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Abstract

Statistics drawn from the Shāng oracle bone inscriptions discovered in Pit H3 at Huāyuánzhuāng East challenge an assumption that all divination statements, or ‘charges’ mìng cí 命辭, be classified as zhēn cí 貞辭, and question an inflexible practice that systematically reads the prefatory word zhēn 貞 ‘test (the correctness of)’ into a divination account when it is absent. The restricted use of zhēn in this unified corpus of inscriptions implies that it had a particular and focused application in the process of decision-making. The Huāyuánzhuāng East inscriptions thus reveal a complex divination matrix that exemplifies the development of royal divination as an institution at Ānyáng more widely.

Open Access
In: Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia
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Abstract

This paper presents a reading of the chapter on laughter in Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria (Inst. 6.3), the fullest treatise on ancient rhetoric extant. It argues that Inst. 6.3 can be better understood in light of the context of the treatise, and that it can be read as a little mise-en-abyme of, and reversely magnifying lens on, the whole. First, it briefly outlines Quintilian’s two main claims to originality: his aim to educate the ideal orator, who is both technically and morally outstanding, and his thorough, but practical-minded didactic method. Then, it shows how the didactic spin of the treatise can be detected in his discussion of laughter, and how his remarks on the nature of laughter (and the laughable) characterize it as problematic both from a didactic point of view and for the conception of the ideal orator. The difficulties to classify laughter make it hard to teach and control. It is attributed the potential to undermine the very social status and moral character of the orator: it is inexplicable, and potentially dangerous for anyone trying to elicit it. Nevertheless, Quintilian treats laughter as a part of the orator’s rhetorical arsenal, which shows that it is a powerful weapon the benefits of which must outweigh its risks. This raises the question wherein its utility lies exactly, which is addressed in the last section of the paper. Drawing some parallels to modern theories of laughter allows to better understand some dynamics behind laughter in a forensic context that Quintilian only implies. Overall, this paper aims to present a case study on the extent to which the Institutio is an artful and thoroughly thought-through literary construct, and to make a small contribution to recent scholarship on the literariness of ancient didactic prose.

Open Access
In: Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia
Open Access
In: Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia

Abstract

Jibbali/Śḥərɛ̄́t is a language belonging to the Modern South Arabian (msa) branch of Semitic. It is currently endangered and spoken by an estimate of 50,000 ~ 70,000 people living in the Omani governorate of Dhofar. Similarly to the other msa languages, it is unwritten, and the survival of its speakers’ traditional knowledge rests on their ability to memorise and retain a large amount of information in the form of poetry, songs, folk-tales and proverbs.

In 2000, ʕAli al-Shahri, a Dhofari historian and native speaker of Jibbali/Shahret, published a bilingual English/Arabic monograph named The Language of Aad/لغة عاد which is intended as an introduction to a wide array of aspects of the local culture, ranging from the toponymy of Dhofar, its traditional dances, songs, poetry and proverbs, to more unusual topics such as star-names, children games, traditional land allotment and more. This paper focuses on one of the most prominent topics of the monograph in question, namely a collection of 210 proverbs. Each proverb in this collection is provided with a translation in English and Arabic, and is presented in al-Shahri’s work by means of an idiosyncratic transcription system based on the Arabic script, in which linguistic sounds specific to msa are represented by coloured Arabic characters, to the detriment of comprehension.

This paper aims at providing a linguistically viable description of these proverbs, by presenting them in a standard Semitic transcription. The transcription presented proceeds from the analysis of al-Shahri’s original recording (which features al-Shahri himself uttering these 210 proverbs one by one) stored at the Semitische Tonarchiv (SemArch) at the University of Heidelberg. Additionally, the original English and Arabic translations provided by al-Shahri are reported. These are followed by a brief commentary containing a description of each relevant term, as well as a general account of the meaning of each proverb.

The conclusions pinpoint some phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical characteristics of the material examined, and identify a number of divergences and commonalities with other present-day and ancient Semitic subgroups which bear witness to the long and unwritten history of the Jibbali/Śḥərɛ̄́t language.

Open Access
In: Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia

Abstract

The famous tomb of Petosiris (a high priest of Thoth) in the Tuna al Gebel necropolis on the outskirts of the Middle Egyptian town of Hermopolis Magna is dated by the last quarter of the 4th c. bc. The pictorial program of the tomb, decorated with painted reliefs, has no known parallels in Ptolemaic art. In terms of iconography and style the reliefs rely on both Egyptian and Greek artistic traditions. This study attempts to trace elements of the so-called Amarna style among the whole variety of cultural impacts that shaped the unique character of the reliefs. Not only the visual similarity but also the short distance between the necropoli in Hermopolis Magna and Amarna city support the impetus for looking for pictorial parallels between the reliefs of the Petosiris tomb and the Amarna monuments. Some distinct stylistic details of the reliefs find no matches in Egyptian art but for the Amarna period. Nor do they originate from Macedonian or provincial Greek art. The reliefs of the tomb of Petosiris seem to be the only extant piece of art of the Graeco-Roman period that goes back to Amarna tradition in terms of techniques, style and, to some extent, iconography. The styling of the reliefs relies on three distinct visual paradigms – Classical (namely archaic) Egyptian, Amarna and Hellenistic – and seems to depend on subject matters of the particular parts of the program. The stylistic features deriving from different traditions probably served as a special visual language that helped to convey important meanings and connotations.

Open Access
In: Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia
(The open access version of this book has been published with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.) The book proposes a reassessment of royal portraiture and its function in the Middle Ages via a comparative analysis of works from different areas of the Mediterranean world, where images are seen as only one outcome of wider and multifarious strategies for the public mise-en-scène of the rulers’ bodies. Its emphasis is on the ways in which medieval monarchs in different areas of the Mediterranean constructed their outward appearance and communicated it by means of a variety of rituals, object-types, and media.
Contributors are Michele Bacci, Nicolas Bock, Gerardo Boto Varela, Branislav Cvetković, Sofia Fernández Pozzo, Gohar Grigoryan Savary, Elodie Leschot, Vinni Lucherini, Ioanna Rapti, Juan Carlos Ruiz Souza, Marta Serrano-Coll, Lucinia Speciale, Manuela Studer-Karlen, Mirko Vagnoni, and Edda Vardanyan.
In: Jesuit Art
In: Meanings and Functions of the Ruler's Image in the Mediterranean World (11th – 15th Centuries)