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Conspectus Librorum - Book Review:


Rick HAUSER Reading Figurines.  Animal representations in Terra Cotta from Royal Building AK at Urkesh / Tell Mozan. Urkesh / Mozan Studies 5  [Bibliotheca Mesopotamica, Volume 28].  Undena Publications, Malibu, CA, 2007. Paperback c. XXVIII, 625 pages,  including 67 Tables. ISBN 978-0-9798937-0-4.

List Price: not submitted


In this outstanding volume Rick Hauser presents the corpus of zoomorphic clay figurines from the Royal Palace of Tupkish at Urkesh, modern Tell Mozan (c. 2250 B.C.E.) . Meanwhile he develops an explicit typology, which in the assumption that the same genres occur in the rest of Syro-Mesopotamia, will be a valuable tool in future research. The corpus of animal figurines found in the Royal Storeroom of Building AK comprises about 335 items, representing various animals. All these objects, mostly fragmentary, are thoroughly discussed and catalogued in this study.

To provide the reader with an 'essential' guideline to this comprehensive work, Hauser included an actual "Guide for the Reader" which not only explains the organization of this book, but also the way in which the artifacts are identified and classified. In the description of the different types of animal represented in the Urkesh corpus, the author has chosen to use the taxonomical names. This is by all means the best way to identify the different types of animal in detail.
The first section, which consists of several parts, serves as an introduction to the book (pp. 3-54). It is a good and solid description on the methodological approach, identification methods, typology and manufacturing techniques of the animal representations.
Subsequently there is a practical overview on comparative material from other sites and from strata that are contemporaneous with third millennium Urkesh (pp. 55-80). Additional comparisons are referred to in the catalogs. Each genus is represented by a separate section which comprises both an introduction or discussion, and a catalog illustrating the artifacts. The genera, respectively Bos, Ovis, Canis, Felis, Ursus, Mellivora, Capra and Equus, are indicated with their subfamilies, families and orders. Discussions concentrate on various aspects, including a description of the shape and body parts of the figurines, the texture and colors of the fabric, surface treatment and decoration, measurements, preservation details, an identification of the animal type, and contemporary parallels and comparanda. The accompanying catalogs contain numerous illustrations, both drawings and black & white photographs.
As far as the function of the animal figurines is concerned, Hauser suggests that they were specifically produced for professional purposes. His assumption is largely based on the archaeological context in which the artifacts were found, i.e. the storeroom of the service wing AK within the Royal Palace. Perhaps this issue, which is not the core of this book, needs to be further discussed.
Subsequent to the chapters examining and classifying the genera, Hauser included "Comparative" and "Descriptive Tables" and additionally, sixty-seven plates. The descriptive tables list measurements of body parts of each figurine recovered at Urkesh, together with the ratios and proportions derived from these measurements and similar characteristics appearing on figurines of the same genus.

Furthermore, this volume comprises a foreword by Giorgio Buccellati, director of the expedition to Urkesh and at the end there is a list of cited works (pp. 549-557). One small point I might bring up is the fact that there should be a consistency in the presentation of the pages, especially those announcing a new section.
In summary, Reading Figurines is an important and welcome contribution to the field of Syro-Mesopotamian archaeology and it will certainly prove to be an indispensable source for scholars. We can only look forward to the future volumes in the series of Urkesh / Mozan. As announced at the beginning of this book, a subsequent publication will discuss the anthropomorphic representations found among the figurines.


Ingrid M. Swinnen
Vrije Universiteit Brussel



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