Letizia Savino

Title: Medicine and physicians abroad. Circulation of experts and expertise in the Second Millennium BCE in the Ancient Near East

University: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Supervisor: Doris Prechel


Focus of the project is the study of the mobility of foreign specialists and/or the requests for ingredients to prepare remedies among different realities of the Ancient Near East during the Second Millennium BCE. The need for physicians or incantation priests was as urgent in the past as it is now for specialists in the medical field. Numerous letters have been found from all over the Ancient Near East that testify the requests from private citizens for either specialised personnel coming from a certain area (that could be a specific city or kingdom) or for either already prepared medicaments or ingredient to make them; in some occasion, we even have the request for statues of deities related to healing practices.

Scholars have already assessed the matter of specialists travelling around the Ancient Near East, but we lack an in-depth inquiry about the mobility of medical experts in particular, and the eventual spread and acculturation of practices that might have followed them.

Research will move mainly on two parallel aspects. The first will try to answer the question: what kind of expertise was requested ‘abroad’? The second, on the other hand, will have as its key question: what kind of products were exchanged for medical purposes?

To be able to answer the first question, further subjects need to be investigated; first of all, we need to understand who were the specialists who moved abroad, and, most importantly, whence and whereto.

To address the second matter, the following questions are to be considered: from whom and to whom were these products requested? Were these products already prepared medicines and drugs, or also plants, minerals, and herbs?

Of course, the question that lies under all of these questions is: why were these experts and substances called for from another country? Was foreign medicine considered more effective and, or authoritative? Was there a specifical medical tradition that was considered somehow superior to the others, which thus influenced certain local aspects of (ritual) medicine?

Purpose of the research will, consequently, be that to try to answer all of these questions, possibly, at the same time, collecting and listing in one place all the material on the subject, in order to also be able to take stock of what is already known, but scattered in different papers and publications.

Keywords: medicine, āšipūtu, healing, second millennium BC, mobility, circulation of knowledge

Contact: lsavino@uni-mainz.de

Jessica Marchetti

Title: The god Nergal in the Sumerian-Akkadian texts (2nd-1st millennia BCE) / Le dieu Nergal dans les textes suméro-akkadiens (IIe-Ier millénaires av. J.-C.)

University: Université de Lille

Supervisor: Philippe Abrahami


The purpose of this thesis is to study the deity Nergal in all its aspects. Mainly presented as a warrior god, king of the netherworld, Nergal is also identifiable as a multifaceted deity. Thanks to the diversity of the corpus in Sumerian and Akkadian languages documenting him, such as official texts, practical texts, literary texts and scholarly texts, and thanks to iconographic sources too, it is possible to determine on the one hand his role and function in these sources, to define his personality and to distinguish the Nergal’s place face to pantheons of Ancient Near East on two millennia on the other hand. Based on archaeological data, the problematic of this research deals with different cult places too worshiped to him and the personnel dedicated to the service of this god. This work is also a mean to propose an onomastic and prosopographic study of individuals bearing a name in Nergal. It seeks to measure the popularity of the god Nergal in the individual’s names according to the treated periods and regions and to observe a possible predominance in these names in Nergal in certain socio-professional categories. The aim of this study is thus to propose a synthesis, as complete as possible, of mentions of Nergal in Sumerian-Akkadian textual and iconographic sources of the 2nd and 1st millennium B.C. The interest to study this multifaceted deity, in an expanded spatio-temporal framework is a mean to observe if there are regional and temporal contrasts on the figure of the god Nergal.

Keywords: Nergal, Erra, netherworld, cult, war, epidemic

Contact: jessica.marchetti1306@gmail.com

Evelyne Koubkova

Title: The Ritual Means of Empowerment of the Mesopotamian Exorcist

University: Yale University

Supervisor: Eckart Frahm


My dissertation examines the ways in which the Mesopotamian “exorcist” (āšipu) constructed his identity and authority in and through ritual performance. Among the various strategies, the project focuses on the āšipu’s self-purification and self-protection, his special attire and attributes, and the special nature and forms of his ritual speech. The project draws mainly on ritual texts of the āšipu from the first millennium BCE. Analyzing the construction of the image of the ideal āšipu will lead to a better understanding of his authority as a religious professional in the context of other Mesopotamian experts as well as in cross-cultural comparison.

Keywords: ritual, religion, scholarship, expert, purity, speech

Contact: evelyne.koubkova@yale.edu

Anthony P. SooHoo

Title: Violence against the Enemy in Mesopotamian Myth, Ritual, and Historiography

University: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU

Supervisor: Beate Pongratz-Leisten


Evidence for violence is found in all periods of Mesopotamian history. Kingship, which was divine in origin, included the exercise of power and the legitimate use of violence. Mesopotamian violence reflects the culture’s understanding of ontology, order, and justice. Although there is scant archaeological evidence for its actual practice, the worldview that allowed it to flourish can be reconstructed from myth, ritual, and historiography.

