The graduate program, the oldest of its kind in the nation, is designed to train professional scholars and teachers in
- Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures (including Biblical Studies),
- Assyriology, and
- Near Eastern Archaeology.
In order to read the scholarly literature, proficiency is required in French and German. A proficiency test in one language must be passed by the end of the student's first semester and in the second by the end of the third semester (in any order). There are special arrangements for students whose native language is not English.
In order to pursue Biblical Studies, prior knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is required, and some command of Greek and Latin will be necessary. While always desirable, no prior knowledge is required for admittance to study the other ancient languages offered by the Department.
Students will normally spend several years in course-work (see individual programs for timetable) before taking the comprehensive examinations in their major and minor areas of concentration. Courses are in seminars that allow small groups of students and faculty to engage in close study of special problems. All students must take the three-year cycle of seminars in Ancient Near Eastern History, which brings together students and faculty from the different sub-disciplines.
A complete listing of courses may be found in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences On-line Course Catalog. The courses listed may be modified in particular years to suit the needs of students currently in residence.
After passing the comprehensive examinations, the next step is to prepare and submit a dissertation proposal. If the proposal is accepted, the student will then write the dissertation under the direction of his/her advisor and in consultation with a second reader.
Students are expected to write short research papers in their seminars, which will prepare them for the task of writing a full-length dissertation. When they reach the stage of dissertation research, students are encouraged to present papers to the Departmental Seminar, an occasional informal meeting over lunch where both students and faculty can present their current research. They are also encouraged to present papers on their dissertation research at conferences in their field.
Advanced students are also given the opportunity to gain teaching experience. Traditionally, advanced students teach the elementary language courses and may act as teaching assistants to faculty in undergraduate classes. Near Eastern students are also among the most frequent recipients of the university-wide Dean's Teaching Fellowship, which enables graduate students to teach a course of their own devising to undergraduates.
The subject of the student's minor area of concentration will usually be an ancient Near Eastern language (and its literature) outside of the student's major area of study. Permission may be given for a minor to be created from other departments' courses.
Archaeology students may, with permission, do a minor in the history and archaeology of an area other than the major area of concentration (e.g., an Egyptian archaeologist could minor in Syro-Palestinian archaeology), or create a minor through a selection of courses from other departments (e.g., Classics, Material Science, Art History).
The Milton S. Eisenhower Library houses an outstanding Near Eastern collection, including most of the important works of the nineteenth century not usually found in other libraries. The Department has its own special study and seminar room within the library.
Students interested in art and archaeology will benefit from the collections of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore and the museums and collections in Washington DC, especially those of the Smithsonian Institute. The Department itself has a small archaeological museum on campus, together with the Classics Department. We also have our own "smart" seminar room and an archaeology laboratory.
The Department is at present conducting excavations in Egypt (Hopkins in Egypt Today), Syria (Umm el-Marra Excavations), Oman, and Ethiopia. Students from all sub-disciplines (not just archaeology) are encouraged to participate in one or more seasons.
The W. F. Albright and Samuel Iwry lectureships bring distinguished scholars to the Department annually for a public lecture. Additional lectures and seminars by visiting scholars from this country and abroad are designed to enrich and augment faculty instruction. The Ancient Studies Colloquium is a bi-annual joint undertaking of the Near Eastern Studies and Classics Departments. We invite several scholars from other institutions to discuss a topic of common interest. Past topics have included Herodotus in Egypt, Colonization, and the Organization of Knowledge.
As the program is intended to lead to the Ph.D., students are admitted as candidates for the M.A. only in unusual cases. Exceptionally, the Department may accept students who register for one or more courses individually (Special Students). Departmental financial aid is not available for M.A. or special students. Information for Special/Visiting Graduate Students (Non-Degree) is available in PDF format: Application Instructions for Special Students 2008-2009.
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