From the invention of writing over 5000 years ago in southern Iraq until the beginning of the Common Era, peoples of the Middle East wrote cuneiform script with a reed stylus on small clay tablets. From the discovery of the ancient civilisations of the Middle East in the 19th century until the present, scholars continue to discover new tablets that transform our understanding of an extraordinarily rich and sophisticated culture.
Immerse yourself in the culture of ancient Iraq and read some of the earliest written records of humankind at SOAS Summer School 2022. This year two new courses are launching: Gods, Heroes and Monsters: The Mythological Poetry of Ancient Iraq and The Language of Gilgamesh: Babylonian for Beginners.
During the courses, you will be able to read and comprehend texts from thousands of years ago, experience the richness and beauty of its poetry and language, and gain an insight into the way that ancient people thought and how they lived.
Gods, Heroes and Monsters: The Mythological Poetry of Ancient Iraq (2022 entry)
The first summer course will introduce students to the world of mythology and literature in ancient Iraq, including the key themes, narratives and motifs of the mythological poetry of ancient Iraq. This will feature the gods, heroes and monsters of ancient Iraq including, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is often considered to be the first great work of literature.
The Language of Gilgamesh: Babylonian for Beginners (2022 entry)
The second summer course will introduce the language of Babylonian (or “Akkadian”), which is the earliest known Semitic language (thus related to Hebrew and Arabic). Students will learn the basics of Babylonian grammar, and cuneiform script, focusing on grammar and texts from ca. 2000-1600 BC. This will include reading selected lines from actual texts in the original cuneiform (contracts, letters, legal texts, literary texts) and fully comprehending a selected passage from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Get Ready for Summer
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Read The Epic of Gilgamesh.
- Listen to The Epic of Gilgamesh lecture by Professor Andrew George, Emeritus Professor of Babylonian.
- Listen to the lecture Be My Baby in Babylonia: Girl Meets Boy and Vice Versa by Professor Andrew George.
- British Museum: The British Museum is five minutes’ walk from SOAS University of London. Its Middle East galleries will be used in virtual tours as an integral part of each course.
Dr Sam Mirelman is a Lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and convenor of the courses. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules on Akkadian, Sumerian and the Ancient Near East and has interests including ancient music theory texts, ancient prayers and rituals, and ancient translation. He has worked on tablets in the British Museum for many years, publishing first editions of some of them.