Dr. Saana Svärd is director of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires and leader of ANEE's Team 1.
Svärd is Professor in ancient Near East studies at the University of Helsinki. She is experienced in interdisciplinary work, and holds expertise in collaborative and methodologically-diverse Near Eastern research. She is a docent of Assyriology at University of Helsinki and a docent of Cultural History of the Near East at the University of Turku. Her expertise in using ancient primary sources is complemented by her experience in interdisciplinary work. In her published work, Svärd has collaborated with specialists in Arabic studies, classical studies, ancient history, archaeology, and language technology in publications.
Over the years she has adapted and developed approaches from gender studies, social sciences, and linguistic semantics to gain new perspectives on cuneiform sources. Identity, especially gender identity, has been a focal point in much of her work. Her monograph, Women and Power in Neo-Assyrian Palaces, and numerous peer-reviewed articles have established Svärd as the leading expert in the study of women and gender in the Neo-Assyrian empire. Her 2017-co-authored (with Dr. C. Halton) monograph, Women's writing of ancient Mesopotamia: an anthology of the earliest female authors (Cambridge UP), expanded this work, raising questions of gender and authorship in cuneiform cultures on a broader scale, as did the co-edited volume, Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East (with A. Garcia-Ventura; Eisenbrauns 2018). More recently, her interests have expanded towards Digital Humanities, exploring the potential of these methods for Assyriology.
Keywords: Akkadian, Sumerian, Cross-disciplinary (esp. methodological) applications to Mesopotamian history, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian eras, Gender studies, Digital Humanities approaches (Social network approach, language technology, Gephi), Study of emotions
Dr Krister Lindén is vice-leader of Team 1. Lindén is Research Director of Language Technology at the Department of Digital Humanities of the University of Helsinki and National Coordinator of FIN-CLARIN. He is particularly interested in Cross-Language Lexical Semantics and Corpus Linguistics. His contribution to Team 1 is focused on developing state-of-the-art methods from the field of language technology to handle masses of ancient textual data. These electronic corpora can be processed by computational means (e.g. clustering and machine learning) to generate semantic domains for lexemes relating to social group identities.
Working closely together with the philological experts, he aims to guide the development of language technology for automated building of contextual semantic models from primary sources which offers novel possibilities for understanding first millennium BCE Mesopotamia from an emic perspective. By identifying semantic domains, researchers can attempt to determine which concepts (or which domains) were important for the people writing Akkadian. Such a quantitative perspective broadens the possibilities for semantic and linguistic research on these text corpora by other linguists and historians.
To investigate imperial identities, Team 1 uses language technology and social network analysis (WP1). Former centres that became marginal inform us how the local elites interacted with imperial systems differently from those in more central regions (WP2). Team 1 will document digital approaches to ancient texts related to studying changes in semantic fields and social group dynamics over the longue durée (WP4).
Dr. Tero Alstola (PhD, Leiden University) is a scholar of Near Eastern cultures and languages interested in studying ancient history with digital tools. His dissertation focused on migration and immigrants in Babylonian society in the first millennium BCE. Afterwards, he has worked in a multidisciplinary research team that developed and applied language technological methods and network analysis to the study of Akkadian cuneiform texts. His current project investigates the relationships between the Babylonian and Persian empires and the rural population, focusing on the ways the empires tried to govern the countryside and the responses of the rural population to these attempts.
Keywords: Migration, Social history, Judah, Babylonia, Judeans, Hebrew Bible, Cuneiform, Neo-Assyrian period, Neo-Babylonian period, Persian period, Digital humanities, Language technology, Social network analysis, Gephi
Kaisa Autere is a PhD student in ANEE Team 1. She has a BA and MA in Archaeology (University of Helsinki), and also a background in Egyptology (Uppsala University and UH). Her PhD thesis (Working title: ‘Sociolinguistic Analysis in Contextualising Ancient Material – A Study on Scribal Identity in late Middle Kingdom Egypt’) is a multidisciplinary work that studies the methodological possibilities of sociolinguistics in gaining new sociocultural information from ancient textual sources. The dissertation is based on a case study from late Middle Kingdom Egypt, namely the corpus of el-Lahun papyri (1850–1750 BC), and examines the different registers in the material, i.e. how the style of the language changes according to situational factors.
