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Home > Graduate Program > 2015-16 Course Descriptions

2015-16 Course Descriptions

2015-16 Course Descriptions

2015-16 Courses


To enroll in an ISAW course, you must first obtain the permission of the instructor. You may then forward the permission email to marc.leblanc@nyu.edu to get the registration access code.

All classes are held in the 2nd floor seminar room unless indicated otherwise.

Fall 2015 Seminars

ISAW-GA 3002-001
Observation and Experiment in Ancient Physical Science
Alexander Jones
alexander.jones@nyu.edu
Wednesdays, 2:00-5:00pm

This seminar explores the empirical elements in ancient scientific traditions that aimed at systematic description, explanation, or prediction of physical phenomena. Scientific practices of the Ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world will figure prominently, but those of other civilizations may be investigated according to the interests and competences of participants. The evidence is largely textual; knowledge of at least one ancient language in which relevant scientific texts exist is required. Participants will choose topics, select study materials, and guide discussion for at least one session.

An initial selection of topics will include the following: the rise of systematic observation of spontaneously occurring phenomena in the context of interpretation of the phenomena as ominous signs; practices of recording and transmitting observations of astral, meteorological, and mundane events; precision, accuracy, and instruments of measurement, especially in astronomical observation records; experiment and experimental apparatus in Greek harmonic theory; empirical claims within deductive scientific texts, e.g. in optics, mechanics, and astronomy; empirical argument in Ptolemy's Optics; adjustment and fabrication of reported observations and measurements.

Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 3007-001
Greco-Arabic Translation Movement
Robert Hoyland
rgh2@nyu.edu
Tuesdays, 9:00am-12:00pm

This course will explore the different paths along which knowledge of Antiquity passed into Muslim intellectual culture and how it was received and interpreted.  The focus will not just be on the so-called ‘translation movement’, but also the broader question of how pre-Islamic histories and cultures fared in the Middle East after the Arab conquests.  We will principally look at Greek texts translated into Arabic, which receive the most scholarly attention, because they are regarded as crucial to understanding how classical learning was conveyed to Europe and because classicists are always hoping to find lost Greek works preserved in Arabic. However, we will also give consideration to translation from Middle Persian and Sanskrit, which may well have been substantial, though the question has been too little studied to be sure.

 Assessment will be via a final paper which should draw upon study of original Arabic texts (or a text) and should have a research dimension to it (i.e. not be just a survey of what is known).

Permission of the instructor and knowledge of Arabic are required, and some familiarity with Greek would be an advantage.

ISAW-GA 3010-001
The Manuscripts of Early Chinese Natural Philosophy
Ethan Harkness
harkness@nyu.edu
Fridays, 2:00-5:00pm

This course will introduce students to a variety of recently excavated Chinese technical manuscripts dating from the late Warring States, Qin, and Western Han periods (4th – 1st centuries BCE).  We will pay particular attention to the various calendrically-based divination texts promulgated in the manuscripts known as rishu (“daybooks”), but the fields of astronomy, geography, medicine, and mathematics will all receive due consideration.  When appropriate, reference will be made to connections with transmitted texts and to the later repercussions of ideas developed and refined in the years immediately surrounding the formation of the Chinese empire.  Topics to consider will include the social function of the early technical texts; the nature of their transmission and evolution; regional idiosyncrasies; the interconnected roles of scribes and readers; and the possible function of both political ideology and private interests in shaping the texts.

Prerequisites are good reading knowledge of modern and classical Chinese and permission of the instructor.

ISAW-GA 3010-002
Advanced Study in Chinese Art & Archaeology
Lillian Tseng
lillian.tseng@nyu.edu
Tuesdays, 2:00-5:00pm

This course is intended to provide intensive analyses of primary sources and related scholarship in Chinese art & archaeology for graduate students who have sufficient knowledge of the field. Topics to study depend on the research need of the students.

Ability to read Classical Chinese and permission of the instructor are required.

ISAW-GA 3012-001
Archaeology and Historiography: Perspectives on Time, Space, Text and Material Roderick Campbell
rbc2@nyu.edu
Thursdays, 2:00-5:00pm

Though treated as separate disciplines and usually housed in different departments, at the highest level history and archaeology share the common goal of understanding the human past. Nevertheless, in both theory and method, not only are archaeology and history internally diverse, but also frequently miles apart. This seminar will embark on an interdisciplinary exploration of the historical sciences: their histories, philosophies and methodologies. Special focus will be on theories of time (change, tradition, process, event, etc.), space (physical space, place, landscape, etc.), text (context, genre, discourse, memory, etc.) and material (material culture, materiality, things, actor-networks, etc.)

