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Department of Archaeology


What was understood to be ‘good government’ in the Ancient Near East? While the notion of a ‘constitution’ – a key mechanism for setting out how to govern – is typically associated with relatively modern societies, this project sets out to explore the core ideas behind state power, the rule of law and popular representation in a much earlier period, namely Bronze Age Egypt and Mesopotamia (c. 2600-1100BCE). These societies certainly did not have written constitutions, but they did leave behind rich written traditions which can be used to reconstruct the fundamental tenets of their political philosophy and the state structures that brought the theory into practice. How was law made and what was its reach? How were cases tried? How (if at all) were people consulted on matters of government?  Such are the questions posed by this project.

Using a variety of hieroglyphic and cuneiform sources from Egypt and Mesopotamia, including legal documents, royal decrees, philosophical treatises and fictional narratives, the project aims to provide a new understanding of the ‘early constitutional thought’ that underpinned the ways in which these early literate societies were managed. The project subsequently hopes to embed its findings into broader historical discourse, highlighting the importance of Ancient Near Eastern sources for multidisciplinary constitutional studies, and publishing results in a manner accessible to scholars working outside the relatively narrow professional domain of Egyptology and/or Assyriology.

Team Members


Dr Alexandre Loktionov

External Co-I, KCL

Dr Andrew Blick



AHRC – Standard Grant (Early Career)

Project Lead

Project Tags

Rethinking Complexity
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age
Geographical areas: 
Egypt and Sudan
Mesopotamia and the Near East
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Assyriology and Mesopotamian Languages
Egyptology and Egyptian Language
Assyriology and Mesopotamian Archaeology
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