Keynote Speakers

All keynote lectures are planned for Monday, July 8th 2024

Professor of Archaeology, University of Glasgow

Claudia Glatz is an anthropological archaeologist researching the material production of early states and empires and their underlying social relationships at both the landscape scale and through material culture. She is the author of numerous journal articles on the subject as well as the monograph The Making of Empire in Bronze Age Anatolia: Hittite Sovereign Practice, Resistance, and Negotiation (CUP, 2020). She currently directs the Sirwan Regional Project in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which combines regional survey, excavations, and cultural heritage initiatives. 

Social Materials and Archaeological Politics: Towards New Narratives

Timing: Moday July 8, 2024, at 10:15–11:00

Venue: Porthania P I


Faced with an uncertain climatic future, and grappling with questions about what forms and scales of socio-political organisation might allow humanity to face the challenges that lie ahead, past people and how they coalesced and conducted their politics have come back into disciplinary, and to an extent also public, focus. But aside from rejecting traditional cultural evolutionary frameworks to conceptualise and study how communities come together, resolve the challenges of co-existence, collaboration, and conflict, where are we really at with this? In this lecture I will take stock of the archaeological study of people, politics, and polities in Southwest Asia and elsewhere, asking what the challenges are that we are facing, and sketching out our blind spots. Drawing on case studies from Southwest Asia, I will endeavour to define where a cutting edge might lie, and explore what bottom-up, practice-centred archaeological narratives may contribute towards re-imaging socio-political pasts, and perhaps also futures.

Managing Editor, JNES

Seth Richardson has been at the University of Chicago since 2003 as Managing Editor of JNES and Associate at ISAC. He earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 2002. He is a historian working on Mesopotamia’s Old Babylonian period and political-economic questions about infrastructural power, violence, subjectivity, and the nature of state sovereignty. He is committed to generalist-comparativist work on topics as diverse as liver divination, animal personhood, ancestor cult, icons, emblems, slavery, food security, labor value, taxation, and ancient historiography. He has written on disappearing princesses, bawdy jokes, long-lost words for wine jars, angry mobs, and hallucinations. 

“One City Does Not Greet Another”: Constructed Persons, Incomplete States, and the Motor of the Polities 

Timing: Monday July 8, 2024, at 11:30–12:15

Venue: Porthania P I


Concepts of identity have proven elusive in reconstructing the relations of individuals to collectives in Mesopotamian culture. Whether one wants to define what it means to be a state subject, a social being, or a member of a class or community of religious belief, the conditions of belonging known to us are necessary but not sufficient. That is, we can see many of the descriptive circumstances of membership in our evidence, but little gives us a sense of exclusive, definitional criteria. I will set aside the search for expansive and categorical social identities in favor of exploring how state projects of personhood came to fashion specific boundaries on aspects of individual identity. These rule-making systems—about what made people count and how—were intended to structure normative expectations about responsibilities, behavior, and belonging. The emphasis was not on the “rules” part, but the “system” part: we are not looking at individuals in state societies, but the discursive premises of individual-making. The modesty of the boundaries set by these state projects (and their policing) tells us how much these efforts relied on suggestion rather than imposed conformity. The goals of group-making in this world of incomplete states were much more modest than the ones we are used to in modernity, and the adoption of the proffered social and political identities by individuals was correspondingly limited. Despite the abstractions of the foregoing description (generically abstract!), this talk will be grounded in specific examples of the ways in which collectives imagined the individual (rather than the other way around), how these notions perennially fell short, and the continuing triumphs of hope over experience that made these dialectics the political motor of the polities.

Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, University of Münster

Kristin Kleber is an Assyriologist specialising in Babylonia of the first millennium B.C. She works on economic and social history of the Ancient Near East, but also on cuneiform legal history and material culture in texts. She studied Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Near Eastern Archaeology and Semitics at the FU Berlin, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and at the University of Münster, where she received her PhD in 2008 with a thesis on the relationship between the Neo-Babylonian king and the temples. She has been Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Münster since 2020. She and her team are currently editing the Neo-Babylonian texts from the German Excavations in Babylon within the framework of the ERC Consolidator Grant "Governance in Babylon - Negotiating the Rule of Three Empires".

Identity Politics in the First Millennium BC

Timing: Monday July 8, 2024, at 12.15–13:00

Venue: Porthania P I


When I somewhat provocatively called the title of this lecture "Identity Politics in the First Millennium BC", I was not aiming at the modern phenomenon of the political struggle for recognition of various groups. Although Bernd Stegemann, in his essay (Identitätspolitik. Berlin 2023, p. 12) described “identity politics” as the "oldest form of politics, as it binds the individual interest to a group identity", we can find examples of the negative effects, for example in the form of war propaganda, especially in nation states. Nation states did not exist in antiquity, but we can recognise attitudes and policies towards ethnic groups in ancient Near Eastern history. In my lecture I will give an overview of the representation of identity concepts and the handling of ethnicity in the three empires of the early and middle first millennium, starting with the Neo-Assyrian, through the Neo-Babylonian to the first Persian empire. The Cyrus Cylinder has been falsely described in many popular accounts as the first "charter of human rights" or as an "edict of tolerance". For a long time, the Achaemenids were considered more tolerant than their predecessors in the Near East, as they seemingly celebrated the multinational character of their empire in their inscriptions. The lecture examines how the approach to ethnicity and “nationality” differs in the three empires and what the possible reasons for these differences were.

Keynote speaker in workshop "The Ancient Western Asian Image: a Weapon and Victim"

Iraqi Cultural Heritage between Destruction and Rehabilitation

Timing: Monday July 8, 2024, at 15:00

Venue: Porthania P IV, Suomen Laki -sali


The Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale provides a good opportunity to present the actions undertaken in Iraq to preserve the cultural heritage of Mesopotamia. Many countries and international organizations have shown a longstanding commitment to safeguarding this unique and outstanding heritage after the wars of the last decades and the invasion of Daish. A main impetus to these developments was, of course, the dramatic damages inflicted to the Iraq Museum and many other cultural centers in 2003. However, wars have not been the only elements which threaten Iraqi cultural heritage. Climate change, desertification, and the aridification of the marshes have had a major impact on the state of conservation of many archaeological and heritage sites. We will thus show you a brief presentation which covers the developments from the aftermath of the 2003 conflict through the actions taken by UNESCO, the international alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH), and other organizations and universities to preserve this heritage.