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16 October 2018 | Ancient World Lunch Talks
Leiden University

Lecture by Lidewij van de Peut:
Written to be Read. Evidence for the use of clay tablets during the performance of rituals and prayers in the Middle Hittite period

Though many ritual compositions and other performative texts have been found in the Hittite capital city Ḫattuša, there is little evidence of the use of these texts during the performance. This paper presents one clear case where the it was intended that the performer read from that specific tablet during the performance of the ritual.

18–19 September 2018 | Re-orienting Achaemenid Persia
Parliament Hall, University of St Andrews

Lecture by Caroline Waerzeggers:
Reconsidering, restating and reassessing … What’s at stake in the debate about Xerxes’ rule in Babylonia?

In Achaemenid scholarship of the last 30 years, “continuity” has been important in analyzing the nature and impact of the Persian Empire on its subject territories. In the case of Persian-period Babylonia, this construct derives from two disconnected trends that mutually enforced each other; on the one hand the attempts of “New Achaemenid” historians to dehellenize the history of the Persian empire and re-integrate it within the long history of the Ancient Near East, and on the other hand, the foregrounding of the micro-level in Neo-Babylonian studies, which led to a disregard of imperial politics. I will discuss the reign of Xerxes in Babylonia as a topic of heightened scholarly interest where different views of the Persian Empire are increasingly in contention.

11 September 2018  | What follows la mort de l’auteur? Re-Evaluating the Concept of Authorship in Hebrew Bible Studies
Castelen (Basel), 11–13 September 2018

Lecture by Caroline Waerzeggers:
Authorial presence in late Babylonian historiography

2 August 2018 | SBL-EABS meeting
Helsinki, 30 July – 3 August 2018

Lecture by Caroline Waerzeggers:
Elite shifts in Babylonia under Xerxes

The question how violently Xerxes responded to the revolts in Babylonia of 484 BCE is much debated, but scholars generally agree that his reprisals involved at the very least an “elite shift”: after the revolts, pro-insurgency groups were dismissed from their positions of influence and replaced with new ones favored by the Persian Empire. Evidence from Uruk suggests that the Empire tracked down social networks even beyond the area of unrest, in what seems to be a targeted punitive program. The selective reprisals have earned Xerxes the benevolent title of “architect of a stable empire” among ancient historians, while Assyriologists insist on the disruptive nature of this social intervention. In this paper I will reflect on the concept of “elite shift” and its application to post-insurgency Babylonia. In particular, I will argue that this de-personalized notion tends to mask the repercussions of state intervention in the lives of “real” people. The paper will identify specific victims of this abstract policy and trace their fate.

20 July 2018Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale
Innsbruck University, 16 – 20 July 2018

Conference paper by Julia Giessler:
A New Case of Cattle Theft from the Eanna Archive

Huge flocks of livestock from various temples pastured in the hinterland of Mesopotamian cities, where not only beasts of prey, but also human predators posed a threat to their survival. Although a thirtyfold penalty for theft of “divine property” (makkūr ilī) could be invoked, Late-Babylonian records from the Eanna archive prove that hunger, poverty and greed were sometimes strong enough for people to risk an attempt. Those who tried to get their hands on a piece of Ištar’s and Nanāya’s flocks were especially challenged by the star-shaped brand (kakkabtu), which marked these deities’ ownership and counted as valid proof in court. Except for the unblemished sacrificial animals that remained out of reach, namely in the safety of a fattening stable, only meager newborn ones could be found unmarked, whereas the precious adults used for breeding or ploughing were marked permanently with the star-symbol that put casual observers on the alert all too easily: Even the temple’s own shepherds were detained, when trying to leave the city with animals wearing the star-mark. One thief however used a hitherto unknown method to avoid the inevitable accuse of temple theft for a while. His allegedly pioneering idea, attested on an unpublished tablet from the British museum, may in fact have been a common way to obliterate the impact of the temples’ ownership-marks in cases of legal purchase.

