Team 1. Society and Religion in the Ancient Near East

About   |   Members

Changes in biblical texts and traditions never took place in a socioreligious vacuum. To understand them, it is necessary to explore the cultural, religious, and demographic developments in the Near Eastern world preceding and accompanying the emergence of biblical texts and traditions. Team 1 contextualizes these changes by focusing on nonbiblical sources, that is, archaeological records and ancient Near Eastern texts. It investigates (1) changes in religious concepts and practices, for instance, the nature of ancient Near Eastern prophecy and its textualization and literarization in Judah; (2) continuity and change in the settlement patterns, material culture, and religion in Galilee in Iron Age, relying mainly on archaeological sources; and (3) changes in demographic conditions as well as the social location and identity of ethnic minorities, for instance, the Judeans in Babylonia and other ethnic groups in the multicultural setting of Mesopotamian empires.


Team Leader
Martti Nissinen Martti Nissinen, Professor in Old Testament Studies, Director of the Centre of Excellence

Project: Prophecy in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean,
Gender and Religion in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean, Westerners in Assyria
Expertise: Prophecy in Ancient Eastern Mediterranean, Gender Issues in the Ancient World
Profiles: University of Helsinki
Interviews: (1) Tutkimustyöhön intohimoa ja yhdessä temekisen meininkiä: Haastattelussa Martti Nissinen | (2) Research through passion and collaboration: An interview with Martti Nissinen

Izaak de Hulster, Senior member; Vice-Team Leader

Project: Images of the Sacred Bridge. Two case studies in comparative iconography: the Aram—Israel border zone and the iconography of Yehud
Expertise: Iconographic exegesis, aniconism, figurines, Achaemenid period, Aram-Israel border zone (Iron Age), metaphor, translation, angels, ANE cosmography (incl. mountains and islands), (biblical) hermeneutics, Israelite religion, (early) monotheism(s), weather deities, Gospel of John
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Raz Kletter Raz Kletter, Senior Member 

Project: Weights, Economy, History of Archaeology, Archaeology and Politics, Figurines, Cult
Expertise: Archaeology of Ancient Near East
Profiles: University of Helsinki   |

Self_Portrait_Ito Sanae Ito, Post-Doctoral Researcher
Sophia University, Tokyo

Project: Scribes and Scribal Cultures in the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires
Expertise: Assyriology
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Jason Silverman Jason Silverman, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: The King’s Acolytes: Early Achaemenid Ideology and Yehud Temple Building
Expertise: Iranian influence on STJ, Apocalypses, Prophecy, media theory, sociology of religion
Profiles: University of Helsinki   |

Saana Svärd Saana Svärd, Post-Doctoral Researcher 

Project: Construction of gender in Mesopotamia from 934 to 330 BCE
Expertise: Assyriology
Profile: University of Helsinki

Kirsi Valkama Kirsi Valkama, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: Ground Stone Objects from Tel Kinrot     
Expertise: Tba
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Joanna Töyräänvuori Joanna Töyräänvuori, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: The vestiges of the political mythologies of ancient Semitic kingdoms in the Hebrew Bible
Expertise: Ugarit, Baal Cycle, Ancient languages, Bronze Age, Chaoskampf
Profiles: University of Helsinki   |

  Gina Konstantopoulos, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: Beyond the Frontier: the Construction of Distant and Imagined Lands in the Ancient Near East
Expertise: Assyriology, Sumerian, Magic and Ritual, Demons, Monsters, Borders and Frontiers, Imagined Lands
Profiles: University of Helsinki |

Shana Zaia, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: Urban Gods: Ancient Near Eastern Religious Centers in the 1st Millennium BCE
Expertise: Assyriology, Neo-Assyrian Period, State Religion, Cultic Topographies, Royal Ideology
Profiles: University of Helsinki | | Website

Sebastian Fink, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: Explaining and Contextualizing Change in Sumerian Emesal Lamentations and Prayers
Expertise: Assyriology, Sumerian language, Mesopotamian Literature, Emesal, Philosophy
Profiles: University of Helsinki |

Tero Alstola Tero Alstola, Post-Doctoral Researcher

Project: Semantic Domains in Akkadian Texts
Expertise: Assyriology, Social and economic history, Exile, Migration, Digital humanities
Profiles: University of Helsinki |
Interview: Maahanmuutosta maahanmuuttajan näkökulmasta: Haastattelussa Tero Alstola

Katri Saarelainen Katri Saarelainen, Doctoral Student

Project: Society and Religion in the Ancient Near East Galilee in the Iron Age: Archaeology, Texts and History
Expertise: Figurines, Iron Age, Israel/Palestine
Profiles: University of Helsinki   |

Sanna Saari Sanna Saari, Doctoral Student

Project: The Image of a Lion: A Literary-Iconographic Approach to Hebrew Bible Narratives
Expertise: Iconographic exegesis, literary studies, narratives, lion imagery, ancient images
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Emilia Tapiola Emilia Tapiola, Doctoral Student

Project: The Late Bronze Age Urban Culture in the Early Iron Age Northern Israel
Expertise:  Tba
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Andres Nõmmik, Doctoral Student

Project: Transformation of the Socio-Political Order and Ethnic Identity in the Levantine Coast and Cyprus during the Early Iron Age (12th-10th Centuries BC)
Expertise: History of the Eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Patrik Jansson, Doctoral Student

Project: Enemies of My People: Metaphorical and Gendered Construction of False Prophecy in the Book of Ezekiel
Expertise: Enemy images, Theories of metaphor, Book of Ezekiel
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Lauri Laine, Doctoral Student

Project: Conceptualization of Divinity: Forming of Divine Imagery in Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic Texts in the Light of Cognitive Science of Religion
Expertise: Ugarit, Divine Imagery, Religion in LBA and EIA Levant, Upper Secondary Level Education of Religion and History
Profile: University of Helsinki blog



Raija Mattila, Associate Member

Project: Egyptians in Assyria,
Change and continuity in the administration of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Eponyms of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
Expertise: Assyriology
Profiles: University of Helsinki

Helen Dixon, Associate Member
Wofford College

Project: Rethinking Levantine Phoenicia in the Neo-Babylonian Period
Expertise: Iron Age Phoenicia, Levantine Archaeology, Mortuary Ritual

Tuula Tynjä Tuula Tynjä, Associate Member

Project: From the Field to the Publication: the Retrieval and Presentation of Pottery – a case from Early Iron Age Tel Kinrot, Israel
Expertise: Early Iron Age Pottery in Israel, Archaeological Fieldwork and Artifact Study
Profiles: University of Helsinki


The Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki