Sophie Cohen

Title: Tablets to Nineveh

University: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München

Supervisors: Prof. Enrique Jiménez (LMU), Dr Jonathan Taylor (The British Museum)

Abstract: 

The dissertation, part of the project ‘Reading the Library of Ashurbanipal. A Multi-sectional Analysis of Assyriology’s Foundational Corpus’, aims to examine the cuneiform traditions that coalesced in the library of Nineveh. The study is based on a colophon database which was created in the framework of the project, containing almost 2300 records. Information on the tablets’ Vorlagen provided by the colophons will be used to create statistics about them. The goal is to correlate the indication of the provenance of the original with the type of text contained in a manuscript, in order to discover patterns in the transmission of tablets to Nineveh. All scribes attested in Nineveh colophons will be studied, and correlated with the library records. In addition, the cuneiform traditions emanating from Nineveh will be analyzed: this will be an opportunity to test the method on a different corpus while complementing the PhD topic. The main questions of the dissertation will be:

    • How are the Mesopotamian traditions reflected in the Nineveh library?
    • Where did the tablets come from?
    • How is the information between the colophons and library records and different catalogues related?
    • How Assyrian was the Nineveh library?

Keywords: Nineveh, Neo-Assyrian period, Library of Assurbanipal, colophons, provenance, scribes

Evelien Vanderstraeten

Title:  Connected through Marriage: A Social History of Marriage in Mesopotamia (c. 934–141 BCE)

University: University of Helsinki

Supervisors: Prof. Saana Svärd, Dr Jason Silverman, Prof. Caroline Waerzeggers

Abstract: 

This dissertation examines the historical development of marriage as an adaptive and responsive social institution in first millennium BCE Mesopotamia (c. 934-141 BCE). Marriage was a major life-changing event, regulated by laws and customs, entailing changes in people’s legal, social, economic statuses, roles and responsibilities. Important recent social historical studies on marriage are Waerzeggers 2020 (JANEH 7/2) who looked into the marriage practices of the elite and non-elite families in Babylonia and Still 2019 (CHANE 103, Brill) who explored the marriage practices of the Borsippean priests. This dissertation takes it a step further by examining the social identities of the men, women and children directly or indirectly involved in or connected to a marriage in the empires of the Assyrians, Chaldeans/Babylonians, the Persians and Macedonians/Seleucids.

I apply approaches from both digital humanities and social sciences to explore the relationships that are shaped, expanded or strengthened through marriage and what these sets of human actions and interactions can tell us about the social organization of first millennium Mesopotamian societies. I use software specifically designed within kinship studies to build a genealogical database that will be published open-access. The database will provide an overview of the marriages in different social strata and population groups attested in the cuneiform clay tablets. The database not only generates family trees, but also matrimonial circuits and kinship networks. Although the cuneiform sources constitute the main, primary sources of this study, I will also look into archaeological features (burials), structures (houses) and artefacts (jewellery, figurines, etc.) as well as visual imagery (seals, reliefs, etc.). I hope to assess if and how marriage or married life is visible in the archaeological record and the art of the first millennium BCE Mesopotamia (seals, reliefs, etc.) and what it can tell us about kinship groups, marriage and social organization.

Keywords: Marriage, Family, Kinship, Social History, Kinship Network Analysis, Assyria, Babylonia, Cuneiform Tablets, Archaeology, Neo-Assyrian period, Neo-Babylonian period, Achaemenid period, Hellenistic period

Eleanor Bennett

Title: The ‘Queens of the Arabs’ During the Neo-Assyrian Period

University: University of Helsinki

Supervisor: Prof. Saana Svärd

Abstract:

During the Neo-Assyrian period (approximately 934-612 BCE, based in modern Iraq) the annals and royal inscriptions of several kings mention women with a curious title: ‘Queen of the Arabs’. These women have been included in previous discussions regarding Assyrian interaction with the ‘Arabs’, but a full investigation into their roles as rulers has been lacking. This is what this dissertation seeks to answer: what were the roles of the ‘Queens of the Arabs’ during the Neo-Assyrian period?

The reason for no prior traditional Assyriological research into these women is due to a very small number of texts. As Assyriology has traditionally been a text-based discipline, a corpus of just twenty-eight texts has not been seen as ‘worthy’ of a full investigation. This dissertation goes beyond the traditional approach, by incorporating gender theory and comparative methodology. A key heuristic tool in this dissertation is Michael Mann’s ‘IEMP’ model of power. This has identified three key areas where we can clealy see the roles of the ‘Queens of the Arabs’: military, economic, and religious roles.

The most important finding was that the process of researching about ‘Arabs’ meant contending with two layers of misinterpretation. The first of which is the misunderstandings of modern scholars allowing modern stereotypes influence how they write about ‘Arabs’. The second is that the ancient sources themselves do not seem to know who or what they refer to when they discuss the ‘Arabs’.

This has resulted in a discussion based on these women as individuals, not as a group. We do not know if they all ruled the same population group, and so they may have all been rulers of different cultures. We see Samsi, Teʾelḫunu, and Adiye in positions of military leadership, and Samsi was potentially even present on the battlefield. Zabibê, Samsi, and Tabūʾa all exhibited the ability to control either resources or access to the networks that transported these resources. And finally, Teʾelḫunu likely had a religious role of some sort as part of her leadership duties, but we do not know what that was. Each of these women are discussed in isolation.

Keywords: queens, Neo-Assyrian period, Assyria, Arabs, gender

 

 

Christopher W. Jones

Title: Power and Elite Competition in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 745-612 BC.

University: Columbia University

Supervisor: Prof. Marc Van De Mieroop

Abstract:

The Neo-Assyrian Empire in the eighth century was dominated by a small clique of officials holding high offices (often called ‘magnates’) who accumulated power by controlling vast areas of land and holding multiple offices simultaneously. This situation persisted until at least the end of the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III in 727 BC.

My dissertation utilizes tools from the fields of social network analysis and organizational communication to study the changing nature of political power in the late Neo-Assyrian empire. Using an analysis of 3,858 letters which survive from this period, my dissertation argues that Sargon II initiated reforms which fundamentally changed the relationship between the king and his officials. He reduced the status of the high officials by breaking up their provinces while vastly expanding the number of provinces and provincial governors. By leveling the field of Assyrian officialdom, he reduced their status to be equivalent to other provincial governors, centralizing power in the king and royal family while dividing it into smaller pieces among everyone else.

These reforms had unintended consequences. They radically increased competition between officials, structuring the empire in such a way that hundreds of governors, palace officials, and temple officials reported directly to the king and were in competition with each other for status. This in turn created a massive information problem, as officials frequently made allegations against their rivals. The king had no way of ascertaining the truth of these allegations, and kings became increasingly isolated during the seventh century BC as they turned to other means such as court scholars to attempt to circumvent this problem. The end result was a poor information environment which made Assyrian governance less effective and rendered Assyrian kings less able to assert control over their subordinates.

Keywords: Assyria, Neo-Assyrian period, imperialism, imperial organization, organizational communication, social network analysis