Sonia Mazali

Title: Les prêtresses et prêtres EN du pays de Sumer, de l’empire d’Akkad jusqu’à la chute du royaume de Larsa (2334 – 1763 av. n. è.)

University: Université de Lille

Supervisor: Philippe Abrahami

Abstract: The first en-priestess recorded in written sources dates back to the Akkadian Empire (2334 – 2193 B.C). She was dedicated to the moon god Nanna in the city of Ur. In Ur, successive en-priestesses were installed until the fall of the kingdom of Larsa (1763 B.C). They were all the daughters of kings and were at times considered to be the god’s spouses. They were at the top of their temple’s hierarchy, kept their title for life and lived in a “gipar”, i.e. a building housing the priestess’ residence as well as the temple of Nanna’s consort, the goddess Ningal. The “gipar” in Ur was the subject of extensive excavations at the beginning of the 20th century. It is the only one that has been discovered to this day, although written sources reveal that other “gipars” as well as en-priests and priestesses are attested in Sumer over the same period of time. The aim of this thesis is to collect all the available documents pertaining to these members of the Sumerian clergy in order to better understand their political, economic and religious roles as well as establish links and dissimilarities between the cities and their cults. This study spans over different dynasties and distinct periods in Assyriological Studies; this will allow a better understanding of how the office of en-priestess and en-priest evolved through time.

Keywords: religion, Sumer, en-ship, Akkad, Ur III, Old Babylonian


Adam Howe

Title: Conceptions of Transgression and Its Consequences in the Mesopotamian Exorcistic Corpus

University: University of Oxford

Supervisors: Dr Frances Reynolds (Oxford), Prof Daniel Schwemer (JMU Würzburg)


My doctoral research examines the portrayal of suffering in the Mesopotamian exorcistic corpus (āšipūtu) that was attributed to the consequences of an individual’s transgressive actions. Key to the āšipūtu rituals’ conceptualization of transgression and its punishment is the concept of ‘self-curse’, represented by the Akkadian terms māmītu and arratu, and these therefore form the main focus of my research. Recently published namerimburruda-rituals, which target māmītu-curse and its effects, allow for a reassessment of this concept, while previously unpublished material demonstrates that arratu-curse occasionally had a complementary function. Throughout my research, these concepts are situated within their wider intellectual context, in relation to other causes of suffering addressed by the āšipūtu corpus as well as conceptions of divine punishment in other areas of Mesopotamian literature.

The body of my dissertation has a tripartite structure. First, I examine the portrayal of the ultimate causes of suffering, namely the possible acts of transgression that are listed in incantations. I also consider elements that problematize a direct link between these actions and the resultant suffering: the sufferer’s ignorance of possible transgressions; the possibility of contracting the suffering through contagion; and the portrayal of ‘self-curse’ as externalized, demon-like entities. Second, I look at the manifestation of suffering as a state of ‘reduced existence’. This includes physical and psychological ‘medical’ symptoms, as well as damage to the victim’s socio-economic standing and relationship with the gods. Finally, I assess the methods employed by the exorcist to remove the patient’s state of suffering. The way these methods were understood to work provides further insight into the exorcist’s conceptualization of transgression and its consequences.

Overall, my findings suggest a significant new approach to the theology of sin and divine punishment in late Mesopotamian scholarship and give insights into the theoretical background of the āšipūtu corpus.

Keywords: transgression, curse, divine punishment, ritual, religion, history of medicine


František Válek

Title: Life, Society and Politics in Relation to Religion at Ugarit in the Late Bronze Age

University: Charles University, Prague

Supervisor: Dr Dalibor Antalík

Abstract:  Ugarit provides us with ample evidence for the reconstruction of the Late Bronze Age Levantine religion and at the same time with rich materials for reconstruction of other spheres of life. This makes Ugarit an ideal source for my dissertation project that aims to explore how religious ideas and behaviours were interwoven with the ‘practical lifes’ of individuals, society and the city as a polity.

For the sake of limiting vast resources, religion in this thesis is ‘defined’ as ‘ideas and activities related to deities’. Such an approach is of course not without difficulties and the by-product of this thesis is also a reevaluation of the concept of religion when applied to the ancient Near East. Also, a thorough investigation of the conceptions of divinity at Ugarit will be undertaken within the thesis.

Individual studies on the interweaving of religion and life will be carried mostly in the form of individual case-studies exploring different materials. The main objective is to set the explored materials into a wider context of life. These contexts include economic relations, architectural reality of the city, social stratification, international politics, internal organization of the kingdom, historical circumstances, geographical reality, and others.

The study is not aimed to provide a new and complex study of Ugaritic religion, but to study the sphere of religion as an integral part of the reality of life. As such, religion substantially influenced the social reality, and at the same time, the social reality formed the religion. This dialectical relationship is the central focus of the thesis.

Keywords: religion, Ugarit, Ugaritic literature, royal ideology, myth, cult, international relations, Late Bronze Age, deities

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.


George Heath-Whyte

Bēl and Marduk in the First and Late-Second Millennium BC

University of Cambridge

Dr Selena Wisnom & Dr Martin Worthington

My PhD research focuses on the god Marduk, who came to be the head of the Babylonian pantheon by the 1st Millennium BC. If people have heard of any Mesopotamian god, then it is probably Marduk, yet despite this, there are still large gaps in our knowledge of him. One aspect of this deity that has received almost no attention is the divine name commonly said to be held by him: Bēl (“Lord”). My research seeks to understand the role of this alternate name of Marduk in Mesopotamian theology in the late-second Millennium and the first Millennium BC.