The Near East is the cradle of three world creeds, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but its influence on later civilization goes beyond the realm of religion. Many basic technologies and institutions of human life originated or developed in this region, including most importantly the use of writing necessary for the administration of complex society and the efficient transmission of accrued knowledge across generations.
In NES, Mesopotamian studies, broadly defined as engagement with the pre-Classical written record and archaeological remains of what are today Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, are built on a foundation of instruction in languages expressed in the cuneiform script. Students are generally introduced to this writing system while acquiring the rudiments of the Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) language, then proceed to tackle Sumerian and/or Hittite. Advanced students may also receive personalized tuition in other languages of the ancient Near East, such as Hurrian, Elamite, and the various tongues of second-millennium Anatolia.
Content courses in the Mesopotamian section of NES focus on the early history of this geographic area, as well as on its religions, literatures, and contributions to the history of science, technology, and medicine. Emphasis is placed on just how knowledge can be extracted from written sources, most of whose authors had no intention or expectation of conveying information to those living a century hence, let alone people of later millennia like ourselves.
Mesopotamian studies courses can be found in the LSA Course Guide under the subject "NEAREAST," while ancient Mesopotamian language courses can be found under the subject "NESLANG." Please note that Mesopotamian studies course offerings vary by semester. Please contact the department at Near.Eastern.Studies@umich.edu with any questions.