Thursday, July 05, 2018

Review of Rich, Cedar Forests, Cedar Ships

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Sara A. Rich, Cedar Forests, Cedar Ships: Allure, Lore, and Metaphor in the Mediterranean Near East. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017. Pp. x, 280. ISBN 9781784913656. £36.00. Reviewed by Marcus Ziemann, The Ohio State University (
In this book, which began its life as an archaeology dissertation at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Sara Rich attempts to provide a history of eastern Mediterranean cedars from the trees’ perspective (a “hylocentric antinarrative,” as she calls it). In doing so, she includes biological, philological, historical, archaeological, and, not least, philosophical material relevant to her analysis of the cedars. Moreover, she deals with the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant, Greece and Rome, as well as the European and West Asiatic cultures of the Middle Ages, and the modern-day nation-states of the eastern Mediterranean. If this sounds like an ambitious project, it is, and Rich signals as much in her introduction. She promises to provide a history of the trees that is “object-oriented” (in the philosophical sense) and stresses the trees’ qualities and interactions with their environment (both ecological and anthropological). In particular, she wants to know how the trees’ qualities affected humans’ perception of them and how this perception in turn affected humans’ interactions with and utilization of the trees as resources. Despite her stated ambitions, I am not sure that she fully accomplishes what she intended. ...

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