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Sarit Paz: Drums, Women, and Goddesses; Drumming and Gender in Iron Age II Israel.

Sarit Paz: Drums, Women, and Goddesses; Drumming and Gender in Iron Age II Israel. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, vol. 232. Fribourg: Academic Press and Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: 2007. xii, 156 pages. ISBN 978-3-72781610-9.

This book, published in 2007, is an updated version of the author's thesis for the M.A. degree at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University. (The 2003 thesis is written in Hebrew under the title, Drums, Women and Goddesses, Drumming and its Meaning in Iron Age II Israel in Light of the Archaeological Finds.) The present book aims to present and interpret the gender aspects of drum playing traditions in Iron Age Israel, based on clay figurines assumed to be female drummers found in various archaeological sites. It has nine chapters; chapter 1 serves as an introduction; chapter 2 presents the archeological data on the items that were included in this research; the following chapters discuss different aspects concerning the findings; and the ninth chapter brings forward the conclusions the author came to during her work.

Chapter 1, the introduction, is divided into eight parts: the topic; the aim; a short survey on archaeomusical research in Eretz-Israel, an explanation of the so called gender archaeology, a short discussion on the methodology used for this work; very short discussions on the chronological and the spatial framework of the issue under investigation; and a very short discussion concerning music and in particular the drum as a musical instrument.

Chapter 2, "Archaeological data-catalogue of figurines", includes information about 98 items divided into three groups of archaeological findings: L plaque figurines of a woman holding a round object; 2. hollow, conical figurines of women holding a drum; and 3. drummer figurines of hybrid character.

Chapter 3, "Analysis of the archaeological data" includes an explanation as well as information on each of the groups defined in chapter 2, such as dating, a short history of research, and the archaeological context. At the end of this chapter there is a very short summary on the parallels to ensembles of musicians from the ancient Near East.

In chapter 4, "Identifying the figures and round object in the figurines," the author further discusses the 98 items and divides them again into three main groups: the plaque figurines, figurines of the Phoenician type, and hybrid figurines. In each discussion she first tries to identify the round object in the item as a drum and then she tries to identify the figure and its gender.

Chapter 5, "Drumming in the Old Testament" is a very short chapter (four pages) on the appearances of the drum in the Old Testament.

Chapter 6, "Drumming in Eretz-Israel in the Iron Age - Who were the musicians and what were the contexts of their performance?" discusses the phenomena of music played by women in Iron Age II.

Chapter 7, "The social context of the women drumming traditions" has two main parts: the first includes geopolitical assumptions arising from the findings concerning the differences between the kingdom of Israel and that of Judea. The second part deals with several issues concerning different aspects of the role of women in relation to drumming, and attempts to survey the position of women both in society and cult in Israel in Iron Age II. There is also a far too short discussion about goddesses in the cult in Iron Age II.

Chapter 8, "The purpose, use, and meaning of the figurines" aims giving an explanation for the different groups of figurines listed in chapter 4, and attempts from the drummer figurines to define the status of women.

Chapter 9, "Conclusions" also includes a short summary.

This work is interesting because it is concentrated on a certain aspect of urban life during the early Bronze Age of Israel that is seldom discussed. The author writes that when translating her M.A. thesis to English, she added several new figurines to the catalogue, which were unavailable to her previously, and updated the bibliography (xi). I assume that in the four years intervening between the completion of the thesis and publication of the book, some new thoughts, assumptions or even conclusions would have been presented by other scholars, which I would expect to see as a part of the "updating" of the book. Furthermore, if new figurines are included in this updated version, it would be interesting to know whether or not these findings have influenced the conclusions and estimations the author came to in her work. However, no major differences can be found between the thesis of 2003 and this book, aside from the different language they were written in, and some extra details in the bibliography.

Although chapter 3 provides an explanation of each of four groups of findings, there is no detailed individual description of each of the findings.

The author begins chapter 5 by saying: "The Old Testament is the sole literary source in our disposal providing information about drumming in Eretz-Israel" (p. 82). It would have been interesting to know which primary sources the writer has examined to come to such a conclusion. Furthermore, it is too short a treatment of the drum in the Old Testament. She treats the texts from the OT very superficially. As "the sole literary source," it should have received much more thorough attention and a wider discussion. The survey is lacking in details and there is no in-depth study of the sources.

Although chapter 7 deals with interesting issues, the author does not pay attention to sources connected to these issues, and rather concentrates mostly on her own findings. By doing so she makes it impossible to define her conclusions on this matter as results; they should more cautiously be defined as assumptions.

