The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, February 25, 2017

How the Khuzistan got its name

Khuzistan / Khuzestan, being a Stan, couldn't have been called that by an Aniranik. To its own natives, who were Elamites as far as we know, it was some flavour of "Elymais" well into the Parthian era. But like the Sumerians before them, the Elamite natives were squeezed between Semites and Aryans. By the middle of the seventh century, the Armenian historian sometimes identified with Bishop Sebeos was calling it Khuzistan, and the Syriac chronicler whom Guidi edited was calling this land Beth (k)Huzaye.

So Elam's name changed, between the Aramaeans and the Persians (and Parthians?), to take on the root "khuz". This doesn't sound much like "Elam". But still, khuz meant something to the world at large, like "Germany" meant something to the Romans despite that that nation's natives call themselves Teutons.

This blog has followed (through intermediaries) the Encyclopaedia Iranica, who (I assume) would know better than I. They say ḵuz meant sugar cane (the word "sugar" itself comes from across the Indus, in Farsi as in English). I pinpointed the arrival of the cane to the Sasanian era, adapting Watson. However yesterday I found Saeid Jalalipour's Master's thesis. In it I read this:

The name of Khūzistān means ‘the land of Khūz’ and the name Khūz or Hūz comes from the ancient Elamites that lived in this region from the third millennium BCE until the coming of Achaemenids in 539 BCE.
Potts, The Archaeology of Elam, 309; I. M. Diakonoff, “Elam,” In The Median and Achaemenian Periods, of The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. Ehsan Yarshater (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 2: 23; Gyselen, La Géographie Administrative de L’Empire Sassanide, 74; Edmund C. Bosworth, et al. eds., The Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986), 5: 80; Ahmad Kasravi Tabrizi, 500 Years History of Khuzestan (Tehran: Kaju Publication, 1983), 71.

As it happens I'd bought Potts' 1999 book soon after it came out and have read it. Page 309 corresponds to the start of its ninth chapter, on the Achaemenids. Although I've since offloaded this book, I remember nothing of "Khuzestan" this early in the text. As of 2015 a second edition exists. Just now I pulled the relevant chapter from Google Books and I see, to this day, khuz has not entered into it. Jalalipour's footnote serves to summarise scholarship on the Elamite identity of this province up to the Achaemenid period. It does not, unfortunately, support his etymology of the Sasanian-period Khuzestan.

Jalalipour's thesis is good, but as you read it you must keep in mind that it is but a draught of a text, not a peer-reviewed article.

posted by Zimri on 08:37 | link | 0 comments

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