Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

University of California, Berkeley


Instruction in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures covers a wide range of textual and material sources from the Middle East, understood broadly, ranging from antiquity to modernity. Languages taught in the department include the following. Ancient: Ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic), Sumerian, Akkadian, Eblaite, Ugaritic, Aramaic (biblical, Babylonian, imperial, Syriac), Hebrew (biblical, inscriptional), Avestan, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Parthian, Bactrian, Sogdian. Medieval to Modern: Classical Arabic, Classical Persian, Modern Standard Arabic, spoken dialectal Arabic, modern Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish.

The department's courses may also serve to enhance programs in related fields such as anthropology, linguistics, history of art, history, political science, comparative literature, and folklore. Lecture courses offered by the department present a comprehensive body of information on past (Near Eastern) and present (Middle Eastern) civilizations. Many of the courses taught in the department are restricted to a small number of students and thus afford an opportunity for close interaction with the instructing staff.

Cooperative arrangements between the University and the nearby Graduate Theological Union (GTU) enable students in the Department to use the extensive library holdings of the GTU and to supplement their programs with additional courses in Syro-Palestinian archaeology, Biblical studies, and Semitic epigraphy and philology.


The four MELC library spaces play an essential role in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, and are indispensable for student research. The libraries house reference materials and function as reading and seminar rooms for students and faculty. All MELC libraries are non-circulating. For details on the Department libraries, see melc.berkeley.edu/libraries.

The Islamic Studies Library contains references and other materials relating to Islamic Studies and Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages and literatures, and incorporates the Mahjoub Persian Library. The Hebrew/Semitics library includes reference volumes and other works relating to the fields of Comparative Semitics, and Hebrew and Judaic studies. Access—apart from seminar classes—is generally limited to graduate students in the Department. The Cuneiform Seminar Room is a library that provides a wide range of reference works, text editions, and primary sources for the study of the Ancient Near East, including Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, Archaeology, and Art History.

The Baer-Keller Library of Egyptology is a large collection of Egyptological volumes maintained by the MELC Department primarily for the use of UC Berkeley students and faculty pursuing serious study of Egyptology. Egyptology students and professionals from other institutions are also welcome to use the collection on a temporary basis; interested individuals should apply to the MELC  Department for access. The core of the library collection comes from bequests to the Department by Professors Klaus Baer (1987) and Cathleen (Candy) Keller (2008). Professor Baer was an Associate Professor of Egyptology and History at UC Berkeley before becoming a Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Professor Keller was an Associate Professor of Egyptology at UC Berkeley for many years.


The Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology has extensive holdings of ancient artifacts, including Classical material, cuneiform tablets, and an ancient Egyptian collection of more than 17,000 objects.

The Tebtunis Papyri consist of the papyrus documents that were found in the winter of 1899/1900 at the site of ancient Tebtunis, Egypt. The expedition to Tebtunis, led by the British archaeologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, was financed for the University of California by Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst. The Tebtunis Papyri is the largest collection of papyrus documents from a single site in the United States. Although the collection has never been counted and inventoried completely, the number of fragments contained in it exceeds 21,000.

The department's Cuneiform  Seminar Room houses two Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (ORACC) projects: the Digital Corpus of Cuneiform Lexical Texts (DCCLT) under the directorship of Niek Veldhuis and Hellenistic Babylonian Texts Images and Names (HBTIN) directed by Laurie Pearce. Dr. Pearce also heads another digital database project, the Berkeley Prosopography Service (BPS).

Other helpful resources can be found on the MELC research page and those linked to our affiliated programs

Colloquia, Seminars, and Lectures

The MELC Brown Bag Talks are a series of informal papers presented at noon in 254 Social Sciences Building. Visit our News and Events page for more information: melc.berkeley.edu/news-events.

Undergraduate Programs

Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures: BA (with a specialization in Languages and Literature, or Middle Eastern Worlds.)

Arabic: Minor
Hebrew: Minor
Persian: Minor
Turkish: Minor

Graduate Programs

Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures: PhD, MA (with concentrations in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian language and literatures, Middle Eastern Art and Archaeology, Cuneiform Studies, Egyptology, Ancient Iranian Studies, and Islamic Studies.)

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Related Courses

Contact Information

Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

250 Social Sciences Building

Phone: 510-642-3757

Fax: 510-643-8430


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Graduate Adviser (Cuneiform Studies, Egyptology, Middle Eastern Archaeology)

Niek Veldhuis

280 Social Sciences


Graduate Adviser (Arabic, Hebrew, Islamic Studies, Persian)

Asad Q. Ahmed

272 Social Sciences


Graduate Student Services Adviser

Deanna Kiser-Go

250B Social Sciences

Phone: 510-642-4915


Undergraduate Student Services Adviser

Rania Shah

250A Social Sciences

Phone: 510-642-3758


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