Research objectives

How do changing empires impact social group identities and lifeways?

ANEE is funded by the Academy of Finland and is hosted by the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Theology in the University of Helsinki.


Empires shape human societies, with legacies that last longer than the regimes themselves. Social group identities and lifeways in the ancient and modern worlds alike are inseparable from their imperially-shaped context. The ancient Near East is the home of the world's earliest empires and scripts, and it offers a unique dataset for understanding these dynamics. To date, these empires have been treated in relative isolation. Instead, we ask: How do changing imperial dynamics impact social group identities and lifeways over a millennium? The Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires marshals a cross-disciplinary arsenal of methods and scholars, working through the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic, and early Roman/Parthian Empires, overcoming the very real challenge of dialogue between ancient historians, archaeologists and social scientists.


The Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires investigates dialectical identity-building processes with three interlocking teams, focusing on methodologically diverse approaches. Team 1 ("Digital Humanities Approaches") develops the digital humanities approaches of social network analysis and language technology. Team 2 ("Social Scientific Theory and Applications") tests and refines theoretical models from the social sciences for ancient evidence, integrating anthropological approaches to archaeology with sociological readings of textual and archaeological evidence. Team 3 ("Material Culture and Community Heritage") investigates the impact of each empire on ancient local communities inhabiting the imperial fringes and provides a sustainable future for this heritage. The teams collaborate on four work packages: "Imperial identities," "Marginal and marginalizing regions," "Rural life under empire," and "Macro/micro identities."


The Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires shifts the academic paradigm from separate specialities researching empires as isolated entities or subjects of unidimensional comparison, to methodologically varied yet integrated research on the long-term processes by which social group identities and lifeways were, and still are, negotiated. Further, it involves southern Jordanian communities in the preservation of Near Eastern heritage, disseminates this critical heritage to the Finnish public, and establishes a legacy of open data and minable results.

ANEE answers one of the challenges facing the humanities: the simultaneous need for specialization and more comprehensive, large-scale research results.