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


Maria Teresa Renzi-Sepe

Title: The Perception of the Pleiades in the Mesopotamian Culture

University: Universität Leipzig

Supervisor: Prof. Michael P. Streck

Abstract: The study aims at analysing the conceptualisation of the Pleiades as reflected in the Mesopotamian Culture. The Pleiades are among the most visible stars to the naked eye, and they are perceived in Ancient Mesopotamia as a group of “seven.” The task of describing and analysing the role of Pleiades is accomplished by focusing on three main aspects. First, the constellation’s practical function in cuneiform sources as a setting tool for the Mesopotamian calendar. Second, a collection and study of all the Pleiades’ references in literary texts, such as myths, prayers, rituals, reports, letters, and omens. Third, an edition and study of the relevant Enūma Ānu Enlil tablets to the Pleiades (the assumed tablets 52 and 53). Part of the last aspect involves collecting tablets in museums to reconstruct their original text.

The study is framed by an introductory chapter on celestial bodies’ role within the cuneiform knowledge and by a final chapter that summarises the foregoing investigation and describes the perception of the Pleiades in comparison with other cultures. Further, a study on the structure and the interpretation of celestial omens is included to highlight their logic and working principles.

Keywords: Akkadian, astral science, astronomy, astrology, divination, Pleiades


Antonia Pohl

Title: Die akkadischen Hymnen der altbabylonischen Zeit

University: Universität Leipzig

Supervisors: Prof. Michael P. Streck; Prof. Nathan Wasserman


Although the Akkadian hymns from the Old Babylonian period have been known for a long time, they were never studied as a corpus. But examining those well-known texts as one corpus with similar features promises fresh perspectives. Thus, the first part of my dissertation consists of studying the grammatical features of the hymns in depth. Despite the fact that von Soden’s well received articles from the 1930s already mention the main part of the hymns’ grammatical aspects, there are still characteristics that were not recognized as such and will therefore be treated thoroughly in my dissertation. I will also question the term “hymno-epic dialect”, as I find “hymnic register” to be more fitting, at least for the Old Babylonian period: the epic texts of this period show significantly less “hymno-epic” features than the hymns. The second part of the dissertation deals with stylistic features, especially chiasms, since they make up the bulk of the hymns’ stylistic means. The third and longest part of the work is the edition of the known Akkadian hymns from the Old Babylonian period. The most important aspect of this is, of course, the philological commentary. In it, I will summarize previous editions, add new suggestions, and try to solve philological problems arising from the different ideas. There will be two new editions, namely of the somewhat problematic CUSAS 32, 77 (which is treated as a hymn), and CT 44, 49 in the appendix, because it is most probably not a hymn but a kind of prayer.

Keywords: literature, hymns, grammar, stylistics, Akkadian, Old Babylonian


Tommaso Scarpelli

Title: Das Wetter in der Mesopotamischen Kulturgeschichte des II. und I. Jahrtausends V. Chr.

University: Universität Leipzig

Supervisor: Prof. Michael P. Streck


The aim of the project is to provide an overview on the human perception of meteorological phenomena. Many different texts describe the consequences of natural events on everyday life and how weather phenomena were considered with regard to the supernatural. This work treats the dependent relationship of the Mesopotamians with weather during the 2nd and 1st Millennium B.C. only by means of philological methodology. It is possible to summarize the main sources for this research as follow: everyday texts, letters and administrative texts, omens, documents from the Mesopotamian divinatory tradition, meteorological recordings from the 1st Millennium B.C., literary compositions. The first task of the work consists in collecting both detailed and brief attestations dealing with atmospheric events, that are contained in cuneiform letter corpora from two Millennia, and to present them in chronological order. The texts should be analyzed in each geo-climatic context, in order to provide a better understanding of the use of natural resources in Mesopotamian cultural history. The weather appears in omen compendia as part of the protasis, or as part of the apodosis. After collecting meteorological omens and integrating them to the Enūma Anu Enlil Tablets 42-49 (previously edited by E. Gehlken), they will be examined and compared to each other as well as to omens drawn from other phenomena with which weather is combined, such as astral events. A first edition of unpublished omen tablets in the British Museum is also planned with a view to investigate a continuous development of weather divination throughout two Millennia. In conclusion, a study on weather terminology will be provided together with idiomatic and regional expressions: figures of speech are often based on meteorological elements, so they offer another key to unlock Mesopotamian perceptions of weather.

Keywords: Akkadian, weather, environment, everyday life, divination, letters, philology, cultural perception, lexicon


Thibaud Nicolas

Title: L’or du soleil : le rôle socioéconomique du temple de Shamash à Sippar à l’époque paléo-babylonienne

University: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales – Paris

Supervisor: G. Chambon & D. Charpin

This PhD will focus on the socioeconomic role of the Ebabbar of Sippar during the OB period. This temple has already been widely studied for the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid period, but yet, the study of its role and function during the OId Babylonian period remains to do.
In this PhD, I aim to understand how deep the social roots of the Sippar clergy were and what interaction the Ebabbar as an institution had with the other “great organisms” such as judges, kârum and Babylon’s kings. I shall first try to show how important the temple was in the royal ideological dispositive. Then, I will try to reappraise a documentation about this Sipparian temple to understand who was doing what in it, and with what kind of socioeconomic impact. The main objective is to understand how the temple could weigh on the Old Babylonian economy not only by its own economic wealth, but also by the mean of using economic tools such as special measures and weights.
To do that, we will examine a corpus of around 400 texts, of which many have never been translated or studied. This corpus should allow us a better understanding of Old Babylonian accounting methods, the implicit information in them, and the brand new look we shall have on this vast documentation.


