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Schools for Assyriology

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Trying to fish for information on some schools I'm unfamiliar with but am interested in applying to. I know everyone says that UMichigan and UChicago are the Places to Be if you want to pursue graduate studies in Assyriology, but I gotta cast the net wider here since I'll pretty much be applying straight out of undergrad. (If it's no funding, then it's no go, so MAs are pretty much out of the question.) :(

Yale: The faculty pretty much consists of, as far as I can tell, Foster and Frahm. But, hey, if you're going to have a faculty of Assyriologists, that's a great duo to have! But Foster, though I admire him greatly, seems to be more of a translator these days. Frahm does do very interesting work on a wide variety of subjects, esp. text commentaries. They are both excellent imo, but it seems as if Yale isn't a popular place these days even so. Is there any particular reason for this except for the relative lack of resources? (I say "relative" though tbf it's not as if many places have a ton of Assyriologists on staff minus UChicago,) This is probably one of the places I'm most interested in since my interests line up with both profs. for the most part, so any details would be appreciated.

UPenn: So a few years ago, this place was a powerhouse. These days, I've heard there are some weird things going on within the department that may make it difficult to graduate in time, but I admittedly know little details aside from that. I am unfamiliar with most of the people on their staff outside of their emeritus list.

Harvard: Similar to UPenn. Machinist apparently has a veritable horde of grad students he is supervising due to a lack of faculty, and then there was that era where everyone was just deserting the place (Huehnergard, Seri, Beaulieu, etc.) and it seems that it has never recovered. I have also heard some gossip about how it's just not a good place to be if you want to leave mentally unscathed.

UToronto: Has Beaulieu and Grayson (retired). That is all I know.

I know next to nothing about overseas schools; my German really isn't up to par to attend any school in Germany so that knocks most places out of the running, and I'm not very certain about the status of schools in the UK and whether or not it's worth it to really up and move out of the country to study there. I have taken a look at Leiden though, since Dercksen does remarkable research on the Old Assyrian period (and Veenhof's there too, but not teaching anymore afaik), and I don't see any "must know Dutch!" requirements floating around their website or pages written in Dutch either ...

Thanks for helping!

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Your observations are accurate to the best of my knowledge, but I think you're missing some great schools.

There's Johns Hopkins, which has Jacob Lauinger and Paul Delnero - both of whom are great.

And then there are places like NYU's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, Berkeley, and UCLA, each of which offers different but great opportunities, depending on your interests. ISAW is especially flexible in what it will allow you to do.

As for foreign schools, Cambridge, Oxford, and SOAS could all be great places to at least obtain an MA before moving on to your PhD, though funding is nigh on impossible to obtain. Leiden would be more affordable, but perhaps not as rigorous. Unlike US schools, Toronto requires you to have an MA before going on to do your PhD.

I don't know what your background is or what your primary interests are, but there are more opportunities than you'd think if you know where to look. Let me know if I can help in any way!

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As a warning, Michalowski and Beckman at Michigan are very near retirement, and Yoffee already retired. Foster at Yale is retiring soon as well, I believe. Whether they will be replaced remains to be seen. Chicago has a reputation for being a rather competitive and unfriendly place to be, though its resources and faculty are definitely unmatched.

I second the above suggestions of JHU, NYU, UCLA, and Berkeley; JHU is actively expanding its department with the two new hires in Assyriology and a rumored search for a new position in Levantine archaeology. Adding to the list, you also have Brandeis, Penn State, Cornell, and (new to the game) Brown. UT Austin may be worth a look if you're primarily interested in Akkadian and comparative Semitics. I know at least two people who've done Assyriology at Columbia with Van De Mieroop, but I don't know how feasible that typically is.

Unfortunately, it's horrifically difficult to get into decent Assyriology programs these days. Many programs accept only one new student a year and sometimes none at all. Funding at some of these - Berkeley, UCLA, Toronto, etc. - is quite tight. Additionally, although it is usually not officially required that a student have had Akkadian and/or Sumerian, a student with at least one year of Akkadian will have a huge leg up in admissions - these are difficult languages, and professors like to see that a new student could handle them; it also speeds up progress toward the dissertation.

As a back-up plan in the event you don't get in anywhere and you don't already have Akkadian, you may want to consider taking Akkadian at a nearby seminary or div school if it's available (e.g. Sasson teaches Akkadian at Vandy) and reapply next year. The MA program at CUA, which is at least partially funded if I remember correctly, may also be something to consider. If you do decide to apply somewhere in Germany, look into the DAAD scholarship.


You're correct about Leiden. Courses are usually taught in English, and it has a fine reputation in Assyriology. It's also decent for Hittitology with Kloekhost on staff.

Edited by Ardea
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Thanks for the replies! You two have given me more to work with than I'd expected. :)

I actually initially wrote off JHU despite its reputation; I've heard that it's a great place to go if you're interested primarily in heavy philological study (i.e. grammar), which isn't necessarily what I'm gung-ho about -- not to mention Lauin but hearing that they're actively expanding their faculty is going to put it back on the map for me.

Thanks for the warning about Michigan (and for the heads up about UToronto's MA prereq)! I actually wasn't aware of that, but that is definitely good to know. (Incidentally, I've also heard that Stolper and Farber are retiring soon at UChicago.)

Penn State was actually on my list due to Rubio's research interests and his overall versatility, which may make it easier to change directions a little bit if I suddenly find myself chasing down some other idea for a dissertation, but it's another one of those schools like Yale where I end up thinking, "Well, great scholar(s), but I don't really hear much about this place ... why? Resources? Lack of support?"

Will be keeping Leiden in mind! I'd actually thought of applying there for Hittitology rather than Assyriology, but Kloekhorst's fascination with Hittite grammar far outstrips mine, unfortunately.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm not sure what your language experience is like, but I imagine getting into one of those programs would be really difficult without at least a masters. The people I know in some of these NELC programs have one, oftentimes two masters. I could be wrong, and it is certainly worth it to apply!


CUA has no money. They are not offering any funding for Semitics, Religious Studies, and ECS this year (I contacted all of them recently). I'm not sure about MA programs, but I imagine they would be funded after doctoral money was given out. 


You might consider applying to an MTS or an MAR at somewhere like Harvard or Yale. They usually offer some good money, sometimes full rides + stipend. Though I imagine you would have to adapt your interests a bit when applying to get those scholarships (i.e. be unique).

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Оh,embarrassing, I would say. I have always been interested in assyriology,but in my country such program is studied for 1 or 2 semesters in the major History in our main universities. Obviously, it will be really difficult, but this is my chilhood dream. Hope dies last : ) Thank you for the information !

Edited by YAan
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  • 5 years later...

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