18 July 2018Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale
Innsbruck University, 16 – 20 July 2018

Conference paper by Lidewij E. van de Peut:
The Rise and Fall of the Hymn in Hittite Literature

Hymns praise a deity by describing his or her qualities. This paper examines the reception of Mesopotamian hymns in Hittite Anatolia. Whereas in Babylonian literature hymns occur in many different text genres and almost seem to be omni-present, in Hittite Anatolia they do not have such a prominent place. This paper argues that the hymn was initially foreign to the Hittites and that the originally Mesopotamian hymn was not very successful in Hittite literature.

The Hittites came in contact with hymns of praise only after Sumerian and Akkadian examples were brought to Anatolia from Babylonia. Hittite scribes studied Akkadian (and Sumerian) hymns and made a selection to keep in their tablet collections. The first attestation of a Hittite hymn in a Hittite context occurs in the Middle Hittite Prayer of a king (CTH 374), but the same hymn was probably also part of the earlier Prayer of Kantuzili (CTH 373) though it is not preserved in this text. It is an adaptation of a Babylonian hymn (and prayer) to the Sun-god Utu/Šamaš, which combines Mesopotamian and Anatolian motifs. From that moment on hymns start to occur in Hittite prayers as part of their introduction, but they never became an obligatory element of the prayers, nor did they find their way into other text genres. In fact, with the passing of time, the hymns became shorter and shorter, and they eventually seem to disappear from the Hittite literature once again.

17 July 2018 | Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale
Innsbruck University, 16 – 20 July 2018

– Conference paper by Caroline Waerzeggers and Melanie Groß:
The “Prosopography of Babylonia: c. 620-330 BCE” Database

– Poster presentation by Melanie Groß, Maarja Seire and Caroline Waerzeggers: PROSOBAB. Prosopography of Babylonia (c. 620–330 BCE): an online database

5 July 2018 | Persia and Babylonia Workshop
Leiden University

Yuval Levavi (Bar-Ilan University):
Disambiguation of individuals in Late-Babylonian letters

Neo-Babylonian scribes were mostly satisfied with using first name base in their letters. That, in addition to the practice not to date proper letters, make the task of prosopography especially complicated. It is like joining late to an ongoing conversation, asking: whom, and what are we talking about? But unlike the polite answer of, say, legal text, letters simply mumble, “you just had to be there”. We will explore ways to overcome these obstacles and discuss the validity of first name based identifications.

21 June 2018 | Persia and Babylonia Workshop: Digital Pasts
Leiden University

Annelies Van de Ven (University of Melbourne):
Exploring the research, teaching and engagement potential of digitisation in archaeology

In this workshop Annelies Van de Ven highlights some of the ways that digital humanities have altered how we interact with archaeological materials. She will demonstrate how these new technologies and methodologies have helped find solutions to problems such as data-sharing, public engagement and record storage, focusing primarily on the methods of digital imaging. Showing examples from her own work, including the digitisation of a portion of the Liagre Böhl collection, and from ground-breaking projects across the field, she will present new opportunities and pathways for research.

Read more: 3D scanning and the future of clay tablets

18–21 June 2018 | Seminar
Leipzig University, Altorientalisches Institut

Melanie Groß (Leiden University) and Johannes Hackl (Leipzig University):
Tempel und Palast – Institutionelle Haushalte in Mesopotamien im ersten Jahrtausend v. Chr.

Das Blockseminar bietet eine Auseinandersetzung mit den institutionellen Haushalten der neuassyrischen und neubabylonischen Zeit und ihrer historischen und sozialwirtschaftlichen Einbettung. In Auswahl werden neuassyrische und neubabylonische Texte gelesen, die mit institutionellen Haushalten unmittelbar in Verbindung stehen und ihren fortlaufenden Betrieb beleuchten. Zum einen sind dies Alltagstexte, insbesondere Verwaltungsbriefe und -urkunden, und zum anderen offizielle Urkunden, darunter z.B. königliche Dekrete. Besonderes Augenmerk wird auf die verwendete Verwaltungsterminologie gelegt und auf die Beziehung der unterschiedlichen Textgattungen zueinander. Daneben werden die Unterschiede und Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen der Überlieferung aus Assyrien und Babylonien diskutiert werden – auch unter Berücksichtigung der Frage, welche Verwaltungsvorgänge aus welchen Gründen auch immer keinen Eingang in die Dokumentation gefunden haben.

