Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

This minor is aimed at students who are interested in the cultural history and languages of the Ancient Near East. You will start with a class on Ancient Near Eastern history from the invention of writing down to the Hellenistic period. In the second semester, you either take two classes to learn Hebrew, or two classes to learn Akkadian, the language of Assyria and Babylonia. Optional is an introduction into Aramaic or a class on religion in the Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome.

Period 1:
- History and Cultures of the Ancient Near East (UvA)

The course is a thorough introduction to ancient Near Eastern history from the late 4th millennium to the 3rd century BC. The focus lies on Mesopotamia, but the Levant is also included.

Period 3:
- Religions in Antiquity (UvA)

This course deals with the main points and issues of religion in ancient Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world. The lectures give an overview of the deities, religious life, rituals and customs in these various cultures.

Period 4:
- Elementary Akkadian I (UvA)

You will be introduced to the basics of the Akkadian (Babylonian-Assyrian) language and you will learn how the cuneiform writing system functioned. The language study is accompanied with cultural-historical topics (literature, society, etc.).

- Hebreeuws I (Dutch only)
You will learn the basics (alphabet, grammar and syntax) of ancient, that is, biblical Hebrew.

Period 5:
- Elementary Akkadian II (UvA)

This is a continuation of the first part in period 4. At the end of the course you will be able to read and translate easy Akkadian texts.

- Hebreeuws II (Dutch only)
You will continue the study of the grammar and in addition familiarize yourself with Rabbinical texts and thought.

- Aramaic
This is an introduction into biblical Aramaic. You will get an overview of the grammatical differences between Hebrew and Aramaic and you will read passages from the book Daniel. Prerequisite to follow this course is the successful completion of Akkadian I and II, or Hebrew I. Students who followed Akkadian and do not know the Hebrew alphabet should contact the teacher of Aramaic latest at the beginning of period 4 in order to get further instructions.

All Bachelor’s students within VU Amsterdam are eligible for this minor. There are no admission requirements for studies from other universities.

This minor is offered in collaboration between the two Amsterdam universities, VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). These institutions have clustered their knowledge and expertise in the Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology (ACASA). Some courses are taught on the UvA campus in the city centre.

More information about Admission and Registration. (Dutch: Aanmelden voor een minor).

Kristin Kleber

Skills for the Job Market

Throughout the minor, you will be trained in languages and scripts that are markedly different from European languages and our alphabet. You will also develop high valued intercultural competence.

Overview Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures


English, Dutch


9 months (30 EC)


1 September


Art, Culture and History
Language and Communication