Beate Pongratz-Leisten

Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Member, PhD Admissions Committee, AY2024-25

Beate Pongratz-Leisten was trained as a translator and interpreter of French and Spanish at the École Supérieure d'Interprètes et de Traducteurs, Paris, and the University of Mainz. In 1983 she embarked on a second career in ancient Near Eastern Studies, Egyptology, and Religious Studies at Tübingen University and Harvard University. She received her doctorate and habilitation from Tübingen University. Before joining the faculty of ISAW she taught at Tübingen University and Freiburg University in Germany, as well as at PrincetonYale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Interests: political, intellectual and religious history of the ancient Near East, materialities of culture, literature, formation of textual communities, transmission of cultural memory, ritual performance and ritual texts, text and image, knowledge production.

Her publications include several books on the cultural and religious history of ancient Mesopotamia, INA ŠULMI ĪRUB. Die kulttopographische und ideologische Programmatik der akītu-Prozession in Babylonien und Assyrien im 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1994); Ana šadî Labnāni lū allik. Beiträge zu altorientalischen und mittelmeerischen Kulturen. Festschrift für Wolfgang Röllig (co-edited with Hartmut Kühne and Paolo Xella, 1997); Herrschaftswissen in Mesopotamien: Formen der Kommunikation zwischen Gott und König im 2. und 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1999); (ed.) Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism (2011); The Materiality of Divine Agency (co-edited with Karen Sonik, 2015); Religion and Ideology in Assyria (2015). She just finished a manuscript on A Narrative Reading of the World: Myth in Text and Image in Ancient Mesopotamia.

Together with colleagues from Classics, art history, cognitive sciences and linguistics she has founded the research group Ancient Cultures and Cognitive Sciences (ACCS) to investigate aspects of ancient cultures including the shaping of belief and social bonding with the divine, divine agency, construction of demonology and the formation and textualization of knowledge, the sensory experience of space, artifact, and architecture, and the role of narrative reading in text and image.

In combination with her research seminars held in the spring she organized several workshops including Materiality of Divine Agency in Cross-Cultural Perspective (2011), Between Belief and Science: The Contribution of Writing and Law to Ancient Religious Thought (2012), Ancient and Modern Perspectives on Historiography in Mesopotamia (2013), Ancient Near Eastern Literature: Topics, Issues, Approaches (2014), Ritual and Narrative: Texts in Performance in the Ancient Near East (2015), and The Formation of Cultural Memory: Ancient Mesopotamian Libraries and Schools and their Contribution to the Shaping of Tradition and Identity (2016), The Core of a New Age: Northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the Late Bronze Age (co-organized with Lorenzo d'Alfonso (2017); Text and Image: Transmedial Inquiries into Ancient Near Eastern Culture (2018).

She is a member of the American Oriental Society, the Society of Biblical LiteratureAmerican Society of Overseas Research, and the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, Berlin and was awarded several fellowships including fellowships of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in 2000 and of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University in 2003/04. In 2007/08 she was awarded a NEH grant at the Institute for Advanced Study.