Turna Somel

Mesopotamian Divinatory Texts from Syria and Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age

Philipps-Universität Marburg

Prof. Dr. Nils P. Heeßel

Even as early as the late 3rd millennium BCE, there is evidence of divinatory practices in ancient Mesopotamia. A new text genre listing the meanings of omens appears during the first half of the 2. millennium BCE and attests to the continuous development of divinatory practices in Mesopotamia into the Hellenistic period. Furthermore, textual sources from neighbouring regions in the Near East dating to the Late Bronze Age (second half of the 2nd millennium BCE) demonstrate that this knowledge, and possibly the practices, were imported from Mesopotamia and existed parallel to local divinatory traditions, as hundreds of fragments have been found in Hattusa and Emar, and smaller numbers have been discovered in Alalah, Ugarit, Susa and Kabnak.

While the majority of the aforementioned fragments have already been edited, a comprehensive study treating this corpus of divinatory texts as a whole is needed. The aim of the present thesis is to study this corpus with a focus on the intellectual history of the Late Bronze Age. Of particular relevance are organisatory characteristics, hermeneutical strategies and areas of interest as documented in omen compendia, to be studied through a comparative perspective encompassing Hattusa and Emar, as well as Mesopotamian sites such as Assur, Babylon, and Nippur.

In addition to intellectual history, a major focus of this study is to document the process and effects of transmission and reception in the case of Hattusa and Emar, as well as to investigate whether (and how) the omen compendia were further developed within the local scribal communities. In the case of Hattusa, where translations of Akkadian omen compendia into Hittite are attested, a study of translation techniques is to be undertaken.


Daniel Sánchez Muñoz

Analysis of two terms related with Music in Ancient Mesopotamia: nam-nar and nārūtu(m)

University of Granada

Prof. Dr. Antonio Martín Moreno (Professor of Musicology)

Sumerian and Akkadian texts show us a very rich musical terminology whose meaning, however, is not always pretty clear for scholars dealing with the Mesopotamian music. One of the most controversial terms is the Sumerian nam-nar together with its Akkadian equivalent nārūtu(m). Certainly, this term has been previously defined in many several and different ways, like “(professional) condition of the nar-musician”, “musicianship”, “art of the singing”, “hymnic music” even as “Music”.

In this PhD Project, we will try to prove that, even if the meaning of this couple of terms experimented some changes throughout the long Mesopotamian history (an evolution not previously kept in mind in the previous research), its main meaning was “Music” in a broad sense as sound art and social condition, like in our current concept of “Music”.

For that purpose, we will analyse all the mentions of these two terms in our current Mesopotamian textual documentation, having a group around 50 texts from the Second Dynasty of Lagash until the Late Hellenistic Period of many typologies: administrative, lexical and literary (with different subdivisions: myths, praise hymns and songs, literary letters, astronomical texts, etc.) Many of these texts (some of them recently published) had not been analysed in the previous comments of nam-nar/nārūtu(m), mainly based in the Old Babylonian textual evidence.

Those texts will be individually analysed in this project starting from own editions based in the consultation of current copies/photographs in addition to the consultation of the cuneiform manuscripts in their museums. Later, we precise the context of each mention of these terms by a philological/lexicographical study of the most relevant terms in that excerpt with a final commentary indicating what it might be the best definition for nam-nar/nārūtu(m) in this text.

To prove that the main meaning of these two terms is “Music” is highly relevant, since such type of term is not at all common in the past and current musical cultures of the world, which normally have terms for specific manifestations of the musical activity, like the singing, the instrumental music or some types of recitation which Western people might consider as “music”. Certainly, many of the current terms for “Music” derive, as a last resort, from the Greek mousike (even the Arabic al-musiqa!) However, some Greek texts show that Pythagoras learned “The Arithmetic, the Music (=mousike) and the other Mathematical disciplines” with the magicians from Babylonia (Iamblichus, Pythagora’s Life, 4, 19). In this sense, to have a Sumerian or Akkadian term for “Music” might explain also these Greek texts and, therefore, the evolution of our musical history.

This PhD Dissertation will be the first one in the history of my University. In order to prepare a good project, I have previously taken courses on Assyriology in Spain through the CEPOAT (= Centro de Estudios del Próximo Oriente y Antigüedad Tardía) with Drs. Josué and Daniel Justel, Bárbara Solans and Erica Couto. Concerning my international training, I have previously taken courses in Würzburg (with Prof. Dr. Daniel Schwemer, PD Claus Ambos, Dr. Greta van Buylaere, and Dr. Dahlia Shehata) and Leiden (with Dr. Bram Jagersma, Dr. Jan Gerrit Dercksen, and Dr. Melanie Gross) in addition to studying with Dr. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel (Université de Strasbourg) through the Diplôme d’Université de Langues Anciennes (DULA).