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June 1, 2016
Ancient Assyrian Legacy Subject of June Symposium
The African and Middle Eastern Division in the Library of Congress, in cooperation with the Assyrian Universal Alliance-America, will present a symposium on the ancient Assyrian civilization and its contemporary manifestation.

“The Assyrian Legacy: From Ancient Civilization to Today’s Cultural Revival,” a free symposium open to the public, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First Street S.E., Washington D.C. Tickets are not required.

According to one interpretation based on the Book of Genesis in the Bible, Genesis 10:22, the founder of the Assyrians was Ashur, son of Shem and grandson of Noah, who, after the Great Flood, went off to build a city named for him, located northeast of Babylon.

Archaeological excavations show that a city existed as early as the third millennium B.C., on the site on which the city of Ashur was built in Mesopotamia around 1900 B.C.. By the second millennium B.C., the Assyrian empire had grown and spread from Mesopotamia in the east to Asia Minor in the north and to Egypt in the south. Assyrian cities became prosperous commercial centers that traded with Anatolia and the Near East and perfected the craft of iron-work.

The Assyrians were a Semitic people who originally spoke Akkadian. Sometime in the first millennium they shifted to Aramaic, which was the dominant language of the Near East. The language has survived to the present day in the liturgy of Eastern Christians and in the Jewish marriage certificates, or “ketubahs.” The Library of Congress holds both Christian liturgical textbooks and ketubahs in that ancient script. Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, is still the language of the Assyrians today.

“This is the Library’s first major conference on the rich history of the Assyrians and their contribution to world civilization,” said Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division, who will moderate one of the three panels along with Levon Avdoyan, the Library’s Armenian and Georgian specialist, and Muhannad Salhi, the Library’s Arab world area specialist. There will also be a display of books in many different languages on and about Assyrian history, culture, music and archaeology.

Panel One will focus on the ancient history and culture of the Assyrians and the Gilgamesh epic, with presentations by Amir Harrak, associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations; Christopher Woods, associate professor of Sumerian at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago; and Simo Parpola, professor emeritus of Assyriology at the University of Helsinki.

Panel Two will be on the history of Christianity among the Assyrians, and will include presentations by Mark Dickens, adjunct professor of history and classics at the University of Alberta, Canada; Jonathan Loopstra, assistant professor of ancient history and digital humanities at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul; and Tala Jarjour, assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Notre Dame.
Panel Three will focus on the Assyrian culture in the Middle East and the diaspora. The presenters will include Fadi Davood, a lecturer at the University of Lakehead in Ontario, Canada; Alda Benjamin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum and a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution; and Eden Naby, a contributing editor on modern Assyrians for the “Encyclopædia Iranica.”

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the world’s largest library. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at

The Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division is the center for the study of 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East and the Caucasus to Central Asia. For more information, visit
The Assyrian Universal Alliance was founded in 1968 as an umbrella organization for a number of Assyrian federations and organizations worldwide, which seek to spread knowledge and information about Assyrians and their contribution to world civilization and to secure their human rights wherever they live.

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PR 16-098
ISSN 0731-3527

Assyrian Universal Alliance

Assyrian Universal Alliance, P.O. Box 59446, Chicago, IL 60659

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