Course Descriptions

Professor and students with laptops around table in classrom ©Kahn: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau To enroll in an ISAW course, you must first obtain the permission of the instructor. You may then forward the permission email to isaw.academic.affairs@nyu.edu to get the registration access code. All classes will be held in the 2nd-floor Seminar Room at ISAW unless indicated otherwise.

Fall 2022: Seminar on the Interconnected Ancient World

Theory and Approaches to the Study of the Ancient World
Roderick Campbell
rbc2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3030-001
Tuesdays, 2-5pm

Permission of the instructor is required.

Fall 2022: Research Seminars

Arabic Historical Writing in its Formative Period
Robert Hoyland
rgh2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-001
Thursdays, 9am-12pm

Permission of the instructor is required

Food and Diet in Greco-Roman Antiquity
Claire Bubb
cc148@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-002
Thursdays, 2-5pm

This seminar will consider food and diet in Greco-Roman antiquity through three different lenses: science, practice, and culture. Beginning with an overview of theories of nutrition and digestion, we will discuss medical advice on diet, which had an outsized role in both preventative and therapeutic medicine. Next, we will move to the practicalities of diet, considering both textual and archaeological sources; topics will include agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting (both natural and staged), the role of sacrifice, and the role of the state (military diet, grain doles, etc.). Finally, we will turn to the culture surrounding food, including philosophical attitudes, the ethnography of diet, cookbooks, and satire.

Permission of the instructor required.

Transcultural Art History
Lillian Tseng
lillian.tseng@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-003
Mondays, 2-5pm

This seminar explores ways in which cultural boundaries in art history can be reconsidered. It focuses on the most recent art historical publications that investigate art in the in-between zones. Through critical analysis of what is at the cutting edge of the discipline, students will learn skills essential to articulate transcultural complexity in art, such as asking bold questions, developing alternative perspectives, identifying little-known but crucial objects, retrieving long forgotten yet meaningful contexts, etc. The ultimate goal is to encourage students to move beyond the dichotomy between Eurocentric and multicultural approaches, and to take an active role in shaping the academic world after the so-called global turn. The seminar benefits from Professor Tseng's recent service as the Coeditor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin.

Permission of the instructor is required.

An Ecological Approach to the Ancient World: Topics, Methods, and Debates in Environmental Archaeology
Lorenzo Castellano
lc2995@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-004
Fridays, 2-5pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor

This seminar introduces the field of Environmental Archaeology – i.e., the interdisciplinary study of past human interaction with the natural world.

We will address this subject through a threefold approach: (i) we will conduct a survey of the main methodologies employed in environmental archaeological research – including palaeoclimatology, geomorphology, archaeobotany, and zooarchaeology; (ii) we will critically engage with central topics and debates in the field through an analysis of selected case studies drawn from current research across Eurasia; (iii) we will discuss the main theoretical approaches framing human-environment relationship – from environmental determinism to historical and political ecology.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Religious Institutions and Sacred Space in Syria and Anatolia (2nd-1st Millennium BCE)
Lorenzo d'Alfonso
lda5@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-001
Wednesdays, 9am-12pm

After its demise during the end of the past century, the archaeology of the cult has reacquired momentum in the study of the human past. New technologies and new theoretical approaches allow us to concentrate on the cultic use of space and the reconstruction of rituals through new venues that will be discussed in the first classes of the seminar. They will be then applied to the case study of Late Bronze Age and Iron Age Anatolia and Syria. The LBA-IA transition in southwest Asia was felt nowhere as politically disruptive as in the core of the Hittite empire. After considering the discussion on the "Hittite collapse", the course will try to trace the different local political trajectories developing during the Early and the Middle Iron Age in the former territories of the empire, with a particular attention to material remains and figurative art. While exploring the micro-regional, specific developments of the single post-Hittite polities, questions of economic strategies, strategies of political legitimation, (re)definition of cultic institutions, of social stratification, of long and short distance contacts, the impact and modalities of movements of peoples, of technological innovations and of the specific intercultural contacts with the east (Assyria), the west (Mediterranean), and the south (southern Levant, Biblical world) and the models used to represent them in modern scholarship will be discussed with the participants.

