Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module CLAS40730: AKKADIAN

Department: Classics and Ancient History


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None.


  • Some work in an ancient language and/or literature at Level 3 is normally required.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA in Classics, the aim of the module is to promote self-motivated and self-directed research. More specifically, the module aims to enable students to carry out independent research in an area which has been of growing importance to the field of Classics.
  • It is now generally accepted that Greek literature has close links with the literature of ancient Babylon (e.g. Homer, Iliad; the Poem of Gilgames). It is also clear that Greek law, science, religion, history and historiography can all be illuminated with the help of cuneiform sources (e.g. law codes; medical and mathematical texts; omens; Alexander the Great; Herodotus). Research that combines Greek and Akkadian sources is among the fastest-growing areas of classical scholarship, yet few graduate students in the UK currently have the linguistic skills to carry out such research.
  • The module is designed to enable independent and competent use of Akkadian-language materials. It aims to give students a solid grounding in Akkadian and the cuneiform writing system, to foster a good understanding of the history of Akkadian literature, its major texts and genres, to familiarize students with the relevant research tools, and to enable them to engage successfully with Akkadian sources in their chosen field of study. Where relevant, the course draws on the collection of cuneiform tablets in the Oriental Museum, Durham.


  • Language work: Akkadian as a Semitic language; Old Babylonian and other dialects; the cuneiform writing system; transliteration and normalisation; the cases of the Akkadian noun; adjectives and pronouns; the construct state; the strong verb and its stems; weak verbs; irregular verbs; numbers.
  • Textual work: The history of Akkadian literature, its major texts and genres; research tools (e.g. CAD, CDA, AHw, GAG, Huehnergard, Grammar of Akkadian, Borger, Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon); identifying a suitable text for study; formal features of the target text (e.g. script, dialect, style, genre); significance of the target text in its historical, cultural and literary context.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students will have gained a good knowledge of the Akkadian language and the cuneiform writing system; and of the history of Akkadian literature in its broad outlines.
  • They will also have acquired the knowledge necessary to make full use of the specialised literature and the standard research tools in the field.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will have developed the linguistic, philological and interpretative skills that are necessary to make competent use of Akkadian-language sources in their own chosen area of research.
Key Skills:
  • The linguistic and interpretative skills required for the successful completion of this module are transferable to any field which demands a capacity for handling difficult languages and unlocking unfamiliar and often alien modes of thought. It also requires the effective use of library and IT resources; and good written presentation skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be by four two-hour language seminars, followed by four two-hour seminars on a text or set of texts in the Akkadian language. Seminar texts are chosen in accordance with the students' research interests. Where relevant, they may be drawn from the cuneiform collection of the Oriental Museum, Durham. The modes of teaching are intended to build up linguistic skills early on in the course (Michaelmas Term); and to encourage active use of those skills later on (Epiphany Term). The seminar format is intended to ensure active participation and stimulate exchange of ideas within the group. Students will also be encouraged to attend undergraduate lectures in appropriate subjects (e.g. my own Level 3 module on 'The Literature and Language of Ancient Babylon').
  • Students will be required to submit formative language work in the early stages of the module (Michaelmas Term), ensuring that appropriate standards of linguistic attainment are met. Students are also expected to lead or co-lead a text seminar later in the year (Epiphany Term). This will ensure that individuals engage in independent research, and that they gain practice in articulating their conclusions.
  • The summative assessment will consist of a commentary which tests students' language skills as well as their ability to engage constructively with Akkadian-language sources. Texts for commentary are chosen in consultation with the course instructor. Where relevant, they may be drawn from the cuneiform collection of the Oriental Museum, Durham. The commentary may not exceed 5000 words. The format of the summative assessment is designed to encourage independent and in-depth work with Akkadian-language materials in areas that are relevant to individual students’ research interests.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Four times per term 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Commentary Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Commentary5000 words100 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative language work; leading or co-leading a text seminar.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University