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Assyriology (research) (MA)

About the programme

Classics and Ancient Civilizations (Research) covers two years and can be studied in four programmes, one of them is the Assyriology (Research) programme. When you choose to study Assyriology, you will both be guided through the broadness of Assyriological sub-disciplines, as well as gradually led to develop your own specific research skills.

About our Common Courses
With all other Classics and Ancient Civilizations specialisations, the ResMA Assyriology shares two compulsory Common Courses. These courses are geared towards connecting the various disciplines and cross-fertilising work in your own specialisation. Students of all specialisations  examine cultural phenomena that transcend their own discipline and engage in discussions with fellows from neighbouring fields. Since classes in the research master level always follow recent trends in research, specific topics presented in the Common Courses may change every year.

Common course 1
The first Common Course is titled The Commentary and focuses more on the literary world of the Ancient Mediterranean. The Commentary picks up one of the most distinctive literary genres common to various ancient cultural traditions (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Jewish and Early Christian), namely forms and methods of appropriating cultural heritage and translating it to new situations and context by literary means.

Common course 2
The second Common Course, titled Cultural Contacts, has a stronger social-historical focus and also takes material culture into account. The current topic Remembering the Dead. Concepts and Practices around Death, Burial and Afterlife in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures guarantees that students from all specialisations can enter into fruitful debates about methodological questions, values and practices of various ancient cultures, aspects of their burial practices and implications of their traditions on the afterlife.

Tutorial and Elective
Next to the Common Courses, you will follow a tutorial which serves as a first step in the planning of your thesis. Additionally, you take another elective course within your specialisation area.

Thesis and Thesis Seminar
In the fourth semester, you are expected to start writing your thesis. In addition to individual guidance by your supervisor, the Seminar Thesis Presentation and Research Proposal will bolster up your work on the thesis by training you in specific writing and presentation skills. You will also learn, based on your thesis preparation, how to write a research proposal on the basis of academic requirements used by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

The programme offers a wide range of electives, including:

  • The Sumerian language, and history and culture of the third millennium BC
  • The Akkadian language, specifically Old and Middle Assyrian, Old Babylonian, Amarna Akkadian, Neo-Babylonian and Late Babylonian, and the society and culture of these periods
  • The Hittite language and Anatolian history and culture
  • The Elamite language
  • Cuneiform epigraphy
  • Mesopotamian religion
  • Trade and economy
  • Cultural contacts
  • History of Babylonian medicine and science
  • History of Empire

Research master’s students also take a course offered by a research school. OIKOS (the Dutch Research School in Classics) offers a module on Cuneiform Epigraphy where you will learn the skills required to handle, read and edit original cuneiform inscriptions.

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Self-study
  • Internship and study abroad options
  • Thesis
  • Exams
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays, reports and final thesis
  • Oral presentations

Detailed programme

For a detailed programme, see the e-Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Caroline Waerzeggers

Professor of Assyriology

Caroline Waerzeggers

"Our students have the NINO library at their disposal: a space filled with thousands of books and a collection of clay tablets — one of the best of its kind in the world. Here they learn to do original research and critically study the ancient sources. The nearby museum is another great place for hands-on education. Our staff covers a unique variety of languages and cultures, spanning 3000 years of history, from Sumer to Babylonia and from Assyria and Anatolia."

Willemijn Waal

Researcher and University Lecturer

Willemijn Waal

"Hittitology is a relatively small and young discipline. Though today much is known about the Hittites and their language, many open questions remain and new – at times revolutionary – discoveries are still being made. During class, students learn to critically study and analyze the available (textual) sources and to evaluate their reliability for reconstructing the history of the Hittite Empire."

Mark Rutgers


Mark Rutgers

“Many of our master’s students discover the quality of our programmes only after they join us. In the Netherlands, self-promotion is not a big part of our culture, yet Leiden University’s Humanities Faculty ranks alongside the most prestigious universities in the world, and is the established leader in continental Europe. What can our students expect from this programme? An education on par with the world’s best, with teaching by top researchers.”

Alumni: close-knit global community

“Your graduation from a master’s programme marks a new chapter in your relationship with Leiden University. Our alumni community is highly active in terms of network-building and development. They are valued by the university, and we support them with personal and professional development and free use of our facilities such as the Leiden University Library. This close-knit global community offers life-long support for all our former students in terms of reaching goals, maintaining friendships and expanding networks.”

Research: encouraging you to think beyond your own discipline

“Some of the most high-profile humanities research produced today is conducted at Leiden University’s Humanities Faculty. These faculty members are among a handful worldwide who can lay claim to such a depth and breadth of academic expertise. One example is our centre of excellence on Native American cultures, languages and history – a research group that is one of the best in the world. At Leiden, we can offer students expertise in most niche areas of interest. Our faculty members often work together across disciplines, and encourage students to think beyond the limits of their own discipline, which is where the future of innovative research lies.”

Careers: opportunities to develop your talent

Decisions made during your studies have a big impact on your future. We offer you many opportunities to develop your talents both within and outside of the classroom, including internships, study trips abroad, student committees, and minors. These opportunities help define your objectives for after your studies, and equip you with additional skills and experience.”

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