8 June 2018 | Time and Chronology in Creation Narratives
University of Wales

Conference paper by Ivo Dos Santos Martins:
Creation and Recreation: Linear and Cyclical time in Akkadian texts from the First Millennium B.C.E.

Akkadian literature features numerous examples of linear and cyclical chronology. In fact, several cosmogonies, epics, wisdom and propaganda texts written in Akkadian take full advantage of both ideas of time by combining them in the construction of their narratives. However, in later texts, linear chronology assumes a more prominent place. I shall argue that this development resulted from a perception change brought about by the increasing consciousness of the historicity of cuneiform culture during the first millennium B.C.E.

The interaction of the two concepts takes diverse forms. They are either used in sequence with linear chronology following the cyclical one each occupying a different section of the composition, such as in the Enūma Eliš; or they are employed together with cyclical and linear time intertwined throughout the text as in Atrahasīs; or the linear time takes a more active role with the circular chronology present on the background, as in the Epic of Gilgameš or the Babylonian Theodicy. Significantly, all these literary compositions had Middle-Babylonian origins or Sumerian forerunners. By contrast, in new texts, written during the First Millennium B.C.E., the cyclical chronology is all but absent.

As this presentation will show, the interaction of both ideas of time in various texts is not a mere question of literary style. The evolution of their use rather reflects the shifting world-views of first millennium Assyrian and Babylonian scholars and the related notions of time and history. The knowledge of their extensive cultural heritage and literary tradition, reinforced by the phenomenon of antiquarianism in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E, imposed upon those scholars the idea of a linear chronology and contributed to the gradual disappearance of cyclical chronology from Akkadian texts.

29 May-1 June 2018 | Onomastics Training Week
Ca’ Foscari University, Venice

Organised by Persia and Babylonia in cooperation with Paola Corò (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice) and Kathleen Abraham (KU Leuven).

Read more: Onomastics Training Week in Venice: Names, Names, Names

28 May 2018 | Neo-Babylonian Network Meeting
Ca’ Foscari University, Venice

With papers by:
– Maarja Seire: Archival Scribes and Archival Practice During the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Periods (7th–4th Century BCE)
– Ivo Dos Santos Martins: Tradition and Revision. The Verse Account and Cuneiform Culture in Achaemenid Babylonia (ca. 539-330 B.C.E.)
– Evelien Vanderstraeten: Towards a Social History of Neo-Babylonian Women

7 May 2018Contextualizing Jewish Temples
Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Lecture by Caroline Waerzeggers:
Rotas and the administration of time in Babylonian temples

Repetition and regularity were key in the sacrificial cult of Babylonian temples. Several rotas were used to organize ritual labor in an orderly and punctual fashion: some rotas pivoted on the trimester, others on the month and still others on the fortnight. As a result of these rotas, priests were called to duty for small periods of time at regular intervals, always in a fixed order with their colleagues.

This lecture looks at several aspects of priestly courses in Babylonia (c. 650-484 BCE). First, I will argue that rotational office marked a fundamental difference in rank between higher-level priesthoods, who did not operate under this sytem, and lower-level priesthoods (mostly those performing menial tasks), who did. Second, I will present the various models of rotation that were in use in Babylonian temples. Third, as all rotas were based on the normative calendar of 360 days (twelve 30-day months), the idealized regularity of the priestly watches needed to be adapted in practices. Fourth, I will look at the wider application of priestly watches in society, and at the life cycle (creation, development, suspension) of courses.

4 May 2018 | Ancient World Lunch Talks
Leiden University

Lecture by Melanie Groß:
A network of traders in Babylonian Sippar

This paper deals with three private family archives from Sippar dating to late Neo-Babylonian and Persian times. Originating from clandestine excavations, they were identified as the “Maštuk group” (Waerzeggers 2014), which shares common origin and business interests. In the scope of the full (re-)edition and study of this text group, I am going to discuss kinship ties and the principal businesses the protagonists conducted, including trade and agricultural entrepreneurship, mainly at a time of Persian supremacy over Babylonia. This also touches upon the question of the protagonists’ relation to other business families settled in Sippar and their existing connections to the institutions temple and state, that is, the Persian court and its representatives in Babylonia.

Waerzeggers, C. (2014), Marduk-rēmanni. Local Networks and Imperial Politics in Achaemenid Babylonia (OLA 233), Leuven.