The reading load in this course will be heavy. Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 3013-001
Production, Accumulation, Trade, and Value: Political Economy in the Ancient Mediterranean
Lorenzo d’Alfonso and Elizabeth Murphy
lda5@nyu.edu; elizabeth.murphy@nyu.edu
Mondays, 2:00-5:00pm

During the last decades, renewed attention has been devoted to the importance of market and private enterprise in the economies of the ancient Mediterranean, as exemplified by such works as A history of market performance: from ancient Babylonia to the modern world (van der Spek et al., eds., 2015), Commerce and colonization in the ancient Near East (Aubet, 2013), and The Roman market economy (Temin, 2013). On the one hand, interest in market and private enterprise enables us to traverse artificial distinctions between pre-classical and classical ancient Mediterranean civilizations and to pose cross-culturally comparative questions about ancient state economies. On the other hand, this new trend in some respects pays less attention to institutional and political impacts on ancient economies. This impact has perhaps received too much attention in the historiography of ancient western Asia, but the meaning of political intervention in the economic process acquires a different meaning when embedded in a context of private enterprises. For the Roman world, the interests of imperial institutions (e.g., military supply chains, annona redistributions, imperial monopolies) as influencing the scale and organization of economic activities has been long recognized, but recent approaches have turned to the more subtle and indirect ways that institutions affected regional economic development. In response to these academic trends, this course aims to examine the role of political economy in the ancient Mediterranean from multiple vantages.  The first classes will focus on recent theoretical works on political economy such as Piketty’s Capital, and North’s Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, as well as some of the ‘classic’ works on ancient economies, such as those by Polanyi, Finley, and Rostovtzeff. In the following classes, ideas developed through the theory classes will then be confronted with specific case studies from the protohistory of ancient western Asia and the Greco-Roman world. These thematic classes will consider issues of primary production, storage and hoarding (accumulation of surpluses and wealth), trade, and the definition of value. 

Permission of the instructors is required.

Fall 2015 Tutorials

ISAW-GA 3014-001
Texts from the Libraries of the Kingdom of Eshnunna
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
Tuesdays, 2:00-5:00pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor 

Various cities of the kingdom of Eshnunna have yielded literary texts, among them the city of Eshnunna, which seems to have housed a center for scribal training already during the Old Akkadian period, where a forerunner to The Great Revolt Against Naram-Sin has come to light; the city of Tell Harmal, ancient Shaduppum, where the only copy of Sargon in Foreign Lands has been found; and the city of Tell Haddad, ancient Meturan, which yielded a remarkable collection of tablets from a private house owned by an exorcist. In addition to Akkadian archival texts found in separate rooms, there has come to light from two areas a library containing a fragment of the Laws of Eshnunna as well as numerous lexical, liturgical, literary and magic texts (incantations), two prayers to the sun god, and the earliest attested bilingual forerunner to the hemerological series Inbu bel arhi. Among the literary texts, perhaps the most unexpected discovery is a copy of the Sumerian version of the story of Adapa and two larger fragments of the Death of Gilgamesh. Other Gilgamesh stories represented at Meturan are Gilgamesh and the Bull of An, Gilgamesh and Huwawa, and Gilgamesh, EnkIdu and the Netherworld.

The goal of this seminar is to examine Eshnunna’s role in the transmission of scholarly knowledge through an in-depth analysis of the written compositions extant from the major cities of the kingdom.

Permission of the instructor and knowledge of Akkadian and Sumerian are required.

ISAW-GA 3014-002
Advanced Akkadian: Old Babylonian Historical Texts
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
Thursdays, 11:00am-1:00pm
Small Conference Room, 6th Floor 

This advanced course in Akkadian will emphasize the reading of Old Babylonian texts from the sites of Mari and Eshnunna in order to investigate the rise to power and political relations of these two kingdoms during the Old Babylonian period. Primary texts read will include the treaty concluded between between Zimri-lim of Mari and Ibal-pi-el II of Eshnunna and a lengthy letter from Ibal-pi-el II to Zimri-lim offering a political alliance.  These two texts offer insight into the form and structure as well as the terminology of international treaties during the first half of the second millennium BCE. Additional readings will include not only other historical inscriptions of the kings of Mari and of Eshnunna but also, for the purposes of comparison and contrast, inscriptions of the kings of Larsa.

Students will acquire an in-depth understanding of the variety and scope of historical and particularly royal inscriptions in the time of the competing territorial states of the Old Babylonian period.

Permission of the instructor and Intermediate Akkadian are required.

Fall 2015 Other Courses

ISAW-GA 1000-001
Intro to Ancient Egyptian I
Ogden Goelet
ogden.goelet@nyu.edu
Time and Location, TBD

This course, in the first part of a full year course over two semesters, introduces students to the Middle Egyptian (Classical) dialect of the Ancient Egyptian language in its hieroglyphic form. The classes are structured primarily according to the lessons in J.P. Allen, Middle Egyptian. An Introduction to the Language and Culture of the Hieroglyphs. The course will usually proceed at the rate of one chapter per week, but occasionally a chapter may be skipped or two chapters will be combined. The goal of the first semester is to reach the treatment of the Egyptian verb and the infinitive in Allen’s 13th and 14th chapters. The lessons will be supplemented with readings from A.H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd. edition, M. Collier and B. Manley, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs, revised edition, and occasional excerpts from Egyptian funerary stelae.

Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 1002-001
Advanced Ancient Egyptian I
Ogden Goelet
ogden.goelet@nyu.edu
Time and Location, TBD

This course is based on readings from actual Egyptian hieroglyphic texts in their original form. In the early stages of the course, the readings will be presented in both a “normalized” form with the individual sentences and clauses demarked as well as in the original, continuous text format. The readings will be drawn from a wide range of genres and will increase in difficulty as the course progresses. Where appropriate, photographs and line drawings will be used so that students will learn to handle hieroglyphic text as it actually appears on Egyptian objects. The readings are drawn from a text book in progress.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Spring 2016 Seminars

ISAW-GA 3007-001
Roman Law and the Papyri
Roger Bagnall
roger.bagnall@nyu.edu
Thursdays, 9:00am-12:00pm

Ever since the first legal documents on papyrus dating to the Roman imperial period were published in the nineteenth century, it has been evident to jurists that the papyri offered a unique opportunity to look in depth at how the majestic and complex structure of Roman law that we know from the classical jurists (largely excerpted in Justinian’s Digest) worked on the ground in the provinces. A sizable literature on the subject developed in the early twentieth centuy and has continued to evolve. This seminar will take a series of key issues and institutions, including marriage, the legal status of women, slavery, testation, and major contract types. For each we will examine both selections from the jurists and some representative papyrus documents.

Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 3010-001
Shang Civilization: Text and Material Culture
Roderick Campbell
rbc2@nyu.edu
Fridays, 2:00-5:00pm

This seminar will focus on the Shang dynasty of ancient China from the perspective of archaeology, epigraphy and transmitted texts. The archaeology will cover north China in the 2nd millennium BCE, but focus on the site of Anyang where inscribed oracle-bones and bronzes, monumental tombs and palatial buildings were discovered in the early 20th century demonstrating the historicity of the Shang dynasty. The oracle-bones and bronze inscriptions of the Anyang period will present an opportunity to glimpse a partial image of Shang royal and high elite concerns, especially concerning ritual. A study of Shang history from the perspective of transmitted texts will give both an opportunity to understand the place of the Shang dynasty in later Chinese history as well as its formation as historical subject. This course will be taught at several levels and students of non-sinological background are welcome. While the ability to read classical and modern Chinese would be an asset, neither language is a requirement for this seminar.

Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 3012-001
Beyond China and Byzantium
Robert Hoyland and Sören Stark
rgh2@nyu.edu; soeren.stark@nyu.edu
Tuesdays, 9:00am-12:00pm

Permission of the instructors is required.

ISAW-GA 3014-001
Cultural Memory and the Libraries in Mesopotamia
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
Tuesdays, 2:00-5:00pm

Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 3023-001
Special Topics in Digital Humanities for the Ancient World: Computational Photography and 3D Modeling
Sebastian Heath
sh1933@nyu.edu
Wednesdays, 2:00-5:00pm

The premise of this course is that virtual representations of the ancient world will become increasingly important to both research and teaching as the ability to create, work with, and share such digital resources becomes less expensive and more widely available. Accordingly, the course will combine hands-on experience with creating and using virtual representations of ancient material culture, including objects and architectural spaces, with a review of current practices being employed by projects around the world. Students will use such tools as the open-source 3d-suite Blender, the game engine Unity, and applications for making models with smartphone cameras. We will explore techniques for making richly-textured 3d models of real objects as well as create immersive virtual environments. Readings will include reports of ongoing work as well as discussions of why 3D matters and how it is being used in the classroom. Guest speakers from academia and industry will provide a broad perspective on current trends. Students will use their own computers and should be willing to apply themselves to learning the digital skills the class introduces.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Spring 2016 Tutorials

ISAW-GA 3014-002
Advanced Akkadian: Neo-Babylonian Historical Inscriptions
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
Thursdays, 11:00am-1:00pm
Small Conference Room, 6th Floor 

The Advanced Reading of Akkadian Class of Neo-Babylonian Inscriptions is designed to introduce into the Neo-Babylonian dialect and to familiarize the student with its particular paleography and grammar. Simultaneously, a diachronic choice of Neo-Babylonian inscriptions reaching from Nabupolassar, its founder, to Nabonidus will provide an insight into the history of the Neo-Babylonian empire.

Permission of the instructor and knowledge of Akkadian are required.

Spring 2016 Other Courses

ISAW-GA 1001-001
Intro to Ancient Egyptian II
Ogden Goelet
ogden.goelet@nyu.edu
Time and Location, TBD

This course is a continuation of the first semester. The course will proceed at the rate of a chapter per week through J.P. Allen, Middle Egyptian. An Introduction to the Language and Culture of the Hieroglyphs. From time to time, passages from actual Egyptian texts will supplement the examples in Allen’s grammar. Depending on the progress of the class, the last weeks of the course will cover the hieroglyphic transcription of The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, an actual Egyptian literary tale.

Permission of the instructor is required.

ISAW-GA 1003-001
Advanced Ancient Egyptian II
Ogden Goelet
ogden.goelet@nyu.edu
Time and Location, TBD

This is a continuation of the fall semester course, using additional sources of increasing difficulty. Depending on the progress of the class, there will be occasional readings from hieratic primarily based on sources that the students have already read in hieroglyphic transcription during this course and the previous semester.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Past Seminars