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The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture

Reviewed by M. Erica Couto-Ferreira

This thick volume gathers a total of 35 papers on a variety of issues which are equally distributed in seven different sections: materiality and literacies; individuals and communities; experts and novices; decisions; interpretations; making knowledge; shaping tradition. The thematic thread guiding this handbook is the strong focus on textual evidences and on cuneiform writing as vehicle of communication in the Ancient Near East. Further, texts are dealt with not only as written documents, but also as material artefacts that can provide significant social, historical and archaeological information. The volume illustrates the dilated life of cuneiform writing in the Near East, covering the time span from the end of the 4th millennium to the Hellenistic period, and therefore putting emphasis on the fact that cuneiform was subjected to changes and adaptations. With regard to the papers, some tend to be general, while others are presented as case studies. In fact, it is clearly stated by the editors that this book doesn’t intend to be exhaustive, in the sense of dealing with all aspects of cuneiform writing, but to offer a non-monolithic overview on different topics and methodological approaches that authors and scholars can benefit from. Although divided into sections, there are cross-references throughout the volume in order to create a sense of unity. The volume has no footnotes; bibliographical references are incorporated in the main body of the text, although each article contains a “Further reading” section at the end. A final unifying bibliography instead of single bibliographies for each article would have been much appreciated in order to make the book slightly more manageable.

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