The study of Ancient Near Eastern Studies imparts knowledge of the languages, history and cultures of the Ancient Near East as well as methods of scientific work in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. The subject can be studied as a bachelor's degree and master's degree.
Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Leipzig
Ancient Near Eastern Studies – also known as Assyriology or Cuneiform Studies – is the study of the languages, history and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and surrounding regions from around 3000 BC to the beginning of the common era. Its geographic area includes large parts of the Near East on the territory of the modern states of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran as well as neighbouring countries. The most important source material for Ancient Near Studies are around 550,000 texts written in cuneiform on clay tablets which have survived for thousands of years. These cuneiform texts represent the oldest and, after ancient Greek, the second largest text corpus of antiquity. However, most of these texts, kept in numerous museums and private collections around the world, remain unpublished. Archaeological excavations also bring new clay tablets to light every year, so that the number of texts continues to grow. Every newly unearthed or published text puts our knowledge of the ancient Near East to the test, expands it and often enough forces us to revise previously held views. Ancient Near Eastern Studies, more than other philological-historical fields, is therefore a highly research-intensive, rapidly developing and changing discipline.
Ancient Near Eastern studies are subdivied in the following areas based on ancient languages and corresponding cultures:
The Semitic language of the Babylonians and Assyrians was once spoken in Mesopotamia (Iraq, Syria) and was also common throughout the Near East. Akkadian is attested from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE. Geographically and chronologically, Akkadian is the most widespread and, in terms of the number and diversity of texts, the best attested language of the ancient Near East.
The oldest documented language of mankind, unrelated to other known languages, and the language of the inventors of writing from the southernmost quarter of Mesopotamia, was used from the 3rd to the early 2nd millennium BCE, in cult and in science even later.
Hittite is the oldest documented Indo-European (i.e. related to German, English, Latin, Greek and Old Indic) language of the inhabitants of Asia Minor (Turkey) from the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE. In addition to Hittite, Anatolia was home to the only poorly known languages Luwian (written in cuneiform and a hieroglyphic script), Palaian (both related to Hittite) and Hattic (an isolated language).
- Amorite, Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Old Aramaic
These four closely related North-West Semitic languages from the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE were spoken in what is now Syria. Amorite is only known to us through a large number of personal names and some loanwords in Akkadian. The other three languages are recorded in the world's first alphabetic writing systems.
- Hurrian and Urartian
Hurrian and Urartian are two closely related, but otherwise isolated cuneiform languages. The former was primarily spoken in the 3rd and 2nd millennia in Mesopotamia (Iraq, Syria) and Asia Minor (Turkey). Urartian sources stem from 1st millennium Armenia and South-East Turkey.
Elamite is an isolated language from South-West Iran, with written sources from the 3rd to 1st millennium.
- Old Persian
The indo-european language of the Achaemenid empire from the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BCE utilised a distinctive cuneiform-based syllabic writing system.
The objective of Ancient Near Eastern Studies is to acquire basic knowledge of the languages, history and cultures of the Ancient Near East as well as the methods of academic work in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, in particular philological text analysis and cultural-historical source interpretation. Ancient Near Eastern Studies is offered in both Bachelor's and Master's programs. The most closely related subjects at our university are Egyptology, Ancient History, Old Testament Studies, Classical Archaeology, Classical Philology and Oriental Studies. The study of Ancient Near Eastern Studies requires talent and perseverance in learning difficult scripts and languages, a pronounced interest in history and the ability to empathise with the very different cultures of the Ancient Near East.
In addition, the programs introduce scientific methods at an early stage. The high standards and the proximity to research impart key qualifications for a large number of professional fields in cultural management (e.g. in the field of media or museums), as well as at university and non-university research institutions.