Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients

History of Assyriology in Tübingen

The history of Assyriology in Tübingen as an independent discipline begins with the creation of a full chair for Assyriology. Wolfgang Röllig was appointed as its first tenured professor on March 15, 1966. Immediately after his appointment, he applied for the "establishment of an Ancient Near Eastern Seminar", which was granted in July of the same year. Initially, the newly created Ancient Near Eastern Seminar - consisting of Wolfgang Röllig as chair holder, the recent doctorate Martin Kümmel as assistant, and Walter Farber as the first (and for the time being only) student - was temporarily housed on the second floor of the Hegel building, Wilhelmstrasse 36. Despite the cramped space, the newly established seminar attracted some attention. Walter Farber remembers: "Because the three of us often crossed the street to lunch in the newly built cafeteria, there were soon rumours in student circles that somebody had founded a completely new institute. Only three bodies and all in all somewhat peculiar: The professor was barely 25 years old, the assistant just short of 20, and best not ask the age of the student."

As early as the summer of 1966, the Seminar was able to relocate to the so-called "Blauer Turm", Friedrichstrasse 21, where it shared a floor with the Egyptological Institute for two years. This laid the foundation for the shared premises and academic connections between the two disciplines that continues to this day. With the arrival of Brigitte Groneberg (later professor in Göttingen), who spent several semesters as a visiting student in Tübingen, the number of students in Assyriology was doubled to two. From now on, the Seminar grew steadily and attracted both students and doctoral students.

The next move was in 1968: Egyptology and Assyriology moved together to Corrensstraße 12, where they now occupied two floors. There, Wolfgang Röllig participated in the planning and establishment of one of the first two collaborative research centers ("Sonderforschungsbereich") in Tübingen, a project which was suggested by the Egyptologist Hellmut Brunner: the SFB 19, better known under its title "Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients", or TAVO for short. Thus, the former three-man seminar quickly became one of the most important research locations of Assyriology, that was an integral part of interdisciplinary research. The project of a geographical and historical atlas of the Near East, which was developed and supported by natural scientists and humanities scholars, combined 16 individual disciplines. Wolfgang Röllig was the project's speaker since 1973. Within an impressive funding period of 24 years and thanks to a funding amount of 50 million DM, 346 maps in 100 titles with 134 volumes were published between 1969–1993 in the series B, Humanities, alone. This series was supervised by Wolfgang Röllig and Heinz Gaube (Iranian Studies).

The large-scale TAVO project required also archaeological competence, and Wolfgang Röllig was able to hire Hartmut Kühne, an experienced archaeologist, as a research assistant in 1975. From 1975 onwards, Röllig and Kühne recorded almost 130 tells in the as yet unexplored Habur area in extensive surveys. With Tell Schech Hamad (ancient: Dur-Katlimmu) they found a settlement mound that richly rewarded the following long-term excavations. Successor to Kühne, who was offered a chair in Berlin in 1980, was Uwe Finkbeiner who followed him in November 1980. In addition to his work for TAVO, he also carried out his own excavation projects in Beirut, Tell el-Abd, and Emar, which significantly expanded the research opportunities for the students. The end of TAVO in 1993 in no way signaled the end of Near Eastern Archeology undertaken by the academic staff, on the contrary. A year after the Ancient Near Eastern Seminar moved to the castle of Hohentübingen in 1993, a chair for Near Eastern Archeology was advertised. Thereupon the Ancient Near Eastern Seminar was divided into the Department of Assyriology and the Department of Near Eastern Archeology.

Konrad Volk succeeded Wolfgang Röllig in the winter semester of 1998/99 and brought about a new focus for Tübingen's Assyriology. While Röllig had excelled in particular in Akkadian and Northwestern Semitic studies, the Volk pursued a special, if by no means exclusive, interest in Sumerology, which was reflected in numerous projects, focusing on childhood in the ancient Near East, Babylonian and Assyrian inheritance law, Late Babylonian mathematical astronomy, and the development of Sumerian literature. In 2008, he also managed to convert the post of Andreas Fuchs to a permanent position, who with his research focus on the history and historical topography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire optimally complemented the research interests of Volk. He is currently co-head of the sub-project B 07 "A Hunt for Raw Materials? Dynamics of Settlement Development in the Northern Periphery of Mesopotamia" of the SFB 1070 "ResourceCultures".

During the tenure of Konrad Volk, the Ancient Near Eastern Seminar, founded in 1966, was initially merged with other institutes of the Faculty of Cultural Studies into the "Center for Classical Studies and Archeology" in 2005. The decisive impetus for an efficient organizational and scientific realignment though came from the establishment of the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES) initiated by Konrad Volk in 2008. Thus well established, Assyriology in Tübingen celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016.

With the appointment of Wiebke Meinhold to the chair for Assyriology in the winter semester of 2020/21, IANES has now gained a versatile specialist in Mesopotamian religious, legal, and social history. In addition to projects on law, business, and society, she is planning, in collaboration with Hans and Georg Neumann (University of Münster) as well as Michaela Weszeli and Michael Jursa (University of Vienna), to expand KeiBi-online to include the data from the AfO registers, which so far only appear in print. The aim is a comprehensive online database for assyriological literature research. On the occasion of her appointment, Wiebke Meinhold was promised by the university an additional position for Assyriology for the coming years. Jana Matuszak, a recognized specialist in Sumerian literature, was able to fill this position in 2021. Her projects are dedicated to the editorial development of Sumerian literary texts as well as their investigation from a linguistic perspective as well as literary and cultural studies perspectives. She also acts as co-editor of the journal Altorientalische Forschungen.

Assyriology in Tübingen, with the three researchers currently representing it, Andreas Fuchs, Jana Matuszak, and Wiebke Meinhold, has a very broad research base and offers ideal conditions for studying the ancient Near East.