This 6th annual meeting of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires took place on the 22–25 of August, in a markedly different location to last year’s event in Northern Jordan: in the boreal woods of Finnish Pirkanmaa, at the charming Hyytiälä forestry field station. The station has served as a training ground for foresters since the 1910s and continues to do so. Its grounds and oldest log houses represent the national romantic style: in 2009, Hyytiälä station was classified a nationally significant constructed cultural environment (The Finnish Heritage Agency, 2009).
To start the conference bit of the annual meeting off, a session was held on identities. As a new initiative the sessions were chaired by ANEE’s doctoral researchers. Jason Silverman, Joanna Töyräänvuori and Caroline Wallis began by presenting the results of their survey of ANEE members as interdisciplinary academics, followed by a paper by Repekka Uotila and Jonathan Valk on their semantic network study on the concept of Arameans in cuneiform sources. Melanie Wasmuth then presented 7th century Assur’s urban non-elite from a micro and macro perspective. The first session was concluded with a new look into the origins of the Sumerian variant of Emesal by Sebastian Fink and Aleksi Sahala. While the conference participants ate and rested, saunas were heated for those in the mood for some löyly and a dip in Kuivajärvi-lake – a nice benefit with having the annual meeting in Finland.
The theme of Wednesday’s presentations was gender. Heidi Kovanen problematised how gender and biological sex have been assigned in the archaeology of the Iron Age Southern Levant, whereas Patricia Bou Pérez talked about the emotions of kings and queens in the Mari letters in the context of war. Melanie Wasmuth then gave an update on the results of the long-standing ANEE King-/Queenship project, followed by Samuel Reinikainen, who showed patterns in the defacement of lion hunt reliefs in Ashurbanipal’s north palace at Nineveh.
With Wednesday’s conference papers concluded, it was time for recreational activities. Tero Alstola took the annual meeting participants on a walk in the forest surrounding Hyytiälä station, with the chance of picking berries and mushrooms, a new experience for some. Saunas were later heated up so that people might get warm after the day’s rains. In the evening, the annual meeting members competed in their knowledge of trivia related to the study of the Ancient Near East (many questions concerned donkeys), in an entertaining quiz organised by Repekka Uotila and Rotem Avneri Meir.
Thursday’s conference included two sessions, one on communities under empires, one on materiality. The first session started with Adrianne Spunaugle’s and Tero Alstola’s work on social strata in the Nippur region during the mid-first millennium BCE. Rotem Avneri Meir then spoke about responses by the Hasmonean Dynasty to life under empire. Emanuel Pfoh finished the communities under empires session by demonstrating how socio-political dynamics in the Southern Levant and beyond could be understood using the concept of patronage.
Thursday’s second session, on materiality, began with Caroline Wallis’, Benjamín Cutillas Victoria’s and Marta Lorenzon’s work on mudbricks from Ashdod, and what they reveal about imperial dynamics in the area, followed by Rick Bonnie’s take-aways from the innovative Baytuna popup museum exhibition. Lastly, Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme treated the conference participants to an insightful and at times humorous keynote on what a historical-anthropological intersectional exploration of Yael’s killing of Sisera in the biblical book of Judges might teach us about hospitality as an expectation of males, though perhaps not of women. After a short rest, the annual meeting participants gathered in front of the Hyytiälä station’s old dining hall for a group photo, after which they filed into the building to enjoy a festive dinner. By popular request, saunas were heated once again.
The last session of this annual meeting, on interconnectivity, took place the next morning, beginning with Paula Gheorghiade’s and Marta Lorenzon’s application of a mobility model on sites surveyed and excavated by team 3 in northern Jordan. Tero Alstola and Heidi Jauhiainen then gave us a look into the potential of the Prosobab database from the point of view of social network analysis. Paula Gheorghiade then spoke about understanding archaeological data from an information-theoretic standpoint and how Mediterranean seafare could be modeled, after which Jason Silverman joined Paula to talk about Persian roads from the point of view of a least cost path analysis. Last but not least, Ellie Bennett, Lena Tambs and Krister Lindén shared their newest insights from working with weighted k-cores in the context of ancient co-occurrence networks.
The final order of business before the bus ride back to Helsinki was giving out ANEE’s yearly paper rewards. Congratulations to the winners:
- Team 1: Lena Tambs’ (2022) dissertation Socio-economic Relations in Ptolemaic Pathyris. Leiden: Brill.
- Team 2: Rotem Avneri Meir’s (2022) paper “The Hasmonean Calendar Begins with the Rule of Simon the High Priest, 142 B.C.E.” TheTorah.com.
- Team 3: their team article: Marta Lorenzon, Antti Lahelma, Maher Tarboush, Elisabeth Holmqvist, Dries Daems, Saimi Kautonen, Joanna Töyräänvuori, Stefan L. Smith, Benjamín Cutillas-Victoria, Maija Holappa, Hussein Al-Sababha, and Ahmed Al-Shorman. (2022) “Tell it like it is. Discoveries from a new survey of the Northern Jordanian plateau.” Near Eastern Archaeology 86 (1): 16–27.
The Finnish Heritage Agency. (2009) Hyytiälän metsäasema. Valtakunnallisesti merkittävät rakennetut kulttuuriympäristot RKY. Available at: http://www.rky.fi/read/asp/r_kohde_det.aspx?KOHDE_ID=1003 (accessed: 28 August 2023).