The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the near East

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The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. Edited by Eric M. Meyers, et al. 5 vols. New York: Oxford University, 1997, xviii + 492 pp., vi + 488 pp., vi + 489 pp., vi + 536 pp., vi + 553 pp., $595.00.

A monumental scholarly achievement, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East (OEANE) has provided researchers for the first time a comprehensive up-to-date presentation of archaeological research from the broad spectrum of regions across ancient Near East. A board of 26 editors, working under the auspices of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), assisted editor-in-chief Meyers in gathering and synthesizing material from some 559 contributors from more than 20 countries. Volume 5 contains three appendixes, including (1) "Egyptian Aramaic Texts" (18 pp.), (2) "Chronologies" (6 pp.) and (3) "Maps" (13 pp.). Concluding the volume are several indexes, including "Directory of Contributors" (20 pp.), "Synoptic Outline of Contents" (9 pp.) and "Index" (92 pp.). Each entry is concluded by a moderately extensive bibliography, providing the researcher with ready access to related literature. The work complements three other recent multi-volume publications, the Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD) (1992), the Neu Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEHL) ( 1993), and Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (CANE) (1995). Unlike the NEAEHL, which focuses on excavated sites and regions in Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, the OEANE covers archaeological research in regions defined today by the Arabian peninsula, Egypt and North Africa, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey, as well as the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. The various types of articles address not only excavated and surveyed sites and regions, but also noted archaeologists (e.g. "William Foxwell Albright"), ancient Near Eastern peoples (e.g. "Hittites"), aspects of archaeological methods (e.g. "Locus"), contributing scientific disciplines (e.g. "Neutron Activation Analysis" and "Paleozoology"), special finds (e.g. "Siloam Tunnel Inscription"), the history of archaeological research (e.g. "Palestine Oriental Society") and sociological analyses (e.g. "Pastoral Nomadism").

Photographs and diagrams are kept to a minimum and are always black and white, including the maps in Appendix III (contrast the color photo plates interspersed throughout the NEAEHL). Yet, the OEANE contains an extensive article on "Photography" (17 pp.), relating to fieldwork, artifacts and manuscripts. Other kinds of methdological articles include "Balk," "Resistivity," "Building Materials and Techniques." Articles on "Roads" are included in the OEANE and ABD (24 and 6 pp. respectively) but not in NEAEHL.

On a site-by-site comparison with the NEAEHL with respect to sites in Israel, the OEANE articles tend to be shorter and less detailed. Several examples serve to demonstrate this point. The OEANE article on "Hazor" is 41/2 pages long, with one diagram and two artifact photos, as compared to 22 pages and more than a dozen photos and diagrams in NEAEHL. The NEAEHL article on Bab edh-Dhra is 62 pages versus 21/2 pages in OEANE. The articles on Khirbet Qumran compare similarly, at 4 pages in OEANE and 7 in NEAEHL. Yet, on the other hand, the NEAEHL does not contain articles on sites such as Amuq, Byblos, Qurayyah or Tell Leilan, much less Babylon, Ur or the Uratu, since these are out of the regional purview of that set. Other random comparisons of article length yield the following results (OE:ANE /NEAEHL): "Tel Anafa" (1/3 1/2), "Judah/Judea" (41/2 /2), "Judean Desert Caves" (li21), "Monasteries" (6/7), "Petra" (41/2 / 12 1/2), "Timna-" (in Negev) 1 1/2/ 12, cf. 4 in ABD), and "Zero" (3/4 /2). Some articles are listed differently, such as material found under the headings "Amman," "Amman Airport Temple," "Ammon" and "Ammonite Inscriptions" in OEANE (combined 91/2 pp.) being found under the single title "Rabbat-Ammon" in NEAEHL (9 1/2 pp. …