pictures of Ancient architecture, writing, statues, sculptures and art. A nice source for the topic although the section on Ancient Mesopotamia is short compared to the sections on Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt.
Leick, Gwendolyn. Who's Who in the Ancient Near East. London ;New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.
The Who’s Who biographies have been a favorite of mine for quick reference and this one is no exception. Leick’s Who’s Who gives us the detailed information of the specific people living during the periods. The bibliography explores everyone from the famous King Nebuchadnezzar to the infamous Gilgamesh. This volume gives a more personal perspective as opposed to just an overview like many of the sources. It is also equipped with a detailed glossary for quick reference, detailed maps and timelines.
Leick, Gwendolyn. Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2003. Print.
This is an excellent reference source for definitions and dates pertaining to the Ancient Near East. This dictionary defines concepts, customs, and notions specific to the civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. There are dictionary entries on religion, economy, society, geography, and important kings and rulers. This would be a very useful source in historical research but mostly for reference and definition and not extensive research on the subject.
Roaf, Michael. Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. New York: Facts on File, 1990. Print.
This is a beautifully illustrated atlas about ancient Mesopotamia. Roaf includes not only cultural information about the civilizations of this region, but also geography and archaeology which is very important for research on the subject. This Atlas has been used as a companion to the text for courses on the Ancient Middle East, and rightfully so. It is full of full page color maps as well as many other full color photographs of art, artifacts, buildings, stone inscriptions and other cultural items from the many ancient sites that Roaf studies. The ancient sites studied for this atlas include Jericho, Babylon, Ur and many others. This atlas would be a must have for conducting research on the Ancient Near East.
Wallenfels, Ronald, and Jack M. Sasson. The Ancient Near East: An Encyclopedia for Students. New York: Scribner, 2000. Print.
This 4 volume encyclopedia set is a must have for a research project on the subject of the Ancient Near East. The volumes follow the civilizations of Mesopotamia from the first peoples (around 4000 BC) to the Persian takeover, just as my research guide does. It is wonderfully illustrated and fully equipped with maps and photographs. This encyclopedia set is very accessible for both quick reference and extensive research. This set is very pricey to own (over $500) but is found in many libraries across the country.
World Cat Search
World Cat Online search allows you to search the over 30,000 scholarly articles written about the Ancient Near East. You can also search the catalog for books, videos and other downloadable visual materials on the topic.
Historical Timeline In Maps
This site allows you to view the civilizations and empires that lived in or controlled the specific regions of Mesopotamia from 3500 BC until today as modern day Iraq.
"Ancient Sumer." YouTube. YouTube, 05 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
This is a short overview of Sumerian accomplishments including writing (cuneiform), the invention of timekeeping and an annual calendar, and the building of their elaborate palaces and ziggurats.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Babylon: A Wonder of the Ancient World." YouTube. YouTube, 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
This is a much more scholarly video than the others. It is a 50 minute snippet of a historical lecture discussing Babylon from Ancient times to today. There are maps and images of both ancient sites and their modern counterparts. This lecture is full of lots of useful information about the Babylonian Empire as well as the Neo-Babylonian Period. This would be a good start for more detailed research on Babylon.
"Sumer, The First Civilization from Wikipedia." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
A brief introduction of the civilizations and peoples of Ancient Mesopotamia that is well equipped with pictures, maps and narration. All of the archived items shown have detailed description so that further research on the items can be done. Video is also linked to the Wikipedia article in which sources of information can be found.
Nardo, Don. Arts and Literature in Ancient Mesopotamia. Detroit: Lucent, 2009. Print.
Nardo, Don. Life and Worship in Ancient Mesopotamia. Detroit: Lucent, 2009. Print.
Nardo, Don. Peoples and Empires of Ancient Mesopotamia. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent, 2009. Print.
These three articles written by Don Nardo are a good source of culture and history about the peoples of the Ancient Near East. They include a very comprehensive description of a day in the life of a Mesopotamian citizen including culture, arts, religion, writing and education. This is a good starting point if you are doing specialized research about the culture of the Ancient Near East.
Algaze, Guillermo. The Uruk World System: The Dynamics of Expansion of Early Mesopotamian Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993. Print.