Note: the first meeting of this course will take place on September 14th.

Permission of the instructor is required.

The Phoenicians and the Mediterranean
Antonis Kotsonas
ak7509@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-002
Fridays, 9am-12pm

The Phoenicians are central to current approaches to the history and archaeology of the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium BCE. However, the historiography of these people has been volatile. This seminar will address questions of Phoenician history and historiography, and will explore the identity and culture of these people by investigating a wide range of textual, material and other evidence from the homeland of the Phoenicians and the areas of their overseas activities around the Mediterranean. We will engage with a diverse body of scholarship, which ranges from theoretical approaches to Phoenician society and economy and models of interaction of these people with others in the Near East and the Mediterranean, to critical readings of textual traditions, to art-historical accounts of Phoenician craftsmanship, to reports of archaeological fieldwork and important discoveries in the Levant, Cyprus, the Aegean, north Africa, the Italian peninsula, Sicily, Sardinia, and Iberia. Also, we will investigate the ways in which the history and archaeology of the Phoenicians has been communicated to the wider public through museum exhibitions, and we will reflect on the relevance of ancient Phoenician history and heritage to present-day communities.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Early Rome and Italy: Materials, Practices, and People in Motion
John Hopkins
jnh1@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-003 (cross-listed as FINH-GA 3024-001)
Mondays, 3-5pm
Institute of Fine Arts (1 East 78th Street), Rm. 119, Seminar Room

Over the past 20 years, the study of early Rome and Italy has usurped scholarship on the Republic and Empire, to become perhaps the most vital area of Roman studies and Ancient Mediterranean Art History. This Seminar will examine the latest scholarship on the makings of a Roman Community amidst major shifts in Italic and Mediterranean Culture from ca. 800-250 BCE. Spanning periods that saw the formations of urban landscapes, multiple architectural and artistic traditions, governmental bodies and the tumultuous upheaval of Mediterranean power norms through the aftermath of Alexander the Great's conquest and the onset of the First Punic War, we will read the latest scholarship and engage in the field-altering debates that have hit the discipline over the past 20 years. Topics will include the built environment as socially generative space, materials and making practices as constitutive of sociocultural traditions, religious practice, elite networks, governmental organization, military engagement and the relevance of scholarly conceptual shifts, including the material turn, the turn to indigenous and race-studies, queer and feminist readings of evidence, the ontological turn and more. In pairs and trios, students will focus each week on a single book in order to gain a sense of the construction of dissertation-length arguments. Writing will be an essential component as well. This course will be object and built-environment focused but will speak as well to historical questions essential to Roman Studies, broadly.

Permission of the instructor is required.

The History of Assyria in Ancient and Modern Historiography
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-001
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm

This seminar is not geared towards an event-oriented history of Assyria. It is also not concerned with the social science oriented history including quantitative sociological and economic history modeled after the natural sciences and its claim for objective truth. Rather than a history from below, the emphasis is on the study of the textual production as it related to or occurred at the Assyrian courts throughout their history and on how ancient historiography proceeded from facts or empirical events to create a coherent story about the deeds of the king that met the expectations linked with the office of rulership, which were informed by a longstanding tradition and the world view of the time. We will educate ourselves as to how to interpret the various text genres that Assyriologists have classified as chronicles and annals by critically re-evaluating our modern taxonomy applied to the ancient texts and explore how these 'genres' interface with what we tend to subsume under fiction and literature. In addition to such critical attitude toward the text, informed by postmodern literary theory and linguistics, linguistic features of the ancient texts and the shape of the tablet as well as the context of the text will illuminate our interpretation of the ancients' intentionality. We will explore to what degree the writings were indeed concerned with the past, what the inserting of 'historical factual data' was aiming at and further critically evaluate the assumption that history needs always to be written in a narrative.

