Our Team

Assoz. Prof. Dott. ric. Nicla De Zorzi, BA MA

Principal Investigator

I am an Assyriologist with a focus on Ancient Near Eastern history, religion, and literature. Since 2018 I have been Assistant Professor for Assyriology at the Department of Near Eastern Studies of the University of Vienna. Since 2019 I have been a member of the Young Academy of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

I hold a PhD in Ancient History and Archaology from the Ca’ Foscari University Venice, which I completed in 2011. From 2012 to 2014 I was a post-doctoral fellow (Marie-Curie-Fellowship) at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. From 2014 to 2018 I worked as a senior postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Vienna.

My work focuses on the study of Ancient Mesopotamian scholarship and erudition, especially divination, and the contribution of Ancient Mesopotamia to the history of science and the history of ideas. I am the author of the first full commented edition and interpretative analysis of one of the most important divinatory compositions from Ancient Mesopotamia, known as Šumma izbu “If a malformed foetus” (La serie teratomantica Šumma izbu, SARGON 2014). In 2017 I obtained an FWF Grant for the project “Bestiarium Mesopotamicum: Animal Omens in Ancient Mesopotamia” (2018-2021). The project aims to shed new light on Ancient Mesopotamian animal omens by combining traditional Assyriological philological practice with methods taken from Human-Animal Studies, Historical Anthrozoology, and Digital Humanities.

My ERC project REPAC pioneers a novel approach to the study of Ancient Mesopotamian scholarly literature, arguing for a focus on hermeneutic strategies and the linkages between literary aspects and world-views.
My research interests include the study of ancient senses and emotions, especially disgust, the history of beliefs about the human body, the study of women and gender in antiquity, and ancient epistolography.

Selected publications

  • “Literature as scholarship: some reflections on repetition with variation and the construction of meaning in the Šamaš Hymn 112-117,” KASKAL 16 (2020).
  • “Rude remarks not fit to smell: negative value judgements relating to sensory perceptions in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in A. Schellenberg – T. Krüger (eds.), Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East, SBL Ancient Near East Monographs series 25, Atlanta, SBL Press, 2019, 217-252.
  • “Teratomancy at Tigunānum: structure, hermeneutics and Weltanschauung of a northern Mesopotamian omen corpus,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 69 (2017), 125-150 (DOI: 10.5615/jcunestud.69.2017.0125).
  • “The Death of Utu-hegal and other historical omens,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 68 (2016), 129-151 (DOI: 10.5615/jcunestud.68.2016.0129).
  • La serie teratomantica Šumma izbu: testo, tradizione, orizzonti culturali, HANE/M, History of the Ancient Near East, Monographs 15, Padova, SARGON, 2014, 2 volumes.


Mag.a phil. Mag.a Dr.in phil Martina Schmidl

Postdoctoral Researcher WP 1 and WP 2

I studied both Ancient Near Eastern Studies (Assyriology) and Religious Studies at the University of Vienna. In Assyriology, my research centered on Neo-Babylonian letters from the so-called “long 6th century BCE”. Both my diploma thesis and my doctoral dissertation arose from the National Research Network (NFN) project “Imperium and Officium”, funded by the FWF. The diploma thesis focused on private letters, while my PhD thesis dealt with temple letters from the end of the Neo-Babylonian and the beginning of the Persian period. It included re-editing and, in some cases, newly editing around 230 letters, and focused on the identities and mentalities of temple officials as discernible from the letters, both in content and style.

After the end of the NFN-project, I was granted a uni:docs-fellowship by the University of Vienna which enabled me to continue my research for a further three years and to examine many of the letters first-hand in various museums in London, Paris and New Haven. The thesis was finished with the help of a Dissertation Completion Fellowship, also from the University of Vienna. I have received awards for the visual communication of my research to a broader audience and for one of my diploma theses.
My research interests include ancient epistolography, historical sociolinguistics and the wider notion of language usage to express identities, ideas and emotions. Within the framework of REPAC, I work on work package 2, which deals with the vast corpus of literary texts from the first millennium BCE.