Approaching Mesopotamian conceptions of violence through these three modes of discourse, this study explores the behavior through the lens of theory, practice, and presentation. The investigation is guided by the following questions:
• What do the myths say about violence? How is violence imagined and theorized?
• How do the war rituals promote and normalize the practice of violence?
• How and why is violence presented in the narrative(s) of the royal annals and in the visual program of the palace reliefs?

This study moves from offering a general account of Mesopotamian violence directed against the enemy “other,” conceptualized in myths about the divine warrior (i.e., Ninurta, Marduk) and the so-called war rituals, to analyzing the portrayal of a particular act as part of Neo-Assyrian royal propaganda (Ashurbanipal’s beheading of Teumman).

Keywords: Neo-Assyrian, violence, myth, Teumman, war rituals

Contact: apsoohoo@biblico.it

Christie Carr

Title: Conceptualising the Erotic: Metaphor in the Sumerian “Love Songs”

University: University of Oxford

Supervisor: Jacob Dahl


My thesis analyses the metaphor of the Old Babylonian Sumerian “Love Songs”. Using an approach borrowed from cognitive linguistics, I will analyse the corpus using Conceptual Metaphor Theory. The theory mainly states that we understand abstract concepts through mappings from embodied experiences. The extensive metaphor in the Sumerian “Love Songs” give one of the fullest and extended representations of sexual domains of experience from the ancient Mesopotamian world, particularly desire, pleasure, and the erotic. Using modern approaches to metaphor, I hope to create a pragmatic and useful approach to the pervasive but sometimes obscure metaphor in Old Babylonian Sumerian literary texts. By analysing metaphor across the defined parameters of the erotic literary texts known as the Sumerian “Love Songs”, I will display the creativity and interaction that occurs with the creation and comprehension of certain metaphor, and also demonstrate that the analysis of figurative language can be used as tool for accessing culturally constructed domains of experience. The aim is to understand how desire, pleasure, allure, and the gendered human body were conceptualised at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.

Keywords: Old Babylonian, Sumerian literature, metaphor

Contact: christie.carr@wolfson.ox.ac.uk

Nimrod Madrer

Title: Existential phrases in Semitic languages

University: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Supervisors: Nathan Wasserman, Steve Fassberg

Abstract: Existential phrases constitute a broad, yet elusive, part of all Semitic languages. Linguistics point at two general functions for such phrases: 1. A copulative function, i.e., “semantically empty” verbs that mark the tense, mood and aspect of the sentence, or that carry negation or description (namely, a=b, a is part of, or can describe b). 2. A “proper” existential function – “there is” – pointing at objects or states of an actual existence and that can be further described. Such verbs often accompany locative (there is an elephant in the room) or by possessive markers (I have a book).
The literature dealing with such phrases is restricted and incomplete and many questions of this matter are left unattended. In my thesis I intend to regard existential phrases in Semitic languages (and in specific in Akkadian) with regard to three levels – morphology (collecting and describing the words, prepositions and radicals that constitute the “Proto-Semitic” existentials and the ones that are innovations of specific languages), syntax (tenses, modii and, generally, the grammar of each of existentials), and context (e.g., which existentials serve predominantly as copulae and which as “proper existential”, context dependencies of the uses of the various existentials and differences in context and uses between “Proto-Semitic” existentials to language-specific ones, inter and intra lingually). Altogether, I hope to shed light on the roles and function of existential phrases in Semitic languages and to compose a concise and comprehensible collection and description of them.

Keywords: Semitic languages, philology, grammar, existential, Akkadian

Contact: nimrod.madrer@mail.huji.ac.il

Lola Lombard

Title: Les éphémérides du Ier millénaire avant J.-C. au Proche-Orient ancien : fonction, production, transmission

University: Université Lumière Lyon 2

Supervisor: Jwana Chahoud


Cette thèse a pour objectif d’étudier les éphémérides proche-orientales durant la fin du Ier millénaire av. J.-C., période durant laquelle se maintiennent les traditions culturelles cunéiformes, mais qui voit aussi l’arrivée d’influences extérieures, avec la domination des Perses achéménides, puis celle de la dynastie hellénistique séleucide. Les éphémérides sont des textes, inscrits sur des tablettes d’argile et rédigés en akkadien au moyen de l’écriture cunéiforme, qui enregistrent la course des astres dans le ciel. Ils appartiennent au domaine de l’astronomie mathématique prédictive : à partir de l’observation cyclique des astres, les astronomes ont mis au point des modèles mathématiques afin de prédire leurs mouvements.

Le corpus connu des éphémérides comprend environ 330 tablettes et fragments provenant des sites de Babylone et d’Uruk, deux grands centres astronomiques du sud mésopotamien. Peuvent être associés 110 textes de procédure qui sont des instructions visant à calculer et à vérifier les éphémérides.

