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21 June 2018 | Workshop Digital Pasts

Guest lecture by 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.

Organised by Persia and Babylonia, Leiden University

18–21 June 2018 | Seminar

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.

Leipzig University, Altorientalisches Institut

8 June 2018 | Time and Chronology in Creation Narratives

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.

University of Wales

29 May-1 June 2018 | Onomastics Training Week

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

Ca’ Foscari University, Venice

28 May 2018 | Neo-Babylonian Network Meeting

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

Ca’ Foscari University, Venice

7 May 2018Contextualizing Jewish Temples

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

Bar-Ilan University, Israel

4 May 2018 | Ancient World Lunch Talks

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

Leiden University

10 April 2018 | LIAS PhD presentations

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.

Leiden University

18 March 2018Convention of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies

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.

Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia

6 March 2018 | Ancient Digital Humanities Workshop

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”.

University of Helsinki

1 February 2018 | HOVO course: Nineveh

Caroline Waerzeggers:
Teksten gevonden in Nineveh

National Museum of Anitiquities (RMO), Leiden

25 January 2018 | Orientalists Day

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

Programme & abstracts

Leiden University

22 January 2018 | Creating and recreating Nineveh

Conference organised by Rijksmuseum van Oudheden and Persia and Babylonia, with lectures by:

– Melanie Groß: Creating a Royal Court
– Uzume Wijnsma: Creating Stories


National Museum of Anitiquities (RMO), Leiden

13 December 2018 | Ancient Worlds Lecture

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.

Innsbruck University

1 December 2017 | Inaugural Lecture

Caroline Waerzeggers, Professor of Assyriology

Read the text: De wilde jeugd der assyriologie
News: ‘The study of cuneiform texts is still an open field’

Leiden University

18 November 2017ASOR Annual Meeting

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.

Boston, US

17 November 2017 | The Labyrinth of Scripts

Lecture by Uzume Wijnsma:
Writing and power in the Persian Empire

Exhibition at Expobar Nautilus, Amsterdam
3 – 17 November 2017

11 November 2017 | Coffee & Science

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

InScience film festival, Nijmegen
8 – 12 November 2017

1 November 2017 | Letters from Baghdad

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

Leiden International Film Festival
National Museum of Anitiquities (RMO), Leiden

19 October 2017 | Opening night Nineveh exhibition

With speed lectures by:

  • Caroline Waerzeggers: Assurbanipals boeken
  • Maarja Seire: Het zondvloedtablet uit de bibliotheek van Assurbanipal

National Museum of Antiquities (RMO), Leiden

9 August 2017 | SBL International Meeting

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.

7 – 11 August 2017

9 August 2017 | SBL International Meeting

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’.

7 – 11 August 2017

8 August 2017 | SBL International Meeting

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.

7 – 11 August 2017

6 August 2017 | World Congress of Jewish Studies

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.

6 – 10 August 2017

24 July 2017 | Rencontre Assyriologique

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.

Philipps University Marburg
24 – 28 July 2017

14 June 2017 | Persia and Babylonia Lecture

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.

Leiden University

29 May 2017 | Neo-Babylonian Network Meeting

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

VU University Amsterdam

10 May 2017 | Lunch Talk: Biographical Databases

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.

Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities

9 May 2017 | Eerste Leidse Oudheid Netwerkbijeenkomst

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

Leiden University

4 May 2017 | Persia and Babylonia Lecture

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.

Leiden University

12 April 2017 | Rosenthal Seminar

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

Yale University


11 April 2017 | Rosenthal Lecture

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

Yale University