Selected publications

  • “Some remarks on language usage in Late Babylonian letters,” in Ch. Barbati – Ch. Gastgeber (eds.), Open Linguistics 3 (1), Topical Issue on Historical Sociolinguistic Philology, Berlin, De Gruyter Open, 2017, 375-394. (DOI: 10.1515/opli-2017-0019)
  • with M. Jursa, “Babylonia as a source of imperial revenue from Cyrus to Xerxes,” in B. Jacobs, W.F.M. Henkelman and M.W. Stolper (eds.), Die Verwaltung im Achämenidenreich – Imperiale Muster und Strukturen / Administration in the Achaemenid Empire – Tracing the Imperial Signature. Akten des 6. Internationalen Kolloquiums zum Thema »Vorderasien im Spannungsfeld klassischer und altorientalischer Überlieferungen« aus Anlass der 80-Jahr-Feier der Entdeckung des Festungsarchivs von Persepolis, Landgut Castelen bei Basel, 14.-17. Mai 2013, Classica et Orientalia 17, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2017, 715-740.
  • “Gewalt gegen ‘Islamisten’ – der Fall der ägyptischen Muslimbruderschaft,” in W. Reiss (ed.), Aufstieg und Fall der ägyptischen Muslimbruderschaft 2011-2013, Anwendungsorientierte Religionswissenschaft Band 8, Beiträge zu gesellschaftlichen und politischen Fragestellungen, Marburg, Tectum, 2016, 45-316.
  • with J. Hackl and M. Jursa, and with contributions by K. Wagensonner, Spätbabylonische Privatbriefe, Spätbabylonische Briefe 1, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 414/1, Münster, Ugarit, 2014.


Dr. Frank Simons BA (Hons), MPhil.

Postdoctoral Researcher WP 1 and WP 3

I hold a BA in Ancient History, an MPhil in Egyptology and a PhD in Ancient History, completed at the University of Birmingham in 2010, 2012 and 2017 respectively. My doctoral thesis was a study and reconstruction of Šurpu ‘Burning’, the most extensive Mesopotamian ritual and incantation series to deal with the placation of the gods. I am in the process of preparing a full scholarly edition of the text.

From 2018 to 2019 I was employed as a post-doctoral researcher within the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft funded project “Akkadian Nominal Forms” led by Prof. Michael Streck at the University of Leipzig. Alongside this, I edited the manuscript of a volume of a second DFG funded project – the Supplement to the Akkadian Dictionaries series: D, T and Tet.

My work focuses chiefly on magic in Mesopotamia, and my role within the ERC project REPAC is to investigate the use of variant repetition and analogical reasoning in incantations. Alongside my focus on magic, my research interests include the study of ancient deities, and of the realia of daily life.

Selected publications

  • “The goddess Kusu”, Revue d’Assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale 112 (2018), 123-148.
  • “An Akkadian inscription of Hammurāpi”, Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires 2018, 3: 116-117.
  • “A new join to a Hurro-Akkadian version of the Weidner god list from Emar (MSK 74.108a + MSK 74158k)”, Altorientalische Forschungen 44 (2017), 82-100.
  • “Alammuš Redux”, Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires 2017, 1: 8-13.
  • “Innovation in serdab decoration in the late Sixth Dynasty”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 102 (2016), 196-203.
  • “The god Alammuš dLÀL / d.mùšLÀL”, Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires 2016, 1: 8-10.

Lucrezia Menicatti, BA MA

Doctoral Researcher WP 4

I earned my bachelor’s in Classics at the University of Pavia in 2017, and my master’s in Assyriology at Leiden University in August 2019.

During my master’s, my research was focused on Akkadian and Sumerian literary texts from the second millennium BCE. My master’s thesis investigates Mesopotamian bilingual royal inscriptions and their chronological development, combining a linguistic analysis of the texts with an evaluation of their social and historical background.

My research interests include ancient literary hermeneutics and historical sociolinguistics.

Within the framework of REPAC, I work on work package 4, which investigates the role of repetition and analogical thinking in first millennium divinatory compositions and associated texts.

Maya Rinderer, BA MA

Doctoral Researcher WP 3

I have studied at the University of Vienna, earning my bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies in 2018 and my master’s degree in Ancient Near Eastern Philology and Near Eastern Archaeology in 2021.

My master’s thesis, written under the auspices of the FWF-funded project “Bestiarium Mesopotamicum – Tieromina im Alten Mesopotamian”, led by Nicla De Zorzi, was completed in 2021 under the title “The Snake Omens from the Mesopotamian Divinatory Series Šumma ālu (Tablets 22-24).”

As part of the REPAC team, I work on Akkadian magical texts from the first millennium BCE, writing my doctoral thesis within work package 3. My approach is guided by literary theory and linguistic analysis, and I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in linguistics for a complementary education to my primary research. I am interested in including comparative studies, drawing from literatures of different cultures and eras, which I believe can contribute greatly to the study of Mesopotamian literature.

