AMME Seminar: 10th Anniversary: Crossing Boundaries

14.12.2020
On the 8th of December we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Ancient and Medieval Middle East seminar, or more familiarly of the AMME Seminar, via Zoom. The theme of the evening was Crossing boundaries, because since its beginning the object of the AMME Seminar has been to promote multidisciplinary research. The speakers and participants reminisced about their memories of the AMME Seminar.

Erik van Dongen told his memories of launching the seminar with Saana Svärd and Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila. The original reason for starting AMME was to offer a platform where people of different disciplines could talk about their research that relates to the history of Near East. AMME Seminar collected people from classical studies, Islamic studies, and Biblical studies to discuss their researches. Having these discussions helped to see bigger patterns and parallels in the history of the area. Erik van Dongen is very pleased that the Seminar is still thriving and hosts many interesting speeches and discussions.

Director of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki) has been a speaker at the AMME Seminar many times; she has given at least one speech every year. At the anniversary seminar her speech concentrated on the importance of multidisciplinary research. A researcher is able to study just one tiny part of the big picture that is the ancient and medieval Near East. This is inevitable, because researching even one tiny part requires a lot of prerequisite knowledge and skills. Multidisciplinary research teams are necessary for getting a better view of the bigger picture. One concrete example of this is the article “Fear in Akkadian Texts: New Digital Perspectives on Lexical Semantics” that is written by five members of ANEE’s Team 1. For this particular research expertise in Assyriology, language technology, social network analysis and data acquisition and processing was needed.

Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila (University of Edinburgh) was also part of launching the AMME Seminar and he connects this to the Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East, or IHANE project, that he was the head of. AMME did not receive any actual funding from IHANE, but a lot of support and advertising were offered. Hämeen-Anttila felt that AMME Seminar complemented the IHANE project because the goal of both was to make connections and to cross cultural and linguistic boundaries. Multidisciplinarity has always been important for Hämeen-Anttila. For him knowing the languages of ancient Near East is necessary for studying the cultures. Texts are the main source when studying the history of Near East and it is not possible to study texts without the knowledge of the languages. But just knowing the languages and the texts is not enough, cultural knowledge is also necessary for understanding the context of the texts.

A lively discussion followed the speeches and people shared their memories of the AMME Seminar. The seminars will continue next year with many interesting topics and guest speakers.