Founded in 1883, the Department of Near Eastern Studies of the Johns Hopkins University was the first in the United States to offer a PhD in the field. The department now offers programs of study leading to the PhD in four areas: Assyriology, Egyptology, Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Studies, and Near Eastern Archaeology/Near Eastern Art.
The department’s approach is to study ancient Near Eastern civilizations with all the modern tools of analysis (e.g., literary, legal, anthropological), but primarily through ancient written records and physical evidence. The study of language and script forms the core of our program, with an emphasis on gaining ability to access sources in the original. At the same time, written records and physical evidence can only be understood in context, which includes their archaeological and historical background and their relationship with the surrounding cultures.
Our programs of study emphasize an interdisciplinary approach to the civilizations of the region. They consist of a major area of concentration, a minor from another area (usually a language), and a series of history seminars covering all three principal sub-regions: Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syria-Palestine.
The ancient Near East covers nearly 4,000 years of history from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean and beyond (i.e., the areas occupied today by Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia and South Arabia). Chronologically, the department covers the time periods from the invention of writing (by 3,500 BCE) up to and even including the Hellenistic world. The cultures it covers include: Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite, Ugaritic, Aramean, Phoenician, and Israelite.
Interdisciplinary efforts are a prominent feature of academic life at Johns Hopkins. The department’s faculty members frequently collaborate in joint teaching and research ventures among themselves and with faculty from other disciplines. Students are encouraged to adopt the same spirit of collaboration within the department and, where relevant, to participate in courses in other departments.
The Near Eastern Studies Department sponsors four archaeological field projects (directed by Profs. Bryan, Harrower, and Schwartz). Archaeology is a model of cross-disciplinary research, spanning the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Our field projects study such multidisciplinary issues as human subsistence, human interaction with climate and physical environment, patterns of settlement, political and economic organization, and religious activity and thought.