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Ancient Near East, Volume 2: A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures

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This volume makes available some of the most important discovered source material for the historian of the ancient Near East.


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This volume makes available some of the most important discovered source material for the historian of the ancient Near East.

30 review for Ancient Near East, Volume 2: A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ian Slater

    "The Ancient Near East, Volume 2: A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures" (1975) is an abridged edition of part of the now-classic collection "Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament" (1950, corrected 1955: expanded edition / supplement, 1969: commonly ANET) and its companion volume of "The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament" (1954: expanded edition / Supplement, 1969 commonly ANEP). Both volumes were edited by James B. Prichard, and for the first he asse "The Ancient Near East, Volume 2: A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures" (1975) is an abridged edition of part of the now-classic collection "Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament" (1950, corrected 1955: expanded edition / supplement, 1969: commonly ANET) and its companion volume of "The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament" (1954: expanded edition / Supplement, 1969 commonly ANEP). Both volumes were edited by James B. Prichard, and for the first he assembled a stellar cast of scholars active at mid-century. They were well-received, although there were, inevitably, some challenges to particular translation choices, and some outright errors were pointed out (and mostly taken care of in the “corrected” edition). In 1969 Prichard added a lot of newly-published material, and new text categories or languages omitted in the first edition. Selections from the 1954/1955 versions of both books appeared in a combined abridged edition in 1958, “The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Picture; this was slightly retitled as “The Ancient Near East. Volume 1…” after the book under review appeared, but from 1958 to 1974 it was a stand-alone: I mention this because the slight difference in cover title may be confusing if you are looking for used copies: especially because there is now an omnibus anthology containing both selections, as “The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures” (2011), duplicating the old title; for this review, I’ll refer to by a compound designation ANETP. (This choice of titles was not the smartest move by Princeton University Press; perhaps they expected people to notice “Foreword by Daniel E. Fleming” on the cover, and draw a correct conclusion.) I have to say that, if you have neither of the abridged paperback editions already, ANETP is probably the best choice, prices being reasonably similar. And, of course, there are the older hardcover books from which they were drawn As noted, ANET and ANEP had a supplement / expanded edition in 1969. They were available in both complete editions, with new material integrated into ANET-3, and, for those who had the older editions, as stand-alone volumes. The volume under review is a selection of the new translations in ANET, with headnotes, bibliography, and footnotes missing, and pretty much the complete supplement to ANEP, with some limited information on the locations of the original objects, but not the bibliographic detail of the original table of contents. (I think one picture from the Supplement was missing, but it has been a very long time since I made the comparison.) As remarked above, in 2011, the two volumes were combined by Princeton University Press, under the title of “The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts & Pictures.” I reviewed ANETP on Amazon, in 2013, and I may revise that for Goodreads. But first I’m picking up on the two separate volumes of selections to post here. I may come up with a revision of the review of the omnibus for Goodreads, too. Naturally, these will all have a family resemblance: I can’t think of three completely different ways to the convey the same information. First off, the abridged editions, apart or together, can't be considered to amount to a stand-alone introduction to the world of the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"), or some of the literatures it contains, as was probably the case with the full ANET edition, back when it first appeared, sixty-some years ago. A library reserve copy of ANET was essential reading for a seminar course on Mesopotamian mythology I took in the 1970s. And competent scholars have quoted its often felicitous translations for decades; some references I have come across were as recent as 2012 (albeit in a revision of work published in the 1980s). For those not feeling up to the whole mass of material, or on a limited budget, it is nice to have a “greatest hits” version available. However, with the headnotes, footnotes, and bibliographic information gone, a reader may be at a loss for where else to turn. However, what is included is still impressive. Although technically out of date, due both to new textual discoveries and to advances in knowledge of the ancient languages, the translations included were, as the new Foreword to the omnibus points out, the work of eminent scholars, most of which stood up well to the test of readability over the several decades. And for readers whose main interest is the "Old Testament,” it can be a less intimidating introductory sampler to a topic that still gives pause to some of the traditionally-oriented. (Those who are upset by the idea that God communicated with ancient Israel in terms that people at the time understood; let alone the notion that Scripture might be a human product....) I should note that the emphasis on material related to the Hebrew Bible in one way or another, marked by marginal references to biblical passages, was not carried over into the abridged edition (with, if memory serves, a couple of perhaps accidental exceptions), and largely abandoned in the 1969 supplement). However, the translations of new material still fit into the old, Biblically-influenced, categories, which had probably helped give the book a wider readership during the 1950s and 1960s than it might otherwise have obtained. (With some exceptions, the texts are arranged by