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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

No use for Assyriology?

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.

I have given presentations that were attended by more than a thousand people at the Louvre, Bagdad, and Helsinki. The exhibition “Nineveh 612 BC,” which I organised at Heureka Science Centre in 1995, was one of the most successful exhibitions it has ever hosted, with over 80000 visitors. The presentation series “Studia exotica—The Lost Cultures,” organised at the University of Helsinki in 1997, was also extremely popular. A ten-part series based on interviews I gave is available on the website of the Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, under the title “Periods of the Ancient Assyrian Power” (Finnish only), and it recommended by 197 fans on Facebook. The International Congress of Assyriology held in Helsinki in 2001 was attended by almost 300 researchers from all around the world. Enkidu beer was also unveiled at the congress, which is brewed according to a Sumerian recipe. It is worth noting that the drink brought me an award in Finland for my contribution to beer culture. My translation of Blue Suede Shoes into Sumerian, which was performed by Doctor Ammondt, also received international attention.

The Enkidu beer label unveiled at the Congress of Assyriology in 2001.

My research on Assyria has a direct impact on the over 3 million Assyrians alive today, most of whom are living in diaspora outside their homeland. These people, who have been oppressed and persecuted for millennia—it is estimated that half a million Assyrians died in the genocide of the First World War alone—have a lineage that could have only been conclusively traced to the ancient Assyrians with the State Archives of Assyria project, and my own research has had enormous significance for Assyrian identity. I have spoken on behalf of the Assyrians in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and at several events in the United States, continental Europe, Sweden and Finland.

Simo Parpola giving a presentation at the annual party of the Finland-Assyria Society in 2009. Photo from the Finland-Assyria Society.

Another language group that I have attempted to give concrete help to is the Ludian people, our relatives in the Republic of Karelia. In 2006, when I was the chairman of the Ludian Society, the support of the Finnish Cultural Foundation enabled me to establish a multiyear revival programme for the Ludic language. The programme has shown good results and now continues with the support of the Kone Foundation.

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