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. Instead, 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? 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.