Biblical Archaeology Review 39:6, November/December 2013

ReViews: Handsome Publication Reveals Life in Persian Empire

Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria (Fourth Century B.C.E.) From the Khalili Collections

Edited by Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked (London: The Khalili Family Trust, 2012), all color plates, 294 pp., n.p.

Rarely, if ever, have such drab ancient texts been given such an elegant, sumptuous publication.

The reason is the extraordinary man who owns them. Nasser David Khalili is a wealthy London scholar, renowned especially for his collection of “Arts of the Islamic World (700–2000 [C.E.]).”

The documents published here are scraps of 30 commercial texts on leather and 18 inscribed wooden sticks that served as tallies. The documents come from ancient Bactria, an eastern satrapy of the Persian empire, and date to approximately a thousand years before Muhammed brought Islam to the world—that is, about the fourth century B.C.E. Despite the fact that documents like these had not been previously central to Khalili’s interests, he “pursued every single piece” he could find on the antiquities market. “After years of hard detective work,” he tells us, “I was able to bring together what you now see in this volume.”

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