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.

LCANE Spring 2021 lecture series abstracts

25 Jan Jaafar Jotheri (Al-Qadisiyah University, Iraq): The Sumerian Irrigation System: New Fieldwork results from Eridu region

The study is part of an ongoing project funded by The British Institute for the Study of Iraq awarded to an Iraqi – British team consisting of Louise Rayne (University of Newcastle, Michelle de Gruchy (Durham University), Jaafar Jotheri (University of Al-Qadisiyah, Raheem Abdan (University of Thi-Qar). The study area hosts some of the earliest cities (e.g. Eridu and Ubaid) and ancient irrigation networks. We have carried out new fieldwork to investigate these water systems and mapped them in detail. Moreover, we dug trenches across these irrigation canals and collected organic materials for 14C radiocarbon dating to reconstruct changes in the landscape of the Eridu region. The irrigation systems in this region had a herringbone layout, which developed as a result of the elaboration of crevasse splays along raised levees. Crevasse splays are fan-shaped features formed when the channel levee has been breached during stages of flooding and floodwaters have overflowed through swales or breaches. We concluded that  these geomorphological features represent the  ancient farms of the Eridu region and that these were hydraulic landscapes which functioned as sustainable systems within environmental niches modified by humans.

8 Feb Çiğdem Maner (Koç University, Istanbul): Shared Landscapes on Karacadağ (Konya) from the Late Bronze Age until Today

The Karacadağ in Konya is an ideal landscape to study the development, the community relations of pastoral societies and the shared landscape. The pastures of the mountain have been used as meadows at least from the Hittite periods onwards until today. Karacadağ is probably Mount Arlanta, which is mentioned on the Bronze Tablet from Boğazköy – Hattusa (13th century BC), and describes among others the frontiers of Hatti and Tarhuntassa. In this talk I will discuss how ethnographical studies have helped to understand and reconstruct frontiers and the importance of the landscape nowadays, which in turn could help us to understand the frontier descriptions on the Bronze Tablet.


22 Feb Jacob Jawdat (SBAH, Baghdad): Looking for the End: Another Perspective on the Late Eshnunna Dynasty

The Diyala region is a major path between the north and south of Mesopotamia and an important meeting point for different civilizations, as well as a principal strategic center between Mesopotamia and ancient Persia, it is worthy of a great importance. This region had remained as a political conflict zone at the first half of second millennium, this reason making it a different nature, at least politically, thus leading to many political conflicts between the kings of the first dynasty of  Babylon, specifically Hammurapi and Samsu-iluna with the kings and princes in this region. they tried always to gain independence from the power of Babylon, and build alliances, including enabling them to repel threats that coming from Babylon. Because of  new epigraphic material available in the Iraq Museum, I found some very useful information that led me to choose this subject to make research on the reign of the king Iluni. We didn’t know a lot of historical information about the end of the Eshnunna dynasty, only small snippets being available that rely on references mentioned in the other texts. We try to make a comprehensive evaluation then re-extrapolation of this information according to the new texts including rearrangement of information referred to previously by other scholars.

 Fig. Old Babylonian Sites in the Hamrin Basin.

8 Mar Hasan Peker (Istanbul University): New Epigraphic Discoveries of the Turco-Italian Expedition at Karkemish

22 Mar Saber Parian (Karaj, Iran): New research on the Elamite version of the Behistun inscription

The Behistun inscription is famous for its important role in decipherment of other cuneiform texts. The inscription is situated high up on a precipice and has been almost inaccessible to people. This has largely prevented it from human damages, while has made it difficult for scholars to reach and close study its cuneiform texts. Over the centuries, some important portions of its texts have been severely eroded from elements and became illegible. Meanwhile, assyriologists have closely studied its cuneiform texts in a few occasions and they mostly provided its copies using methods that are today dated with less accuracy in representing original engravings in detail. Since 2013, I have conducted research aimed at providing a new edition of the Elamite version of the Behistun inscription based on accurate copies I have produced directly therefrom. In order to secure such copies, I have taken many photographs and then measured the dimensions of the inscription. The photographs were analyzed and scaled using Adobe Photoshop. This method led me to the preparation of the hand copies of the entire Elamite version. Moreover, using PS’s layer tools, I have restored damaged signs directly in photographs. This method yielded hybrid images depicting the current state of the inscription as well as matching restorations. These materials have been the basis for preparing a new edition of the Elamite version.