This book provides a new perspective that is quite different from other perspectives on the topic. Most historians only focus on the expansion of Mesopotamia based on internal factors, but Algaze focuses on external factors. He looks at the expansion and development of surrounding civilizations. Other scholars contend that this volume is a bit technical and should be used as a supplement to other works for a unique perspective and not as the primary source of research.
Crawford, Harriet E. W. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.
This book provides second to none historical research about the Ancient Sumerians. This would be an excellent source for the research topic, although she only discusses the Sumerian civilization and no others. The Sumerians are thought to have lived between 3800 BC and 2000 BC, and Crawford’s book covers this entire period. In this book she discusses such things as the social and political systems, architecture, and the invention of writing, trade and industry. I would strongly suggest this book for any research on the topic of Ancient Mesopotamian civilizations.
Leick, Gwendolyn. The Babylonians: An Introduction. Place of Publication Not Identified: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Gwendolyn Leick’s historical survey of the Babylonians serves to debunk (and sometimes prove) the popular myths of the ancient Babylonian civilization. She discusses both the early Babylonian period (2000 BC to 1600 BC), the Middle Babylonian period (1600-1000) and finally the Neo-Babylonian period up to around 600 BC. Reviewers contend that this is an excellent source for beginning research on the Babylonians and would pair nicely with Crawford’s book for beginning research on important civilizations of the Ancient Near East.
Leick’s book discusses important people in Babylon including Hammurabi who came up with the first law code to Alexander the Great and how his rule helped to shape the history of Babylon. She discusses art and culture, the importance of literacy, archaeological findings, religion and everyday life in Babylon.
Mieroop, Marc Van De. A History of the Ancient Near East, Ca. 3000-323 B.C. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2007. Print.
Often used as the official textbook for an Ancient Near East History course Mieroop’ s book is the quintessential source for historical research on the topic. Having used this book myself as the textbook for my Ancient Near East course, I can say that this book leaves nothing to guess. Meiroop discusses in depth the social cultural and political developments of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. There are full texts of key manuscripts (including the Bible) and several maps, illustrations and timelines. He has also included several texts written in the native languages of the times and their translations. This book is a must have for scholars or anyone studying the history of the Ancient Near East.
Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea. Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998. Print.
This is a great source for personal details about the lives of the peoples living in Ancient Mesopotamia. Nemet-Nejat discusses everything from culture, literature, education and art to family life, city life vs. country life, recreation and religion. This book follows the same time period as my research guide and looks at the lives of Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Nemet-Nejat uses the writings of the peoples themselves to illustrate what it was truly like to live in Ancient Mesopotamia. Several scholars have also reviewed this work and give it many praises (see book reviews). This book would serve well as a supplement to other scholarly works in order to gain a first person view on life in the ancient Near Eastern world.
Pollock, Susan. Ancient Mesopotamia: The Eden That Never Was. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. Print.
Pollock’s book gives a nice background or history of the history of the Ancient Near East. The book’s timeline is from 5000 to 2100 BC, covering the period before and up to the early period of my research timeline. Pollock studies regional migration and settlement patterns and anthropology in order to estimate the how and why that the early civilizations and ultimately the later civilizations of the Ancient Near East came to be. This is not a definitive book that is necessary to conduct the research on the civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia and Assyria, but it is a nice addition to get a background from an archaeological and anthropological stand point.
Sasson, Jack M. Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. New York, NY: Scribner, 1995. Print.
This 4-vol. set examines the cultures of the ancient Near East from the Bronze Age (3200 B.C.E.) to the Hellenistic era (325 B.C.E) and describes the archaeology and the history of each sub-region. Languages, religious life, governments, peace and war, commerce and agriculture, and the visual and performing arts are covered. The set explores an area ranging from North Africa to Central Asia, and treats Syro-Palestine, Mesopotamia, Iran/Persia, Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the Arabian Peninsula, and the island cultures of the Mediterranean. This is a definitive set covering a wide range of time and different cultures of the region. Some of the civilizations covered in Sasson’s books are not relevant to the research subject, but don’t let that deter you. They different articles are divided and titled for quick and easy reference so that you can take the information you need and leave out that which you don’t. It also makes for an excellent source from which to conduct further research, perhaps beyond the scope that I have set forth for this bibliography. This would be a fantastic addition for any scholarly research or as a reference guide to keep handy in the future.