Postdoctoral Researcher, Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
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2006 Johns Hopkins University, PhD in Near Eastern Studies
1999 University of Oklahoma, MA in History
1995 University of Pennsylvania, BA in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
My research focuses on the history and society of southern Mesopotamia during the late third and early second millennia. In particular, I have centered my interests on the period of the so-called Third Dynasty of Ur-- or Ur III period (ca. 2100 to 2000 BCE)-- one of the best-documented periods in the ancient world. Due to its wealth of written documentation, Ur III Mesopotamia provides a tremendous opportunity to better understand society and economy in antiquity.
One question I have sought to answer is how the Ur III state provisioned certain groups of dependents. The state had a large corps of messengers, envoys, diplomats, and guards that required food and upkeep when on state business. Taking care of these officials was a major concern, and the state devoted significant resources to this task.
In studying this corps of messengers and envoys, I have also taken to investigating the correspondence that they were charged with delivering. (An example of one such letter can be found here.) It has conventionally been assumed that such letters represented official state business, but my research into this corpus suggests that in fact, the bulk of the corpus of Ur III letters represents private activity unrelated to the state. This conclusion has dramatic implications for notions of the Mesopotamian economy in the Ur III period, and the results of this study are scheduled to appear in the series Mesopotamian Civilizations, published by Eisenbrauns.
More recently, I have been charged with publishing an edition and study of a large corpus of Ur III cuneiform documents belonging to a hitherto unknown Mesopotamian settlement. The bulk of our written documentation from this period stems largely from major urban centers. These records appear to have come from a rural site, however, and thus will provide a rare glimpse into non-urban life in ancient Mesopotamia at the end of the third millennium. This study will appear in the series Cornell Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology in 2013. (Another archive belonging to this corpus was recently discussed in the New York Times.)
Future research projects include a continued look at letters and written correspondence between non-elites, and further investigation into beer production and distribution in ancient Mesopotamia, as well as a larger look at beer culture-- particularly the role there of women-- in the broader ancient world.
I have taught a variety of classes, including introductory survey courses on the history of ancient Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, as well as advanced lecture courses on the history and spread of writing. I have also taught introductory and advanced language classes in Akkadian and Sumerian.
Ancient Mesopotamia and Syria (UCLA) This lecture course is an introduction to the history of the ancient Near East from the earliest permanent human settlements there until the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire to Persia, ca. 8000 to 539 BCE. While the particular emphasis will be on Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Levant, other regions, including Anatolia and Egypt will be discussed. The focus of the course is on the history of the region, but attention to other topics, such as the development of writing, Mesopotamian religion, and Mesopotamian literature, will also receive attention.
Advanced Sumerian (Cornell University) This course focused on the official and private correspondence dating to the Ur III period. In addition to grammatical analysis of these letters, students were also introduced to Ur III prosopograhy and to discussions of the Ur III economy.
Development of Writing (Cornell University) Students in this upper-level seminar were introduced to the four pristine writing systems (Mesopotamian cuneiform, Egyptian heiroglyphs, Chinese, and Myan heiroglyphs) and the factors the led to the development of each. They also looked at the secondary spread of writing, particularly the development and spread of the Phoenician alphabet in the Levant and beyond.
Elementary Akkadian (Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, UCLA) Elementary Akkadian introduces students to the Akkadian system and the cuneiform writing system. The focus is on the Old Babylonian dialect and readings will come largely from the Code of Hammurapi as well as Old Babylonian letters. Other dialects and literary genres will be discussed as well.
Elementary Sumerian (Cornell University, UCLA) In Elementary Sumerian, students are introduced to the Sumerian grammar and will quickly begin reading royal inscriptions, letters, and administrative texts from Ur III period (ca. 2100-2000 BCE). While the course will focus on Ur III texts, some attention will be paid to Sumerian compositions from earlier (e.g. Presargonic) and later (e.g. Old Babylonian) periods.
Reading of Akkadian Texts (Catholic University) Reading of Akkadian Texts covers selected texts in the Akkadian language, chosen both to increase students' grasp of the language (and the culture it represents) and to contribute to the students' research interests in the larger context of ancient Near Eastern history and culture. Texts may cover a single period or type of text (e.g., Old Babylonian letters or Standard Babylonian literary compositions), or a series of explorations of different text groups (e.g. Assyrian dialects from Old Assyrian to Neo-Assyrian).
Rural Nippur During the Third Dynasty of Ur. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press. (Forthcoming.)
Letter-Orders from the Third Dynasty of Ur. Mesopotamian Civilizations. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. (In preparation.)
“The Tenure of Provincial Governors: Some Observations.” The Present and Future of Neo-Sumerian Studies. Eds. S. Garfinkle and M. Molina. Winona Lake, WI: Eisenbrauns. (In press.)
“Labor, Lard, and the Whitman College Cuneiform Collection.” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin (Forthcoming.)
“The Cuneiform Tablet Collection of the Los Angeles Unified School District.” (With S. Brumfield) Journal of Cuneiform Studies. (Forthcoming.)
“Girsu Labor Assignments, Again.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes. (Forthcoming.)
“Getting the Word Out: Letter-Orders and the Administration of the Third Dynasty of Ur.” Why Should Someone Who Knows Something Conceal it? Studies in Honor of David I. Owen. Eds. A. Kleinerman and J. Sasson. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 2011.
“The Kitchen at Garšana.” Garšana Studies. Ed. D. Owen. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 2011.
“More Šu-Suen Seals During the Reign of Amar-Suen.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2010:3.
“Labor Assignments from the City of Girsu.” On the Third Dynasty of Ur: Studies in Honor of Marcel Sigrist. Ed. P. Michalowski. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2008. 11-20.
“The Cuneiform Collection of the Clinton Historical Society.” (With A. Gadotti) Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2007:2
“Diet, Ancient Near East”; “Honey, Ancient Near East”; “Proto-Euphratic, Proto-Tigridic Languages.” Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Ed. R. Bagnall, et al. (In press.)
M. Sigrist and T. Ozaki, Neo-Sumerian Administrative Tablets from the Yale Babylonian Collection, Parts One and Two (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2009). Journal of the American Oriental Society. (In press.)
Awards and Honors
Delta Sigma Phi Teaching Excellence Award (UCLA), 2011
Charles. S. Singleton Fellowship (Johns Hopkins), 2002
J. Brien Key Fellowship (Johns Hopkins), 2000-2001
Editor: Cuneiform Digital Library Notes
Member: American Oriental Society
Faculty Advisor, Delta Sigma Phi fraternity