A City from the Dawn of History: Erbil in the Cuneiform Sources. By JOHN MACGINNIS. Philadelphia: OXBOW BOOKS, 2014. Pp. 128, illus. $45 (paper). [Distributed by Casemate Academic, Havertown, Pa.]
This small attractive book was commissioned by the Kurdistan Regional Government to celebrate the
history of their capital Hawler, one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities, known in Sumerian as Urbilum, in Akkadian as Arbail, and in Arabic as Erbil. The author, an Assyriologist, begins with an introduction to the cuneiform writing system, followed by a sketch of the development of the town from the Gutian Period (late third millennium B.C.E.) through the time of the Achaemenids. Special sections are dedicated to the Assyrian goddess Ishtar of Arbail and to the suburb of Milkia, which played a role in the local Akitu-festival under the Neo-Assyrian empire.
The heart of the work is a collection of all published cuneiform sources mentioning the settlement, beginning with three tablets from Ebla (of uncertain relevance). Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the material comes from Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian archives, although there are also about a dozen Ur III records. MacGinnis translates a few of the more important texts, such as the Hymn to Erbil (LKA 32), but most are simply characterized in brief, for example; "SAA 5 151.6; CT 53, 637...