SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

BA Ancient Near Eastern Studies (2019 entry)

  • Q&A
  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


Once studied for the light it could shed on the world of the Old Testament, the ancient Near East has now emerged from the sidelines as the fountainhead of modern civilisation. It was in the ancient Near East more than 5000 years ago that people first learned to live in cities, invented writing and developed the first high civilisations. 

Though the origins of humanity's spiritual and intellectual adventure were once sought in the Bible and in Greece, the fascinating discoveries of Near Eastern archaeologists over the last 150 years have revealed the crucial roles played in forming our common heritage by the peoples of the Ancient Near East, especially the Sumerians, the Babylonians and the Hittites. 

The three-year degree in Ancient Near Eastern Studies has been formulated to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by London, the home of the largest group of specialists in the various branches of Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Europe. Not only do many different academic departments of the University of London employ teachers in these fields, but Bloomsbury also houses the British Museum, with its collections of Near Eastern antiquities unrivalled in the world. 

The Ancient Near Eastern Studies degree is taught jointly with University College London (UCL). It provides a multi-disciplinary introduction to the ancient Near East, its languages, history, cultures and archaeology, while also offering final-year students the opportunity of specializing in their field of interest.

Programme Code: Q400BA/ANESt

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Mode of Attendance: Full-time

Entry requirements

  • Subjects Preferred: A good pass in a foreign language at A-level, or equivalent, is preferred
  • Interview Policy: Candidates with 'non-standard' qualifications may be invited for interview
A Levels:
A Level language preferred
35 (6/6/5)

View alternative entry requirements


Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction

Scottish Highers: AAABB

Scottish Advanced Highers: AAB

Irish LC: 340 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above

Advanced Placement: 4 4 5 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0

Euro Bacc: 80%

French Bacc: 14/20

German Abitur: 2.0

Italy DES: 80/100

Austria Mat: 2.0

Polish Mat: Overall 75% including 3 extended level subjects

Featured events

3 Years


Introducing BA Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Andrew George

Professor of Babylonian, Andrew George, gives a brief summary of what students can expect to study on the BA Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

What does the course involve?

Learning Akkadian, the language of the Babylonians, finding out all about ancient Mesopotamia, and adding more ancient languages if you want.

What kind of students will the course appeal to?

People who are good at languages and want to know more about the long-lost civilizations of the ancient Near East

What facilities are available?

One of the best libraries for the subject in the country, and the British Museum's next door.

What is special about the programme at SOAS?

It's one of very few British universities where you can learn long-dead languages like Akkadian, Sumerian and Hittite.

Can you recommend a good book to read on Ancient Near Eastern Studies?

Irving Finkel's The Ark Before Noah (Hodder, 2014).

What do students do after graduating?

The best and luckiest train to be Assyriologists. Others get jobs which require first-rate analytical and language skills. 


Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

At SOAS in the first year the student begins the study of the major language of the ancient Near East, Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) in the cuneiform script, and takes a module in the literatures of the Near East. Meanwhile, at UCL the student commences the study of the history of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt (History Department), and takes an introductory module in Near Eastern archaeology (Institute of Archaeology).

In the second year further Akkadian is taken at SOAS, and it is possible at this stage to begin a second language (normally Hittite), as well. At UCL the student continues the history of the ancient Near East and studies the archaeology of the Near East in the historical periods.

During the third year follow-up modules in Akkadian and archaeology or history are taken and a study project written on an ancient Near Eastern subject. To complete the final year a wide range of options will normally be available to permit specialisation in either language or history or archaeology, or a combination of two of these. The student whose primary interest is in language may study Sumerian, Hieroglyphic Egyptian, biblical Hebrew, North-West Semitic epigraphy, Aramaic or Ugaritic, subject to availability. Non-language options include further modules in ancient history, Egyptology and the archaeology of the ancient Near East. 

