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Aramaization of Assyria


Admission requirements

Participants should have detailed knowledge of either Akkadian or Aramaic.


Throughout the second millennium BCE, the Akkadian language and the cuneiform script were the dominant modes of written expression in Assyria and neighboring regions. This situation changed in the first half of the first millennium, when Assyria was at the apogee of its imperial power. Alongside Akkadian and cuneiform, we see the increasing use of Aramaic and its associated alphabetic (abjad) script. In this seminar, we will explore the evidence of this transition and try to make sense of it. The evidence is archaeological, art historical, and above all textual. Aramaic gradually moved from the geographical margins to the center and from a limited number of usages to a deeper penetration of multiple genres. We will read Akkadian and Aramaic texts including royal inscriptions, everyday inscriptions, letters, and literary texts to see how they relate to each other and to ask what they can tell us about the developing position of the two languages. We will also interpret the evidence as a whole in the light of broader theoretical literature on the nature of language and script change.

Course objectives

  • Students will become familiar with the evidence of Aramaic writing in Assyria in the first half of the first millennium and how such writing compares to established patterns of Akkadian textual production.

  • Students will become acquainted with theoretical literature on the relationship between writing and language and how it applies to Aramaization.

  • Students will develop their Akkadian and Aramaic philological skills, practice their ability to process and discuss primary and secondary ancient Near Eastern evidence, and produce a research paper.


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours:

  • Seminar meetings: (13 x 2h) = 26 hours

  • Preparation for classes: (13 x 5h) = 65 hours

  • Supplementary readings: (13 x 2h) 26 hours

  • Research paper (6,000 words): 163 hours

Assessment method


  • 60% research paper

  • 40% participation in and preparation for seminar meetings


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the overall grade is unsatisfactory, the paper may be revised following consultation with the instructor.

Exam review

Students will be invited individually to discuss their grades with the instructor upon publication of the results.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Providing course materials

  • Communication

Reading list

A list of scheduled readings will be provided at the beginning of the course. All readings will be available via Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about registration in uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. Jonathan Valk