Department of History & School of History, Religions and Philosophies

Dr Nadia Ait Said-Ghanem

Key information

Department of History British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow
PhD (SOAS), MA (EPHE, Paris), BA (SOAS)
Email address


I am a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (2019-2023) where I research the activities of Iraqi antiquities dealers who sold archaeological artefacts to the British Museum in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These objects, primarily cuneiform tablets, were found in Iraq during excavations conducted in the lifetime of these dealers, and were smuggled out of Iraq to be sold on the European and American antiquities market. This research is based on the letters dealers sent to the curators of the British Museum, which are today preserved in the museum's central archive. Based on this correspondence, and on additional material which survives in the archives of a number of other European and American museums, my project seeks to retrace how antiquities dealers organised, from Baghdad, the smuggling of the collections they sold in London, despite the Ottoman Antiquities Law of 1884 which forbade the exportation of artefacts. This project is especially interested in the provenance history of Old Babylonian omens, a corpus of texts dispersed across the globe in public and private collections. My PhD had formerly focused on investigating the grammar of Old Babylonian omens, using Arabic grammatical theory. My academic background is in the study of the ancient languages of Iraq (Akkadian, Sumerian), and of Arabic. 

Current Research Projects:
  •  Reconstructing identities : Iraq-based antiquities dealers in the late 19th and early 20th century
  •  The Psychology of Desire and Anguish in Old Babylonian Omens
  • 2021 Object Journeys: from Basra to London - A case study of the purchase history of Old Baby-lonian omen tablets in the British Museum, ASOR Annual Meeting, Museums and Social Justice workshop (Virtual), ASOR, 9-12 December 2021
  • 2021 Algerian literature in translation: the list, the Department of English Letters and Language, University of Guelma, Algeria, virtual study days, 24-25 May 2021, (zoom conference)
  • 2020 A Marriage and a Curse in Two Oil Omen Fragments in the British Museum: BM 87655 and BM 87642, during the International conference on the current insights into Ancient Near Eastern divination 23-24 September, Istituto Svizzero, Rome, 23 September 2020 (zoom conference)
  • 2020 Hopes for a better future in Old Babylonian omens, the University of Misan and of al-Qadissyah, Iraq, 6 August 2020 (zoom conference)
  • 2018 Using Arabic grammatical concepts to study Old Babylonian omens - new perspectives on the grammar and meaning of accusative-initial sentences, paper presented at the Arab Doctoral Student Based in the West Conference at the Doha Institute, Doha, Qatar 
  • 2016 Ce que nous enseignent les listes lexicales de Mésopotamie ancienne, paper presented during the conference of the High Council for Berber Studies on producing dictionaries in Tamazight, University of Béjaïa, Algeria.
  • 2013 Old Babylonian omen sentence constructions: investigating Old Babylonian omens using Arabic Grammatical Theory, paper presented during Arabic in Context: 400 years of Arabic, Leiden, Holland.
  • 2012 The Nominal and Verbal Sentence in Old Babylonian Omen Texts:An investigation of sentence structures using Arabic grammar, paper presented at the Oxford Postgraduate Conference in Assyriology, Wolfson College, Oxford, UK






Contact Nadia