Flaminia Pischedda, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher WP 5

I earned a BA (2013) and MA (2017) in Oriental Languages and Civilisations at Sapienza University of Rome. Prior to obtaining my degrees, I spent extended periods in China to study modern Chinese at Beijing Foreign Studies University and Beijing Language and Culture University (2012‒2014) and classical Chinese at Peking University (2015‒2016). In the fall semester of 2016, I went to Ca’ Foscari University of Venice as a visiting student to pursue a course in Chinese palaeography. I recently completed a DPhil (2023) in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford, with a thesis titled “The Shuzi Gua Corpus and the Yi Traditions: A Critical Study”. Before joining REPAC, I was Junior Research Fellow at the IKGF, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg (2022-2023).

Broadly speaking, my research explores the different manifestations of early Chinese divination traditions and communities as seen from both newly retrieved palaeographical evidence and the received literary production. More specifically, my doctoral project, supervised by Professor Dirk Meyer, focusses on the unearthed sources belonging to the so-called shuzi gua 數字卦 (numerical cypher) corpus.

Within the framework of REPAC, I work on work package 5, which looks into the current discussion of parallelism and structures of textual repetition broadly conceived, as well as strategies of literary argumentation in different text-types, with a focus on early Chinese divinatory texts (11th-3rd century BCE). My contribution aims at promoting a dialogue between Ancient Near Eastern and Classical Chinese studies.

Selected Publications

  • “The Unity of Form and Content: The Philosophical Patterns of the Great Commentary to the Book of Changes.” Laval théologique et philosophique, volume 78, 3 (2023), 421–441 (DOI: 10.7202/1097882ar)
  • “Jia Lianxiang 賈連翔: Chutu Shuzi Gua Wenxian Jishi 出土數字卦文獻輯釋 [Organization and Interpretation of Unearthed Numerical Divination Symbol Texts]. 305 Pp. Shanghai 上海: Zhonghua Book Company 中西書局, 2020. ISBN 978 7 5475 1691 1.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 85, 2 (2022) 323–325 (DOI:10.1017/S0041977X22000507)
  • With A. Bréard “The Shuzi gua Corpus: A Historico-statistical Analysis”. In the Hon Tzeki (ed.) Dao Companion to the Book of Changes. Springer (submitted, under review).
  • “A Scribal Device in Oral Clothing: Exploring the Functions of Divinatory Formulae in Early Chinese Excavated Texts”Manuscript and Text Cultures (MTC). (In print)

Dr. Eric Schmidtchen

Postdoctoral Researcher WP 4

I have studied Assyriology and Religious Studies at the University of Leipzig and completed my studies with a Magister Artium degree in Assyriology in 2011. In the following year of 2012, I began my doctoral studies at the Freie Universität Berlin being employed as a research associate in the ERC-funded BabMed-project from 2013 to 2018. The main subject of my dissertational thesis has been a systematic analysis especially of the divinatory influenced parts of the prognostic-diagnostic standard series (Sakikkû) and a new edition of its second chapter (tablets 3 to 14). Having handed in and defended my thesis in 2018, I acquired the PhD in 2021 with the publication of the work as the 13th volume of the series “Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchung” (BAM(TU)). Meanwhile, I was employed by the project “Edition of the Omen Series Šumma Alu” (funded by the SNSF) at the University of Geneva from 2020 to 2021 in the last year before the project ended, preparing reconstructions and preliminary editions of tablets 50 to 63 of the extensive terrestrial omen series.

Thus, my main research topics resulting from these activities centre on the systematic conceptualisation of the human being, its body and activities within the erudite fields of Mesopotamian medicine, ritual, and divination—chiefly by working along the divinatory series Sakikkû (prognostic-diagnostic omens and therapeutic entries), Alamdimmû (physiognomic omens and behavioural omens), and Šumma ālu (behavioural omens)—and its interconnectedness with other learned textual genres of Assyro-Babylonian literature.

Within the framework of REPAC, I work on work package 4, which investigates the role of repetition and analogical thinking in first millennium divinatory compositions and associated texts.

