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Ancient Middle Eastern Languages

Have you ever wanted to read the hieroglyphs on Egyptian coffins or the oldest versions of the Bible? Studying ancient languages provides avenues for experiencing cultures beyond the contemporary or even recent past. Just as learning another language allows you to navigate and experience a foreign country, so too does knowing an ancient language help you navigate and experience the past. Learning an ancient language gives you insight into the history, stories, and cultures of people who lived in the Middle East thousands of years ago.

The languages offered in the Department of Middle East Studies include some of the oldest recorded languages in history (Sumerian and Egyptian), the languages of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Hebrew and Aramaic), as well as many other languages that offer access to people and civilizations of the ancient Middle East. You can study the oldest written languages related to Arabic (Akkadian) or English (Hittite) recorded on 3000 year old clay tablets, learn the earliest preserved alphabet (Ugaritic), or read the thoughts of people living in Egypt during the Roman Empire written on papyri in Coptic.

Learning an ancient language will challenge you in new, exciting ways. Unlike when learning modern languages, you will not learn how to converse with fellow students. Since you cannot simply ask an instructor or a speaker about an ancient language, you will hone transferable skills such as puzzle solving, code-breaking, interpretation, pattern recognition, and probability analysis. You can read about the exploits of legendary figures, the complaints of a merchant, the songs of both the victorious and the downtrodden, and the calculations of businessmen. Any student interested in history, anthropology, linguistics, literature, philosophy, science, mathematics, EECS, or any other field would benefit from learning an ancient language.