Before joining ANEE in 2021, Autere has worked as an archaeologist in Finland at both prehistoric and historic sites. In Egyptology, she specialises in Egyptian linguistics and philology and the social history of the Middle Kingdom.
Dr. Johannes Bach studied Assyriology, Ancient History and Comparative Historic Linguistic at the University of Erlangen, with a strong inclination towards literature and literary history. For his PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin, he studied the so-called “Transtextual poetics of Assyrian royal narrative texts.” In that project, he evaluated recent theories on inter- and transtextuality, as well as on narratology, and developed a methodology to identify and properly analyse transtextualities within the corpus of Assyrian royal inscriptions and related texts. During this work, it became apparent that deeper research into the history of the literary evolution of the genre is needed in order to properly understand the textual developments, especially in the later Neo-Assyrian period. Within ANEE, Bach aims to create a database relating to the literary history of Assyrian royal narrative texts, which is of great use for the study of the construction of history and royal identity not only during the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but also in Old and Middle Assyrian times.
Keywords: Literary theory, Intertextuality, Middle and Neo Assyrian history, Middle and Neo Assyrian literary history, Assyrian royal narrative texts, Cuneiform, Akkadian philology
Dr. Ellie Bennett is an Assyriologist with an interest in Gender Studies. Her PhD thesis (University of Helsinki) focussed on the ‘Queens of the Arabs’ during the Neo-Assyrian period, which explored ancient female rulers and Pre-Islamic Arabian history. Ellie’s previous work was a further exploration into gender studies and investigated the masculinities used by the Neo-Assyrian kings in their titles and epithets. Her current work within ANEE uses Lexical Network Analysis to explore how masculinities were expressed within Akkadian texts. Ellie has a specific interest in how intersectional identities changed the expression of masculinity.
Keywords: Neo-Assyrian history, Pre-Islamic Arabian history, Qedarite Confederation, Sabaean Kingdom, Queen of Sheba, Gender Studies, Masculinities theory, Digital Humanities (Gephi, Python, LateX), royal inscriptions, royal palace reliefs, royal ideology, Akkadian, titles and epithets
Dr. Patricia Bou Pérez (PhD, Université Lumière Lyon 2 and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) studied languages (Akkadian, Sumerian) and History of the ancient Near East at the Université Lumière Lyon 2. For her PhD, she studied "The daily life of soldiers during the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2002-1595 BCE)".
She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Her current research is focused on emotions, gender, and war in the Old Babylonian period. Her aim is to identify and analyze all the emotions expressed in the Old Babylonian texts concerning war, and to study whether they were gendered or not.
Keywords: Old Babylonian period, Akkadian, Mari archives, Gender Studies, Masculinities, Emotion Studies, Military History
Dr. Céline Debourse (Ph.D., University of Vienna) studies Babylonian history, language, and religion in the second half of the first millennium BCE. Her previous work focused on the ritual texts from Hellenistic Babylon, in particular the New Year Festival texts, in the framework of the Late Babylonian priestly literature. She is currently studying how changing imperial dynamics may have impacted cultic practices in Babylon during the Late Achaemenid, Hellenistic, and Parthian periods. Her work as postdoctoral research in ANEE Team 1 will furthermore entail a study of specific Akkadian lexemes relating to identity through both language technological methods and comparative historical analysis.
