AMME Seminar 02.04.24: ‘Animals of the Ancient World’

It is our pleasure to announce that the next Ancient and Medieval Middle East (AMME) seminar will be organised as a hybrid event on TUESDAY 2 April (16:15-18:00 EEST/Helsinki time).

The session will consist of two papers – by Peeter Espak and Alan Mikhail – followed by a shared question round and discussion on the seminar specific theme of ‘animals in the ancient world’. The topics of the talks are:

‘The Nature and Meaning of "Animal" in Sumerian Mythology: Comparative Remarks’ (Dr. Peeter Espak)

The presentation will discuss the principal characteristics and ways of representing the animals in Sumerian literature and mythology based on mythological narratives and also material from the ancient artefacts. The pyramidal structure of nature as imagined by the ancient Sumerians is already visible by analysing the imagery on the famous Uruk vase from the third millennium. There we can see the structuring of the "universe" as all life being based on fertilizing water which makes the plants grow which in turn feed the animals. On the top of the pyramid are the gods and one step lower the humans. By analysing mythological accounts, we can also detect such pyramidal understanding of "nature" although, for example, in the process of creation of animals, actually no big differences compared to that of humans exists. Also, some parallels with the Old Testament material will be analysed and it is concluded that some ideas already present in the most ancient available material obviously are also reflected in the mythology of the ancient Israel.

‘What the World Says: The Ottoman Empire, Interspecies Rape, and Climate in the Little Ice Age’ (Prof. Alan Mikhail)

This presentation analyzes a seemingly fantastical account of a young woman who gave birth to an elephant in the Ottoman Empire in the 1640s. Focusing on the experience of one woman, her rape by an elephant from India, the sad fate of her child, and her community’s social and economic hardships shows how individuals both experienced and interpreted the environmental calamities of the Little Ice Age as a species crisis and offers an analogy for the political fortunes of the Ottoman Empire in a moment of weakness.

Everyone is most welcome to attend, so please share the invitation and join us in person or online!

Time: TUESADY 2 April at 16:15-18:00 EEST (UTC+3h).

Live venue: University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 24, room 524. 

Virtual venue: Zoom (Meeting ID: 678 8979 2118 /

Wonder what else is on the menu? Check out the spring program on the ANEE news blog!