Monday, April 12, 2021

Primary Text Lab II: Hammurabi

Curated by Andrew A. N. Deloucas

with Pamela Barmash, Sophus Helle,
M. Willis Monroe, Moudhy Al-Rashid,
and Seth L. Sanders

Friday, May 7th, 2021
8:00 am PST / 10 am CST / 11 am EST / 4 pm GMT / 5 pm CEST

Please register here

a link to the text to be discussed will be included in your registration confirmation email

The Primary Text Lab series, directed by Julia Lindenlaub, brings together a panel of scholars to examine closely a single text from different perspectives, in an open conversation on any aspect of its interpretation.

The text in question for this event is known by a few names: Codex Hammurabi, Hammurabi’s Stele, the Laws of Hammurabi. Regardless of what we wish to call it, this object is often equated with the socio-political reality of Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. First carved out of diorite stone and presented to Shamash in the 18th century BCE, it was taken as booty by the Elamite king Šutruk-Nahhunte in the 12th century BCE and excavated by the French government 31 centuries later; it remains today in the Louvre. Even though Hammurabi’s Stele is one of the longest known singular texts from the ancient Near East, its context is typically relegated to the world of law. But this is not the only reason for its existence.

Come join us on May 7 to hear from a panel of international scholars with an array of expertise about the luscious realities that are overlooked when we leave texts to be defined by singular genres. We will be examining the object’s prologue and epilogue – the bookends of this collection of legal decisions – in order to tease out Hammurabi’s world at large: its gods, identity, intertextuality, schooling, and aesthetics.

Andrew Alberto Nicolas Deloucas, curator of this text lab, is an Assyriologist focused on the first two thousand years of cuneiform cultures (~3500-1500 BCE). His primary focus is on socio-political history of the early Old Babylonian Period (~2000-1750 BCE), especially on interaction of polity and cult. He is a coordinator of the Graduate Symposium in Ancient Near Eastern Studies as well as Harvard University’s Methodologies in Egyptology and Mesopotamian Studies. Outside of research, he teaches undergraduates about the wild beauty of studying history and language.


Pamela Barmash does research on biblical and ancient Near Eastern law and has published monographs on homicide (Homicide in the Biblical World, 2005) and on the Laws of Hammurabi (The Laws of Hammurabi: At the Confluence of Royal and Scribal Traditions, 2020). She also works on history and memory and has edited volumes on the Exodus in the Jewish experience and on how the change of empires affected ancient Israel. She also writes rabbinic responsa on contemporary issues in Jewish communities.

Sophus Helle is a writer, translator, and cultural historian, with a great passion for Babylonian poetry in general and Gilgamesh in particular—his translation of Gilgamesh is coming out in the Fall, and he is very excited. He is spending the spring lockdown working on a book about Enheduana, the first known author. His other interests include the emerging field of world philology (what if we thought of philology not a series of siloed subdisciplines, but as a global and trans-millennial endeavor?), the genre of epics, narrative, gender, affect, reception, and much more besides.

M. Willis Monroe is managing editor of a database of Religious History and teaches courses on the Ancient Near East in Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies departments.  His research focuses on the history of religion and science in Mesopotamia.  With a particular concentration on astronomical and astrological texts from cuneiform sources, his work highlights the role of textual format and layout in constructing scholarly knowledge.

Moudhy Al-Rashid is a postdoctoral researcher in the history of science and medicine. She has written for academic journals and public outlets, including History Today, on diverse topics in the history of the ancient Middle East. She serves on the management committee of Nahrein, a project in sustainability and cultural heritage in Iraq and neighbouring countries, and on the council of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.

Seth L. Sanders is a philologist studying the alchemy of language, religion, and politics in the ancient Near East. He is (co-)editor of Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (2006); Cuneiform in Canaan (2006); Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literatures (2014); and How to Build a Sacred Text in the Ancient Near East (JANER) (2016), and author of The Invention of Hebrew (2009) and From Adapa to Enoch: Scribal Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylon (2017). He is working on a book on ancient West Semitic linguistic genres and religious practice.

Have a primary text you’d like to discuss? Propose a Primary Text Lab! Proposals from scholars at all stages, including graduate students, are warmly welcome. See the Event Toolkit to get started!



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