Mesopotamian Civilization


Research conducted under this Chair, held by Dominique Charpin since January 1, 2014, focuses on Mesopotamian civilization over the three millennia of its existence, which ended around the beginning of our era. It is particularly based on texts in cuneiform, which was essentially used to write two very different languages, Sumerian and Akkadian. The Chair is part of the Institute of the Ancient Near East (Institut du Proche-Orient Ancien, IPOA). Dominique Charpin is also deputy director of Research Unit UMR 7192: “Near East - Caucasus: languages, archaeology, culture”.

See the UMR 7192 website

Key scientific undertakings

– ARCHIBAB Program. The “ARCHIBAB: Babylonian archives (20th-17th centuries BC)” project received funding from the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, ANR) under the “Corpus and tools for research in Humanities and Social Sciences” call for proposals for 2008-2010. A second phase was funded under the ANR’s “Blanc Program” for 2011-2014. The purpose of this project is to exploit the wealth of archives discovered in Mesopotamia and covering the first four centuries of the second millennium BC: more than 32,000 texts have now been published. One of its main objectives is the construction of an online database of texts allowing multiple queries (see the ARCHIBAB project website). New additions are a primary focus: in its computerized edition of the documents, the project often includes improvements over the original publication. Another priority is the accessibility of the many “forgotten” texts (scattered across publications and/or in older, hard-to-find books and journals). A small team of close collaborators works around the Professor, although the project very much relies on a highly active international network.

– Publication of the Royal Archives of Mari, codirected by Jean-Marie Durand, member of the Institut and Honorary Professor at the Collège de France. This long-term project aims to publish and exploit the extremely rich archives of cuneiform tablets discovered in the palace of Mari by André Parrot between 1934 and 1938, and dating from the first half of the second millennium BC. To date, almost 9,000 texts have been published in full, which covers about two thirds of what was discovered. New texts are published every year, either in the Archives Royales de Mari collection (32 volumes published since 1950) or in the more recent Florilegium Marianum collection (13 volumes published since 1992). The tablets are essentially royal correspondence and administrative documents; very few legal or literary texts were actually found (see a Presentation of the Archives of Mari).

– Support provided to various programs conducted jointly with members of the “Mesopotamian World” team at UMR 7192:

– Research in historical geography: this comprised two successive projects, both directed by Nele Ziegler (Research Director, CNRS) in collaboration with Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum and funded by ANR/DFG, focusing on the historical geography of Upper Mesopotamia in the 2nd Mill. BC (HIGEOMES [abstract on the ANR website] followed by TEXTELSEM [abstract on the ANR website].

– Archaeological research in Kurdistan: the French archaeological mission in Bash Tapa is directed by Lionel Marti in collaboration with Christophe Nicolle (CNRS). A first campaign took place in September 2013; another was scheduled for September 2014 (description on the UMR website).