14 April 2018 | The 7th Annual Oxford Postgraduate Conference in Assyriology (OPCA)
University of Oxford, 13–14 April 2018

Lecture by Lidewij E. van de Peut:
When the King Speaks to the Gods: on the Performance of Hittite Prayers

When the Hittite royal family or the Hittite Empire were in dire need, the king could address the gods directly in a prayer. In this way he could ask the gods to resolve the problem. This paper examines what we can learn from these so-called personal prayers about their performance. It will be argued that they were performed to strengthen the position of the Hittite king as a ruler and that they were probably read from the tablet rather than recited from memory.

Our knowledge of the performance of the personal prayers of the Hittite king is quite limited. Just over twenty such prayers have been uncovered at the ancient Hittite capital city Hattusa, modern Boğazköy/Boğazkale. The role of the prayers in strengthening the legitimacy and power of the ruler is clear from the reasons for which they were composed, from the fact that they were recited by the king himself (or by someone on his behalf), and that this was done in front of a human audience. This group of people occasionally even participated in the performance. The little evidence there is for ritual acts accompanying the recital of a prayer shows that offerings were presented to the gods to ascertain their presence. Finally, for one prayer within a ritual it will be demonstrated that the text to be recited was read from the tablet during the performance.

10 April 2018 | LIAS PhD presentations
Leiden University

Presentation by Ivo Martins:
Linear and Cyclical time in Akkadian texts from the First Millennium B.C.E.

Akkadian literature features numerous examples of linear and cyclical chronology. Various cosmogonies, epics, wisdom and propaganda texts take full advantage of both ideas of time by combining them in different ways for the construction of their narratives. In later texts, however, linear chronology assumes a more prominent place. As I shall argue, this evolution reflects the shifting worldviews of first-millennium Assyrian and Babylonian scholars as reflected in the ways they conceptualize time and history. Reinforced by the phenomenon of antiquarianism in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, the scholars’ desire to align their work with their cultural heritage and literary tradition led to the prevalence of linear chronology and contributed to the gradual disappearance of cyclical chronology in Akkadian texts.

18 March 2018Convention of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies
Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia

Conference paper by Uzume Wijnsma:
Lost in Translation? The Provenance and Historical Context of Pap. Amherst ’63’

Papyrus Amherst ’63’ is a ca. fourth-century BC Egyptian papyrus, written in the Aramaic language but in Demotic script. The papyrus consists of a collection of mostly religious texts, ranging from hymns (some of which resemble Biblical Psalms) to a literary story about the Assyrian king Assurbanipal. Whereas previous research has mainly focused on the religious texts of the papyrus, and the ultimate geographical origins of the Aramaeans who wrote it, this paper will elucidate a somewhat neglected topic: the papyrus’ contemporary context. What is the papyrus’ provenance, who were the people that wrote it down, and what led them to use the Demotic script for their Aramaic literature? Based on archival research into the acquisition history of the Amherst papyri and a thorough investigation of the papyrus’ historical context, this paper will argue that none of the previously proposed Egyptian sites (Thebes, Elephantine/Syene, and Edfu) are the papyrus’ likely provenance; and that its authors may have become invisible in our historical record due to thorough Egyptianisation.

6 March 2018 | Ancient Digital Humanities Workshop
University of Helsinki

Conference paper by Melanie Groß:
An Open Access Database: the “Prosopography of Babylonia”

In this paper I will present the online “Prosopography of Babylonia: 620–300 BCE” which is currently being developed at Leiden University within the framework of the ERC project “Persia and Babylonia” (PI C. Waerzeggers).

Thousands of cuneiform texts have survived in archives of Babylonian families and temples (c. 620-330 BCE). These sources offer valuable data for socio-historical research but their potential is difficult to exploit so far. The Leiden project wants to contribute to their accessibility by creating an online prosopography, designed to provide information about attested individuals in Babylonia during the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods. As an open access database it will (along with other online databases) be an effective research tool for specialists and hopefully also contribute to a better insight into the cuneiform material for nonspecialists.

While parts of the database are still under construction, data entry has begun in February 2018. This lecture discusses the structure of the database, the range of data systemized in the database and its envisaged contribution to the field of “new digital prosopography”.