Keywords: Babylonia, Akkadian, Achaemenid period, Hellenistic period, ritual and ritual text, history of religion, Late Babylonian priestly literature, priesthood, Seleucid empire, longue durée phenomena
Dr. Sebastian Fink (PhD University of Innsbruck) is an Assyriologist with a strong background in philosophy (especially Philosophy of Language). His research focuses on Sumerian, especially on Emesal, and the intellectual and literary history of Mesopotamia. For several years he was part of a Innsbruck-based Emesal-dictionary project and his current work at CSTT focuses on change in Emesal-lamentations and is mainly concerned with the changing conceptualization of the divine in these texts. Currently (2017-2019) he is the vice chair of the Melammu project that fosters interdisciplinary research regarding the Ancient World.
Within ANEE he is interested in applying language technology on Sumerian and Akkadian in order to deepen our understanding of complex terminologies and subtle distinctions within the Mesopotamian tradition. His work on bilingual texts and multilingualism in Ancient Mesopotamia contributes to the questions of imperial and professional identities.
Keywords: Sumerian, Sumerian literature, Sumerian Lexicography, Ancient Near Eastern history, Emesal Lamentations, Historiography, Intellectual History of the Ancient World, History of Assyriology
Dr. Heidi Jauhiainen has a background in Egyptology, where her interests lie in local and individual religion as well as everyday life. After defending her doctoral thesis in 2009 on the topic of "Feasts and Festivals at Deir el-Medina," she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Already during her studies, she started working in a project identifying and harvesting pages written in Finno-Ugric languages on the Internet. She was responsible for crawling the internet and post-processing and publishing the texts found. She then worked with Assyriologists and Language Technologists on identifying semantic domains in Akkadian Texts. Her main interests include corpus linguistics, especially the analysis of texts, and text mining. At the moment, she has a Finnish Cultural Foundation funded project where the aim is to publish machine-readable hieroglyphic texts and tools to produce them.
Within ANEE she works with the Assyriologists and Language technologists to find evidence on migration and identity in the textual material and to find and create more digitized texts for analysis.
Keywords: Gephi, FastText, Social Network Analysis, Scripting, Databases, Ancient Egypt, Deir el-Medina, Feasts, Religion
Dr. Tommi Jauhiainen defended his doctoral thesis in 2019 on the topic of “Language Identification in Texts”. He also has a master’s degree in Language Technology (2010) with minor studies in Computer Science, Assyriology, and Egyptology. He wrote his master’s thesis on automatic language identification and he continued his research on the same subject in the "Finno-Ugric Languages and the Internet" project as a doctoral student under the guidance of Dr. Krister Lindén and Prof. em. Kimmo Koskenniemi. During his studies, he was also enlisted as an information systems manager at the National Library of Finland, where he has gained experience in software engineering projects, both small and large.
In ANEE, Jauhiainen's research concerns Akkadian dialect and text genre identification. He organized the first shared task in Cuneiform Language Identification (CLI) in 2019. The methods for dialect and text genre identification can be used to improve the quality of existing annotations in the corpora used by Team 1. For texts without annotation, the methods can be used to partly automate the annotation process.
Keywords: Language identification, Dialect identification, Text categorization, Machine learning, Language technology, Computational linguistics
Dr. Christopher W. Jones (Ph.D, Columbia University) is a historian of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. His dissertation, titled “Power and Elite Competition in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 745-612 BC” applies insights from the fields of social network analysis, organizational communication, and elite competition to develop a new model for understanding the late Assyrian empire as a system of structurally induced elite competition.
Within ANEE, he is working to publish a book about the internal politics of the Neo-Assyrian state as well as a project which uses social network analysis to better define the role of scholars in the Assyrian royal court. He is also beginning a project to integrate the study of Assyria into a global framework by exploring Assyria’s connections with the Persian Gulf and India, as well as re-examining Assyrian rule over Babylonia through studying the formation of Babylonian identity and the role of local elites in Assyrian administration.