Link to Google Form to register for Zoom meetings.

LCANE Autumn Lecture series 2020: Text and Performance

LCANE – Text and Performance

Convened by Jana Matuszak and Sam Mirelman.

Lectures will be on Zoom. To register, use this google form:

 12 Oct Giulia Torri (Florence)

“Oh Sun-god, you are looking constantly into man’s heart!” On Prayers in Hittite Magical Rituals

There are several short prayers inserted in the Hittite magical rituals (for. ex. CTH 458.2, CTH 395, CTH 716). According to the ritual descriptions they were pronounced aloud by the performer or the patient. In my lecture I am going to analyze some of these prayers and compare them with the Hittite canonical prayers recited by the king, which are considered an independent literary genre (CTH 371-389). In general, it is assumed that these prayers developed from the shorter invocations to the gods inserted in the rituals. My aim is to discuss the possible stylistic mutuality between these two sets of texts in order to show that prayers and rituals have much in common, not simply because they are the product of the same religion, but especially because they were composed within the framework of the same scribal tradition.


19 Oct Martin Worthington (Dublin)

Interruption in Babylonian narrative

Do characters in Babylonian narratives always deliver complete, well-crafted speeches?  Or do they get interrupted before they had reached the end of what they wanted to say?  My talk will explore these questions, asking how we might recognise interruptions as such, and what the implications are – not least for performance.


26 Oct Catherine Mittermayer (Geneva)

For the pleasure of the king? The performance of Sumerian precedence debates

Most of the Sumerian precedence debates that have come down to us mention either a religious ceremony or a royal festival as the background for the disputation. Furthermore, they show linguistic features pointing to a possible performance of the text. The lecture will discuss the various settings described in the precedence debates as well as possible forms of staging.


2 Nov Richard Parkinson (Oxford)

Embodying Ancient Egyptian Poetry: Performances and Experimental Philology

The lecture will discuss the role of the performer’s voice in Middle Kingdom poetry, firstly from a historian’s perspective, and then from that of modern experimental performances. These can offer different insights from traditional philological approaches, in terms of textual history, interpretation, and aesthetic, emotional impact. The lecture will illustrate a series of performances of The Tale of Sinuhe, and an ongoing project to record this and two other 12th Dynasty poems with actress and author Barbara Ewing, to consider how performers can offer a model for translators and Egyptologists.


16 Nov Frances Reynolds (Oxford)

Warring Gods and Esagil Rites

It has long been known that Marduk and Ti’amat’s battle, most famously recounted in the epic Enūma eliš, was associated with the Esagil temple in Babylon. However, questions remain about the nature of this association over time, including the ritual realization of this battle in the akītu-festival as part of the New Year celebrations in Nisannu. This talk explores aspects of the relationship between this battle myth and temple cult, including a complex relationship developed in the Late Babylonian period.


23 Nov Uri Gabbay (Jerusalem)

Laments in the Liturgy of Ancient Mesopotamia

Laments over the destruction of cities and temples were a main part of the liturgy of ancient Mesopotamian temples in Babylonia and Assyria. These laments, written and sung in a special dialect of the Sumerian language, are known to us today from over 1500 cuneiform clay tablets dating from about 2000 BCE until the first century BCE. These liturgical laments emphasize the divine rage that caused destruction but also the divine and human sorrow over this destruction. Thus, one of the main concerns of these laments are emotions. The laments deal with divine emotions, but in their performance also reflect human emotions. The lecture will discuss these laments both as literary texts and as performed texts, and will examine the relationship between these two aspects of the laments.


30 Nov Dahlia Shehata (Würzburg)

Narrated time and space in Mesopotamian Combat Myths

Combat myths of Mesopotamia belong to the genre of “heroic poetry” in a broader sense of the word. Whether in Enuma elish, the Babylonian creation story, or in the Anzu Epic, common to all these myths is a heroic male god who sets out to conquer an overpowering monster that threatens the world and the divine order. The conquered monster represents the overcoming of chaos, which is why these texts are also referred to in German as “Chaoskampfmythen.” In the course of his mission, the heroic god wanders through different spaces of the real and mythical world, at the same time overcoming various dangers leading to his final victory. Dahlia Shehata will present a sample of these literary texts focusing on how time and space are narrated for purposes of highlighting and emphasizing special events. Particular attention will be paid to each single text’s literary as well as performative contexts.


