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The Cambridge Mesopotamia Diary

The Cambridge Mesopotamian Community is a vibrant hub of events and activities of many kinds, from public outreach to collaborations with artists, appearances in the media, and innovative teaching projects.  

To give prospective students and other interested parties an idea of what goes on, we are keeping a record, starting in Autumn 2015, of initiatives over and above teaching and the Tuesday seminar series.

2018-2019

April: Christina Tsouparopoulou in Greece for museum work, to study Common Mitanni cylinder seals.

Selena Wisnom's work on Babylonian Liver Divination featured in The Times Diary.

March/April: Augusta McMahon and PhD student Alex Barker excavate at Lagash, in Sumer.

March: Selena Wisnom's work on Babylonian Liver Divination featured on Resonance FM.

- Students features in Behind the Scenes video for The Poor Man of Nippur, supported by the University Impact Fund.

- Laerke Recht and Augusta McMahon organise two-day conference on Animal Encounters in the Ancient Near East at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

- Nancy Highcock organises the 2019 edition of the Egypt and Mesopotamia Conference for sixth formers, featuring Selena Wisnom and PhD students Alex Loktionov and George Heath-Whyte.  Gallery tours of the British Museum led by Undergraduate and MPhil student volunteers.

- Marie Besnier premières Mesopotamian Irrigation game at the Cambridge Science Festival, with help from Undergraduate and MPhil volunteers.

- Nancy Highcock and a PhD student in Materials Science ran a public event "The 'Stuff of Legends: 5000 Years of Material Science" at the Science Festival.

February/March: Selena Wisnom's immersive play Ashurbanipal: the last great king of Assyria was performed at The Crypt Gallery, Euston.

February: 5-person Assyriological team from the Ludwig-Maximilans-Universität in Munich led by Professor Karen Radner visited the Division and gave a series of classes.

November: Launch of the Poor Man of Nippur film, with ensuing media coverage of the project.

- Undergraduate students featured in Assyriology as a University Subject video, sponsored by the University Impact Fund.

- Study visit to the British Museum Ashurbanipal exhibition for all Assyriology students (Undergrad, MPhil and Doctoral).

- Launch of Cambridge Assyriology on social media.

- Marie Besnier reads Gudea inscriptions in the original Sumerian with children at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, as part of the Festival of Ideas.  Selena Wisnom and PhD student George Heath-Whyte act as helpers.

- Launch of Strategic Partnership between Cambridge Assyriology and the Ludwig-Maximilans-Universität in Munich.

- PhD student George Heath-Whyte undertakes research visit to Leiden, to learn about the ProsoBab database.

- Selena Wisnom quoted in The Times on a new fragment of Gilgamesh.

October: PhD student Alex Loktionov runs Cuneiform writing workshop at Festival of Ideas, assisted by Selena Wisnom and MPhil students.

2017-2018

July-September: Guo Honggeng (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing) in Cambridge as Visiting Scholar at the McDonald Institute.

June: Academic visit to the British Museum, with tours of the Mesopotamian galleries and handling tablets in the Arched room.  Also, visit to Trafalgar Square to read the cuneiform inscription on the new Fourth Plinth sculpture.

March: Selena Wisnom and Laure Bonner organise the 2018 edition of the Egypt and Mesopotamia Conference for sixth formers, featuring Kate Spence, Selena Wisnom, Alex Loktionov, PhD student Akshyeta Suryanarayan, and Cambridge Assyriology Alumna Yaǧmur Heffron.  Gallery tours of the British Museum led by Undergraduate and MPhil student volunteers.

- Cambridge University Library releases video A Stray Sumerian Tablet, featuring Nicholas Postgate.

- Andrew George holds lecture in Trinity College on his newly discovered Gilgamesh fragment.

February: Selena Wisnom gives public lecture at the Glanville Lecture Study Day at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

November: Andrew George (SOAS, University of London) gives an all-day masterclass on copying Cuneiform tablets to a mixed audience of Undergrad, MPhil and Doctoral students

October: 4-hour reading seminar Sumerian Crime Stories on 25th Oct. by Dr Vitali Bartash, University of Munich (convened by Christoph Schmidhuber).

