The Melammu Project

The logo of the Melammu Project (drawn by Rita Berg from a Greco-Persian style seal found on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea (Dominique Collon, First Impressions: Cylinder seals in the Ancient Near East (London: British Museum Publications), no. 432)).

The Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project (Melammu) investigates the continuity, transformation and diffusion of Mesopotamian culture throughout the ancient world from the second millennium BC until Islamic times. A central objective of the project is to create an electronic database collecting the relevant textual, art-historical, archaeological, ethnographic and linguistic evidence and making it easily accessible on the Internet. In addition, the project organizes annual symposia focusing on different aspects of cultural continuity and evolution in the ancient world.

Contents

The Melammu Project: The Intellectual Heritage of Assyria and Babylonia in East and West

The Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project (Melammu) investigates the continuity, transformation and diffusion of Mesopotamian culture throughout the ancient world from the second millennium BC until Islamic times. A central objective of the project is to create an electronic database collecting the relevant textual, art-historical, archaeological, ethnographic and linguistic evidence and making it easily accessible on the Internet. In addition, the project organizes annual symposia focusing on different aspects of cultural continuity and evolution in the ancient world.

Each symposium of the Melammu Project has a central theme, selected by the members of the Project at the previous symposium. The purpose of the Melammu Symposia is to promote interdisciplinary research and cross-cultural studies by providing a forum in which cultural continuity, diffusion and transformation in the ancient world can be assessed systematically on a long-term basis. The emphasis is on continued interchange of ideas between specialists in different disciplines, with the goal of gradually but steadily increasing the number of participants and thus breaking down the walls separating the individual disciplines. Although each symposium focuses on a different theme, since the primary purpose of the symposia is to encourage interdisciplinary cooperation per se, papers not necessarily related to a specific theme but contributing to the overall scope of the project are welcome at every meeting.

The Melammu Database

The Melammu Database contains documented links between the civilizations of Ancient Mesopotamia Assyria and Babylonia, both of which were the intellectual heirs of more ancient Sumer) and later civilizations that show the continuity of religion, political systems, art and iconography, literature, and other cultural and social phenomena as a result of both direct influence and of cultural diffusion.

There are two principal types of entries in the database. The first consists of citation from ancient texts. These entries are primary sources and consist of the ancient author's comments. Such entries have a "source" line which points to the ancient text and the Text-field contains a translation of the ancient source. There may be bibliographical citations as well if the passage has been discussed or commented on by other scholars. Wherever possible, there will be a hypertext link to the actual text of the ancient source.

The second type of entry consists of modern comparisons between features or phenomena in the ancient world that may show the effects of cultural contact or cultural diffusion. Entries of this type generally have a "bibliography" line that points to the scholarly assessment of this connection rather than a "source" line. However, if ancient sources are important for this connection, there may be a "source" line as well, sometimes including longer quotations, as in the first type. The Text-field will contain an outline of the argument connecting the features or phenomena.

The Name and logo of the Melammu Project

The name Melammu and its logo were chosen to illustrate essential aspects of the cross-cultural processes that the Project investigates. The word melammu, which means "divine radiance, splendour, nimbus, aura," is an Akkadian loanword from Sumerian. It thus concretely attests to the transfer and continuity of a centrally important doctrinal concept from an ideological system to a later one. In Mesopotamia alone, this concept has a documented continuity of over 4500 years, from the earliest cuneiform religious and historical documents (ca. 2600 BC) till the present day. The iconography of the concept has gone a long way from the radiance surrounding Mesopotamian gods to the halos surrounding the heads of Byzantine angels and saints and the loops hovering over the heads of Christian angels, but the concept itself has survived amazingly well and spread far beyond its original home.

The spread of the concept of "divine radiance" can be traced by observing the diffusion and transformations of the relevant iconographic motif. The logo of Melammu is taken from an Achaemenid seal discovered on the northeast coast of the Black Sea and represents the goddess Anahita, mounted on a lion and surrounded by the divine radiance, appearing to a Persian king. The details of the king's and the goddess's dress and crown are Persian, but in all other respects the seal is a faithful reproduction of centuries older Assyrian seals depicting appearances of the goddess Ishtar to members of the imperial ruling class. It thus illustrates not only the adoption of the Mesopotamian concept of "divine radiance" by the Persians, but also the assimilation of an important Iranian deity to a Mesopotamian one with the concomitant adoption of a whole system of religious beliefs, cultic practices, ideological doctrines, and artistic conventions. The fact that the seal was found outside the area controlled by the Assyrian Empire and possibly carved by a Greek artist, illustrates the dynamic diffusion of these ideas (through imperial propaganda) across geographical and cultural boundaries.

The radiance emitted by the goddess symbolizes to the Project the powerful impact of Mesopotamian culture on the surrounding world and later cultures, while the king symbolizes the crucial role of imperial courts in the preservation, transformation and diffusion of this cultural heritage.[1]

The Melammu Website

The website of the Melammu Project provides information about all of its aspects. It includes the Melammu Database, a bibliography with Melammu-related references, both searchable in various ways, a digital library of Melammu-related articles (including all of those that appeared in the Melammu proceedings), an outline of its history, information about the proceedings and their contents, and lists of links to relevant websites. Additionally, as the Melammu Project is envisioned as a 'community project', it is possible to submit information, to enlarge and improve the database, bibliographies and lists of links.

The Melammu Symposia

So far, the following symposia have taken place:

Melammu Symposia 7 is planned to be held in 2011.

The Proceedings of the Melammu Symposia

The International Association for Intercultural Studies of the Melammu Project

At the Third Annual Symposium of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project (Chicago, USA, October 27–31, 2000), the general assembly deliberated the foundation of an "International Association for Intercultural Studies of the Melammu Project", to be officially established through legal channels.[2]

References

  1. ^ Simo Parpola, "The Name and Logo of Melammu". http://www.aakkl.helsinki.fi/melammu/project/prhiname.php. , in Sanna Aro and R. M. Whiting (edd.). "The Heirs of Assyria". http://www.aakkl.helsinki.fi/melammu/symposia/sypr1info.php.  Melammu Symposia 1. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project 2000, xxi. (ISBN 951-45-9043-0)
  2. ^ "Statuto & Statutes". http://www.aakkl.helsinki.fi/melammu/project/prhiassociation.php. , in *A. Panaino and G. Pettinato (edd.). "Ideologies as Intercultural Phenomena". http://www.aakkl.helsinki.fi/melammu/symposia/sypr3info.php.  Melammu Symposia 3. Milan: Universita di Bologna & IsIAO 2002, 257-264. (ISBN 88-8483-107-5)

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