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HomeAbstracta IranicaVolume 452. Linguistique2.1. Langues anciennesHossein Sheikh. Studies of Bactri...

2. Linguistique
2.1. Langues anciennes

Hossein Sheikh. Studies of Bactrian Legal Documents

Nicholas Sims-Williams
Bibliographical reference

Hossein Sheikh. Studies of Bactrian Legal Documents. Leiden & Boston, Brill, 2022. xviii + 88 pp. (Ancient Iran Series 15), ISBN 978-90-04-51997-8 (hardback), 978-90-04-51998-5 (e-book).

Full text

1This is a revised and expanded version of the author’s Göttingen PhD dissertation. The Bactrian documents which have come to light since the early 1990s include at least 35 contracts and receipts dating from the 4th to the 8th century CE. Sheikh analyses both the external format (e.g. single and double documents, use of sealings) and the internal content and structure (e.g. dating, witness lists, warranty clause) of the Bactrian legal documents. He shows that the Bactrian contracts attest a well-established though gradually evolving tradition and compares each aspect with earlier and contemporary legal documents in other languages of the surrounding area. Some features of the Bactrian documents can be traced back to the Aramaic documents of the Achaemenian period or even earlier Mesopotamian traditions; others must have been introduced in Hellenistic, Kushan or Sasanian times. The Islamic conquest of Afghanistan in the 8th century led to significant changes in legal norms, though Bactrian was not immediately replaced by Arabic as the language of legal contracts. Altogether this is a careful and well-researched study, which will be found useful by both historians and philologists.

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Electronic reference

Nicholas Sims-Williams, “Hossein Sheikh. Studies of Bactrian Legal DocumentsAbstracta Iranica [Online], Volume 45 | 2023, document 1, Online since 30 May 2023, connection on 07 December 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Nicholas Sims-Williams

SOAS, Royaume-Uni

By this author

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The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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