Throughout this work an effort has been made to combine the use of documents springing from all of the different cultural areas of the ancient Near East. This procedure has its risks – a flattened appreciation of regional variations – but these have been taken into account. Major care has been devoted to specifying the origin (in space, time, typology and social setting) of the various documents used, the aim being to emphasize diversities and similarities alike, according to their actual occurrence.
Every cultural feature lies at the intersection of space and time. As the cultural traditions of particular regions have a specific character of their own, so also do particular chronological periods. A ‘vertical’ analysis, focusing on the development of a particular area through time, will point up features of continuity and evolution, and even breaks in them. A ‘horizontal’ analysis, focusing on the regional differences within a larger area in a limited period, will point up common practices and local peculiarities, and even contrasts between them.
It is possible that the ‘vertical’ approach has greater value but it is also much more widely employed. The usual delimitations of the historiography of the ancient Near East are too often ‘the Hittites’ or ‘the Egyptians’ and too seldom ‘the Late Bronze’ or ‘the fourteenth century’ – probably because of the specializations of scholars rather than deliberate choice framed by theoretical analysis. In this book the opposite strategy has been followed instead: priority has been given to the ‘horizontal’ over the ‘vertical’, a synchronic perspective has been applied in a delimited timespan.
Besides being worthy of attention because less common, the synchronic treatment seems the most likely to allow cultural differences to emerge. It