7 Dec Paul Delnero (Baltimore)

Performing Literature: Mesopotamian Cultic and Mythological Texts in Performance 

Mesopotamian mythological and cultic texts, because they are known only from written sources and are composed in an elevated, poetic style, are frequently read as if they were like modern works of literature, known to only a small group of literate elites. In this paper, this assumption will be challenged with examples of how different types of Mesopotamian texts that have been labelled as “literary” would have been known primarily through oral transmission and of how the written sources for these compositions were used less to record the content of the texts in writing than to facilitate their delivery during performance.


14 Dec Ian Rutherford (Reading)

Religious Travel and Pilgrimage in Mesopotamia and Anatolia: Problems of Evidence and Typology

In all ancient societies people sometimes visited places deemed religiously significant for religious reasons, a practice which to some extent maps onto the modern concept of “pilgrimage”.  This must have been true of Mesopotamia also (pace McCorriston 2011) and Hittite Anatolia, although the evidence is often poor.  This paper aims to examine evidence for such religious travel in these areas. I aim to identify a number of (potentially overlapping) types, including:  1. journeys of kings, 2. cultic journeys; 3. participation in regional common sanctuaries; 4. amphictionies; 5. healing pilgrimage; 6. the sending of tribute. On this basis, it is hoped it might be possible to begin to understand the development of religious travel in these regions.


1.07-26.08: Ancient Near Eastern Languages in Contact – electure series

Click the link below for the advert for the eLecture series on Ancient Near Eastern Languages in Contact, convened by Alinda Damsma, Lily Kahn and Jonathan Stökl. Wednesdays 16.00-17.00 via MS Teams, contact to register. Topics include Hittite and Sumerian, Hebrew and Ancient Egyptian, Aramaic and Hebrew, Hebrew and the Septuagint, Aramaic and Arabic, and Eblaite.

advert ANELC

29.6, 6pm: Abather Saadoon “New Sumerian texts from Umma city”

Dr Abather Saadoon, Head of Archaeology at Al-Muthanna University in Iraq, will talk via Zoom about New Sumerian texts from Umma. The lecture will include:

1) Security situation of Umma after 2003
2) The contents of the texts.
3) The most important personalities in the texts.
4) Calendars.
5) Date formulae.
6) Seal impressions.
Zoom details will be distributed nearer the time. Please e-mail to be put on list for distribution of details.

Dominique Collon’s Library

Dr Dominique Collon is a world-renowned figure in the field of seals and seal-impressions and their iconography in the Ancient Near East. She was also a long-term committee member of the London Centre for the Ancient Near East and an amazing colleague to many of us.

Sadly she is no longer able to use her library and her son Gerard Collon has set up a webpage from which people can buy her books in order to raise funds to help with her care. Click on this link or paste the URL into your browser and follow instructions for access to an excel sheet.

Please direct all inquiries to the linked webpage.


Gareth Brereton, “I am Ashurbanipal” Reflecting on the British Museum Exhibition

29 April 2019

Gareth Brereton, curator of the recent Ashurbanipal exhibition at the BM, addresses the AGM of the London Centre for the Ancient Near East:

“I am Ashurbanipal” Reflections on the British Museum Exhibition. 

April 29th, 6.15pm, SOAS Russell Square WC1H 0XG. Alumni Lecture Theatre (Room 110), Senate House North Block, Torrington Square. London Centre for the Ancient Near East AGM and Public Lecture. All welcome.

Spring Public Lectures 2019: Gods of Old

SOAS University of London, Russell Square, London WC1

Senate House North Block, Room 110 Alumni Lecture Theatre

Mondays at 6.15 pm



the mythology of ancient iraq

 14 January Andrew George (SOAS): Introducing the Gods of Old: The mythology of ancient Iraq

21 January: Kamran Zand (Heidelberg): The Mythology of Sumer: the Oldest Known Stories

4 February Jens Braarvig (Oslo): The Mythologies of Mesopotamia and India: Are They Connected?

18 February: Gösta Gabriel (Göttingen): Ashurbanipal’s Library and the Babylonian Creation Epic

4 March: Manuel Ceccarelli (Geneva): Myth and Magic: Creating Human Beings in Ancient Mesopotamia

18 March Annette Zgoll (Göttingen): What is Mesopotamian Mythology? And How to Understand it

Convened by Andrew George, Dept of History, Religions and Philosophies

The London Centre for the Ancient Near East

Supported by the Thriplow Charitable Trust