Frahm named Musser Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Eckart Frahm is one of the world’s foremost experts on the Assyrian Empire. He joined Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2002.
Eckart Frahm
Eckart Frahm

Eckart Frahm, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Assyrian Empire, was recently appointed the John M. Musser Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, effective immediately.

He is a member of Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, for which he served for many years as director of graduate studies and in 2013 as acting chair.

Frahm is the author or coauthor of seven books on ancient Mesopotamian history and culture. In his most recent book, “Assyria: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Empire” (2023), reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and the London Times, he offers a comprehensive history of the ancient civilization (circa 2025 BCE to 609 BCE) that would become a model for the world’s later empires. For the book, Frahm draws on finds from recent archaeological excavations, cuneiform tablets, and Biblical and classical texts to describe what is known about life in the empire and the circumstances that contributed to its hasty demise.

His earlier books include a study of the more than 500 inscriptions of the Assyrian king Sennacherib; an edition of previously unpublished historical and historical-literary texts from Ashur; a volume of hand copies of 200 Late Babylonian letters and economic documents from Uruk, co-authored with Michael Jursa; a comprehensive study of ancient Near Eastern hermeneutics; a general history of ancient Mesopotamia; and a co-authored study of cuneiform texts describing celestial constellations. He is currently working on an edition of some 60 administrative documents from the last centuries of the second millennium BCE from a palace archive excavated in 2001 at Ashur (Iraq).

Frahm is the editor of “A Companion to Assyria,” published in 2017 as part of the series Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World, and, together with Agnete Lassen and Klaus Wagensonner, of “Ancient Mesopotamia Speaks: Highlights of the Yale Babylonian Collection,” a companion book to an exhibition curated by the editors and shown at Yale’s Peabody Museum from April 2019 to March 2020.

An FAS faculty member since 2002, Frahm is faculty affiliate of the Yale Peabody Museum’s Anthropology Division with responsibility for research on cuneiform tablets. He served for many years as a member of the Steering Committee of ARCHAIA, Yale’s program for the study of ancient and premodern cultures and societies, and for two years as its co-chair. He is the lead organizer of the Assyriological Seminar series at Yale and has been involved in the organization of the bimonthly “Yale Cuneiforum,” a Whitney Humanities Center working group. Conferences and symposia Frahm helped bring together at Yale have covered the Persian king Cyrus, the Syrian border city of Dura Europos, “Women at the Dawn of History,” and “Iraq Beyond the Headlines.”

Frahm’s teaching includes courses on Mesopotamia and Assyria, the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern setting, myth and ritual in the ancient Near East, and more specialized classes focused on reading Sumerian and Akkadian texts. Frahm has mentored numerous graduate and undergraduate students.

Frahm co-directs the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Cuneiform Commentaries Project, which seeks to digitize the vast corpus of Babylonian and Assyrian text commentaries. He is co-founder and editor of the series “Guides to the Mesopotamian Textual Record” and serves on the advisory and editorial boards for numerous publication series and projects. In 2007, he was elected corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute. He has given invited lectures at the National Arts Club in New York, the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Tokyo, the College of Arts in Baghdad, and at institutions in Oxford, Munich, Zürich, Rome, Vienna, and elsewhere. On several occasions, he has served as expert witness in high-profile cases involving looted antiquities.

He earned his Ph.D. at Göttingen University and his postdoctoral lecture qualification (“Habilitation”) at Heidelberg University in Germany.

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