Ancient Knowledge Networks
A Social Geography of Cuneiform Scholarship in First-Millennium Assyria and Babylonia
Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.
Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria and Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.
Praise for Ancient Knowledge Networks
'Eleanor Robson’s Ancient Knowledge Networks offers a fascinating portrait of the social and geographical life of cuneiform scholarship, scribal learning, or ṭupšarrūtu. It examines high cuneiform culture in the terms of the texts' own taxonomies of knowledge, while taking full account of relevant archaeological evidence and employing micro- and macro-geographical analysis. A lucid presentation of new ideas concerning the Assyrian and Babylonian first-millennium intelligentsia and their patrons, Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book for cuneiformists as well as non-specialist readers outside the ancient Middle Eastern fields.'
Francesca Rochberg, University of California, Berkeley