Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale 64

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It is our pleasure to thank and congratulate the organizers of this year’s Rencontre Assyriology Internationale for a highly successful 64th installment of the annual meeting!

In late July, scholars from near and far convened to enjoy the medieval charm of Marburg, participate in stimulating discussions, and meet a delegation from Iraq. With its historical appeal and walkable size, Marburg proved an ideal setting for the conference – it seemed that the entire town had been taken over by Assyriologists for the week. The organizers ensured that the conference flowed smoothly and problem-free, and we hope that you will join us in offering them our sincere thanks.

Dealing with antiquity

The conference was divided into three parallel themes – past, present, and future. Of course a historical discipline such as ours had little problem filling the sections devoted to the past, with some papers being devoted more generally to historiographical problems, and some addressing more specifically how the past was viewed in ancient times. Periods that were selected for special focus included the history of Ebla, the Sargonic period, and the Old Assyrian field, in a workshop dedicated to the memory of Karl Hecker.

Under the heading of the present, presenters looked at the state of our field in the modern world from a variety of perspectives. The workshop ‘Heritage in Conflict’, for example, presented the latest news on the material conditions of archaeological remains. Other papers looked at the early, modern foundations of our discipline, investigating pioneers such as Albrecht Goetze and A.H. Layard. Still others investigated how Assyriological material is communicated to broader audiences, and how it can take on unexpected political meanings outside of the scholarly context.

Finally, some presenters turned their eyes to the future. Some looked at perceptions of the future in the ancient period, with a workshop exploring the ways in which one might seek to prevent or cope with collective fear in the ancient Near East. Others turned to the digital technologies that promise to revolutionize the humanities. Papers were presented on digital tools in the widest sense, including everything from outreach websites, databases, digital models, and parsing programs (see here for the full program of the conference).

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The papers on Tuesday were concluded with a general discussion regarding professional ethics in the fields of archaeology and Assyriological philology. The discussion was vigorous and served well to outline the variety of positions of IAA members on questions regarding unprovenanced texts and the like.

On Thursday, there was a meeting with a delegation from Iraq, including representatives of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Iraq Museum and the University of Baghdad. The delegation updated their colleagues on the latest news and projects in Iraq, including projects in collaboration with German and British institutions.

The daily sessions of the Rencontre were concluded with a set of highly successful social events – a reception on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and a tour of the medieval city centre on Wednesday.

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The General Meeting

The yearly General Meeting of the IAA was held on Thursday afternoon (the full minutes of the meeting will soon be online). The Board presented an account of its activities over the past year, and raised the concern that the fees of the association may have to be raised within the next few years to cover the costs incurred with the founding of new IAA prizes.

Much of the General Meeting was spent on the happy task of presenting the winners of just those prizes:

  • Bastian Still is the first recipient of the new IAA Dissertation Prize, with Grégoire Nicolet as a close runner-up,
  • the IAA Prize for Best First Article Written after the PhD was awarded to Johannes Hackl, the runner-up being Elena Soriga,
  • Odette Boivin received the IAA Subsidy for Cuneiform Studies,
  • and finally, the IAA Fund for Recent Ph.D.’s for RAI Attendance was presented to Netanel Anor, Mary Frazer, Virginie Muller, Silvia Sali, and Lisa Wilhemi.

Further, Adelheid Otto was elected to the IAA board as the representative of the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (DOG) to replace Dominique Charpin (SEPOA) who succeeded to Antoine Cavigneaux in his role as president of the organizing committee for the Paris Rencontre to be held in 2019. Congratulations to them all!

The most anticipated item on the meeting’s agenda, the proposed change of the IAA’s name, unfortunately had to be postponed. Even including the proxy votes submitted in advance, a quorum for the vote, as required by the association’s bylaws, could not be reached, and so the decision was delayed until next year’s General Meeting. Instead, in order to avoid a repetition of this problem, a change was made to how votes are cast at the General Meeting. If a meeting does not have a quorum for a vote, in the future it will be possible to proceed by electronic voting after the General Meeting.

To Innsbruck

With this year’s conference successfully completed, we turn our attention to Innsbruck for July of next year. In 2018, the theme will be ‘The Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East’, and already we look forward to the presentations and discussions that await under this heading. The 64th installment of the Rencontre will in fact be a double conference, as it will coincide with the 12th installment of the Melammu symposium.

As the organizing team reminded the IAA members at the General Meeting, Innsbruck is a small city, not much bigger than Marburg, and its hotels may be expected to fill up just as quickly during the summer holidays, so be sure to book your accommodation well in advance. Expect a circular from the organizing team soon – and see you in Innsbruck!

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