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Meet the Expert: Willemijn Waal

From January 1st 2020 dr. Willemijn Waal is the new director of LeidenGlobal partner NINO (Netherlands Institute for the Near East). This month also the findings of her research on the origins of the Greek alphabet were published in NRC (in Dutch), which received wide attention. LeidenGlobal is well known to Willemijn, in 2016 she coordinated the course Discipline & Place’ and in 2018 she gave one of multiple LeidenGlobal ‘Heritage on the Move’ lectures at the public library. Enough reason for LeidenGlobal to interview her.

Since 2012, Willemijn Waal is lecturer at Leiden University in the BA programme Ancient Near Eastern Studies and the MA Classics & Ancient Civilizations. She studied classical languages at the University of Amsterdam and in the course of her studies she started to gain an interest in the Near East. She specializes in Late Bronze Age Anatolia (current day Turkey) and has completed her PhD research at Leiden University in 2010, which dealt with cuneiform archives of the Hittite Empire (ca. 1650-1180 BCE). Her current research focuses on the origins and materiality of early writing systems, and the relation between orality and literacy in the ancient world.

The NINO underwent a significant transformation in the last two years and Willemijn looks forward to continuing and expanding the initiatives that have been set up by her predecessor Caroline Waerzeggers, such as the NINO post-doc positions, visiting scholarships, mobility grants and conference subsidies and visiting scholarships. As the main purpose of NINO is to encourage the study of the Near East - she also wants to expand the outreach of the research centre and to strengthen the ties with other affiliated research centres and institutions in the Netherlands. In Leiden, she plans to work together with LeidenGlobal, the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) and the Faculty of Archaeology.

Upcoming NINO activities include the 2nd NINO Annual Meeting: Magic, rituals and cult in the ancient Near East on January 30th in Amsterdam and an exhibition of the NINO photographic collection of Frank Scholten (1881-1942) in the National Museum of Antiquities (April 2020). The photographs that Scholten took during his travels in Palestine are not only of a great artistic value, but also offer unique snapshots of the early archaeology and local communities in the 1920’s.


Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Jemima Sint Nicolaas

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