Although we often treat the senses as though they are immutable, fundamental properties of our physiology, the way we parse our sensory experiences is dictated by our cultural context. Accordingly, the essays in Distant Impressions explore the social aspects of sensation in the ancient Near East, inviting the reader to move beyond the physiological study of sensation to an examination of its cultural meanings.
The essays in this book approach the question of sensory experience in ancient Near Eastern societies from philological, literary, art historical, and archaeological perspectives. They address the means of sense perception (such as vision, hearing, and smell) and the objects of perception (such as light, noise, and odor), examining the senses within religious, political, and social frameworks. The first part looks at the monumental architecture, bas-reliefs, and tablets of the Neo-Assyrian period, while the second explores sensory dimensions of the built environment and textual representations of sensation in other times and places, such as Neolithic northern Mesopotamia and Hittite Anatolia. Building on recent scholarship that focuses on the social aspects of sensation in history, Distant Impressions brings this approach to bear on ancient Near Eastern studies for the first time.
In addition to the editors, the contributors include Elke Friedrich, Sara Manasterska, Alice Mouton, Kiersten Neumann, Ludovico Portuese, and Diana Stein.
Ainsley Hawthorn is an affiliate of Distant Worlds Munich Graduate School for Ancient Studies.
Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Strasbourg.