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.

Silverman will be leading team 2 to provide useful questions and theoretical approaches for ANEE's four work packages. His own research will focus on social structures, social authority, labor and migration, as these are impacted by the first millennium empires. 

Keywords: Orality and Literacy theory (media theory), apocalyptic literature, millennarianism, prophetic literature (HB), comparative mythology, comparative methodology ("influence"), Achaemenid Persian Empire, Persian Religion, Migration theory (ANE), Forced Labor (ANE), Social distinction (Elite distinction), historical economics (basic)

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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. Major 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. On the one hand, she continues examining ancient case studies on cross-regional politics, migration and identity display from the 8th–4th c. BCE. On the other hand, she develops key terms from the semantic field ‘cultural identity’ into research approaches in order to reveal new research angles, additional circumstantial evidence and the interpretational impact by the modern historiographer.

Keywords: Egyptology, Ancient Near Eastern studies, Ancient cultural anthropology, Ancient CrossArea studies, Cross-regional identity display, Cross-regional mobility and migration, Global/local interplay, Egyptian-Persian relations, Egyptians in Assyria, Epigraphics, Historiographical mapping

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Alex Aissaoui (M.Scs., University of Helsinki) is writing his doctoral dissertation on the topic of “A Regional International System or an International Society of States? Near Eastern Diplomacy during the Second Millennium BCE.” He is exploring whether the ancient Near Eastern diplomacy constituted a systemic international arena where complex interdependence and intersubjective agreement existed. Aissaoui is focusing on the political correspondence between the great kings and their vassals (e.g., Mari archives, Amarna letters). He is especially interested in whether classical IR concepts such as balance of power, international anarchy, and sovereignty apply to the ancient Near Eastern political landscape. In addition to his scholarly interests, Aissaoui has also worked as a freelance writer for Tiede-lehti.

Keywords: balance of power theory, international anarchy problematic, peer polity interaction, state-formation process, international system, international society, empires, city-states, independent states, polities, vassal-overlord relationships, power hierarchy

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Ossi Arpe (ThM, University of Helsinki) is writing his doctoral dissertation on the topic of “Judeans in Parthia and beyond; Parthian–Judean interaction during the Parthian empire from 2nd century BCE to early 2nd century CE.” His research will use social scientific methods such as social identity theory to approach the question of influence on identity formation, with the aim of comparison between Parthian elite and the various groups within late Second Temple Judaism. In order to do that the project is going to collect research data on Parthian empire and its literal sources and material sources into a database for systematic evaluation of the evidence. Aside from the dissertation project, he is working as technical assistant in a Septuagint research project for the book of 2Samuel led by Academy Research Fellow Tuukka Kauhanen.

Within ANEE, Arpe's research on Parthian Empire and its imperial identity contributes to the work package 1. His research on the question of social interaction between different groups within Parthian Empire contributes more widely to the research on micro and macro level changes in Ancient Near East.

Keywords: Parthian empire, Dead Sea scrolls, Zoroastrianism, Second temple Judaism, Qumran community

Rotem Avneri Meir (MA, Ancient History, Tel-Aviv University) is writing his dissertation on the topic of “The Rise of Hasmonean Power on the Margins of the Seleukid Empire.” In his research, he explores the emergence of local elites as imperial power-holders in the Hellenistic ancient Near East, taking as a case study the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty around the mid-second century BCE. His study aims to identify this group’s unique elite identity, as well as the groups with which it came into contact, and perhaps competed with over power and authority on the margins of the Seleukid empire. His research is informed by a social-scientific and interdisciplinary approach that tests and refines sociological and anthropological theories with the help of recent studies of elite groups in ancient Near Eastern empires. In this way, it seeks to further our understanding of the processes by which local populations interacted with empires.

Within ANEE, Avneri Meir’s research contributes to work-packages 1, 2, and 3. It fosters an emic perspective on the formation of local identities in marginal imperial regions and the sociocultural networks in which they were located. It also examines changes that occurred in former imperial centres in Hellenistic times, such as Babylonian and Egyptian temples or the imperial courts of the Ptolemies and Seleukids. Moreover, his work compares the literary evidence from Hellenistic Judea and material evidence from the Transjordan to advance our understanding of how local elites shaped their sense of identity and gained authority. Such a comparison refines our understanding of the competing elite families that were active in the region, as well as the local communities’ distinct lifeways, which are scarcely attested in written sources.