Keywords: Social Network Analysis, Betweenness Centrality, Bonacich Centrality, Elite Overproduction, Organizational Theory, Parkinson’s Law, Leader-Member Exchange Theory, Governmental Politics, Assyria, Neo-Assyrian Empire, Global History, Trade Networks
Dr. Mikko Luukko (PhD, University of Helsinki) studied Assyriology, Semitics and Linguistics at the University of Helsinki and the Freie Universität Berlin. His main research interests include Neo-Assyrian studies, ancient letter writing and Assyrian grammar, but he has edited Mesopotamian myths, anti-witchcraft rituals and Neo-Assyrian legal transactions, too.
Within ANEE, Luukko is preparing an Akkadian treebank. To this end, he is applying the methods of language technology on Assyrian Royal Inscriptions of the first millennium BCE by annotating the corpus. The goal of the treebank is to deepen the study on the syntax of the Akkadian language. Semantically, this should also enhance our understanding of the royal identity in the Assyrian Empire.
Keywords: Assyrian Grammar, Lemmatisation, Letters, Mesopotamian Witchcraft, Neo-Assyrian Period, Orthography, Syntax, Treebanking
Dr. Aleksi Sahala studied Computational Linguistics and Assyriology at the University of Helsinki and received his PhD in Language Technology under supervision of Krister Lindén and Saana Svärd. His dissertation, “Contributions to Computational Assyriology”, addressed development and application of various computational methods for annotating and analyzing Assyriological text data.
In 2021–2025, Sahala is working on computational analysis of Sumerian Emesal texts in close co-operation with UC Berkeley and Universität Innsbruck. Within ANEE, he continues providing tools for lemmatization and semantic analysis for Akkadian texts.
Keywords: Computational Assyriology, Distributional Semantics, Language Technology, Morphology, Sumerian, Emesal, Corpus Linguistics
Dr. Lena Tambs was trained in Classical Studies and Egyptology (University of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen, Denmark), before she utilised and critically evaluated the performance and applicability of formal methods of Social Network Analysis (SNA) to 21 ancient archives in her doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Socio-Economic Relations in Ptolemaic Pathyris: A Network Analytical Study of a Bilingual Community’ (University of Cologne, Germany). In this project, she successfully demonstrated that SNA holds great potential for studying past relationships, networks and socio-economic behaviours, as revealed by Greek and Demotic textual sources from ancient Egypt.
As a member of Team 1, Lena will apply a similar methodological approach to an in-depth study of the largest archive to have survived from Ptolemaic Egypt – the so-called Zenon archive. With the help of conceptual and computational tools offered by SNA, she will thereby examine pertinent questions about daily life and the structural dynamics of human interactions in 3rd century BCE Egypt and the Levant.
By means of recording, modelling and analysing networks qualified by rich prosopographical, relational and attribute data, she will explore and measure the dataset, moving between micro- meso- and macro-scale analyses while shifting between global and egocentric perspectives. Moreover, she will employ social and economic theories to interpret the results of the network analysis and ultimately increase our understanding of how and why the attested agents interacted as revealed by the written sources. Although the roughly 1850 texts associated with the archive cover a relatively short window of time (263-229 BCE), diachronic analysis of the network models will further allow Lena to explore how such changes affected, and was affected by, imperial dynamics on the one hand and individual agencies and lifeways on the other.
From 2023, the work will be continued and extended with support from Kone Foundation.
Keywords: Ptolemaic Egypt; ancient archives; the Zenon papyri; correspondences; documentary sources; Greek; Demotic; Social Network Analysis; Gephi 0.9.2; network theory; social and economic theories, social history; the Levant; Egypt; Fayum; Philadelphia; Egyptology; Classics.
Dr. Jonathan Valk (Ph.D., New York University) is a historian of the ancient Middle East. He specializes in the history of Assyria in the first and second millennia BCE, a region at the intersection between the cuneiform tradition centered in southern Iraq and the Iron Age West Semitic traditions based in the Levant. He also has a broader interest in social and comparative history, in the form and functioning of states, and in the application of theory and method from the social sciences to ancient evidence.
