Team 2 researchers

Team 2 consists of the following researchers:
Jason Silverman

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 leads team 2 in providing useful questions and theoretical approaches for ANEE's four work packages. His own research focuses 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)

Recent publications
Melanie Wasmuth

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

Recent publications
Alex Aissaoui (associate member)

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

Recent publications
Rotem Avneri Meir

Rotem Avneri Meir (PhD, University of Helsinki) specializes in ancient Jewish history and religion with broader interests in the politics and cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. Drawing from the field of empire studies and building on social-scientific methodologies, his work retraces how imperial powers shaped local communities, cultures, and religious practices in the Southern Levant during the Late Persian and Hellenistic periods.

Rotem recently completed his PhD that examined the emergence of the Hasmonean dynasty within the Seleucid empire, highlighting how the early Hasmonean dynasts (namely, Jonathan, Simon, and Hyrkanos; ca. 160–110 BCE) conceived their hegemony in Judea within the context of existing imperial court circles rather than as a replacement for the Seleucid Empire.

In his current project, Rotem explores how ancient communication and information systems affected the way local Jewish communities experienced and understood social and political power, the divine, and the self in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. 

Keywords: Hellenistic Period, Second Temple Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Classics, Seleukid Empire, Ptolemaic Empire, Hebrew Bible, Kingship, Historiography

Recent publications
Jutta Jokiranta (associate member)

Prof. Jutta Jokiranta is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies at the University of Helsinki (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 the Dead Sea Discoveries (Brill) Thematic Issue editor, President of the International Organization of Qumran Studies (IOQS), and co-chairs the SBL Annual Meeting Qumran Program Unit. Jokiranta is chairperson of the Finnish Exegetical Society. She was a Team Leader in the Center of Excellence: Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (2014‒2019).

Recent publications
Raz Kletter

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 (2019: 10–21); and “Estates or Forts in the Persian Period?” (with J. Silverman, 2020, PEQ 152/3:10-21).   

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

Recent publications
Lauri Laine (associate member)

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

Recent publications
Nina Nikki (associate member)

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.

Recent publications
Emanuel Pfoh

Dr. Emanuel Pfoh (PhD, University of Buenos Aires) is a historian specializing in anthropological approaches to the ancient Near East. His research focuses both on the Late Bronze Age and on the Iron Age in Syria-Palestine, usually in a comparative manner and especially through political and historical anthropology. He also has interests on ancient Israelite historiography and on the politics of biblical scholarship and archaeology.

His publications include The Emergence of Israel in Ancient Palestine: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (Equinox, 2009), Anthropology and the Bible: Critical Perspectives (edited for Gorgias Press, 2010), The Politics of Israel’s Past: The Bible, Archaeology and Nation-Building (co-edited with K.W. Whitelam for Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013), Syria-Palestine in the Late Bronze Age: An Anthropology of Politics and Power (Routledge, 2016), and The T & T Clark Handbook of Anthropology and the Hebrew Bible (edited for Bloomsbury, forthcoming in 2022).

Within ANEE, his research will focus on issues of imperial (i.e., political and economic) subordination and also on questions and cases of identity formation in the context of the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian overlordship in the Southern Levant at different moments of the period from ca. 1500 to 400 BCE.

Keywords: Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Syria-Palestine, Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Historical Anthropology, Political Anthropology, Historical Epistemology & Methodology, Historiography

Recent publications
Adrianne Spunaugle

Dr. Adrianne Spunaugle (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is an historian of the ancient Near East, specialising in questions pertaining to social history—e.g. deportation, empire, ethnicity, power dynamics, and social structures. Trained in assyriology, anthropological-archaeology, and biblical studies (University of Oxford, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of Michigan), Adrianne’s primary interest is on reincorporating the marginalised of society into history. Her previous work focused on the social history of deportation in first millennium BCE Mesopotamia, using not only on traditional philological methods, but also on empire studies, anthro-archaeological comparative research, subalterity and identity theories, as well as social network analysis (SNA). As a member of ANEE’s Team 2, she focuses on adapting and implementing social theory for the ancient world—including Bourdieu, Foucault, Butler, Najmabadi, Scott, Sinopoli, Alcock, etc.

Adrianne’s current projects in ANEE include collaborative efforts to adapt Bourdieu’s Field Theory for use in the study of the ancient world; a collaboration with Tero Alstola of Team 1 on the social strata of Nippur during the mid-first millennium BCE, using social network analysis and social theory; and courses on migration as well as gender and power dynamics of the ancient Near East. Her personal research centres on: Neo-Assyrian state administrative practices regarding identity politics; integration of Kaldeans, Aramaeans and deportees into the social fabric of Nippur; Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian deportation practices; as well as general categories of subalterity in the ancient Near East.

Keywords: ancient Near Eastern history, social history, assyriology, anthropology, deportation, ethnicity, empire, social network analysis (SNA), social strata, power dynamics

Recent publications
Joanna Töyräänvuori

Dr. Joanna Töyräänvuori (PhD, University of Helsinki) holds the title of docent in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Faculty of Arts and a doctorate in Hebrew Bible Studies at 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, was published in AOAT 457. Currently, Töyräänvuori 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, as well as the identities of Judean women in Achaemenid Egypt.

Töyräänvuori's project participates in the research into Imperial Identities and Marginal and Marginalizing Regions, examining 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

Recent publications
Caroline Wallis

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.


Recent publications
Uzume Wijnsma (associate member)

Uzume Wijnsma studied Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Her PhD focused on political resistance in the Persian Empire, with a particular focus on the Egyptian rebellions of the late sixth to early fifth centuries BC. As a postdoctoral researcher for the University of Helsinki, she investigates migration and mobility in the empires of the first millennium BC. Other research interests include ancient literary texts, oral traditions, rock inscriptions, and the history of scholarship on the ancient Near East.  

Keywords: Persian Empire, Assyriology, Egyptology, empire studies, migration, mobility