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Cuneiform Moves in London

Cuneiform moves in London

In 2020 it was announced that SOAS, University of London would be stopping its provision of teaching in the languages of the cuneiform world, which it has taught for 72 years. The current undergraduate and graduate students would be taught to the end of their degrees, but after that there would be no more. SOAS had traditionally provided the main language teaching in London for students wishing to learn Akkadian, Sumerian and Hittite, whereas UCL had tended to provide teaching in History and Archaeology. Besides stopping the teaching of cuneiform and its related languages, SOAS also brought about a reduction in staff capacity by encouraging the early retirement and non-replacement of Andrew George.

The withdrawal of these subjects by SOAS caused a gaping hole in London’s provision of ancient history of the cuneiform world. This situation needed remedy, especially in view of the large cuneiform collections currently housed in the British Museum, as well as plans for the long-term future of the Nahrein Network and closer collaborations with Iraqi and Turkish colleagues.

As a result of a generous anonymous donation secured due to the efforts of Eleanor Robson, Mark Weeden will take up the post of Associate Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern Languages at UCL in September 2021. Mark will be a member of UCL’s Department of Greek and Latin, where he will teach Hittite and collaborate in the provision of Akkadian, Sumerian and Ancient Middle Eastern History teaching throughout the university.

The administration of degrees taught across the various former colleges of the University of London has been more and more difficult since the decomposition of the university into its component parts during the 1990s. Beyond filling the gap left by the cessation of teaching at SOAS, it is hoped that the move of cuneiform studies to UCL will enable closer and better collaboration between colleagues in London, deliver a better student experience and an even more closely knit research culture. The London Centre for the Ancient Near East, which has been located at SOAS for many years, will also move to UCL.