The Oriental Institute yearly appoints a Postdoctoral Fellow for a twenty-four month (non-renewable) appointment. Postdoctoral Fellows are selected from an international pool of applicants, based on their proposals to organize a two-day conference at the Oriental Institute. The conferences address important theoretical or methodological issues in the field of ancient studies — archaeological, text-based, and/or art historical avenues of research. The Oriental Institute encourages cross-disciplinary proposals that deal with the ancient Near East (including Egypt) or that compare the Near East with other cultural areas. The conferences generally have 12–16 participants, and take place annually in the beginning of March during the first year of the Postdoctoral Fellow’s appointment. Following the conference, the Postdoctoral Fellow assembles and edits the proceedings for publication in the Oriental Institute Seminar series. During the second year of the appointment, the Postdoctoral Fellow will assist in organizing a series of faculty seminars at the Oriental Institute and other activities that build interaction and collaboration within the scholarly community. The Postdoctoral Fellow is expected to pursue his or her own research while in residence and to interact closely with the Oriental Institute community. The Postdoctoral Fellow may also, if he or she wishes, teach a course while in residence if approved by the OI/NELC faculty.

Potential applicants should take into consideration the research interests represented by the Oriental Institute, and are encouraged to review the descriptions and programs of previous successful proposals (see below) when preparing their applications.

Download information about the 2017-2019 Postdoctoral Fellow position at the Oriental Institute

Current Postdoctoral Fellows

ois13-Rost-portrait-web-credit.jpgStephanie Rost (2015-2017 Oriental Institute Postdoctoral Fellow) earned her BA at the Free University of Berlin, her MA at Vienna University, and her PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in May 2015. Her research interests focus on the investigation of early state economies with an emphasis on agricultural systems and political ecology. Her dissertation research was concerned with the technical and social aspects of water management of the late third millennium BC southern Mesopotamia as a means to assess the degree of political centralization in early state societies. Her future research agenda focuses on the reconstruction of the historical geography of late third millennium southern Mesopotamia to build a framework in which the rich data sets of economic documents from this period can be explored to their full potential.

Stephanie Rost was trained primarily as an archaeologist and anthropologist but has a strong background in ancient languages. She adopts the approach of historical archaeology in her research by combining archaeological and textual data. The 2016 Oriental Institute Symposium is a cross-cultural re-assessment of the relationship between irrigation and the formation and functioning of early states.

Ilona Zsolnay (2016-2018 Oriental Institute Postdoctoral Fellow and Penn Museum Consulting Scholar, Babylonian Section) is an Assyriologist (PhD Brandeis University) who specializes in ancient Near Eastern religion(s) and is the author of multiple articles that investigate the intersection of deities, clergy, and the body politic. Zsolnay is also the sole editor of Being a Man: Negotiating Ancient Constructs of Masculinity (Routledge, 2016) and ANE area editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Gender Studies (ed. Julia O'Brien, 2014). In her previous appointment as Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow and Project Manager for the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (, Zsolnay supervised the Penn Museum extension of this vast international project. Managing a workforce of approximately thirty students, she enabled the legible digital imaging of the museum’s 30,000 inscribed tablets and objects. The results of this effort have had a significant impact on the accessibility of inscribed objects to both national and international communities. While holding this appointment, she taught both Advanced and Introductory Akkadian and has served on both the Bilinguals in Late Mesopotamian Scholarship ( and Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period ( projects.

The 2017 symposium “Seen Not Heard: Composition, Iconicity, and the Classifier Systems of Logosyllabic Scripts” developed from an invited lecture Zsolnay gave at the conference The Chinese Writing System and Its Dialogue with Sumerian, Egyptian, and Mesoamerican Writing Systems, Rutgers University, May 30, 2015, and her collaborative article with the late Joan Goodnick-Westenholz, “Categorizing Men and Masculinity in Sumer” (Being a Man). “Seen Not Heard” will be a venue for scholars to investigate the non-linguistic aspects of early writing systems in order to foment investigation of human knowledge categorization as revealed by the classification systems of logosyllabic scripts. Although originally designed with a focus on determinatives, its greater, more wide-ranging purpose is to go beyond speech by investigating the iconicities, pragmatics, and semantics of the earliest writing systems.

2016 Symposium: Irrigation in Early States: New Directions
Held at the Oriental Institute, March 3–4, 2016


Past Postdoctoral Symposia

OIS 2015 Peled poster 2015 — Structures of Power: Law and Gender across the
Ancient Near East and Beyond

Organized by Ilan Peled
March 6–7, 2015
Publication forthcoming
Oriental Institute Seminar 2014 Hoflmeyer poster

2014 — The Early/Middle Bronze Age Transition in the
Ancient Near East: Chronology, C14, and Climate Change

Organized by Felix Höflmayer
March 7–8, 2014

Publication forthcoming
Oriental Institute Seminar 2013 Müller poster 2013 — Household Studies in Complex Societies:
(Micro) Archaeological and Textual Approaches

Organized by Miriam Müller
March 15–16, 2013
ois10-cover-web_0.jpgPurchase or download the published proceedings
Oriental Institute Seminar 2012 Ragavan poster 2012 — Heaven on Earth: Temples, Ritual,
and Cosmic Symbolism in the Ancient World

Organized by Deena Ragavan
March 2–3, 2012

Puchase or download the published proceedings

  Oriental Institute Seminar 2011 May poster 2011 — Iconoclasm and Text Destruction
in the Ancient Near East and Beyond

Organized by Natalie N. May
April 8–9, 2011
Purchase or download the published proceedings
Oriental Institute Seminar 2010 Culbertson poster 2010 — Slaves and Households in the Near East
Organized by Laura Culbertson
March 5–6, 2010
Purchase or download the published proceedings
Oriental Institute Seminar 2009 Annus poster 2009 — Science and Superstition:
Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World

Organized by Amar Annus
March 6–7, 2009
Purchase or download the published proceedings
Oriental Institute Seminar 2008 Szuchman poster 2008 — Nomads, Tribes, and the State
in the Ancient Near East: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

Organized by Jeffrey Szuchman
March 7–8, 2008
Purchase or download the published proceedings
Oriental Institute Seminar 2007 Brisch poster 2007 — Religion and Power:
Divine Kingship in the Ancient World and Beyond

Organized by Nicole Brisch
February 23–24, 2007
Purchase or download the published proceedings
  2006 — Performing Death: Social Analyses
of Funerary Traditions In The Ancient Mediterranean

Organized by Nicola Laneri
Purchase or download the published proceedings
  2005 — Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures:
Unofficial Writing in the Ancient Near East and Beyond

Organized by Seth L. Sanders
Purchase or download the published proceedings