Dr. Jason Silverman (PhD, Trinity College Dublin) is leader of Team 2 and has a docentship in Persian Period Religion from the University of Helsinki.

Silverman's expertise lies in the impact of the Persian Empire on Judaean communities (i.e., inhabitants of Judah in modern southern Israel/Palestine). Since receiving his PhD, Silverman has held postdoctoral fellowships at Leiden University and the University of Helsinki. He is the author of a well-received monograph, Persepolis and Jerusalem, on Iranian influence on Judaism (2012, Bloomsbury), and has edited or co-edited four volumes related to Persian period Judaism. Currently, he is co-chair of the research group "Judaeans in the Persian Empire" in the European Association of Biblical Studies.

Silverman has researched the social and religious impact of the Persian Empire upon the development of Judaean populations by utilizing insights from the sociology of religion, orality studies, and the sociologies of migration and forced labor. He brings a robust history of interdisciplinary research on the Persian empire to ANEE, having collaborated with communications scholars, Assyriologists, and archaeologists in the past.

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Dr. Melanie Wasmuth (PhD, University of Basel) is vice-leader of Team 2. She specialises in Ancient CrossArea Studies with focus on cross-regional contacts and identity display in the Eastern Mediterranean and West Asian Area of Connectivity in the first millennium BCE. Wasmuth studied Egyptology, Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and Philology, and, to a lesser extent, Prehistory, Archaeological Theory and Ancient Philosophy at the Universities of Tübingen, Cambridge, Munich, Vienna and Basel. Since her PhD, she has examined the impact of cross-regional politics and mobility in the wake of the Assyrian, Kushite and Achaemenid expansion politics towards the Mediterranean and our modern prospects of discerning these issues. Case studies include Egypto-Persian royal display, the ‘Egyptian community’ in Assyria, and historiographical mapping of seventh century BCE Egypt. Within ANEE, Wasmuth combines her interests in Ancient CrossArea Studies and Ancient Cultural Anthropology. She is currently developing key terms from the semantic field of ‘cultural identity’ into research approaches concerning historical perspectives of globalisation and cross-regional migration.

Prof. Jutta Jokiranta is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies at the University of Helsinki (9/2018‒). Her research interests include social changes in late Second Temple Judaism, ritual studies, cognitive science of religion, social identity construction in ancient religious movements, ethnicity, authority, transmission of traditions, and archaeology of Hellenistic and Roman Palestine. Her monograph Social Identity and Sectarianism in the Qumran Movement (Brill, 2013) uses a social identity approach and sociology of sectarianism for a dynamic understanding of identity construction as reflected in the Qumran rule texts and pesharim. Her present project investigates ritual changes in the Qumran movement, especially in the rituals related to covenant renewal. Jokiranta is a Team Leader in the Center of Excellence: Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (2014‒2019). She is also the Dead Sea Discoveries (Brill) Thematic Issue editor and President of the International Organization of Qumran Studies. She co-chairs the SBL International Meeting program unit Qumran and Dead Sea Scrolls and the SBL Annual Meeting program unit Mind, Society and Religion: Cognitive Science Approaches to the Biblical World. In the Finnish context, Jokiranta is chairperson of the Finnish Exegetical Society.

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Dr. Raz Kletter completed his PhD in 1995. Following a postdoctoral year at the University of Oxford (UK), he worked in the Israel Antiquities Authority as Deputy of the Finds Department, Senior Excavating Archaeologist and Head of the Scientific Processing Unit. Kletter has directed and published many excavations all over Israel and lectured at in several universities. Since 2009, he has been a docent for Near-Eastern Archaeology at the University of Helsinki. His main fields of study are Near Eastern Archaeology (Bronze/Iron Age), religion and cult, ancient economy, and the history of archaeology. Kletter has published extensively, and his monographs include final excavation reports on the Philistine repository pit at Yavneh (2010, 2015) and the Middle Bronze cemeteries at Rishon Le-Zion (in press). Currently, he writes a Finnish paper together with five Helsinki colleagues and watches football on TV.

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Dr. Nina Nikki (ThD, University of Helsinki) specializes in early Christianity and Pauline tradition in particular. Her dissertation dealt with disagreements between the earliest groups of Christ-followers as they are reflected in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The dissertation applied a social identity approach as well as insights from the study of ancient polemical rhetoric. Nikki’s research interests include early Christian identity construction, cognitive science of religion and the comparative study of the Bible and the Quran. Nikki is currently also a member of the research project “Early Christianity in Cultural Evolution” (PI Prof. Petri Luomanen), where she investigates the spread and cultural evolution of Pauline Christianity in the first three centuries CE.

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Dr. Joanna Töyräänvuori (ThD, University of Helsinki) is a University Lecturer in Hebrew Bible Studies in the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki. Töyräänvuori's expertise centers on the political mythologies of the Eastern Mediterranean. Töyräänvuori wrote her dissertation on the use of the so-called Combat Myth in the legitimation of NWS kingship, comparing materials from Old Babylonian Mari and Late Bronze Age Ugarit with traces of the tradition in the Hebrew Bible. The monograph from her dissertation, Sea and the Combat Myth, will be published by AOAT. Currently, Töyräänvuori holds a postdoctoral fellowship in the Center of Excellence: Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions, where she researches strategies used by minority cultures in dealing with oppressive ideological messages in the ancient world, using the inversion of narrative as a method of cultural resistance, examining traditions of the Neo-Assyrian “Flood Story”  as a case example of the employment of the inverted narrative in response to hegemonic pressures.

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Dr. Caroline Wallis holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University Paul-Valéry, Montpellier. Until now, her research has focused on the social and cultural construction of collective identifications with particular attention to identity-building processes within nationalist movements. She has worked in the field of the invention of tradition, analysing the ways in which elements of the past are reintegrated into contemporary political discourse, where they serve modern goals. Within ANEE, Wallis conducts research on the transformations of representations, beliefs and practices associated with the New Year in the Ancient Near East and studies the telescoping of socioeconomic, religious and political significations of this ritual. Wallis also engages in a reflection on the use of theoretical models from the social sciences in ancient history. 

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Lauri Laine (ThM, University of Helsinki) is writing his doctoral dissertation on the topic of "Conceptualization of Divinity in Ugaritic Texts and in the Hebrew Bible." He is investigating how approaches from the fields of Cognitive Science of Religion and Cognitive Historiography can help modern scholars to understand the way in which ancient people conceptualized divinity and divine beings. Laine concentrates especially on storm-god imagery in Late Bronze Age Ugaritic Mythology and in Hebrew Bible psalms. In addition to his scholarly career, Laine is a high school teacher of Religious Studies and History and a freelance photographer.

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