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Judeans in Babylonia: The Babylonian Exile in Cuneiform Texts


Admission requirements

This course is open to Master and Research Master students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations. No extra admission requirements.


New cuneiform texts pertaining to Judean exilic communities in Babylonia are appearing right now. These documents, recording personal business and private matters, provide us with detailed insights into their socioeconomic situation as an ethnic minority in their new environments. Moreover, the latest excavations in Israel shed light on the impact of Babylonian military action and deportation in the early sixth century BC. Together with the increasing appreciation of the cuneiform corpus, these developments create a new dynamic in the study of the Babylonian Exile.

This seminar invites students to participate in the exploration of the new cuneiform evidence and in the process of placing it within the framework of the Babylonian corpus and recent archaeological work in Israel. The biblical material that furnishes complementary information and focuses on the exilic experience, will be used as an additional reference frame.

With regard to methodology, challenges of studying ethnicity and minorities in ancient societies will be discussed. Interesting questions pertain to how minorities can be traced and whether it is possible to get clues concerning their attitude towards the host culture, based on, for example, their name-giving practices.

The seminar will commence with a source-based discussion of the historical events regarding the deportations. Students will read source texts and secondary literature on the subject and will study a cuneiform and a biblical/archaeological source of their choice. Their findings will materialize in two short papers and presentations. In the end, they will write a final paper on an aspect of the Babylonian Exile and reflect on related methodological issues.

Students of Hebrew/Aramaic are welcome; they will focus on biblical and archaeological material.

Course objectives

Students will

  • gain insights into recent developments regarding the Babylonian Exile of Judeans;

  • research ancient sources pertaining to these events and reflect on methodological issues involved;

  • learn how an interdisciplinary approach (combining Assyriology, Biblical studies and Archaeology) results in cross-fertilisation and new understanding.


Please consult the timetables on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load is 280 hours, of which

  • attending seminars: 24 hours;

  • reparing for seminar by reading primary sources and literature: 110 hours;

  • preparing for oral presentations: 36 hours;

  • writing the essays: 110 hours.

Research master students can take this course for 5 EC (= 140 hours). Please contact the teacher for more information about this option.

Assessment method

  • Students will write three papers:
    a) one regarding a Babylonian source or archive (1500 words, 20% of the grade);
    b) one regarding a biblical or archaeological source (1500 words, 20% of the grade);
    c) a final paper on a free subject, containing a reflection on relevant methodological issues (4000 words, 50% of the grade).

  • Students will present their first two papers shortly in class (10% of the grade).

In case of a failing grade, an additional paper will be written (c. 6000 words) about a subject chosen by the instructors, which counts for 100%.


Blackboard is used for communication during the course and for handing in the papers. The full reading list is available on Blackboard.

Reading list

Will be announced in class.



Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.


T. (Tero) Alstola
D.A.M. (Rieneke) Sonnevelt
C. (Caroline) Waerzeggers