Dr. Valk’s current research in ANEE focuses on the displacement of the Sumero-Akkadian written tradition by Aramaic in the Middle East in the first millennium BCE.
Keywords: Assyria, Akkadian, Aramaic, social history, comparative history, language change, Aramaization, social identity, historical sociolinguistics, economic history, empire, cosmopolitanism
Repekka Uotila is a Doctoral Researcher studying bilingual communities and bilingual archives (Akkadian/Aramaic) from the 1st millennium BCE. She applies Social Network Analysis and sociolinguistics to explore the changes in the identities of bilingual people and how they were perceived during the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, and the correlation of the changes with the language shift from Akkadian to Aramaic.
Uotila holds a MA in Assyriology from the University of Helsinki. In her thesis she examined the groupness of people with Aramaic names in the Neo-Assyrian period using SNA, and whether their social behavior indicated a separate “Aramean” identity.
Keywords: Social Network Analysis, Gephi, Sociolinguistics, Ancient Archives, Digital Humanities, Assyria, Babylonia
Evelien Vanderstraeten (PhD student) has a Master of Arts in the Language and Area Studies of the Ancient Near East (Syro-Mesopotamia) (KU Leuven) and a Bachelor in Archaeology (Ghent University). Through her university studies she has gained a broad knowledge on different topics in the Greek, Roman and Near Eastern history and archaeology. Her master dissertation focused on the female investors in the Neo-Babylonian and Persian empires.
Next to her interest in studying the lives of ordinary men and women in the Ancient Near East, she developed a keen interest in digital humanities. She worked for innovative open-access digital repositories such as Nabucco and Prosobab for which she prepared about 700 legal and 700 administrative texts from the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods.
As a member of team 1, she will apply approaches from digital humanities (e.g. Social Network Analysis) and social sciences to study the historical development of marriage as an adaptive and responsive social institution, for the different regions of Mesopotamia, from the early to the late 1st millennium BCE. Her doctoral dissertation aims to establish how changes in the political, social, economic and administrative dynamics of the subsequent first world empires of the Assyrians, Chaldeans/Babylonians, Persians and Macedonians/Seleucids influenced the marriage system of various social groups.
Keywords: Marriage, Social History, Cuneiform, Women, Assyria, Babylonia, Neo-Assyrian period, Neo-Babylonian period, Social Network Analysis, Digital humanities, Digital repositories (e.g. Prosobab, Nabucco), Achaemenid period, Hellenistic period, Legal and Administrative texts
Dr. Gina Konstantopoulos (PhD, University of Michigan) is an Assyriologist. Her research has focused on Sumerian and Akkadian literary texts, as well as the study of religion and magic in the ancient Near East, especially the place of demons and monsters in Mesopotamia. Her previous project explored the role of one group of supernatural figures, known as the Sebettu, examining their appearances in texts, their utilization in the political sphere, and the development of their official cult. Her current project examines conceptions of distant places in Mesopotamia in the second and first millennia BCE. In particular, her project investigates the fictionalization of distant locations, places that were at the edges of Mesopotamia's worldview and, though known to be real, were given fantastical qualities in textual depictions. Her work with ANEE considers the intersection of distant space and empire in the first millennium BCE, and how Mesopotamian society conceived of the lands at and beyond its borders.
Dr. Shana Zaia (PhD, Yale University) is an Assyriologist specializing in the Neo-Assyrian period. Her previous research focused on Neo-Assyrian religion at the state level, specifically in the corpus of royal inscriptions, and the relationships between royal power and official cult. She is currently studying cult centers in the Assyrian Empire by focusing on cities that were not also political capitals, such as Arbela and Kilizi. She contributes to Ancient Near Eastern Empires through her expertise on the Assyrian Empire, especially in terms of the official text corpora, royal and elite levels of society, and religion.