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“Feeding the Gods: Temple Sacrifice and Meat Distribution in the Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia”


Admission requirements

Students enrolled in the MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations or MA Ancient History


“Feeding the Gods: Temple Sacrifice and Meat Distribution in the Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia” will look at the role of sacrifice, cultic meals and meat distribution in the ancient societies of Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular, especially in the first half of the course, we will focus on Mesopotamia and the role of these practices within institutional contexts. We will start with the Mesopotamian evidence because of its richness and variety, over three millennia, but the second half of the course will look at similar practices in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially in the Mycenaean materials, Ugaritic and the Hebrew Bible. Once the normative practices have been identified in the first half of the course, we will increasingly turn to broader conceptualizations of sacrifice, particularly in anthropology and religious studies, that have developed, to one degree or another, in reaction to practices described in the Hebrew Bible. Students specializing in Assyriology will be asked to participate in tutorials in which we will look at relevant cuneiform materials in the original.

Course objectives

Students will develop: (General learning objectives)

  • the ability to identify, select and evaluate groups of sources relevant to a particular historical problem;

  • the ability to contextualize primary sources in both their historical and archaeological context;

  • the ability to read both primary and secondary sources critically;

  • the ability to formulate a clear research question, taking into consideration both discipline-specific questions and broader theoretical issues;

  • the ability to give a clear and well-researched oral and written report on research results in correct English;

  • the ability to provide constructive feedback and formulate criticism on the work of others and the ability to accept, graciously, and evaluate criticism of one's own work;

  • the ability to give a short (2-3 minute), well-organized presentation on a piece of secondary literature, summarizing the points that are relevant to the class;

(Discipline-specific learning objectives)

  • a thorough knowledge of the major phases and chief textual sources for sacrifice and the redistribution of meat in Mesopotamian history;

  • a thorough knolwedge of the most important ancient comparanda in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the materials in the Hebrew Bible;

  • the ability to summarize the major theoretical trends vis-à-vis sacrifice in anthropology and religious studies and locate these works within broader intellectual histories.


Time and date on which the course is offered or a link to the website. The administration will complete this with the link to the website.

The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

The course is 10 EC, which means a workload of 280 hours.

  • The class meetings amount to 26 hrs

  • The final exam will be 2 hrs

  • 13 weeks for class preparation will 252 hrs

  • preparation for the exam and the term paper.

Students are expected to devote 100 hours, over the course of the semester, to writing the term paper, and the remaining ca. 150 hours (ca. 10 hours per week) should be used for reading and preparing the assigned secondary literature (ca. 100 pages per week) and preparing for the final exam. Students will also be asked to present quick (2-3 minute) summaries of particular readings to the class, and the preparation of these presentations is included in the overall class preparation time.

Assessment method

The grade in the course will be determinated as follows:

  • 20% class participation (including readings of primary sources in class and other classroom discussion)

  • 40% final exam;

  • and 40% term paper.

The final exam will consist open questions covering both secondary literature and discussions in class. The term paper should be at least 5000 words (including bibliography) and investigate a particular sacrificial practice or meat distribution, in the context of the course materials as a whole.

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.

The last class before the final exam will be a review session and students can discuss the exam results in office hours after the end of the term.

Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the student needs to retake the written exam and/or revise the paper after consultation with the instructor.


Blackboard will be used for distributing all primary sources for the course.

Reading list

Introductory reading list (additional materials will be assigned for each week and made available through Blackboard):

Dietler, Michael, Theorizing the Feast. Rituals of Consumption, Commensal Politics, and Power in African Contexts. In: Michael Dietler and Brian Hayden, eds., Feasts. Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power, pp. 65-114. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Janowitz, Naomi. 2015. Rereading Sacrifice: The Semiosis of Blood. Signs and Society 3(2): 193–208.
Kozuh, Michael. 2010. Lamb, Mutton, and Goat in the Babylonian Temple Economy. JESHO 53: 531-578.
Kozuh, Michael. 2014. The Sacrificial Economy. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
Maul, S.M. 2008, Den Gott ernähren: Überlegungen zum regelmäßigen Opfer in altorientalischen Tempeln. In: E. Stravianopoulou, A. Michaels and C. Ambos, eds., Transformations in Sacrificial Practices: From Antiquity to Modern Times, 75–86. Berlin: LIT.
Milano, L. 1998. Aspects of Meat Consumption in Mesopotamia and the Food Paradigm of the Poor Man of Nippur. State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 12/2, 111–127.
Smith, J. Z. 1987. The Domestication of Sacrifice. In: Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, ed., Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation, 191-235. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Dhr. Dr. J.C. Johnson