As the author remarks in the first page of her work:
   Music is produced by means of instruments, but few have survived,
   and their state of preservation is poor ... apart from the
   occasional instruments which have survived, archaeological
   excavations have yielded numerous artifacts depicting musicians and
   their instruments ...

The fact that poor material has survived from that period in Israel did not dissuade the author from starting an investigation on this topic, and for this she must be given credit. Otherwise, many topics would not be investigated because of poor material. However, one expects a researcher who investigates an issue with poor availability of material to expand his tools and compare his data with sources from related areas, in order to recheck his findings and conclusions. This work lacks such an investigation and therefore it does not answer to the promises its title makes.

When for completion of one's findings, one studies other fields than the one central to the examination (as in this case the drum in the OT) one has to study the ancillary source carefully and sometimes (as in this case) use new tools of investigation. Therefore the lack of a detailed study of the texts of the OT in which the Hebrew word for drum tof appears, is at least, disturbing, and perhaps information on this matter and other similar topics would have changed some assumptions and conclusions presented in this study.

In addition to treating ancillary sources, such as the OT, in insufficient depth, the author also discusses issues that have importance in the fields of anthropology and religion, but which are not directly related to the subject of this study, and which are of no help to the progress of this study.

The author frequently uses generalizations concerning other works such as "studies, researchers, scholars have proposed," etc., with no specification of their names.

On p. 89 the author writes:
   In sum, the archaeological finds appear to show that drumming is a
   musical genre reserved exclusively to women, who performed in
   diverse settings, not necessarily cultic. They also played drums
   within a group framework.

This is all nice and clear. The problem is that the author herself in other parts of her book discusses archaeological finds and Biblical texts that prove otherwise, i.e., that drumming was not reserved exclusively to women, as for example on p. 96:
   As to the written sources pertaining to the finds from
   Eretz-Israel, in the Old Testament women drummers do not appear in
   cultic contexts. In descriptions of music-making in such contexts,
   the drum occurs as part of an ensemble which includes other
   instruments, and the players themselves are apparently male. The
   absence of any biblical reference to women drummers (p. 97) in a
   cultic context, and the fact that we have no extra-biblical sources
   at our disposal in which drumming is mentioned, impedes our
   interpretation of the finds. However, there is evidence in
   Eretz-Israel of this period of a goddess cult alongside that of the
   male god-a cult in which women were actively involved. It is
   possible that women played drums within its framework, as was
   customary elsewhere in the region. (...)

   An Egyptian tradition ascribes the invention of the drum to Thoth
   ... but the only gods who actually appear with drums in their hands
   are Bes and Anubis ... Although these are male gods, they have
   functions associated with the female world.

And p. 104: "... The drum was also played in cultic ensembles whose musicians were men."

The author further bases her conclusions on many assumptions and very few concrete proofs. For example, on pp. 93-94:
   One can surmise that the hand drum in Iron Age Israel, being part
   of the feminine musical tradition, served as a means for the
   forging of communal-gender identity and for enhancing the status of
   those women who identified themselves with this group. In addition
   to preserving the status quo, whereby women complied with the
   expectations of male authority and ... the performance also served
   to convey messages which could promote social change. (...)

   The figurines of women drummers constitute, in my opinion, a
   material expression of this popular and feminine ideological

Again on p. 124, an assumption or possibility or theory is being stated as a fact:
   The women drummer figurines reflect the tension between the world
   views of the ruling and subject classes in matters of society,
   belief, and cult, and stress the gender aspect of this
   confrontation. The figurines evidently give physical expression to
   the ideological resistance of the masses to the exclusion of women
   and goddesses from religious life ...

The survey of previous research, both from the archaeological aspect, on drums in the OT, and on the ancient Near East, and Egypt, is lacking. The book was published in 2007, but the author did not complete details missing at the time the original version of this research was finished in 2003.

The bibliography is supposed to list the books the author has used in his study. If one adds to this list new items, he or she has to add them also in the work itself in some way (as footnotes, etc.) since the bibliography is an indicator to the reader of the material the author used, and not a survey of titles on the subject. Therefore some of the items in the bibliography of this work have no place there. Among these are: Ben-Shlomo, D., 2005; Burgh, T.W., 2004; and Tadmor, M., 2006.

This study shows the reader a new aspect of the figures, not the artistic-musical-iconographic aspects of the instrument and its depiction, but rather a focus on the gender of the players, and the reflection of this on the society in Israel during the period of Iron Age II and the place of women in it. The topic of women in Israel during Iron Age II is a new one. As a master's thesis, it shows the great interest the author has in the subject of the investigation, it gives an interesting survey, and one must only await the author's doctoral thesis.

Tal Davidovich

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Author:Davidovich, Tal
Publication:Acta Orientalia
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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