THE INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE OF ASSYRIA AND BABYLONIA IN EAST AND WEST
A long-term international multidisciplinary project and database
European cultural history is commonly considered as having two points of origin: ancient Greece (via Rome), and the Jewish-Christian culture that produced the Bible. Although the importance of these two sources is undeniable, the resulting image is not complete. In their formative period – the first half of the first millennium – Greece and the southern Levant were part of a much wider cultural area, the oikumene encompassing the lands surrounding the eastern Mediterranean and southwestern Asia. Research in recent decades has demonstrated that there was intensive interaction throughout this area and similarities on many levels can be detected in the various regional cultures. The emerging Greek and Jewish cultures constituted no exception, and both certainly received important stimuli from those parts of the oikumene that they interacted with.
The Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage (Melammu) Project initiated by the SAA Project investigates the continuity, transformation and diffusion of Mesopotamian culture throughout the ancient world from the second millennium BCE until Islamic times. The goal of the project is to open new perspectives on cultural evolution in East and West, and to enhance the understanding of such complex processes as the emergence of Hellenistic civilization, or the “orientalization” of imperial Rome.
The central objective of the project is to collect the relevant textual, art-historical, archaeological, ethnographic and linguistic evidence and to make it available to researchers worldwide on the Internet in the form of an electronic database that can be easily and efficiently searched for information. Apart from furthering the specific goals of the Melammu project, the database is intended to become a gateway to Mesopotamian civilization in general and stimulate interdisciplinary research by making cuneiform sources better accessible to non-Assyriologists.
It should be stressed that the purpose of the database is not to “prove” that everything originated in ancient Mesopotamia, nor to replace a Hellenocentric view of cultural evolution with a Pan-Mesopotamian one. Rather, by making available a great amount of interconnected diachronic cross-cultural data, the database will aid in understanding cultural evolution as a process of organic growth, with inherited cultural elements constantly merging with new elements introduced by the dynamics of contemporary life. The particular orientation of the Melammu project guarantees that many well-known phenomena will appear in a new light and can be evaluated from a multi-dimensional perspective rather than a unilateral one.
More than 100 scholars representing over 20 different fields of study have been involved in the project since its inception in 1998. Detailed information on the project and its goals, including pdf files of its proceedings, are available at http://www.aakkl.helsinki.fi/melammu/.