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Languages of Mesopotamia



The theme of this academic year: Hurrian.

Hurrian is a language that was widely spoken in the north of Mesopotamia, in Syria and in Anatolia. The oldest sources go back to the end of the third millennium and the last signs of Hurrian presence date to the Neo-Assyrian period. The most important texts that we have today are the so-called Mittani letter of king Tushratta, the bilingual text from Hattusha and a number of cultic texts from Ugarit, Emar and Hattusha. Although great progress has been made and most of the textual material can now be understood quite well, there are still words and constructions that defy explanation. In this class an introduction to the Hurrian language will be followed by a study of the Mittani letter and a few bilingual texts from Anatolia and Ugarit.

Course objectives

  • The ability to decipher, transliterate and translate cuneiform texts from the selected period.

  • Knowledge of the historical development, function and cultural context of the selected texts.


See Timetable Classics and Ancient Civilizations: Assyriology

Mode of instruction

  • Workgroup

Course Load

Total study load: 280 hours

  • Class: 28 hours

  • Translating independently: ca. 42 hours

  • Reading literature: ca. 40 hours

  • Writing essays: ca. 56 hours

  • Writing the final essay: ca. 114 hours

Assessment method

The final grade will be composed of:

  • essays (60%)

  • grade for the presentation (40%)

Reading list

  • To be announced in class


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

Prof.dr. W.H. van Soldt