1 February 2018 | HOVO course: Nineveh
National Museum of Anitiquities (RMO), Leiden

Caroline Waerzeggers:
Teksten gevonden in Nineveh


25 January 2018 | Orientalists Day
Leiden University

Symposium organised by Persia and Babylonia
With a lecture by Melanie Groß:
ˀbrk – A hapax legomenon in the Hebrew Bible revisited

Programme & abstracts

22 January 2018 | Creating and recreating Nineveh
National Museum of Anitiquities (RMO), Leiden

Conference organised by the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden together with Persia and Babylonia

With lectures by:
– Melanie Groß: Creating a Royal Court
– Uzume Wijnsma: Creating Stories


13 December 2018 | Ancient Worlds Lecture
Innsbruck University

Caroline Waerzeggers:
More than exilic history: what the Yahudu tablets tell us about the Persian Empire

Since the By the Rivers of Babylon exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem (2015) and the accompanying publication of the so-called Yahudu tablets in the collection of David Sofer (Pearce and Wunsch, CUSAS 28), we have seen an explosion of scholarly articles mining these cuneiform tablets for information about the Judean exile in Babylonia. In this lecture, I will intervene in the process of appropriation of these tablets for (re)writing exilic history, by drawing them into the orbit of Persian history. I will argue that they provide unique insights into the technologies of population control and resource management in the Persian Empire. My lecture will necessarily also ask questions about the problematic provenance of these tablets and will address the ethical problems involved in any scholarly engagement with them.

1 December 2017 | Inaugural Lecture
Leiden University

Caroline Waerzeggers, Professor of Assyriology:
De wilde jeugd der assyriologie

Read more: ‘The study of cuneiform texts is still an open field’

18 November 2017ASOR Annual Meeting
Boston, US

Conference paper by Melanie Groß:
It is all about the people: the workforce of the palace and temple institutions in the Neo-Assyrian Empire

This paper aims at discussing the lower-ranking personnel of the Neo-Assyrian palace and temple households as the economic driving force of their institutions and beyond. While the Neo-Assyrian Empire is well-known for its powerful kings, effective state officials and strong army, the lower strata of Assyrian society have been taken into account on a much lesser extent in Assyriological research. Although the focus of the preserved written sources lies on the royal sphere and state matters, there is nevertheless sufficient information available from the archival documentation (letters, administrative records and legal documents) for studying those who did not manage and delegate work but actually did the work.

In the scope of this paper I will limit myself on the skilled workforce – that is, craftsmen (weavers, smiths, stone-workers, …) – and examine their tasks and functions but especially the type of connection they maintained to the said institutional households. I will examine the different modes of employment, ranging from the circumstance that workforce formed an integrative part of a household to cases where the household employed workforce on contractual basis. In doing so, I will also compare the households of the temple and the palace and discuss their interaction relating to the issue of the organization of workforce. My aim is to show that outsourcing of work was a central issue especially for the palace institution and that the close connection between temple and palace formed a central socio-economic aspect of the two institutions and, moreover, of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in its entirety.

Read more: Across the Ocean – A trip to the USA in the service of Assyriology

17 November 2017 | The Labyrinth of Scripts
Exhibition at Expobar Nautilus, Amsterdam
3 – 17 November 2017

Opening lecture by Uzume Wijnsma:
Writing and power in the Persian Empire

11 November 2017 | Coffee & Science
InScience film festival, Nijmegen
8 – 12 November 2017

Speed lecture by Uzume Wijnsma:
Hoe bestuurden de Perzen hun enorme rijk?

1 November 2017 | Letters from Baghdad
Leiden International Film Festival
National Museum of Anitiquities (RMO), Leiden

Documentary screening with an introductory lecture by Nicky van de Beek:
‘I prefer the East to the West’: Gertrude Bell

19 October 2017 | Nineveh exhibition opening night
National Museum of Antiquities (RMO), Leiden

With speed lectures by:
– Caroline Waerzeggers: Assurbanipals boeken
– Maarja Seire: Het zondvloedtablet uit de bibliotheek van Assurbanipal

9 August 2017 | SBL International Meeting
Berlin, 7 – 11 August 2017

Conference paper by Melanie Groß:
The king and his treasurer in the 1st millennium BCE

This paper aims at examining the office of the treasurer as one key position of the royal household on the basis of the archival documentation of the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods, the Greco-Roman historiography and the Old Testament. In order to establish a profile of this office, it deals with the identification of office holders and discusses the variety of their functions and responsibilities as well as the circumstances and events in which these office holders are particularly involved. By taking a comparative perspective one can trace chronological developments and identify differences as well as similarities of this office across state borders.

