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Congratulations to our Founder and Director on receiving his Doctorate!

SASA is delighted to announce that our founder and director, David Danzig, has successfully defended his Doctoral Thesis and will be receiving his PhD.

Dr. Danzig studied for his MA in Assyriology at Yale University, with his thesis focusing on the production of literary works through a cycle of exegesis, as seen in the interplay between the Mesoptamian mythological text Enuma Elish and its final section, the explication of Marduk’s 50 Names. For more information on David's research, follow the link here to see his page. Following this, David studied at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), at New York University, in New York City. ISAW has a focus on interdisciplinary scholarship that spans Gibraltar to Japan, from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity. ISAW was a great opportunity for David, as it provided the perfect academic environment to support his expansive view of the ancient world. His research approach, wherein he incorporated strands of evidence from a broad purview and any possible sources, was welcomed and encouraged with their support. ISAW was a fantastic opportunity, as it housed both a doctoral program and research institute, allowing for a mix of scholars at all levels, creating countless possibilities for research across disciplines.

His studies have focused on Ancient Near Eastern Literature and History, which attracted him to his doctoral topic - the exploration of immigration history and identity development in the 6th and 5th century BCE Babylonia. People from numerous areas migrated or were forced to migrate to Babylonia at this time. These events have a prescient mirror to the modern day, in the migration events that are ongoing in Ukraine, and over the last decade in Central America and the Middle East. He worked on this topic out of his interest in understanding how cultures, communities, and individuals interact and change in situations of close contact, a theme that is just as poignant today as it was in ancient times.

David is aiming to publish his first book, stemming from his dissertation research, that builds to two new theories of interpretation of social phenomena in the Ancient Near East. The first is a reappraisal of the mass transplantation of populations by the 1st millennium BCE ancient Near Eastern empires, and the outcome of their resettlement on a network of large estates of high imperial officials. It also develops an understanding of Babylonian society at this time as consisting of three key strata - an agrarian peasantry, a rural local elite, and the urbanite elite. In addition, he traces a number of long term identity developments of four immigrant groups and connects these identities to their immigration histories into the region.

David also runs and oversees the Shanati Project. This project aims to recreate the ancient Babylonian chronology from the 1st millennium BCE with day-level granularity, from ancient cuneiform sources, in an accessible format for the modern day. Running in collaboration with a range of excellent scholars in the field of the History of Science in Ancient Babylonia, this project is supported by a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that he wrote. This project also works toward David’s goals of bringing Ancient Studies to the general public, as it will tightly connect the ancient Babylonian calendar with our modern western calendar and will create a free embeddable date conversion widget for chronology nerds everywhere.

From the outset, David aspired to incorporate three key facets of development into his professional academic role - research, teaching, and outreach. He firmly believes that this approach is a necessary change and forms the foundations of the future of Ancient Studies - a field ripe for a course-correction.

Dr. Danzig has research interests in ancient immigration, ethnic identity, and social history in the past - a broad range of passions that stem from his life experience. His view is that studying these ancient phenomena offer a way of “contributing to a better world in which people learn how to understand and accept differences without fear”.

Our Director, David, with his family.

These interests brought David to Ancient Studies, as he finds that the nature of Ancient Studies as a subject within the Humanities is a fantastic vehicle for education regarding social cultural differences. Moreover, he is dedicated to ensuring that that is the focus of Ancient Studies education moving forward, and continuing what he believes is its current path.

Taking a positive attitude to making change in the world has helped David to bring people together from all walks of life and in many guises, such as Save Ancient Studies Alliance. This organization is the distillation of David’s motivation to take proactive steps in supporting and empowering himself and others to make the change necessary to bring people together.

David has found this empowerment he seeks to give to others in teaching, in a process he describes as “multi-dimensional”. The nature of guiding students to learn, offering them insight into career development, and exploring aspects of personal growth can be a rich and rewarding experience for an educator such as David, and create a two-way street of development for the involved groups. To this end, David has also cited his experience with SASA and leading the interns and volunteers there as simultaneously mentor-based and collaborative, further supporting his ability to teach, lead, and educate.

David’s vision for SASA began to come to life in March 2020, and he has led its project development and day-to-day operations ever since.

David’s work with SASA has emphasized his vision for Ancient Studies as a rising star within the Humanities, reversing the Downward Trend of engagement to encourage continual new developments within the field from fresh perspectives. To this end, David has guided SASA to work to reduce barriers to entry and widen accessibility to the subject through a range of initiatives that have made Ancient Studies accessible to those with a non-traditional background or approach to scholarship. David founded SASA with the recognition that there is no one-size fits all approach to studying the past and the inclusion of scholarship and ideas from across the spectrum is the best way to encourage greater engagement and a connection to the past that ensures it maintains relevance today. Founding SASA drew on David’s experience in nonprofit organizations and the attitude and organizational ability to bring people together toward a common goal that he attributes to his mother.

David has also endeavored to give SASA the direction to connect students across all ages and backgrounds and equip them with the necessary tools to develop their skills and support their prospects for future entry to higher education in the context of Ancient Studies. His work has also helped provide opportunities for individuals of all ages who traditionally do not have access to institutional resources to participate in their academic development and gain exposure for their own research. The removal of barriers to access and widening engagement has been a part of David’s mission for creating a community for Ancient Studies scholarship as a calling that transcends occupation.

David has described his time developing SASA and working with our teams with tremendous positivity. He has described the organization “as a group of incredible volunteers” who he sees as good friends, and referred to the journey of SASA as “an amazing ride, one that I never could have seen for myself”. With his help, he is hopeful that SASA can continue to work together toward a “thriving, healthy future of Ancient Studies” - a goal that he calls “tremendously fulfilling”.

We at SASA would like to be the first to congratulate David for his achievement and wish him all the best for the future as he makes his next steps into academia.


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