Selected publications

  • 2021, ‘Demons, Deputies of the Gods, and How to Get Rid of Them – CTN 4, 72 and Some New Duplicates’ in Le Journal des Médicines Cunéiformes 37, 31–68.
  • 2021, Mesopotamische Diagnostik. Untersuchungen zu Rekonstruktion, Terminologie und Systematik des babylonisch-assyrischen Diagnosehandbuches und eine Neubearbeitung der Tafeln 3–14. Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen 13, Berlin.
  • 2019, ‘The Series Šumma Ea liballiṭka Revisited’ in J.C. Johnson/A. Stavru (eds.): Visualizing the Invisible with the Human Body: Physiognomy and Ekphrasis in the Ancient World. Science, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Cultures 10, Berlin/Boston, 81–118.
  • 2018, ‘Esagil-kīn-apli’s Catalogue of Sakikkû and Alamdimmû’ in U. Steinert (ed.) Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination. Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen 9, Berlin, 137–157.
  • 2018, ‘The Edition of Esagil-kīn-apli’s Catalogue of the Series Sakikkû (SA.GIG) and Alamdimmû’ in U. Steinert (ed.) Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination. Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen 9, Berlin, 313–333.

Dr. Dr. Gioele Zisa

Postdoctoral Researcher WP 4

I have studied Cultural Anthropology, Ethnology, and Folklore Studies at the University of Palermo (BA) and Ancient Near Eastern Archeology and Assyriology at Sapienza University of Rome (MA). I have been doctoral fellow at the highly selective Graduate School Distant Worlds (DFG Excellence Initiative GSC 1039) at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, where in 2018 I obtained a PhD in Assyriology with the edition and anthropological and gender analysis of the Mesopotamian therapies for the recovery of male sexual desire. I published the dissertation under the title “The Loss of Male Sexual Desire in Ancient Mesopotamia. Nīš libbi Therapies” (De Gruyter, 2021). In 2022, I obtained a PhD in Humanities: System dynamics, Cultural Heritage, and Cultural Studies (discipline: Cultural Anthropology) at the University of Palermo, carrying out a ten-month fieldwork in Iran to study Persian oral storytelling arts.

I have conducted research in Germany (Berlin FU, JMU Würzburg), the United Kingdom (British Museum), Italy (VIU Venice, Sapienza Rome), and Iran (University of Tehran). I was Adjunct Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Palermo (AY 2021-22, 2022-23). In 2023, I obtained the Italian National Scientific Habilitation as Associate Professor in Ancient Near Eastern History and Cultures. Through my training, I am experienced in interdisciplinary work, holding expertise in collaborative and methodologically-diverse Near Eastern research, from Cultural Anthropology to Religious and Gender Studies. On the importance of the anthropological approach to the study of Antiquity I co-edited two volumes. My research topics concern Mesopotamian therapeutics, magic, and mythology. In addition, I deal with plant biodiversity in the Ancient Near East, supporting collaboration between philologists, archaeologists, archaebotanists and environmental humanists.

Within the framework of REPAC, I work on work package 3, which investigates the role of repetition and analogical thinking in first millennium Akkadian anti-witchcraft texts.

Selected publications

  • 2023, Conceptual Metaphors and Social Action. Divine Sex as Political-Economic and Gender Paradigm in Ancient Mesopotamia, Aula Orientalis 41/1: 109-131.
  • 2022, Re-giardinieri e Natura selvaggia. Implicazioni politico-simboliche dello sradicamento, taglio e trasporto in città degli alberi nella Mesopotamia del III e II millennio, Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 88/2: 690-718.
  • 2021, The Loss of Male Sexual Desire in Ancient Mesopotamia. Nīš libbi Therapies, Medical Traditions 5, De Gruyter, Boston – Berlin.
  • 2021, Dall’alterità alla città. Regalità, sessualità e agricoltura in Gilgameš, Enkidu e gli Inferi, in C. Ambos, G. Zisa (eds.), Miti, culti, saperi. Per un’antropologia religiosa della Mesopotamia antica, Edizioni Museo Pasqualino, Palermo: 61-98.
  • 2021, Medicina babilonese e antropologia medica. Sull’efficacia delle terapie per il recupero del desiderio sessuale in Mesopotamia, AM. Rivista della Società Italiana di Antropologia Medica 52: 189-221.
  • 2020, ‘In quel giorno, in quella notte, in quell’anno’. Cosmogonie e cosmologie sumeriche e assiro-babilonesi, in I.E. Buttitta, A. La Barbera (eds.), L’uomo e il cosmo nella storia: paradigmi, miti, simboli, Fondazione Buttitta, Palermo: 83-119.
  • 2019, Going, Returning, Rising: The Movement of the Organs in the Mesopotamian Anatomy, Kaskal 16: 453-476.