Presidential Lecture Series
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Stefan Maul
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Stefan Maul Portrait

In spite of his young age, Professor Maul is internationally reckoned among the leading assyriologists. In 1997, he was awarded the most prestigious scientific prize in Germany, the G. W. Leibniz Prize, allowing him to spend about one million dollars on a scientific project during the next five years.

The problem with Assyriology and Assyriologists is that this is a discipline which is literally drowning in material. Many hundreds of thousands of cuneiform tablets are buried in museums and nobody knows how many are still buried in Mesopotamian soil. Moreover, Assyriology does not only deal with Assyria but with the whole extension of Cuneiform culture from Anatolia to the Indus valley, and not exclusively with written tablets but with all kinds of archaeological remains. It is a huge field cultivated by very few people. Therefore, Assyriologists are usually reluctant to venture into more general statements concerning larger contexts, long term developments, comprehensive structures and refrain from sharing their findings with a larger interdisciplinary public. Stefan Maul is the one exception. He is a specialist and a generalist, he deals with many thousands of tablets and fragments, but he also has a vision of Assyrian culture. He is internationally renowned as a specialist in his discipline but he is also to be seen in interdisciplinary symposia where he represents Mesopotamian civilization in a comprehensive way and in a great variety of aspects.

Professor Maul's main area of research is Mesopotamian religion in the 1st millenium B.C. His dissertation deals with a genre of (Late-)Sumerian cult lyric in "Emesal", the female dialect used for lyrical recitation in Babylonian rituals, of which he presented a ground-breaking collection, edition, translation and commentary. He also coined a term for this genre which in German reads "Herzberuhigungsklagen", a beautiful term which is now generally used in German Assyriology ("Herzberuhigungsklagen": die sumerisch-akkadischen Ersahunga-Bebete. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1988). This publication combines excellent innovative scholarship of the highest level with a very dear style and structure, a rare combination which is typical of all of Stefan Maul's publications. As this work relates to the practice of the "kalûtu" or lamentation priests reciting in Emesal, his "habilitation" thesis deals with the practice of the "ashipu" or divination priests reciting in Akkadian. Again, he coined a German term for this particular field of ritual practice which he calls "Zukunftsbewältigung" (Zukunftsbewaltigung: Eine Untersuchung altorientalischen Denkens anhand der babylonish-assyrischen Loserituale (Namburbi). Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern, 1994. Baghdader Forschungen; Bd. 18). It is a pity that both these German terms do not translate into English without losing their poignant precision that has won them general acceptance in Germany. In this great and equally ground-breaking publication, Stefan Maul deals with rituals designed to avert misfortunes and reconstructs in a most convincing way the Assyrian construction of and relation to time.

There are hardly any among the Assyriologists of the younger generation who can compare with Stefan Maul as to the diversity of his areas of competence. He published a monograph on the royal inscriptions of Tel Bderi, a genre significantly different from the cultic recitations studied so far. He was also the first one to discover the relationship of these inscriptions to the kingdom of Mari. His particular expertise with the philology, epigraphy and history of Mari dates back to a period which Maul spent as a visiting professor at Paris, the center of Mari studies. Besides preparing his lectures on Mesopotamian religion, he was able to participate in the activities of the research group on Mari and to acquire an in-depth and fuIl-fledged competence as a Mari scholar.

The Leibniz project is dedicated to a comprehensive documentation of Assur, the capital of the Assyrian empire, in terms of the urban construction of sacred space, the organization of priesthood, the structure of the pantheon, the localization and architecture of the various temples, shrines, processional roads, festive constructions etc., in an "ensemble" approach as it is nowadays developing in some places in the USA (especially Princeton) for the study of precolumbian culture. The project is based on a very important and innovative method of combining philological and archaeological data. A more specific project within this larger context concerns the reconstruction of the library of a divination priest containing texts from virtually all of the genres of Assyrian literature.

Almost all of Stefan Maul's publications, including books and many articles, are based on original discoveries and first-hand material leading to new insights and a new understanding of meaning and context. His is a very particular gift for marshalling a host of details in establishing large and fascinating panoramas of synthesis. Stefan Maul is as innovative as he is successful in integrating his Assyriological findings and visions into general issues of modern intellectual discourse.

Professor Doktor Jan Assmann
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Stefan Maul pages edited by: Peter Blank (Art and Architecture Library) and John Mustain (Special Collections).

Editors' note: We would like to thank Prof. Dr. Assmann for his generous contribution to the Stefan Maul Web site.


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