If a city is situated on seven heights…

Conference, Science, Talk, Online

23.09.2020 H15:00
24.09.2020 H09:00




Conference, Science, Talk

23.09.2020 H15:00
24.09.2020 H09:00

“If a city is situated on seven heights…”
Current insights into Ancient Near Eastern divination

Divination always played an important role in Ancient Near Eastern politics, daily life, and even economy. Far beyond being a mere mean to foretell the future, divination sets the standards for the interpretation of the known world. The interpretation of the omina, including every sort of natural or man-provoked phenomena, constitutes one of the main channels of communication between man and the supernatural forces which shaped the world, i.e. the gods. Hepatoscopy (liver inspection of offered animals), libanomancy (observation of incense smoke), lecanomancy (observation of the ripples of the water), physiognomics (interpretation of the outer appearance of a human body), celestial omina, and dream interpretation are only a few of the multifarious branches of divination thoroughly explored in the Ancient Near Eastern traditions.
Recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in ancient divinatory practices, which led to the development of several research projects in universities and research centers in Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and other countries. The aim of this international conference is to bring together a representative group of specialists in the field of Ancient Near Eastern divination and to start a constructive multi-disciplinary dialogue. The conference covers a large geographic area including Mesopotamia, Syria, South Arabia, Anatolia and Egypt from the third millennium BCE to the Late Antiquity.


A project organised by Armando Bramanti, CSIC Madrid / IS; Ignacio Márquez Rowe CSIC Madrid, in collaboration with:
IS (Istituto Svizzero di Roma)
AMA l’ISR (Associazione Membri e Amici dell’Istituto Svizzero di Roma)
CEPO (Centro de Estudios del Próximo Oriente Antiguo)
Sapienza – Università di Roma

The event will be held in English and will be taking place via web, to participate via zoom please sign-up here.

Read here the speakers’ biographies.

Please click here for the speeches’ absracts

Programme and speakers 

Wednesday September 23

H15:00   Institutional greetings and introduction

H15:15   Franco D’Agostino (Sapienza – Università di Roma) & Armando Bramanti (CSIC Madrid / ISR): Divination in Third Millennium BCE (?)

H15:45   Maria Giovanna Biga (Sapienza – Università di Roma): Divination at Ebla

H16:15   Ann Guinan (University of Pennsylvania): The Human Behavioral Omens of Shumma Alu: Paradox or Paradigm-Shift?

H16:45   Rachel Lerculeur (Université de Genève): Sleep Omens in Šumma ālu

H17:15   Coffee break

H17:45   Barbara Böck (CSIC Madrid): Thoughts on the Relationship between Babylonian Physiognomic and Medical Omens

H18:15   Francesca Minen (Università di Udine): Signs of Sickness on Earth. Reading Šumma ālu from a Medico-Historical Perspective

H18:45   Nicla de Zorzi (Universität Wien): Written on the Lungs: On the Reconstruction and Interpretation of Šumma ḫašû

H19:15   Nadia Aït Saïd-Ghanem (SOAS London): A Marriage and a Curse in Two New Oil Omen Fragments in the British Museum, BM 87655 and BM 87642

Thursday September 24

H09:00     Ignacio Márquez Rowe (CSIC Madrid): Anatomical Clay Representations of the Sheep Intestines for Divination in Ancient Mesopotamia: A Typology

H09:30     Lorenzo Verderame (Sapienza – Università di Roma): Animal Agency in Ancient Mesopotamian Divination

H10:00   Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel (Université de Strasbourg): Do the Senses Make Sense? Sensory Phenomena and Mesopotamian Divination

H10:30   Enrique Jiménez (LMU München): Hidden Perfection. The Sign and the Prediction in Babylonian Commentaries

H11:00   Coffee break

H11:30   Patrick Maxime Michel (Université de Lausanne / AMA ISR): Divination in Hittite Anatolia

H12:00   Alessio Agostini (Sapienza – Università di Roma): Oracular Consultations in Pre-Islamic South Arabia: Terminology, Practices and Settings

H12:30   Paola Buzi (Sapienza – Università di Roma): Divination in Egypt from Sobek to Saint Colluthus. Aspects of continuity of some the oracular practices.

H13:00   Final discussion