Single Honours

Year 1
Core Module

Must be passed to proceed to the following year

Module Code Credits Term
Introductory Akkadian Grammar 155900426 15 Full Year
Compulsory Module
Module Code Credits Term
Literatures of the Islamic Near and Middle East 155900991 15 Term 2
UCL Compulsory Module
  • Bronze Age States in the Ancient Middle East - HIST6111 - 30 Credits
  • Texts in Archaeology - ARCL1011 - 15 Credits
  • Introduction to Egyptian and Near Eastern Archaeology (UCL) - ARCL1009 – 15 Credits
Year 2

It is possible to begin a second language at this stage(usually Sumerian or Hittite)

Core Module
Module Code Credits Term
Akkadian Texts 1 155900937 30 Full Year
UCL Compulsory Module
  • Babylon from Hammurapi to Alexander (UCL) - 30 Credits
  • UCL archaeology module - 30 Credits
Guided Option

Choose from the List of Modules below to the value of 30 credits

Year 3
Compulsory Module
Module Code Credits Term
Independent Study Project In Ancient Near Eastern Studies 155900990 30 credits

Choose a Akkadian Module from the List of Language and Literature below to the value of 30 credits

UCL Archaeology or History Module

Choose one Archaeology or History module from the list of options under the Teaching & Learning tab

Guided Option

Choose from the List of Modules below to the value of 30 credits

List of modules (subject to availability)
Language and literature

Language modules are also available at UCL, please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.

Module Code Credits Term
Introductory Akkadian Grammar 155900426 15 Full Year
Akkadian Texts 1 155900937 30 Full Year
Akkadian Texts 2 155900938 30 Full Year
Akkadian Texts III 155900939 30 credits
Introductory Sumerian 155900103 30 Full Year
Introductory Hittite 155900109 30 credits
Hittite Texts I 155901288 30 credits
History and culture

Modules available from UCL, please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.


Modules avaliable from UCL, please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.

Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning



Teaching & Learning

UCL Course Options

Language and literature

  • UCL ARCL2046: Introduction to Ancient Egyptian language (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL3101: Late Egyptian language and texts (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL3102: Coptic language and culture (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL3100: Old and Middle Egyptian texts (15 credits)
  • UCL HEBR1005: Introduction to classical Hebrew
  • UCL HEBR7003: Intermediate classical Hebrew
  • UCL HEBR7601: North West Semitic inscriptions
  • UCL HEBR7603:Introduction to Ugaritic
  • Old Testament texts: (various options, consult UCL for details)
  • Aramaic: (various options, consult UCL for details)
  • Syriac: (various options, consult UCL for details)

History and culture

  • UCL HIST6111: Bronze Age States in the Ancient Middle East
  • UCL HIST6102: The Near East 1200-336BC: Empires and pastoralists
  • HIST2108 Understanding the early Mesopotamian world (30 credits)
  • HIST3109 Temple Life in Assyria and Babylonia (30 credits, third years only)
  • HIST7122B Ancient Anatolia through Material Culture (15 credits, term 2)


  • UCL ARCL1009: Introduction to Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeology (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL1011: Texts in archaeology (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL2033: The archaeology of the Middle East from prehistory to 2000 BC (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL2034: The archaeology of the Middle East from 2000 to 300 BC (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL3051: The archaeology of Mesopotamia (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL3072: The archaeology of the Levant (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL3073: Early prehistory of the Near East (15 credits)
  • UCL ARCL2012: Archaeology of ancient Egypt

Pre Entry Reading

  • George, Andrew: The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin Classics, 2000
  • Leick, Gwendolyn: Mesopotamia. The Invention of the City. London: Penguin Books, 2001
  • Roux, Georges: Ancient Iraq. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1992 (3rd edn)
  • Finkel, Irving and Jon Taylor: Cuneiform. London: British Museum Publications, 2015
  • Damrosch, David: The Buried Book: The Loss and Recovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Holt, 2007
  • Reade, Julian: Mesopotamia. London: British Museum Publications, 1999
  • Foster, B.R. and K Foster: Civilisations of Ancient Iraq. Princeton University Press, 2011


As a student specialising in the Ancient Near Eastern, you will gain competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature and culture (which can include literature, film, music, art and religion) of various parts of the Middle East.

Graduates leave SOAS not only with linguistic and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers in both business and the public sector. These include written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

Find out more