Jacob L. Dahl


Professor of Assyriology; Fellow of Wolfson 

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute / Wolfson College



Research Interests:

I am a specialist of the pre-Classical cultures and languages of the Near East. I have written on early Babylonian socio-economic history, early Near Eastern writing systems, and Sumerian literature. I work on the decipherment of proto-Elamite, the last undeciphered writing system from the ancient Near East with a substantial number of sources (more than 1600 tablets divided between the Louvre Museum and the National Museum of Iran). Initially inspired and influenced by archaic cuneiform from Mesopotamia, proto-Elamite was a very short-lived writing system (ca. 3100 - 2900 BC) used across much of what today constitute the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As a co-PI of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative <http://cdli.ucla.edu> I seek to document and safeguard Mesopotamia’s contribution to our shared world history by making its ancient records available freely online.

Current Projects:

  • late 3rd millennium BC administrative history, publication of 300 texts in Oslo
  • joint publication (on-line) of ca. 300 Ur III texts in Aleppo National Museum, Syria, with Dr Bertrand Lafont (CNRS, Paris)
  • joint publication (on-line) of ca. 90 Ur III texts in the Institut Chatolique de Paris, with Dr Bertrand Lafont
  • publication of 122 proto-Elamite texts and fragments in the Louvre (to appear as TCL 32)
  • re-edition of ca. 1000 proto-Elamite texts and fragments in the Louvre
  • proto-Elamite sign-list

Courses Taught:

  • History and Civilizations of the Ancient Near East
  • Akkadian and Sumerian texts, all levels

Recent Publications:

  • (with Laura F. Hawkins and Kathryn Kelley). Labor Administration in Proto-Elamite Iran. In A. Garcia-Ventura, ed., What’s in a Name? Terminology related to Work Force and Job Categories in the Ancient Near East. Alter Orient und Altes Testament (in press). 30 pages.

  • "The Production and Storage of Food in Early Iran". In M. Bianca D’Anna, C. Jauß, J. C. Johnson, eds., Food and Urbanisation. Material and Textual Perspectives on Alimentary Practice in Early Mesopotamia. ORIGINI Preistoria e protostoria delle civiltà antiche 37.1 (2015), pp. 67-72.

  • "Corrections to J. L. Dahl, 'A Babylonian Gang of Potters'". Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2014:16 (2014).

  • “Early Writing in Iran”. In Potts, D.T., Oxford Handbook of Iranian Archaeology (Oxford University Press) (2013), 233-262.
  • (with M. Hessari and R. Yousefi) “The proto-Elamite tablets from Tepe Sofalin”. Iranian Journal of Archaeological Studies 2/1 (2013), 57-73.
  • (with Cameron A. Petrie and Daniel T. Potts) “Chronological Parameters of the Earliest Writing System in Iran.” In Petrie, C.A. (ed.), Ancient Iran and its Neighbours: Local Developments and Long- range Interactions in the 4th Millennium BC. (2013), 353-378.
  • “Frühe Schrift im Iran”. In N. Crüsemann et al. Uruk 5000 Jahre Megacity: Begleitband zur Ausstellung "Uruk--5000 Jahre Megacity" im Pergamonmuseum--Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (2013), 202-203.
  • “The proto-Elamite seal MDP 16 no 198”. CDLN 2013:2.
  • (with Béatrice André-Salvini) “L’écriture proto-élamite: la numérisation à l’aide du déchifrement des premières écritures”. In Grande gallerie: le journal du Louvre 2013/2, 28-29.

Full Publications

Further Info:

Boards and Committees:

Current DPhil students:

  • Kathryn E. Kelley
  • Eva R. Miller
  • Parsa Daneshmand
  • Antonia Edwards-Freshwater
  • Marwan Kilani
  • Maciej Wencel

Former research students:

  • Laura F. Hawkins (The Adaptation of Cuneiform to Write Semitic: an examination of syllabic sign values in late third and early second millennium Mesopotamia and Syria), now post-doctoral researcher at Brown University.
  • Moudhy al-Rashid (Mental Illness and Mental Health in Ancient Mesopotamia), now JRF at Wolfson College, Oxford.
  • John Nicholas Reid (The Evolution of Slavery and Labour Practices in Early Mesopotamia from Uruk to the Fall of Babylon in the Longue Durée), now Assistant Professor at the Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida.
  • Christopher Metcalf, now Fellow and Tutor in Classics at The Queen's College, Oxford.
Photograph of Jacob Dahl
List of site pages