Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires: Past, Present and Future

ANEE's Director Saana Svärd reflects on ANEE's past year.

I came back from my 12 month parental leave in March 2019 and found that under the leadership of the vice-director Antti Lahelma ANEE had grown into academic maturity since its launch at the beginning of 2018. During 2019 this progress escalated. Looking back, I think that the greatest strides forward since 2018 have been made in consolidating ANEE as a research community where joint academic work is the norm. Joint publication projects, seminars, guest lectures, workshops and other activities have served to create an atmosphere of comfortable collegiality and mutual trust, which is necessary for any cross-disciplinary research project to succeed. As ANEE is covering many historical eras (from Neo-Assyrian to the early Roman period), a great geographical span, and various methodologies, seamless cooperation between specialists is vital.

In 2019 ANEE members were active in terms of (co-)organized events, conference contributions, and publications. Members of ANEE published a variety of books and articles: 7 books, one doctoral thesis, 6 anthologies or special issues, 44 scientific articles or chapters, and many other publications aimed at the scientific community or the general public.

Major international workshops and conferences in 2019 included:

In addition to international events, ANEE regularly organizes internal Forum meetings and the yearly Annual meeting. In 2019, the Annual meeting concentrated on work package 1: Imperial identities. In the 2019 Annual Meeting, the awards for best publications in ANEE went to Tero Alstola (Team 1, “Judeans in Babylonia: A Study of Deportees in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries BCE”), Melanie Wasmuth (Team 2, “Negotiating cross-regional authority: the acceptance of Cambyses as Egyptian pharaoh as means of constructing elite identity”) and Rick Bonnie (Team 3, “Being Jewish in Galilee, 100-200 CE: An Archaeological Study”).

The publicity for ANEE research efforts has increased steadily. The ANEE website news section publishes glimpses into ANEE research and updates on current issues regularly. Highlights are also shared on our YouTube channel and social media: @ANEE_HELSINKI on Twitter and @ANEE.Helsinki on Facebook.

An updated research plan for ANEE, the ANEE Road map was finalized in 2019. It is a detailed document of all the sub-projects that form ANEE. To give just one example: All three teams are working on a cross-disciplinary collaborative article on kingship and queenship in the first millennium. This project begun as a poster session in the Annual Meeting 2019 and will be discussed again in the 2020 Annual Meeting, the title of which addresses our work package 2: “Interdiciplinarity in Action: From Centres to Borders.”

When the corona crisis hit Helsinki in March 2020, a number of plans had to be re-evaluated. For ANEE, international cooperation is vital, but now our recruitment processes as well as international activities have been slowed down or put on hold. Nonetheless, all three teams have made contingency plans and have shifted the focus of our work to processes and projects that we can work on, under the circumstances. ANEE members have been working from home since March, but most of the meetings and seminars have simply been moved to virtual platforms. ANEE members have continued to support each other in these difficult times and I have no doubt that we will overcome the situation.

As I am writing this, ANEE has been in operation for two and a half years, which means that we have traveled roughly one third of the ANEE path. As its director, I am extremely proud of our progress so far. I feel confident that before the end of the Centre in 2025, we will be able to attain our goal; making a significant scientific contribution to understanding how changing imperial dynamics impact social group identities and lifeways over a millennium.

Saana Svärd

Director of ANEE

ANEE's blog will take a short summer break, but new interesting content will be published again in autumn!