Since the Neolithic Revolution and the sedentism of people in the area of the so-called Fertile Crescent, the ancient Near East has been a source of groundbreaking inventions that shape our lives to this day. In addition to agriculture and animal husbandry, wheel and wagons, cities and states, this also includes writing, which can be used to preserve information over time and space. A multitude of languages appear in written documents of the ancient Near East beginning in the early 3rd millennium BC, languages such as Sumerian, Akkadian with its dialects Babylonian and Assyrian, Egyptian, Hittite, Hurrian, Elamite, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Phoenician-Punic, Old Persian, and many more. The ancient speakers of these different languages were in close contact with one another. During the second half of the first millennium, contact with the Greek and later Roman world intensified, which led to mutual influence between the cultures.
The traditional academic boundaries do not take sufficient account of the complexity of the mutual exchange between these cultures, which in many ways resembles our modern pluralistic world. That is why the Egyptological Institute and the Seminar of Ancient Near Eastern Studies merged to form the Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients – Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), with the goal of strengthening the ties between Egyptology, Assyriology, and Near Eastern Archaeology within research and teaching.
The spectrum of teaching and research is enriched by cooperations the IANES holds with various departments of the theological faculties. For instance with the Institute of Biblical Archaeology, represented by Prof. Dr. Jens Kamlah, the chair for Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, Prof. Dr. Holger Zellentin and Prof. Dr. Matthias Morgenstern, as well as the chair for Biblische Einleitung und Zeitgeschichte, Prof. Dr. Herbert Niehr.
This combination of subjects allows the IANES to offer the unique opportunity to examine on a large scale a complex cultural area, that was confronted with challenges thousands of years ago that still are relevant today – the coexistence of people of different origins and religions, the integration of minorities and the emergence of parallel societies, the coexistence of competing legal systems and systems of values, and the struggle for cultural independence against the background of strong globalization efforts.