Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Our understanding of the ancient world is immeasurably enriched when we can read the very words ancient people used to communicate with each other, and now with us. This unit brings the written sources of the ancient world to life by introducing students to a selection of Ancient Near Eastern languages. Students will study the fascinating emergence of some of the world’s oldest writing systems and apply their developing linguistic knowledge to the interpretation of written texts unearthed by archaeologists. Students will be introduced to languages including Sumerian, Old/Middle/Late Egyptian, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. The aim of this unit is to give students of archaeology and related disciplines the opportunity to develop a practical and theoretical framework for engaging with ancient written communication.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Recognise, recall and document the scripts and grammatical structures of the prescribed languages (GA4)

LO2 - Draw on a memorised vocabulary of c.200 items in the selected languages to translate short texts from archaeological artefacts (GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Bring together linguistic knowledge, familiarity with research tools and engagement with secondary sources to reflect on the significance of ancient language to the study of ancient cultures (GA4, GA5, GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Introduction and classifications of ancient languages
  • Writing systems
  • The language of grammar
  • Undeciphered languages and unanswered questions
  • Sound patterns, word formation and sentence construction (phonology, morphology, syntax) in a selection of ancient languages, including:
  • Sumerian
  • Old/Middle/Late Egyptian
  • Akkadian
  • Ugaritic
  • Hebrew
  • Phoenician
  • Aramaic
  • Hittite
  • Greek and Dialects
  • Latin
  • Future research on ancient languages and its use in archaeology 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 12.5 hours per week for 12 weeks. The total includes interactive activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation and submission of tasks for assessment. The unit is normally offered in attendance mode. Students learn through structured and sequenced learning activities that support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Students are asked to critically reflect, analyse, and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections, and then apply what they have learned. Collaborative and peer learning are also emphasised. This unit emphasises students as active, adult learners. Students are recognised as adult learners who engage best when what they are learning is relevant to them and gives them the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning. In many ways, the student is the one who drives the learning forward. Active participation in this unit is essential. Learning is designed to be an engaging and supportive experience, which helps students to develop critical thinking and reflection skills. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to progressively demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome. The first assessment task aims to embed and test knowledge of basic grammar and syntax. Quizzes are staged to enable students to chart progress and embed knowledge required for translation-focused assessments 2 and 3. The second assessment applies developing knowledge to specific technical ability in translation at a level appropriate for beginning students (including the application of principles of grammar and syntax). Translation exercises are drawn from archaeological material from the relevant period. The third assessment task places stronger weight on translation ability and seeks to develop confidence through the opportunity to integrate the knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and lexical resources and research tools to articulate the significance of the prescribed ancient languages for the study of ancient cultures.


Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Quiz on morphology, grammar, syntax

Students to demonstrate familiarity with the script, language, and relevant grammatical structures.




Assessment Task 2: Artefact Transcription and Translation

Students to analyse, transcribe, and translate a range of archaeological objects in the prescribed languages.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Assessment Task 3: Integration and Analysis

Students to demonstrate applied linguistic knowledge in an 800-word critical analysis. Focus is on how the knowledge of a specific ancient language, preserved in specific archaeological artefacts, informs our understanding of aspects of ancient societal norms, values, beliefs or structures in ancient culture. Students are to choose one language (Sumerian; Old/Middle/Late Egyptian; Akkadian; Ugaritic; Hebrew; Phoenician; Aramaic; Hittite; Greek or Latin) that informs one (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Levantine, Greek, or Roman) culture. Nb. the geographical origin of the language chosen does not necessarily have to correspond to the geographical origin of the culture (e.g. social insights from the Greek language into Roman culture; religious insights from Egyptian language into Hebrew culture, etc.) 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Allen, James P. The Ancient Egyptian Language an Historical Study Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Bordreuil, Pierre., and Dennis. Pardee. A Manual of Ugaritic. [English ed.]. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

Edzard, Dietz Otto. Sumerian Grammar. Leiden: Brill, 2003.

Hoffner, Harry A., and H. Craig Melchert. A Grammar of the Hittite Language. Part 1, Reference Grammar. Winona Lake, Ind: Eisenbrauns, 2008.

Holmstedt, Robert D., Brian Peckham, and Aaron. Schade. Linguistics Studies in Phoenician in Memory of J. Brian Peckham Winona Lake, Ind: Eisenbrauns, 2013.

Lambdin, T. Introduction to Biblical Hebrew. New York: Scribners, 1971.

Miller, Douglas B., and Shipp, R. Mark. An Akkadian Handbook: Helps, Paradigms, Glossary, Logograms, and Sign List. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014.

Smyth, H. Greek Grammar. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956.

Weninger, Stefan., Geoffrey. Khan, Michael P. Streck, and Janet C. E. Watson. Semitic Languages an International Handbook Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2012.

Woodard, Roger D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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