Babylon: Wissenskultur in Orient und Okzident

In this collection of interdisciplinary papers, for the first time well-known scholars of Ancient Near Eastern Studies discuss Babylon from the point of view of the “culture of knowledge”. The volume is the result of a conference that took place on the occasion of the exhibition Babylon – Truth and Myth in Berlin. For the contemporary cultures of the Ancient World, Babylon was the epitome of learned scholarship. Yet in the processes of transformation of Late and post-Antiquity, to the same extent to which this culture of knowledge was forgotten after the collapse of the old oriental empires, Babylon became symbolic for the occult, for magic and esoteric knowledge.

As the first joint pilot project by Topoi and the publisher De Gruyter for the simultaneous publication in print and open access, this volume will, on publication, also be available via as an eBook “open access”.

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About the author

Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum, Freie Universität Berlin; Joachim Marzahn, Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin; Margarete van Ess, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung, Berlin.

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Additional Information

Walter de Gruyter
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Published on
Jul 27, 2011
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History / Ancient / General
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Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum
The ancient Near East is a construct defined by present-day scientific investigations, a construct whose temporal and spatial boundaries are fuzzy, constantly shifting under the weight of new empirical data and increasingly sophisticated analytical methods. Its objects of investigation, even those that have resided in museum collections for generations, are in flux, as the profound cultural, geographical, ethnic and social diversity of the ancient Near East threatens to drown out any points of commonality. Yet it is these points of commonality that draw us inevitably to questions of Diversity and Standardization as categories for cross-cultural and trans-historical analysis. As we look across the variegated horizons of antiquity, do these categories have any real analytical power? For instance, the introduction of a new system of measurement or bookkeeping technique or even the imposition of a standardized repertoire of pottery forms on a more-or-less subject population are all examples of the real power of processes of standardization to stabilize territorial political entities. The problem must be posed for the ancient Near East at an even more fundamental level, however: what role do concepts, methods of standardization and, more generally, sign systems play in the reconfiguration and reconstitution of cultural, political, religious, scientific and social spaces? This volume results from a symposium under the aegis of the TOPOI Research Cluster (a trans-disciplinary research center devoted to the investigation of the interdependencies between space and knowledge in the ancient world) that brought together leading archaeologists, philologists, historians and linguists in order to investigate concrete historical examples that speak to questions of Diversity and Standardization in the ancient Near East.
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