The goal of the seminar is threefold: 1) to familiarize ourselves with the various text categories, 2) to acquire knowledge in the various dialects of the Assyrian language as well as in the 'hymnic epical dialect' by reading primary sources related to the general discussion and 3) to acquire an insight into the cultural and intellectual setting in which historiography was written by the ancient scholars for the political elites.

Requirements: Knowledge of Akkadian.

Evaluation Criteria: - Preparation for the reading sessions (35%); - active participation in the discussion sessions on the basis of short written summary statements of the required readings (35%); - final paper 30%.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Seals and Sealing Practices in the Ancient Near East
Daniel Potts
dtp2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-002
Wednesdays, 2-5pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor

Permission of the instructor is required.

Fall 2022: Other Courses

Advanced Akkadian: The Civil War between Ashurbanipal and Shamash-shum-ukin
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-003
Thursday, 11am-1pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor

In this class we will read the sources pertaining to the historical event of the civil war between the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and his brother Shamash-shum-ukin, viceroy of Babylonia including annals, the oath of allegiance of the queen mother Zakutu on behalf of Ashurbanipal, queries to the sun god, letters, and Assur's response to Ashurbanipal regarding his campaign against Babylon, a so-called Letter of the God.

Requirements: Knowledge of Akkadian; reading and analysis of the primary sources (50%), Final (50%).

Permission of the instructor is required.

Advanced Ancient Egyptian I
Marc LeBlanc
ml4878@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 1002-001 (cross-listed as FINH-GA 2520-002)
Fridays, 2-5pm

This course will focus on reading Middle Egyptian texts in a variety of genres. Special consideration will be given to the grammar of the texts, as well as the materiality and historical, cultural, and archaeological context.

Prerequisites: ISAW-GA 1000, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian I," and ISAW-GA 1001, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian II" (or equivalent coursework).

Permission of the instructor is required.

Spring 2023: Seminar on the Interconnected Ancient World

The Later First Millennium BCE
Alexander Jones and Claire Bubb
aj60@nyu.edu; cc148@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3031-001
Tuesdays, 2-5pm

The period from the mid-fourth century to the end of the first millennium BCE saw enormous political change, both east and west. Power fluctuated among smaller states and empires across the Eurasian continent, ultimately to be largely subsumed by the two massive empires of the dawn of the Common Era, the Roman and the Han. Against this tumultuous backdrop, the period saw significant cultural and intellectual innovation in many different fields. This course will offer a broad picture of the changes that unfolded during this eventful timeframe across Eurasia, paying particular attention to the themes of cultural transmission and cultural identity and hybridity.

Permission of the instructors is required.

Spring 2023: Research Seminars

The Sciences of the Stars in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Civilizations
Alexander Jones
aj60@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3002-001
Mondays, 9am-12pm

In this course, we will explore the main lines of development and transmission of the astral sciences (astronomy and astrology) in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world, loosely from 7th century BCE Nineveh (Assyrian scholars observing and interpreting celestial omens) to 2nd century Alexandria (the works of Claudius Ptolemy). Knowledge of one or more of the relevant languages (Akkadian, Egyptian, Greek, Latin) will be an asset though not a prerequisite.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Arabia, East Africa and the Indian Ocean in Late Antiquity
Robert Hoyland
rgh2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-001
Thursdays, 2-5pm

The Arabian Peninsula and East Africa feature more prominently in our sources in the late antique period (ca 200-700). In part, this is because of the increase in maritime traffic along the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, which connected Arabia and East Africa with numerous trading centers of the Mediterranean basin and the southern and east Asian worlds. And in part it is because of the rise of Abrahamic monotheisms in Arabia and East Africa, which linked them to the populations of the two great empires of Rome and Persia and to various communities strung out along the shores of Asia. This course will explore the somewhat neglected history of Arabia and East Africa, especially the kingdoms of Saba and Aksum, and the interaction between them, in the late antique period, drawing upon the many exciting archaeological and epigraphic discoveries of the last decade. We will conclude by considering the relationship between the rise of Islam and the demise of the ancient south Arabian and Aksumite states and the degree to which their cultures survived within the emerging Islamic Empire.

