The Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project (Melammu) investigates the continuity, transformation and diffusion of Mesopotamian culture throughout the ancient world from the second millennium BC until Islamic times. A central objective of the project is to create an electronic database collecting the relevant textual, art-historical, archaeological, ethnographic and linguistic evidence and making it easily accessible on the Internet. In addition, the project organizes annual symposia focusing on different aspects of cultural continuity and evolution in the ancient world.
Each symposium of the Melammu Project has a central theme, selected by the members of the Project at the previous symposium. The purpose of the Melammu Symposia is to promote interdisciplinary research and cross-cultural studies by providing a forum in which cultural continuity, diffusion and transformation in the ancient world can be assessed systematically on a long-term basis. The emphasis is on continued interchange of ideas between specialists in different disciplines, with the goal of gradually but steadily increasing the number of participants and thus breaking down the walls separating the individual disciplines. Although each symposium focuses on a different theme, since the primary purpose of the symposia is to encourage interdisciplinary cooperation per se, papers not necessarily related to a specific theme but contributing to the overall scope of the project are welcome at every meeting.
There are two principal types of entries in the database. The first consists of citation from ancient texts. These entries are primary sources and consist of the ancient author's comments. Such entries have a "source" line which points to the ancient text and the Text-field contains a translation of the ancient source. There may be bibliographical citations as well if the passage has been discussed or commented on by other scholars. Wherever possible, there will be a hypertext link to the actual text of the ancient source.
The second type of entry consists of modern comparisons between features or phenomena in the ancient world that may show the effects of cultural contact or cultural diffusion. Entries of this type generally have a "bibliography" line that points to the scholarly assessment of this connection rather than a "source" line. However, if ancient sources are important for this connection, there may be a "source" line as well, sometimes including longer quotations, as in the first type. The Text-field will contain an outline of the argument connecting the features or phenomena.
The spread of the concept of "divine radiance" can be traced by observing the diffusion and transformations of the relevant iconographic motif. The logo of Melammu is taken from an Achaemenid seal discovered on the northeast coast of the Black Sea and represents the goddess Anahita, mounted on a lion and surrounded by the divine radiance, appearing to a Persian king. The details of the king's and the goddess's dress and crown are Persian, but in all other respects the seal is a faithful reproduction of centuries older Assyrian seals depicting appearances of the goddess Ishtar to members of the imperial ruling class. It thus illustrates not only the adoption of the Mesopotamian concept of "divine radiance" by the Persians, but also the assimilation of an important Iranian deity to a Mesopotamian one with the concomitant adoption of a whole system of religious beliefs, cultic practices, ideological doctrines, and artistic conventions. The fact that the seal was found outside the area controlled by the Assyrian Empire and possibly carved by a Greek artist, illustrates the dynamic diffusion of these ideas (through imperial propaganda) across geographical and cultural boundaries.
The radiance emitted by the goddess symbolizes to the Project the powerful impact of Mesopotamian culture on the surrounding world and later cultures, while the king symbolizes the crucial role of imperial courts in the preservation, transformation and diffusion of this cultural heritage.