Faculty of PhilosophyNear Eastern Archaeology

Near Eastern archaeology focusses on the settlement and cultural history of the Ancient Near East, from human settlement to the stages of urbanisation and the development of territorial states, and finally to the formation and demise of the ancient Near Eastern empires.

Near Eastern archaeology is part of general history studies. It deals with the material legacies of the Ancient Near East. The main focus here is on the development and revision of archaeological relicts as historical sources of Near Eastern settlement and cultural history. The inclusion of ancient Near Eastern textual sources is essential for the analysis of the historical periods.

The subject’s geographical area reaches from Iran in the East to Syria and Turkey in the West, from the Caucasus in the North to southern Arabia in the South. Nowadays, this area, which is defined by extremely different geographical and climatic conditions, encompasses numerous countries with various population groups and a variety of languages and religions.

The period covered by the subject reaches from general human settlement after the end of the last ice age to the early days of Islam. The period is therefore around 12,000 years. One area of specialisation is the study of ancient eastern high cultures from the late Chalcolithic period in the 4th century BC until the end of the Achaemenid Empire in the 4th century BC. The high cultures settled in what is today Iraq, Syria and the Levantine nations, Turkey and western Iran. 

The following topics, artefacts or art forms are also taken into special consideration by the subject:
settlement history, urbanisation and topography of ancient eastern towns, architecture, manufacturing techniques and technology transfer, artisanal art, e.g. ceramics, devices and weapons, sculptures and reliefs, small sculptures made from stone, metal and terracotta, glyptic, murals, etc.

Special Features and Characteristics

Heidelberg is home to the Uruk-Warka collection which, in addition to archaeological finds from the ancient Mesopotamian town of Uruk such as ceramics, devices and seals also contains a multitude of cuneiform texts from the period between the 4th and the 1st centuries BC. This collection, which is a loan from the German Institute for Archaeology, contains more than 5000 objects that are of significant cultural and historical importance and is one of the three largest collections of Mesopotamian artefacts in Germany.

Research

Research in Near Eastern archaeology in Heidelberg concentrates on settlement history, architecture and art in the ancient Near East. 
The main focus is on the cultural history of Mesopotamia. Research activities are currently based on the finds from digs in Iraq (Assur/Qal`at Sherqat, Šaduppûm/Tall Ḥarmal, Bakr Awa) and in Syria (Tuttul/Tall Bi`a) as well as associated archaeological projects conducted at Heidelberg University.

Occupational Areas

Graduates of the degree programme in Near Eastern Archaeology might pursue a career in areas such as: 

  • universities and research institutes
  • museums 
  • regional authorities for archaeology and archaeological monument conservation
  • historic preservation organisations and museums
  • publishing houses
  • institutions for adult education
  • libraries and archives or documentation departments
  • media

Insights

I have always been interested in ancient cultures but did now want to learn about history from books alone. I wanted to experience it practically if possible. Learning about our world’s first high culture and analysing the first major inventions and the development of written language has been extremely rewarding. If you focus on the ‘cradle of civilisation’, you tend to have less problems understanding the world we live in today. The research foci and the fact that studies of the ancient world are generally of very high quality is the main reason I decided to come to Heidelberg.

Gwendolyn Straubhaar, 22, Near Eastern Archaeology, 5th semester Bachelor

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