Cover image of the book Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. The cover is yellow with red and black text and blue geometric decoration.

Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East

Edited by Ainsley Hawthorn and Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel

Published by Eisenbrauns, an imprint of Penn State University Press

$89.95 | Hardcover Edition

ISBN: 978-1-57506-967-8

216 pages

Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu – “There is nothing in the intellect that is not first in the senses.”

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.