The history of Ancient Near Eastern Studies is inextricably linked to the University of Leipzig. It was here that Assyriology was first taught at a German university as an independent academic discipline.
Friedrich Delitzsch (1850-1922)
- Friedrich Delitzsch laid the foundations for Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Leipzig. It was under his leadership that Assyriology was first established as an independent scientific discipline at a German university in 1874. During his time in Leipzig, Delitzsch laid the philological groundwork of the study of Babylonian-Assyrian (Akkadian) with several pionieering works.
- Under his successor, Heinrich Zimmern (1862–1931), the Semitic Institute with an “Arab” and an “Assyrian” department was founded. The two directors, the Arabist August Fischer and Heinrich Zimmern, founded the series "Leipziger Semitistische Studien" during this period.
- Franz Heinrich Weißbach (1865-1944) studied classic and oriental philology in Leipzig and habilitated in 1897 with his work on "The Sumerian Question" (1898), in which he definitively proved that Sumerian was not a secret code used by the Babylonians, but the language of a people. He researched and taught until 1935, when the National Socialists revoked his teaching license.
- Paul Koschaker (1879-1951) established the new discipline of "cuneiform law" through a series of groundbreaking works. During his time in Leipzig, the "Seminar for the History of Oriental Law" was founded and affiliated with the Semitic Institute.
Benno Landsberger (1890-1968)
- Benno Landsberger (1890–1968) was appointed associate professor in 1925. His inaugural lecture "Die Eigenbegrifflichkeit der babylonischen Welt" was published in the journal Islamica, Vol. 2, pp. 355–372 in 1926 and was one of the most cited articles in Ancient Near Eastern Studies for decades to come due to its programmatic character. Under Landsberger's leadership, the Leipzig institute established itself as a scientific center on an international level. The rise of National Socialism put an end to this. The Jew Landsberger was dismissed from his position on April 1st, 1935 and emigrated to the newly established University of Ankara.
- After Landsberger and Weißbach were dismissed and Koschaker left for Berlin, Johannes Friedrich (1893–1972) was appointed professor on April 30th, 1936. With him, the still young discipline of Hittology gained a foothold in Leipzig. After the end of the war he went to the Freie Universität in Berlin, thus escaping the SED regime.
- Hans-Siegfried Schuster (1910–2002) came to Leipzig to study in 1930 and received his doctorate in 1936 under Johannes Friedrich. We have Schuster to thank for saving part of the institute's tablet collection, which was largely destroyed in an air raid on December 4th, 1943, together with the institute building at Schillerstraße 7. He also rebuilt the institute's library, which has been lost almost entirely. In 1960 he received a lectureship at the Oriental Institute Leipzig. On the day the Berlin Wall was built (August 13th, 1961), Schuster was outside the GDR and did not return to Leipzig.
- Until the fall of the wall, the discipline of Ancient Near Eastern Studies was kept alive in Leipzig by Herbert Petschow, Joachim Oelsner and Manfred Müller, although it was not presented as an independent subject until 1989 and did not have a chair. It was not until 1992 that a professorship for Ancient Near Eastern Studies was announced one more.
- On October 1st, 1993, the institute was re-established when Claus Wilcke (born 1938) from Munich was appointed to the reinstated chair of Ancient Near Eastern Studies.
- On August 1st, 2003, Michael P. Streck from Munich was appointed as Wilcke's successor.