Interested in Assyria or Ancient Egypt? See these 8 University Programs
By Emily Tain/Arab America Contributing Writer
Most high school and university students can recognize the Classics as the study of ancient and classical Rome and Greece. Few, however, know much about the rest of the Mediterranean during the ancient and classical periods. While some high school curricula may briefly gloss over Ancient Egypt and call it a day, it is rare for any high school to go in-depth about the Assyrians, Babylonians, Mesopotamians, and others in the region. Along with this comes the study of their languages, like Akkadian, Aramaic, and Sumerian, most of which are unrecognizable names to the public eye. For the students that find these niche fields, there are a handful of universities in the US that offer degrees in the study of the ancient Near East. Eight of the top schools offering this concentration are listed below.
The following universities are put in an order adhering to this usnews.com ranked list. Rankings, when choosing a university, are not the end-all-be-all. It is more so an indication of what certain schools choose to focus on; this could be STEM, humanities, student orgs, or sports teams. Choosing a university is best done by researching their departments, visiting their campuses, and getting student testimonials.
At the end of this article is a glossary defining any uncommon terms.
1. Harvard University in Cambridge, MA
Undergraduate Program Overview – Under the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department, one can choose the Middle East in Antiquity track. This track offers a wide geographical array of civilizations to learn about through Egyptology, Assyriology, Levantine, and Syro-Palestinian studies. The languages offered include Aramaic, Akkadian, Armenian, Classical Hebrew, Egyptian, Iranian, and Sumerian
2. Yale University in New Haven, CT
Undergraduate Program Overview – By following Track A of the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations major, students can focus specifically on the Ancient or Classical Near East. Egyptian, Akkadian, Syriac, and Sumerian are the languages offered for this track, and six semesters (usually three years) must be taken of one or two.
3. The University of Chicago in Chicago, IL
Undergraduate Program Overview – The Ancient Near Eastern History program allows students to choose which geographical region or time era they would like to concentrate on: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, Persia, or Late Antiquity. Students also must take two Ancient Near Eastern languages, including Ancient Anatolian languages, Akkadian, Aramaic, Armenian, Ge’ez, Classical Hebrew, Sumerian, and Ugaritic.
4. University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA
Undergraduate Program Overview – The Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations major offers a concentration in the Ancient Near East. Available languages include Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, Egyptian, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Within the concentration, students focus on two specific civilizations of their choice.
5. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD
Undergraduate Program Overview – Johns Hopkins offers several tracks all related to the Ancient Near East: Near Eastern Languages, Egyptian or Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, and Civilization of the Near East and/or Egypt. All three tracks require familiarity with multiple civilizations. Only the Languages track, however, requires ancient language proficiency. Three ancient languages are offered for this track: Hebrew, Akkadian/Sumerian, and Egyptian.
6. Brown University in Providence, RI
Undergraduate Program Overview – Brown, unlike other universities, offers undergraduate tracks specifically in Egyptology and Assyriology. Both tracks are required to study ancient languages: Egyptian and Akkadian respectively. Another unique feature is the cross-learning between the two. No matter which track you choose, you will also take at least one class in the other track.
7. University of California – Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate Program Overview – In the department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures can be found the Ancient Near East and Egyptology major. Students in this track cover a breadth of geographical civilizations rather than just honing in one one or two. Specialization, therefore, comes from the language studied. Languages include Ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Hittite, Biblical Hebrew, and Akkadian.
8. The University of California – Berkeley in Berkeley, CA
Undergraduate Program Overview – UC Berkeley offers a handful of majors and concentrations that focus on the Ancient Near East. One combination -Near Eastern Languages and Literatures with an emphasis on Egyptology- focuses on Ancient Egypt and its language. Another offered is Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, which has two emphasis options: Egypt or the Ancient Near East. Lastly, the Near Eastern Civilizations major offers an emphasis on its ancient counterpart. The offered languages are Egyptian, Akkadian, and Sumerian.
Akkadian – an extinct Semitic language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, 3rd millennium BCE – 8th century BCE
Aramaic – language/group of languages spoken in what is now Syria, ~7th century BCE – 7th century CE (replaced by Hebrew and Arabic)
Assyria – a Mesopotamian civilization that spanned from as early as the 25th century BCE to 7th century BCE
Ge’ez – “classical Ethiopian,” a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia now used liturgically, 4th century BCE – ~10th century CE
Hittite – an Indo-European language spoken in Bronze Age Anatolia, 16th century BCE – 13th century BCE
Sumerian – spoken language of the ancient Sumer, 3rd millennium BCE – 19th century BCE (though classically, went until 1st century CE)
Syriac – the dialect of Middle Aramaic that featured an independent alphabet, 1st century CE – 8th century CE
Ugaritic – an early, extinct Semitic language native to Ugarit, which lies in present-day Syria, 14th century BCE – 12th century BCE
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