Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Cambridge
Since 2008, Assyriology (the study of Mesopotamia) at the University of Cambridge is housed within the Faculty of Archaeology & Anthropology and the Department of Archaeology. The course was previously available in the former Faculty of Oriental Studies.
The Assyriology B.A. at Cambridge is a three-year course, with a range of options in Part I (1st year) and Parts IIA and IIB (2nd and 3rd years). The course will allow students to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the languages, literature, history and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia. Students may also study the archaeology of Mesopotamia, without the languages, as part of the regular B.A. course in Archaeology. It is also possible to combine the study of Assyriology with Egyptology.
Full details of the options and courses are found on the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology website (Part I) and the Department of Archaeology website (Parts IIA and IIB); a brief description of these options is given below.
Applications for undergraduate study are made directly to colleges through the UCAS system; for details, please visit the Undergraduate Admissions webpage. Applicants for Assyriology should aply for Archaeology and Anthopology, specifying the Assyriology option in your application. All the colleges of the University of Cambridge accept applicants for Archaeology & Anthropology, but we can recommend that you apply to a college where the Director of Studies is in the Department of Archaeology. A list of colleges can be found here. Teaching staff in Assyriology and Egyptology are fellows of Homerton, Newnham, Selwyn and Trinity Colleges.
Part I (First Year)
In Part I, students take four papers out of a choice of seven. Paper 5 is an introductory survey of Mesopotamian and ancient Egyptian history, culture and archaeology and provides a background for the more detailed Part II syllabus. Paper 5 is taken by all students in both Assyriology and Egyptology and is an option for students not taking ancient languages. Paper 6 is elementary Akkadian; during this first year of language study, students learn the grammar of the standard literary Babylonian dialect and both Babylonian and Assyrian forms of the cuneiform script. Texts read include excerpts from the annals of Assyrian kings, the Laws of Hammurapi and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Students combine Papers 5 and 6 with two further papers in Egyptian language (Paper 7), Archaeology, Biological Anthropology or Social Anthropology (Papers 1-3).
Part II (Second and Third Years)
Assyriology is a separate option within the Part II Archaeology syllabus. Advanced Akkadian language papers at Part IIA and IIB extend the range of texts and dialects studied, including royal and private correspondence and legal documents of the Old Babylonian (c 1800 BC) and Neo-Assyrian (c 700 BC) Periods, and a variety of literary and religious compositions. (Students may also begin Akkadian language from scratch in Part IIA by sitting the Part I Akkadian paper).
As well as Akkadian language, there are three further papers to take in Part IIA; Assyriology students have a choice from: Mesopotamian archaeology, Mesopotamian culture, Mesopotamian history, and general archaeological practice (Archaeology Paper A2). The archaeology, history and culture (literature, religion and science) papers each run on a two-year cycle, and students in Assyriology normally will take the alternate half of any of these papers in the final (Part IIB) year. At Part IIB students either take a fifth paper (e.g. on elementary Sumerian, or general archaeological practice), or write a dissertation.
The Mesopotamian archaeology and culture papers are also available to students following the regular Archaeology B.A. course, as one or two of their regional options, in both second and third years. There is a requirement for 6-weeks of practical experience during the course, to be acquired over the summer or Easter holidays. There are opportunities to participate in archaeological fieldwork or museum research projects.
Suggested Reading List for Undergraduates:
Archaeology and Art:
- Collon, D. 1995. Ancient Near Eastern Art. University of California Press.
- Crawford, H. 2004 rev ed. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge University Press.
- Oates, J. 1986. Babylon. Thames & Hudson.
- Pollock, S. 1999. Ancient Mesopotamia. Cambridge University Press.
History and Social History:
- Kuhrt, A. 1995. The Ancient Near East, c 3000-330 BC. Routledge.
- Postgate, J.N. 1992. Early Mesopotamia, Society and Economy at the Dawn of History. Routledge.
- Snell, D. 1997. Life in the Ancient Near East. Yale University Press.
- van de Mieroop, M. 2003. A History of the Ancient Near East, c 3000-323 BC. Blackwell.
- Black, J.A., A.R. George & J.N. Postgate. 1999. A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Harrassowitz.
- Caplice, R. 1980. Introduction to Akkadian. Studia Pohl, Series Maior 9.
- Huehnergard, J. 2000. A Grammar of Akkadian. Harvard University & Eisenbrauns.
- Walker, C.B.F. 1987. Cuneiform. British Museum.
- Dalley, S. 2000 rev. ed. Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press.
- Foster, B. 1993. Before the Muses: Anthology of Akkadian Literature. CDL Press.
- George, A. 1999. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin.