After many unsuccessful attempts to establish its linguistic affinity, Sumerian is nowadays widely considered a language isolate without any known relatives. However, a systematic comparison of its vocabulary and morphology with all the major Eurasiatic language families establishes beyond doubt that Sumerian belongs to the Uralic language family and is distantly related also to many other languages currently spoken in Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.

This etymological dictionary brings together the lexical evidence associating Sumerian with the Uralic family, along with comparative data from five other language families (Indo-European, Altaic, Kartvelian, Elamite-Dravidian and Afro-Asiatic). Part 1 presents Uralic etymologies for 3030 Sumerian words and lexical morphemes accounting for about two-thirds of the Sumerian core vocabulary, as well as an introduction assessing the linguistic affinity of Sumerian. Part 2 contains a semantic analysis of the Sumerian and Uralic lexical material, indexes to Part 1, and an introduction discussing the origins and arrival of Sumerians in Mesopotamia on the basis of epigraphic, linguistic, archaeological and physical anthropological evidence.

The relevant data have never before put together, let alone analyzed, and they open revolutionary new perspectives to the origins and prehistory of the Sumerians and the Uralic and Indo-European language families.

Publication details

Simo Parpola, Etymological Dictionary of the Sumerian Language I-II. Publications of the Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research 16. Winona Lake, IN: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2016. Pp. xlii + 426 (volume 1), pp. xxviii + 436 (volume 2). Cloth. ISBN 978-952-10-9492-7 (set), ISBN 978-952-10-9493-4 (volume 1), ISBN 978-952-10-9494-1 (volume 2). $149.00. Worldwide distribution: (Permanent link:


The Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research has published a new book, Women and Power in Neo-Assyrian Palaces, by PhD Saana Svärd. This monograph is the newest volume in State Archives of Assyrian Studies (vol. 23) and it is distributed by Eisenbrauns.

Power in general and women’s power in particular has been understood mostly in a hierarchical way in earlier research on Mesopotamian women. Hierarchical power structures were important in Mesopotamia, but other kinds of power structures existed as well. This study, which focuses on women in the palaces of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c. 930-610 BCE), draws attention to heterarchical power relations in which women were engaged in Neo-Assyrian palace milieu. Heterarchical power relations include power relations such as reciprocal power, resistance and persuasion. Although earlier research has certainly been aware of women’s influence in the palaces, this study makes explicit the power concepts employed in previous research and further develops them using the concept of heterarchy. The study is based on primary cuneiform sources and presents a detailed description of of women in Neo-Assyrian palaces. However, it additionally shows that by applying modern theories of power to the study of the ancient texts, one can gain important new insights into the dynamics of ancient society.


The Ninth Symposium of the Melammu Project, “Conceptualizing Past, Present and Future”, will be organized in Helsinki 18-20.5 and Tartu 22-24.5.2015.

In Helsinki, the venue on Monday and Tuesday is the Language Centre Festive Hall (Fabianinkatu 26), and on Wednesday, the Social och Kommunal Högskolanin Festive Hall (Snellmaninkatu 12). The symposium is open to everyone interested.

More information and the program can be found on the Melammu Project website.

By Sanae Ito

The public examination of my doctoral dissertation, entitled “Royal Image and Political Thinking in the Letters of Assurbanipal” was held in the main building of the University of Helsinki on 15.4.2015. The Custos was Prof. Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila and the Opponent was Prof. Giovanni-Battista Lanfranchi from the University of Padova.

After my introductory lecture (Lectio praecursoria), Prof. Lanfranchi made comments on and asked questions about the issue of draft and copy, meaning of the preserved royal letters, social institutions in the south, the royal image, and the Assyrian royal ideology, and we discussed these matters for one hour. Most of the Finnish Assyriologists and the people in the related research field, Prof. Simo Parpola, Dr. Raija Mattila, Dr. Sanna Aro-Valjus, Dr. Saana Svärd, Prof. Martti Nissinen, FM Jouni Harjumäki, came to see my defence. They also participated in the dinner party (Karonkka). I was deeply moved by the speech made by Prof. Parpola there.

I am grateful to the Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research for giving me the financial support in 2012, 2013, and 2014. After the graduation, I will continuously work for the Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East project and then start my own project funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation. I plan to publish a revised version of my thesis in the SAAS (State Archive of Assyria Studies) series.

Photo by Sanna Aro.

On 27–28 October 2014 an interesting workshop with the title “Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East” will be organized in the University of Helsinki. The event is hosted by Centre of Excellence “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” and organized by Dr. Saana Svärd (Helsinki) and Dr. Agnès Garcia-Ventura (Barcelona). The aim of the workshop is to discuss different methodological approaches to gender within the framework of Ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and enable a fruitful dialogue between these approaches. Audience is very welcome. See details about the workshop and registration on the Centre of Excellence’s website.