Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum and Jörg Klinger, "Diversity and Standardization", in: Reports of the Research Groups at the Topoi Plenary Session 2010, eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Special Volume 1 (2011), 1–10


From the historiographic perspective of the longue durée, the history of the cultures of the ancient Near East appear to have been shaped by astonishingly durable forms of governance or structures of authority. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that these essentially monocratic systems engendered highly divergent forms of authority, each oriented to a specific set of regional relations. This process produced a series of institutions which served to implement governmental authority in specific territories. In style and configuration, these types varied dramatically between the city state and the large-scale territorial state, yet at the same time (and this is the central thesis of our research group), processes of norming and standardization played a decisive role in generating spatial and societal identity in every type of early state. An awareness of the significance of such processes of normativity is reflected in the significance attributed for example to the utilization of texts and the application of metric standards in all ancient Near Eastern kingdoms. The relationship between local, regional, and supraregional regulations in the context of such standardizing systems and their transformations in the wake of changing political structures testify to the active deployment of commensurate knowledge in the assertion of territorial authority. A project on norming and standardization processes in the cultures of the ancient Near East, carried out in 2008/2009 in the framework of Topoi, was conceived as basic research whose initial objective was to generate a data- base that could be reconfigured in the context of the examination of subsequent issues. Investigated here is the relationship between the establishment of territorial authority and norming and standardization in the realm of cultural techniques, with a focus on metrology, primarily on the basis of reference objects bearing inscriptions pertaining to metrical units, and on a special type of writing, specifically Hieroglyphic Luwian.

Published In

Friederike Fless, Gerd Graßhoff and Michael Meyer (Eds.), Reports of the Research Groups at the Topoi Plenary Session 2010, eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Special Volume 1 (2011), Berlin: Exzellenzcluster 264 Topoi