History in Review
Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians. Volume I: Dictionaries of Civilization series. By Enrico Ascalone. Translated by Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia. (University of California Press, Berkeley: 2007. Pg. 368. 321 Color Illustrations.) ISBN 10: 0-520-25266-7. ISBN 13: 978-0-520-25266-0.
Reviewed by Herbert White - June 25, 2007
Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians is the first volume in the new Dictionaries of Civilization series. Written by the famed archeologist, Enrico Ascalone, and translated into English by Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia, this volume introduces the reader to the world of pre-classical Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). Offering both a historical and cultural overview of Mesopotamia, this volume serves as an excellent reference book for readers, and students, of all ages.
Within the pages of this text, Ascalone has striven to present a comprehensive overview of the region, and its history. As such he provides not only geographical information, but also information about the various peoples that call Mesopotamia home - namely the Assyrians, Sumerians, and Babylonians, and he discusses their unique history, religion, culture traditions, and art. He also details the archeological findings from which this information is drawn. Throughout the text is accompanied by copious illustrations, maps, and additional reference materials.
The text is organized thematically, with chapters devoted to:
The text concludes with a selection of reference materials that include historical tables, a bibliography, and a list of major museums housing significant Mesopotamian artifacts.
- Between History and Literary Tradition
An overview of major literary works from which historical data can be gleamed, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian King List.
- Historical Figures
This section provides information on such figures as Sargon, Ur-Nammu, Hammurabi, Tiglath-Pileser III, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadrezzar II.
- Power and Public Life
Covering the various roles played by the king, and his influence of everyday life.
- Divinities and Religion
A basic overview of Mesopotamian religious practices and mythology.
- Daily Life
This section offers an intriguing glimpse into everyday life in Mesopotamia, from the types of clothing worn to the units of measurement that they used.
- The World of the Dead
Here you will find a survey of Mesopotamian burial practices and associated rituals, and insights into their beliefs about what happens after death.
- The City
This final section is devoted to brief surveys of major Mesopotamian cities, such as Uruk, Ur of the Chaldeans, Ashur, Niniveh, and Babylon.
Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians is an ideal companion for anyone traveling in or around modern day Iraq and desirous of visiting the various archaeological sites in the region. Due to current unrest in the area, this might be an inopportune time to embark upon such a journey. However, you'll find that this book, with its plentiful illustrations and insightful text is ideal for armchair traveling. This book will also serve as a handy reference guide for students of all ages studying Mesopotamian history or culture, as well as those simply looking for a thrilling and informative glimpse into a bygone age.
The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches, by Roger Matthews.
A survey of the theories, methods, approaches, and history of Mesopotamian archaeology.
Reclaiming a Plundered Past, by Magnus T. Bernhardsson.
Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq.
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