Over the past century, the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations has awarded its largest number of doctorates in Assyriology, the study of the languages and civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia. The graduate program in Assyriology emphasizes both Akkadian and Sumerian, as well as a full sequence of courses in Mesopotamian history and civilization, over a period of three years of coursework. Development of a secondary area, such as ancient Semitic languages or Egyptology, is strongly encouraged. Students interested primarily in biblical studies should consult the programs of the Department of Religious Studies, graduate students from which are encouraged to develop knowledge of one or more ancient Near Eastern languages.
The Department’s program in Assyriology is closely coordinated with the Yale Babylonian Collection, the largest collection of tablets and other Mesopotamian artifacts in America. Qualified students have the opportunity to develop exceptional skills in decipherment, interpretation, and publication of original cuneiform documents, both in class and for dissertation research. Since much of the collection remains to be published, qualified students are invited to base their dissertation research on collection holdings. The collection also maintains a complete reference library in the fields of Assyriology and ancient Near Eastern studies, and sustains several series of monographs and text publications. Frequent visits by visiting scholars, regular colloquia, and daily experience with one of the world’s most important collections of Mesopotamian source materials immeasurably enrich graduate study in Assyriology at Yale.
A typical core course plan for a graduate student in Assyriology includes three years of Akkadian, with broad exposure to all periods and forms of the language, as well as two or three years of Sumerian, with broad exposure to all periods and forms of the language. There is a three-year sequence of six courses in Mesopotamian history from earliest times to the Christian era and numerous other courses on special topics, depending on the needs and interests of the graduate students in the program. The secondary areas of study vary, according to the individual student, and may include such languages as Hebrew, Aramaic, Egyptian, Ugaritic, and Hittite. Students are, moreover, encouraged to gain additional perspectives and methodological skills by taking courses in Comparative Literature, Economics, Linguistics, Religious Studies, and other fields. Students in their third and fourth years of study may expect teaching opportunities, in accordance with Graduate School policy. Students who have qualified for candidacy are strongly encouraged to complete their dissertations within two to three years.