Keywords: Second temple Judaism, Dead Sea scrolls, classics, Hellenistic period, Seleucid, Ptolemaic kingdoms, Hebrew Bible, Kingship, Historiography, Memory studies

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 is an archaeologist of the Ancient Near East (Bronze/Iron Ages, PhD completed 1995). He did postdoctoral studies at Oxford, UK and worked in the Israel Antiquities Authority as deputy of Finds Department, senior excavating archaeologist, and head of SPU. Kletter directed excavations all over Israel and lectured at several universities. His interests include religion and cult, pre-monetary economies, the history and ethics of archaeology, and cultural heritage. Kletter has published extensively, including the following monographs: “The Judean Pillar Figurines and the Asherah” (1996); “Economic Keystones: The Weight System of Judah” (Oxford, 1998); “Just Past? The Making of Israeli Archaeology” (London, 2006); “Yavneh I-II: The Excavation of the ‘Temple Hill’ Repository Pit” (Wiesbaden, 2010, 2015, With W. Zwickel and I. Ziffer); “Rishon le-Ziyon I: The Middle Bronze Age Cemeteries” (Münster 2018, with Y. Levy), and “Archaeology, Heritage and Ethics in the Western Wall Plaza, Jerusalem: Darkness at the End of the Tunnel” (Routledge, 2019).
 
Dr. Kletter has been a member of ANEE since its establishment. He contributed three articles so far on identities and marginal groups under empires: “Pit-typology at Ḥirbet Ṣaliḥ/Ramat Raḥel: On Favissae, Foundation Deposits, and Feasts” (ZDPV 134/1, 2018, 46–62); “Living in the Past. Keeping Up-To-Date in Ancient Near Eastern Studies.” In: Ł. Niesiołowski-Spanò and E. Pfoh (eds.), Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays in Honour of Thomas L. Thompson. London: Bloomsbury (in press, 2019); and “Estates or Forts in the Persian Period?” (with J. Silverman, forthcoming). 
 

Keywords: Archaeology, Southern Levant, History of Archaeology, Archaeological theory, Politics of Archaeology, Israel/Palestine, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Cult, Rituals, Terracottas / Figurines, Economy (pre-monetary), Cultural Heritage, Heritage management, Archaeological legislation

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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.

Keywords: Transmission of (religious) ideas, Epidemiology of representations, Conceptualization of divinity, Embodied cognition, Cognitive Science of Religion

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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.

Töyräänvuori's project participates in the research into Imperial Identities and Marginal and Marginalizing Regions, examininig the identities and self-understanding of the Judan elite minority under the Neo-Assyrian Empire. In order to understand the position of this elite minority, questions on Rural Life under Empire and Macro and Micro Identities must also be considered.

Keywords: Late Bronze Age, Kingship, Storm God, Divine weapons, Flood story, Book of Jonah, Book of Nahum, Book of Amos, Eastern Mediterranean, Phoenician cities, Phoencian, Ugaritic, Hittite, Middle/Late Egyptian, Seal iconography, Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions, Political mythology, Book of Psalms, Biblical poetry, Sea gods, Baal, Arameans, Aramaic inscriptions, Northern Syria, Political geography of Northern Syria (LBA/Iron Age), Hebrew, Hebrew Bible

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Dr. Caroline Wallis holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University Paul-Valéry, Montpellier. 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. Imperial identities or rather the forms of collective identification produced by the State and the role of ritualization in this process lie at the heart of the investigation. This entails per se an analysis of the distribution of power within the successive Empires and how changing patterns in centralization/ decentralization affected imperial rituals held in Mesopotamia, their form and function. The investigation thus takes a longue durée perspectives and identifies the shifts of configurations in the relationship between intermediate local elites and central administration, keeping in mind how this may have affected lifeways of individuals according to their social and geographic distance to the imperial centres. The role of State rituals is also apprehended in the context of the specific demographic engineering policies conducted by the First Millennium BCE Empires: how does ritualization relate to the wide scale migration policies? Rural life under the Empire is an important aspect of Wallis’s research as it aims at identifying representations and practices associated to the Spring equinox by reconstituting agricultural cycles, animal husbandry practices and specific forms of sociability in this particular context, thus identifying the socio-economic aspects of New Year rituals conceptualized - in a first step- as distinct from any type of superimposed religious or political signification.

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