Origins is the first fully comprehensive study of the debt owed by modern western culture to Ancient Near Eastern civilization - a debt touched upon by standard histories of the Ancient Near East but never as systematically investigated as here by William W. Hallo.
The author, who has devoted a lifetime to the study of the Ancient Near East, places the emphasis on the way the Ancient Near East continues to shape our Western world. He takes an in-depth look at the ancient origins of many institutions that are most essential to contemporary life - and most often taken for granted.
In the exploration of the "first half of history", Hallo shows that modern ideas of urbanism and the formation of capital were first developed between 3000-500 BC and that aspects of 20th-century agriculture, manufacturing and trade go back to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel. Special attention is given to the role played by women, arguing that this was an often non-traditional one; for example, women are shown to have been among the first authors in history who are actually known by their names.
The scope of the work is vast: Hallo methodically examines a wide range of topics, from the order of the alphabet to the coronation of kings, and from schooling to the calendar. An intriguing touch is provided by sections on games and on the world's oldest cookbooks.
This ground-breaking study leaves the reader with a full appreciation of the legacy of the Ancient Near East to modern Western society, in all its aspects. It will be essential reading for researchers and general readers alike who are interested in the cultural history of the West as well as the history of the Ancient Near East.