In January 2018, the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (ANEE) started its work. The Centre is led by Assyriologist, Associate Professor Saana Svärd. The Centre is generously funded for the years 2018–2025 by the Academy of Finland through its Centre of Excellence flagship programme, and hosted by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Theology. ANEE marshals a cross-disciplinary arsenal of methods and scholars, working through the periods of Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic, and early Roman/Parthian control, overcoming the very real challenge of dialogue between ancient historians, archaeologists and social scientists.

Empires shape human societies, with legacies that last longer than the regimes themselves. Social group identities and lifeways in the ancient and modern worlds alike are inseparable from their imperially-shaped context. The ancient Near East, as the home of the world’s earliest empires and scripts, offers a unique dataset for understanding these dynamics. To date, these empires have been treated in relative isolation. Hence, the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (ANEE) asks: How do changing imperial dynamics impact social group identities and lifeways over a long period of time?

The focus of Centre’s research starts roughly 3,000 years ago, from about 912 BCE, continuing up to the start of the Common Era. The work of the Centre is carried out in three research teams focusing on methodologically diverse approaches: from language technology, to sociology, to heritage studies. The teams are led by Dr. Saana Svärd (director; leader of Team 1), Dr. Antti Lahelma (vice-director; leader of Team 3), and Dr. Jason Silverman (leader of Team 2). Our methodologically diverse research teams collaborate with one another on four work packages: 1) “Imperial identities,” 2) “Marginal and marginalizing regions,” 3) “Rural life under empire,” and 4) “Macro/micro identities.”

Currently the Centre houses 26 research members: from professors and senior researchers, to postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students. In addition to the members, we continuously house several visiting researchers and lecturers. Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research gave part of its hand book library to the use of researchers in Centre. These books are situated now in the Centre premises at Fabianinkatu 24 A.

(English text: Saana Svärd, Rick Bonnie and Katri Rostedt)

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