ANR-FWF - Appel à projets générique 2018 - FWF

Material Culture of Babylonia during the 1st millenium B.C. – MCB

Material Culture in Babylonia in the first millenium BC

The rich textual data from the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BC illustrates processes of manufacturing of artefacts which have not been preserved in their archaeological context. This body of virtual data is exceptional for such an early period. The textual data can be cross-referenced with preserved archaeological data to understand the identity and techniques of those who made them, and how furniture and tools were used.

The technological innovations and the consequences of monetisation and market exchanges

The aim of our project is to reconstruct the material culture of 1st millennium BC Babylonia starting from textual data. Priority is given to the study of cuneiform texts that illustrate manufacturing processes and objects that have not been preserved in their archaeological context. This reconstruction of material culture, defined as the totality of objects created by man, therefore implies first studying the nature of these objects, and then trying to understand the identity and techniques of those who made them, and the way in which furniture, tools, weapons, etc. were used.<br />The historical context plays an essential role here, as the Iron Age in Babylonia is the earliest period for which it is possible to study the impact of money and the market on the production and consumption of goods. Our hypothesis is that material culture provides information about technological innovations as well as the consequences of monetisation and market exchange. It thus becomes possible to concretely assess the components of the social hierarchy of an ancient civilisation through its documentation.

The project is structured into four work-packages: Group 1 («Material culture and religion«) and Group 2 («Crafts and objects of daily life in Babylonia«) are working on the constitution of a corpus of edited texts and databases, on the realization of specialized studies and the publication of monographs. A significant part of the data collected will be put online on the website.
Group 3 («Material culture as a witness of social structures, identity formation and economic development«), whose objective is mainly socio-economic, focuses on the comparison between several chrono-cultural areas (in particular Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt) and the philology/archaeology relationship.
Group 4 («Reflections on methods, comparisons and interpretations of material culture«) is in charge of the diffusion of the project's work and news, and of the reflection on the methodological aspects of the notion of material culture in Antiquity.

Translated with (free version)

Exploitation of a considerable but little-known textual corpus, allowing the constitution of a referential for objects and techniques in Babylonia in the 6th century BC.
Exchanges and comparisons of methods of analysis between specialists of the texts and archaeologists as well as between specialists from different chrono-cultural areas of Antiquity.

Reconstruction of the operative process of Neo-Babylonian craftsmanship
Study of the vocabulary of Neo-Babylonian tools, weapons and ornaments
Material culture as a marker of social hierarchy (clothing, furniture, etc.)
Material culture as a marker of the transition to a monetarised economy governed by market processes
Laying the foundations for an interdisciplinary (philological, historical and archaeological) analysis of the material evidence of the Mesopotamian civilisation dating from the 1st millennium BC.

Series of monograph publications on material culture (Material Culture in Babylonia and Beyond)
Online corpus of texts related to the material culture («Babylonian Texts« on
Computerised corpus of terms documenting Neo-Babylonian products and craft techniques

Our project proposes to investigate the data from 1st millennium BC Babylonia to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the material culture. Pride of place will be given to the exceptionally rich textual data, which document objects and manufacturing processes which cannot be recovered from the material remains. The reconstruction of the material culture, defined as the sum total of man- made objects, implies studying the nature of these objects, but also an understanding of the identity and technology of those who made them and investigate how furniture, tools, weapons, etc. were used. Iron Age Babylonia is arguably the earliest period in which the impact of money and markets on production and consumption patterns for consumer goods can be studied. Our working hypothesis is that material culture not only sheds light on the technological changes, but also elucidates the consequences of monetization and wide-spread reliance on market exchange.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Francis JOANNÈS (Archéologies et Sciences de l'Antiquité)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Institut für Orientalistik
ArScAn Archéologies et Sciences de l'Antiquité

Help of the ANR 342,360 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2019 - 36 Months

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