Bien que les éphémérides aient été étudiées dès la fin du XIXe siècle, il n’existe à ce jour aucune étude dédiée au cadre socio-institutionnel, ni aux principes de constitution et de transmission de ces textes. Afin de compléter nos connaissances sur les éphémérides, il sera pertinent de s’interroger sur plusieurs aspects : quelles étaient les fonctions des éphémérides ? Quel était leur rapport avec les autres types de textes astronomiques et avec l’astrologie ? Quel était le mode de constitution et de transmission de ces textes et quels étaient ses acteurs ? Quelle était leur place au sein de la discipline astronomique et, plus largement, dans le développement des sciences de cette époque ?
Pour répondre à ces questions, plusieurs axes d’analyse seront abordés. Premièrement, les chercheurs supposaient jusqu’à présent que les éphémérides étaient réalisées afin de produire des horoscopes. Néanmoins, leur relation avec les autres textes astronomiques et leurs différentes applications n’ont jamais été clairement identifiées. Cette étude permettra donc de cibler les domaines dans lesquels les éphémérides étaient requises et de cerner leurs fonctions ainsi que leur place, non seulement dans l’astronomie prédictive, mais aussi dans tout autre domaine nécessitant leur usage, comme l’astrologie.

Ensuite, une étude des colophons, qui sont des espaces occupant la fin des tablettes et comportant diverses indications (nom du copiste, date, lieu de rédaction), sera également nécessaire afin, d’une part, de retracer l’origine des éphémérides et leurs lieux de conservation ; d’autre part, d’étudier le cadre socio-institutionnel du travail des astronomes. Cela permettra de reconstituer le réseau des astronomes et plus largement celui des savants qui recopiaient, possédaient et/ou utilisaient ces éphémérides.

Enfin, il s’agira d’étudier la place de l’astronomie au sein des sciences de cette époque et ses relations avec les autres disciplines, notamment les mathématiques. Il s’agira également de tenter de retracer l’origine des éphémérides afin de déterminer si elles sont le produit d’un processus antérieur, ou bien si elles résultent d’influences extérieures dues au contexte socio-politique. 

Keywords: astronomy, astrology, Seleucid, Achaemenid, ephemeris, scribes

Contact: lola.lombard@univ-lyon2.fr

Imane Achouche

Title: The “death” of statues in the Syro-Mesopotamian area during the Bronze Age

University: Université de Liège, Belgium

Supervisor: Laurent Colonna d’Istria


Imane is studying the “death” of statues in the Syro-Mesopotamian space of the 3rd millennium BCE, through the analysis of the materiality of artifacts, iconography and textual sources. This thesis is a continuation of a master’s thesis concerning the ritual birth of statues in Mesopotamia, which led to an understanding of the cultic process governing the condition of these artefacts. In her current research, Imane wishes to answer the questions raised by the observation of a damaged statue – the accidental or intentional nature of the damage, its dating, the individual(s) responsible for the damage, what motivated the action – in order to obtain a comprehensive view of the context in which the ronde-bosse was made, displayed and ultimately removed from its society.

Keywords: Bronze age, statue, sculpture, iconoclasm, rituals, cuneiform

Contact:  imane.achouche@doct.uliege.be

Dániel Ligeti

Title: Healing deities in Mesopotamian and East-Mediterranean Religions

University: Pázmány Péter Catholic University

Supervisor: András Bácskay


The subjects of the dissertation are the medical related deities of Mesopotamian religion, primarily Gula, Ninisina, Ninkarrak, Nintinuga, Baba and Bau. The study based on a database of their miniature and monumental iconographical sources and textual appearances in hymns, prayers, incantations and medical texts. The aim of the study is to outline their religious representations.

Keywords: Mesopotamian religion, healing deities

Contact: dani.ligeti@gmail.com

Andrew Pottorf

Title: Social Stratification in Southern Mesopotamia during the Third Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2100–2000 BCE)

University: Harvard University

Supervisor: Piotr Steinkeller


This dissertation addresses social stratification during the last century of the third millennium BCE when the Third Dynasty of Ur governed southern Mesopotamia and its neighboring regions. With over a hundred thousand administrative texts uncovered from this time, known as the Ur III period, its socioeconomic history can be thoroughly analyzed, including its social stratification. Three strata are proposed in this dissertation: (1) citizens, (2) serflike UN-il2 , and (3) slaves. In order to identify and elaborate upon these strata, several features are presented: native terminology, origins, family lives, housing, legal rights, and economic conditions. There is also a history of scholarship focusing on works by Soviet scholars, such as V. V. Struve, A. I. Tyumenev, and I. M. Diakonoff, which are generally challenged in this review, as well as on contributions by Ignace Gelb, Kazuya Maekawa, Marcel Sigrist, Piotr Steinkeller, and Natalia Koslova, which are fundamental to this dissertation. The three strata differ particularly in regard to their legal rights and economic conditions. Citizens were the most prevalent and had the fullest extent of legal rights and economic autonomy, whereas slaves were the least prevalent and had the least extent of legal rights and economic autonomy. UN-il2 were between these two strata, possessing some legal rights and limited economic autonomy. Occupations significantly impacted economic conditions, and they were unequally accessible to the three strata. Textual data are cited throughout, and prosopographical evidence is frequently utilized. Eight appendixes are included, which provide details about prosopography, family and house sizes, conscription, land tenure, and text collations, among other topics.

Keywords: Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Ur III period, social stratification, socioeconomic history, administration

Contact: apottorf21@gmail.com