While the diverse source material must be treated with caution, it also offers the possibility to get a deeper understanding of each individual situation and to draw conclusions by analogy. The study of the office of the treasurer represents one puzzle piece of my current research project about the core group of royal officials in Middle Eastern Empires of the 1st millennium BCE which I am conducting within the framework of the ERC project “Persia and Babylonia” at Leiden University.

9 August 2017 | SBL International Meeting
Berlin, 7 – 11 August 2017

Conference paper by Uzume Wijnsma:
Between Language and Script: The Choices Involved in the Demotic-Aramaic Combination of Papyrus Amherst 63

Papyrus Amherst 63 is a fourth-century BCE Egyptian papyrus containing an amalgam of mostly religious texts. The papyrus is a prime example of the creative use of language and script within the Achaemenid empire: while the script of the papyrus is Demotic, its language is Aramaic – with possible differences in Aramaic dialects and even some passages in Aramaicized Hebrew. Although the combination of an Egyptian script or language with a foreign one has been attested multiple times, those instances mainly concerned words or phrases in an otherwise Egyptian language context; Papyrus Amherst 63 is unique in Egypt in its lack of such a context as well as the sheer length of the combination. Indeed, a script-language combination of such length is rare in other times and places as well.

The question rises why such a peculiar combination was used: was it a question of pragmatism, symbolism, or both? And if the combination had some symbolic value, which would that have been? This paper will try to illuminate such questions by, on the one hand, grounding the papyrus firmly within its historical context, and, one the other, by using comparative cases of other times and regions that similarly played with such lengthy script-language combinations. It forms a part of the broader panel on ‘Translation, Language Appropriation, and Control in the Achaemenid Empire’.

8 August 2017 | SBL International Meeting
Berlin, 7 – 11 August 2017

Conference paper by Caroline Waerzeggers:
Cuneiform literacy and control in the first Persian Empire

When Cyrus conquered Babylonia in 539 BC, he did not only add a huge territory to his growing empire, but also a highly multi-ethnic populace. In previous decades, especially due to Nebuchadnezzar II’s politics of deportation, the south-eastern part of Mesopotamia had become a multi-lingual region where dozens of non-native communities had been settled to live in exile under Babylonian rule. This region now assumed critical strategic importance in the formation of the Persian Empire, both as a corridor between three major centres of rule (Elam, Persia, Babylonia) and as a source of labour and agricultural income. How did the Empire control and exploit this region? This paper will look specifically at the role of cuneiform literacy in these efforts.

In recent years, several exilic communities of south-eastern Mesopotamia have become known to us through the “archive of Yahudu” — an archive of c. 250 cuneiform tablets recording financial transactions by and involving communities of forced migrants bound to the state through a system of land-allotments and labour obligations. These records allow us for the first time to study the transition of these communities from Babylonian to Persian rule, and to map the changing administrative structures that were put in place by the Persian Empire better to control and exploit their productivity. On a more fundamental level, we need to ask why and by whom this documentation was produced, and why in an area where Aramaic was the principal means of oral communication among a multi-lingual population, and in an empire that used Aramaic as the language of imperial administration, Babylonian cuneiform was, and continued to be, used to record legal transactions in a politically and economically highly sensitive region.

6 August 2017 | World Congress of Jewish Studies
Jerusalem, 6 – 10 August 2017

Conference paper by Caroline Waerzeggers:
A Window on the Exile? Colony, State, and Writing in the āl-Yāhūdu Archive

The metaphor of the archive as a window on the past is widespread in Yahudu scholarship. While most historians these days would contend that archives distort as much as they depict, readers of the Yahudu tablets are confident that what they are getting is a straightforward, unmediated account of everyday exilic life. Two factors instill this confidence. On the one hand, the mundane nature of the transactions recorded in the texts lends them an aura of innocent objectivity. Judeans are seen paying taxes, selling fish, and renting plow animals — activities that can hardly be interpreted otherwise than in the literal sense. On the other hand, the idea that the tablets constitute a private, or personal, archive of one Judean family — the so-called family of Ahiqam — creates the impression that the ‘voices’ we hear in this archive are those of the Judean deportees themselves.

