Congratulations! The IAA Prize 2016

Courtesy of Giacomo Benati.It is our pleasure to congratulate the two winners of the IAA Prize, Dr. Giacomo Benati and Dr. Andrew Knapp!

The IAA Prize is awarded annually for the best first article written after the PhD in Assyriology or Mesopotamian archaeology. The first place winner receives a stipend of 1000€, while the runner-up winner receives one of 250€. The two winners are announced each year at the General Meeting of the IAA.

Giacomo Benati and 3rd millennium Ur

This year the first place goes to Giacomo Benati, for his article “Re-modeling Political Economy in Early 3rd Millennium BC Mesopotamia” published in the Cuneiform Digital Library Journal 2015, nr. 2.

Benati is an anthropological archaeologist who specializes in early economies and socio-political systems, with a particular focus on early urban Mesopotamia. As an undergraduate student, he studied Classics and Ancient Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Bologna. Then, as a graduate student at Bologna and as an exchange student at the Institute of Archaeology of UCL (London), he concentrated on the material cultures of Early Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Late Bronze/Iron Age Levant. He participated in archaeological excavations in southern Turkey and gained extensive experience in archival and artefactual research in museum collections and universities in Europe and in the United States.

After completing his PhD on Early Dynastic Ur at the University of Turin in 2014 (“The Early Dynastic Period at Ur: Chronology, Stratigraphy, Architecture and Materials from the Trial Pits, the Royal Cemetery and the Ziqqurat Terrace”), his research has focused on political economy and bureaucracy in early Mesopotamia, adopting comparative, inter- and cross-disciplinary approaches. Since 2015 he has been a Research Fellow at the Department of History and Cultures of the University of Bologna. Besides teaching seminars on economic anthropology and anthropological archaeology in Bologna, he is currently carrying out an inter-disciplinary project with Assyriologist Camille Lecompte (CNRS – Nanterre), targeting the reconstruction of the socio-economic and political organization of early 3rd millennium BC southern Mesopotamia using archaeological and textual datasets. In addition to this project, he is working on a monograph based on his PhD research.

Benati’s article presents the results of his doctoral project, which focuses on the contextual and socio-economic reconstruction of the early 3rd millennium BC evidence excavated by C. L. Woolley at Ur in southern Iraq in the 1920s-1930s. The article builds upon a research framework that encompassed analysis of the original expedition records, curated at the British Museum, and fresh study of hundreds of original artifacts kept in the BM and at the Penn Museum of Philadelphia. In particular, the paper targeted the incredibly large amount of administrative materials, cuneiform tablets and clay sealings – discarded in garbage layers forming dumps on the outskirts of the early town – in order to organize a detailed reconstruction of the bureaucratic and economic functioning of the institutions that produced these documents. The outcome of the article is an articulate reconstruction of political economic strategies put in place by early Mesopotamian political bodies, on the basis of archaeological data, economic accounts, and control mechanisms.

Andrew Knapp and Esarhaddon’s apology

The runner-up prize goes to Andrew Knapp for his article “The Sitz im Leben of Esarhaddon’s Apology”, which was published this year in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies 68, pp. 181-195.

Knapp studied Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures at Johns Hopkins, where he received his PhD in 2012. Since then he has worked as an acquisitions editor for Eisenbrauns and Eerdmans. He published his first monograph, Royal Apologetic in the Ancient Near East (a revised version of his dissertation) with SBL Press in 2015. In it he examines how kings who came to the throne in atypical ways defended their legitimacy, comparing the succession accounts of Hittite, Israelite, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian rulers.

Knapp’s article examines the passage known as Esarhaddon’s Apology, namely lines i 8 – ii 11 of his Nineveh A inscription. Since the publication of Hayim Tadmor’s seminal 1983 essay, “Autobiographical Apology in the Royal Assyrian Literature,” scholars have almost universally accepted that the imminent nomination of Ashurbanipal as crown prince provided the impetus for the composition of this apology. In his article Knapp sets out to reassess this conclusion.

He suggests instead that the defeat of the Assyrian army in Egypt in 674 BCE raised concerns about Esarhaddon’s legitimacy, concerns fueled by his assumption of his murdered father’s throne in dubious circumstances. Esarhaddon therefore commissioned the apology as one part of a greater propagandistic campaign to reinforce his legitimacy. Finally, Knapp concludes by showing that although Tadmor’s work is often cited to support connecting the apology’s composition exclusively to Ashurbanipal’s nomination, the eminent historian also considered the Egyptian debacle to have undermined Esarhaddon’s position on the throne, providing him with impetus to commission the Nineveh A inscription.