What is Ancient Near Eastern Studies?
Ancient Near Eastern Studies deals with the history of the Near East, especially the area of modern Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, from ca. 4000 BC to the beginning of the Common Era. Scholars of the Ancient Near East are experts for the cultures and languages of the region in this period.
Countless sources in various languages and scripts have been preserved since the invention of cuneiform writing at the end of the 4th millennium BC. These texts tell the stories of great kingdoms and simple farmers, of divine heroes and travelling merchants, of epic songs and the economy of daily life. The names associated with these past culture are remembered today: the law-giver Hammurabi, the great city of Babylon, or the land of Sumer. Many of the developments which began during this time are still foundational for modern society.
Before you Begin
The most essential requirements before you begin:
- Interest in antiquity and the ancient world
- Affinity for learning new languages
- Interest in tackling research problems independently
During your Studies
Understanding the three thousand-year history of the Ancient Near East requires knowledge of several languages and scripts.
Research and teaching within the degree program on Ancient Near Eastern Studies is thus centered around the intensive training in the three languages Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian), Sumerian, and Hittite as well as the cuneiform script. The main goal of the program is the critical reading of cuneiform sources.
All students learn Akkadian together with at least one other language, either Sumerian or Hittite. The following reading seminars are meant to convey a broad overview of particular topics in Ancient Near Eastern society, for example:
- Laws and the organization of everyday life
- Letters and correspondence
- Politics and state
- Religion and literature
- The development of mathematics and astronomy as sciences
- The role of women in society
The degree program is conducted as a concentration within the program of Ancient Studies. All students thus also take courses in the archaeology of the Near East and neighboring regions in order to gain a broad overview of the cultural history of the region within its historical context. An example of a typical curriculum for a student of Ancient Near Eastern Studies can be found here (in German).
- continue their studies with a Master's degree.
Alternatively, many graduates of the BA program work in the following fields:
- Museums and Exhibitions
- Tourism and Cultural Management
- Journalism (for example, science journalism)
- In Publications, Print, and Media
Above all, the degree program in Ancient Near Eastern Studies qualifies students to work critically and independently in science and the cultural field.