- Cuneiform-writing stall as part of the Festival of Ideas (21st Oct), run by two PhD students, two staff members, and Marie Besnier (convened by Peerapat Ouysook).

- Memories for Life project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, begins in collaboration with Uppsala University.

2016-2017 

September: Replica of the Black Obelisk moved from Asian and Middle Eastern Studies to Archaeology.

June: Filming The Poor Man of Nippur.

- Tzvi Abusch, visiting scholar at St John's Scholar, gives extracurricular reading sessions on the first incantation in Maqlû and on the second šuilla prayer to Nergal.

- Academic visit to the British Museum, with tours of the Mesopotamian galleries and conservation department, and handling tablets in the Ur project room.

April: Henry Stadhouders invited to Cambridge from 24th to 28th April to run extracurricular Akkadian reading sessions on KAR 223, Egalkura incantations, and a medical text.

- PhD student Lynette Talbot runs an hour-long session on Akkadian and Hammurabi's Lawcode at a widening participation event for four schools in Islington.

March: Marie Besnier and PhD student Lynette Talbot each present a Mesopotamian-themed stall at the Science Festival in the McDonald Institute (attended by c. 1000 children and parents).

Second edition of the Egypt/Mesopotamia Conference for Sixth Formers (attended by 59 school students, parents and teachers).

- Marie Besnier's board game Esagil: Treasure Hunt in Babylon presented to the public at a 'Family First Saturday' at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

February: a staff member gives talk on Assyriology at the Godolphin and Latymer school Ancient World Breakfast Club.

January: the University's Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund agrees to sponsor the creation of high-fidelity replicas of cuneiform inscriptions in the British Museum (the Taylor Prism, Ištar's Descent and a tablet of Hammurapi laws in Neo-Assyrian script) for use in teaching.

November: Andrew George (SOAS, University of London) gives a four-hour masterclass on copying Cuneiform tablets to a mixed audience of Undergrad, MPhil and Doctoral students.

- Martin Worthington featured in BBC radio 4 programme In Our Time.

October: Marie Besnier's board game Esagil: Treasure Hunt in Babylon presented to the public at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for a full week, by a team of student and staff volunteers.

- Martin Worthington and Undergraduate students Alex Barker, George Heath-Whyte and Zach Long hold a presentation on Assyriology at Ormiston Academy, Sudbury.

- A Graduate student runs a stall on Mesopotamian Medicine at the Archaeology and Prehistory Day, as part of the Festival of Ideas.

All year: course Babylonic Cuneiform run by Nicholas Postgate at the University of the Third Age.

2015-2016

September – Guo Honggeng (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing) in Cambridge as Visiting Scholar at the McDonald Institute.

- Two Undergraduates' readings of the Incantation for Tooth Worm added to the website of recordings in Babylonian and Assyrian hosted by SOAS, University of London.

- Staff members collaborate in Artist Sally Stenton's Festival of Ideas Project Stone Paper Cloud.

July - a staff member convenes the three-night residential St John's College Archaeology Summer School, attended by 43 sixth formers. Feedback forms vote Akkadian language the most popular component after excavation and punting!

- the University's Public Engagement Seed Fund agrees to fund the production of Marie Besnier's board game Esagil: Treasure Hunt in Babylon.

June - Mesopotamian staff and student visit to the British Museum, including a private viewing of the Tablet Room with Jon Taylor, and a gallery tour by Irving Finkel.

- Martin Worthington gives a presentation on Babylonian Literature at the St John's College Languages Study Day.

May – first edition of the Egypt/Mesopotamia Conference for Sixth Formers, co-organised by the Mesopotamian and Egyptian sections of the Division of Archaeology.

April - Martin Worthington takes part in the St John's College North West Access Tour, giving presentations on Ancient Mesopotamia.

March - Undergraduate student George Heath-Whyte gave a talk on Assyriology to sixth formers at Parmiter's School in Watford.

February – Augusta McMahon featured in the BBC programme Museum of Lost Objects.

January-March – Gösta Gabriel (University of Göttingen), in Cambridge as a visiting scholar at the McDonald Institute, convenes an extracurricular Sumerian reading group.