Simo Parpola
Humanist of the day

Simo Parpola

Simo Parpola is professor emeritus of Assyriology at the University of Helsinki. He is specialised in the ancient Assyrian Empire and has raised its scholarship to a whole new level with his international research projects and studies challenging traditional conceptions within the field. In addition to his academic activities, Professor Parpola has worked for the benefit of oppressed and persecuted modern Assyrians and has participated in the revival of endangered Finno-Ugrian languages in Russian Karelia.

Simo Parpola

Simo Kaarlo Antero Parpola
Born July, 4, 1943, Helsinki

Bachelor of Arts 1963, Master of Arts, 1965, Licentiate 1969 and PhD 1971 (Assyriology), University of Helsinki

Professor extraordinary of Assyriology 1978–2009, University of Helsinki

Senior Epigraphist, Ziyaret Tepe expedition of the University of Akron, 2002–03
Research Fellow 1999, Institute for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Professore contratto 1995, University of Padova
Associate professor with tenure 1977–79, University of Chicago

Docent in Assyriology 1973–76, University of Helsinki

Scholarship for exceptionally talented young scientists 1972–76, University of Helsinki

Research Assistant, 1969–72, Heidelberg University

Research themes

Assyrian language and culture, history, religion, ideology of monarchy, rituals, cuneiform, literature, art, astronomy, medicine and magic, economy, administration, chronology, climate and geography; Jewish mysticism, gnosis; Sumerian language, lexicon and phonology; Indus script; Mesoamerican writing systems

Academic publications

122 academic monographs and articles on Assyrian Language and culture

Awards and special achievements

Honorary member of the American Oriental Society 2001

Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland 2001

The Assyrian American National Federation Award “Non-Assyrian Man of the Year” 2000

University of Helsinki J. V. Snellman Prize 1996

First Class Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland 1993

Finnish Union of Professors’ Professor of the Year 1992

Best Master’s Thesis Award 1965, University of Helsinki

Best Classic Award, Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper 1961

Photo: Juri Ahlfors
Written by Simo Parpola and Olli Siitonen (ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

When Assyria fell in 612 BC, its capital Nineveh was razed to the ground. All of the documents and literature written on papyri, parchments and wax tablets that were kept in the palaces were consumed by a great fire, but tens of thousands of cuneiform texts on clay tablets survived, albeit badly shattered. The State Archives of Assyria project, organised and led by Simo Parpola, has spent the last 30 years putting this enormous jigsaw puzzle together.

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For decades the University of Helsinki was a place where I felt at home, a place of which I could be proud. I had many inspiring teachers, all of whom I respected and admired. I also had good friends. It was a pleasure to counterbalance studying by spending time with them on excursions, in the student nations and at the student association Symposion.

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In the course of my career I have noticed that at least from the perspective of the general public Assyriology is neither a waste of time nor an unnecessary pursuit. People are fascinated by the past, and the information produced by Assyriology, for instance revealing that the Biblical account of the flood was borrowed from Mesopotamia, influences the way we think and sometimes even radically changes it—and it can keep doing that in the future.

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