Permission of the instructor is required.

'Hellenistic' and 'post-Hellenistic' Central Asia beyond 'Hellenism'
Sören Stark
soeren.stark@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-002
Wednesdays, 9am-12pm

Permission of the instructor is required.

Domination, Subordination and Identity
Roderick Campbell & Lorenzo d'Alfonso
rbc2@nyu.edu; lda5@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-003
Fridays, 2-5pm

Permission of the instructors is required.

Advanced Study in Early Chinese Art
Lillian Tseng
lillian.tseng@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-001
Wednesdays, 2-5pm

Permission of the instructor is required.

The Formation of Cultural Memory: Ancient Near Eastern Libraries, Archives, and Schools
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-001
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm

Ancient disputation and dialogue literature as well as other texts reveal that there was a tradition of competition between ancient centers of learning in Mesopotamia. Knowledge of important Babylonian cultural centers can still be detected in the writings of Strabo. So far, scholarship has occupied itself primarily with publishing the contents of libraries, and often – due to the quantity of texts and particular research questions – such effort has focused on particular genres rather than on entire collections. Much effort has gone into the reconstruction of school curricula. Less attention has been paid to the actual owners of the libraries and their professions, what particular texts or genres were collected and for what potential purposes in one particular place. The workshop intends to approach Mesopotamian libraries holistically, by taking a closer look at their content, situating them in their sociopolitical context, and exploring who owned them. This approach will probe the possibility that Mesopotamian libraries can be defined as much as places for the acquisition and transmission of knowledge as for its construction and production. Further, the workshop will attempt to map a geography of knowledge and to test whether we can identify traditional centers of knowledge as well as staging posts in the flow of knowledge.

Permission of the instructor is required. Akkadian is required for those who attend the reading sessions. Evaluation Criteria:  preparation for the reading sessions (35%); active participation in the discussion sessions on the basis of short written summary statements of the required readings (35%); final paper 30%.

Death and Burial in the Ancient Near East
Daniel Potts
dtp2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-002
Wednesdays, 2-5pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor

Permission of the instructor is required.

Graph Databases and Network Analysis
Sebastian Heath
sebastian.heath@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3023-001
Mondays, 2-5pm

Permission of the instructor is required.

Spring 2023: Other Courses

Advanced Akkadian: International Relations during the Second Millennium BCE
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-003
Thursdays, 11am-1pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor

While generally the Amarna Age has become synonymous with international relations in the ancient Near East, evidence for diplomacy goes far back to 24th century kingdom of Ebla in Northern Syria, and its relations with Mari and other kingdoms. During the Old Babylonian period we see Mari using the full range of diplomatic strategies including dynastic marriages, gift-giving, treaties and oaths and their accompanying rituals, the use of etiquette and protocols, and kinship terminology in the letters and treaties. With the Late Bronze Age we then enter the period of the balance of power between various political formations of region extent including Egypt, Hatti, Mitanni, Assyria, and Babylonia with the metaphor of 'brotherhood' expressing the political alliances between peers and evoking the notion of the royal houses belonging to an "extended family of international setting" (Liverani, Prestige and Interest). In this seminar we will read letters and treaties from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age to familiarize ourselves with the diplomatic strategies developed during these periods.

Requirements: Knowledge of Akkadian. Participation in class 50%; Final 50%.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Advanced Ancient Egyptian II
Niv Allon
Niv.Allon@metmuseum.org
ISAW-GA 1003-001
Fridays, 9am-12pm

This course will focus on reading Middle Egyptian texts in a variety of genres. Special consideration will be given to the grammar of the texts, as well as the materiality and historical, cultural, and archaeological context.

Prerequisites: ISAW-GA 1000, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian I"; ISAW-GA 1001, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian II"; and ISAW-GA 1002, "Advanced Ancient Egyptian I" (or equivalent coursework).

Permission of the instructor is required.

Past Seminars