In this lecture I will question these intuitive responses to the Yahudu tablets. Before we mine this archive any further for testimony of the exile, we need to understand how it was shaped, how it came into being, whose viewpoint it represents. Every archive is, through its very existence, a statement of power — and this is not any different in the case of the Yahudu archive. On the contrary, I will argue that the very act of cuneiform writing in this community was a manifestation of state authority.

24 July 2017 | Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale
Philipps University Marburg, 24 – 28 July 2017

Conference paper by Melanie Groß:
The King and his Officials – Power Structures of the First Millennium BCE in a Diachronic Perspective

This paper aims at comparing the composition of the core group of royal officials of the first three Empires (Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Persian) of the first millennium BCE. While the individual royal households of the three Empires have been studied quite intensively, there is still space for diachronic comparative studies. One of the main questions that will be addressed is which central functions do we expect to have been fulfilled by specific officeholders (on the basis of court studies in general) in the immediate sphere of the king and whom of these functionaries can we detect in the sources for the three different empires. In doing so, we will take into account that we are dealing with sources of different type and perspective, ranging from indigenous everyday documents to reports from Greek authors. This study of the respective political and administrative centres will contribute to a better understanding of the nature and dynamics of power in early empires.

Read more: Mesopotamia in Marburg: The 63rd Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale

14 June 2017 | Persia and Babylonia Lecture
Leiden University

Anne Goddeeris (Ghent University):
Small Souls: Family Fortunes in Old Babylonian Nippur

As in other Old Babylonian cities, real estate constitutes the major asset of the family estate, but in the religious capital, temple offices offer a means of wealth and prestige. However, the practice of partitive inheritance does not allow to keep a family fortune together over the generations. During my talk, I will illustrate this phenomenon, and how it can be bypassed, on the basis of some family archives.

29 May 2017 | Neo-Babylonian Network Meeting
VU University Amsterdam

Conference paper by Uzume Wijnsma:
Political legitimacy in the Persian Empire: the cases of Egypt and Babylonia
With a response by Paola Corò (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice)

10 May 2017 | Lunch Talk: Biographical Databases
Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities

Maxim Romanov, Javier Cha and Caroline Waerzeggers

For the second LUCDH lunch lecture of this term we have invited Leipzig-based scholar of Islamic culture, Maxim Romanov, to discuss the role of digital humanitites in his work. He studies Islamic historical texts with computational methods, currently focusing on the analysis of multivolume biographical and bibliographical collections. On Wednesday he will be talking specifically about a project on biographical databases. Joining him in a discussion is LUCDH staff member Javier Cha and professor of Assyriology Caroline Waerzeggers.

9 May 2017 | Eerste Leidse Oudheid Netwerkbijeenkomst
Leiden University

Lecture by Caroline Waerzeggers:
Spijkerschrift en wereldgeschiedenis: een nieuw onderzoeksproject over het ontstaan van het Perzische rijk

4 May 2017 | Persia and Babylonia Lecture
Leiden University

Seth Richardson (Chicago):
From Prosopography to Politics: the late Old Babylonian case

The analysis of archives has been the cornerstone of economic, political, and social studies of ancient Babylonia for the past fifty years.  But what do you do when archives don’t tell you enough?  This discussion of an allied prosopographic approach to documentary evidence illustrates what is possible when we shift the focus away from the few figures who dominate the record and onto — well, everyone.  The results of this project gives us a sociological picture of official classes in fin de siècle Babylon I, and what that tells us about the collapse of the dynasty across the 17th c. BC.

12 April 2017 | Rosenthal Seminar
Yale University

Caroline Waerzeggers:
Writing and Control in the Exilic Community of Yahudu


11 April 2017 | Rosenthal Lecture
Yale University

Caroline Waerzeggers:
Keeping track of what happened? A new look at the Babylonian chronicles