category and by language in that category, instead of just by language, with sub-divisions. Both alternatives are, I think, reasonable, although scrambling around to find, say, more of Samuel Noah Kramer’s translation of Sumerian texts is a bit annoying. So it is good to have some of the ANET/ANEP material available in paperback. Unfortunately, there were some less-than-brilliant decisions made in producing the selections. The Egyptian material, often abridged in ANET, was truncated again for the smaller anthology. (Fortunately, most of the texts have had new translations in recent decades, notably in the three-volume "Literature of Ancient Egypt" by Miriam Lichtheim, and the third edition of "Ancient Egyptian Literature," by W.K. Simpson, et al.) Missing too, for example, are the first three tablets of the Babylonian "Creation Epic" (otherwise Enuma Elish). The Prologue and Epilogue to the "Laws of Hammurabi." are gone, although they would have helped clarify why Hammurabi's compilation is now considered more of a propaganda exercise, or a representation to the gods of how good and just a king he was, than it was a working law book, to be consulted by judges. (It became a classroom text in later times, and was copied long after Hammurabi, but no legal document ever seems to mention or quoted.) Another example is the inclusion of tablets of the myth of Anzu (a lion-eagle who challenged the gods), but only those published in the supplement: the other tablets, from the first edition of ANET, and translated when Anzu was known to cuneiformists as “Zu,” are omitted, so the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. Some sections were left out almost entirely, without notice to the the reader. Sumerian literature, which I mentioned before, is largely missing from Volume 1, although there is more in the second anthology. These days, the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL) provides an online-source for almost the whole of the recovered Sumerian literature, in transliteration as well as translation: but most readers of the selection alone would hardly know that this exists, and actually is available to anyone with an internet connection — not that I am faulting Pritchard for not mentioning what didn’t yet exist in, say, 1975. Again, the decision to omit references to other publications (or digital resources), even in the much more recent omnibus collection is a problem. And so forth. Unless one has several more modern translations of the material covered — and much of it has been treated more recently — this selection is still worth getting, for the material it does contain, along with the first anthology volume, of course, or in the convenient combined edition. Especially if one can’t afford the full hardcover editions of ANET and ANEP, if available. (If you can, it does need to be emphasized there are places where work from the 1950s and 1960s is now painfully out-of-date, even for those who happen to have a little familiarity with the material.) Or maybe you can get the whole package of ANET (but not ANEP). While looking for something else — I think some even older translations of Egyptian literature — I discovered that the Internet Archive (archive.org) has a copy of the complete third edition of ANET (i.e., the text, *not* the illustrations), which can be downloaded, free. In fact, it appears several times, under the title of one or another section of the book, but all the files appear to be complete copies. However, the simplest search is for "Ancient Near Eastern Texts," which has a copy show up in the top row. (As noted above, in this complete third edition, the supplemental material is inserted where it properly belongs, not appended, as in the separate volume of the supplement which was also issued — a great courtesy to those who already owned the first or second editions.) I have no knowledge of the copyright status of these files — they may disappear if Princeton University Press objects. But having the whole book available free, even if it must be read on a screen, and is very hard to work with if you want to make notes, or check cross-references, etc., is very nice. Unfortunately, I have to report that the usually reliable PDF version of the book (others formats are available, too) was processed using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), so it is searchable. That sounds good, and is very convenient given the vast size of the volume, but the OCR from time to time messes up words. This is not a great problem when it is just the English vocabulary that is garbled (e.g., "gready" for "greatly"), but it sometimes happens to ancient names and words. In such cases, only someone who already knows the material quite well is likely to be able to sort out the garble to find the correct reading. Even so, if you are interested in trying it out, I recommend the PDF version. The headnotes are in the right size font, the footnotes are in the right places, and so on, which conversion into other formats often ignores or mixes up.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bernard

    Great source material from the Ancient world. Nothing is better than original texts and archeological photos.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Claire

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wade

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Flaherty

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carl T.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Markaki

  8. 4 out of 5

    Louis-david

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael Wilson

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Hebel

  12. 4 out of 5

    James

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan N.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marilynn Hughes

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erkol

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abby

  20. 4 out of 5

    nicole

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mouldy Squid

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sob Chui

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dominique Lamssies

  24. 5 out of 5

    Malka

  25. 5 out of 5

    Abd

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mitch B

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

  28. 4 out of 5

    Harry

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca E

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian crisp

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