Director's Welcome

Saana Svärd

Saana Svärd, Director

Welcome to the website of our Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (ANEE). The Centre is generously funded by the Academy of Finland through its Centre of Excellence flagship programme and its academic homes are the Faculties of Arts and Theology at the University of Helsinki.

Starting roughly 3,000 years ago, from about 912 BCE up to the start of the common era, various empires governed consecutively over (parts of) the Near East, including the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Parthian empires. The Centre’s departure point is that social group identities in the ancient and modern worlds alike are inseparable from their imperially-shaped contexts. The ancient Near East, as the home of the world’s earliest empires and writing systems, offers a unique dataset for understanding these dynamics. To date, the different empires governing the Near East during the first millennium BCE have been treated in relative isolation, which is why my colleagues and I in this Centre ask: how do changing imperial dynamics impact social group identities over a long period of time?

The work of our Centre is carried out in three research teams focusing on methodologically diverse approaches: from language technology, to sociology, to heritage studies. Thus, we develop and use digital humanities approaches, especially social network analysis and language technology (more here). We also test and refine theoretical models from the social sciences for ancient evidence, integrating anthropological approaches to archaeology with sociological readings of textual and archaeological evidence (more here). Finally, we investigate the impact of each empire on ancient local communities inhabiting the imperial fringes through archaeological research, and help to create a sustainable future for this heritage though community engagement and outreach (more here).

ANEE is a co-operative research community, formed by researchers from various disciplines with a shared research interest. We currently house 26 research members: from professors and senior researchers, to postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students. Our methodologically diverse research teams collaborate with one another on four work packages: “Imperial identities,” “Marginal and marginalizing regions,” “Rural life under empire,” and “Macro/micro identities.”

Overall, ANEE executes its research mission by: (1) closely collaborating on research contributions on the history and heritage of the ancient Near East that crosses diverse disciplines; (2) organizing national and international scientific conferences and training events; (3) emphasizing open science practices to safeguard the long-term accessibility and reusability of produced publications, data, and software; and (4) planning and executing a public outreach program, making its research results widely available outside academia.

I invite you to look around on our website. And don’t be shy about getting in touch with us. We very much look forward to hearing from you!

Saana Svärd
Director of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires