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The Yale Initiative for the Study
of Antiquity and the Premodern world

YISAP is a collaborative forum that brings together one of the largest groups of scholars in the world working on early civilizations. Scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences join with those working in the Yale Divinity School, the Yale Law School, the collections and the university libraries. While admiring and encouraging traditional modes of work and traditional fields of scholarship, we build a new inter- and multi-disciplinary framework that redefines old disciplinary boundaries.

Very few programs anywhere bring together around the table in sustained dialogue literary scholars and archaeologists, art historians and cuneiformists, legal historians and anthropologists, papyrologists and numismatists. Via description, analysis, and comparison the YISAP collaboration allows for broader exposure to new ideas and methods that will stimulate new research agendas across disciplines encompassing the whole of the premodern world. We aim to enhance an already world class graduate education by exposing students early in their careers to a wider intellectual world, and to understand in new ways the value of antiquity, from the Mediterranean to Japan, and its rich cultural heritage for our own world.

Multi-disciplinary Resources

Yale has unmatched material resources in its libraries and its collections. We list below a few of those most closely associated with YISAP, that will serve students as places of discovery and collaboration.

The YISAP library guide. The Yale University Library system provides unparalleled resources for the study of the ancient and premodern worlds all over the globe. In addition to comprehensive collections of secondary scholarship, Library collections include primary-source material ranging from cuneiform tablets to medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and early printed books. Several library departments curate such collections and can provide guidance for their access and use. Contact the YISAP library liaison, Colin McCaffrey.

The Center for Historical Enquiry & the Social Sciences (CHESS) concerns itself with the interplay between history and the present, in the belief that its work will lead to fresh solutions to seemingly intractable contemporary problems. Because the historical dimension of social life is seldom fully understood — and therefore not adequately addressed — significant theoretical developments have too often been foreclosed. We aim to change that. By forging analytical tools to systematically examine the historical constraints and possibilities confronting social actors, the Center expects to contribute to a fuller understanding of the range of possibilities for action inscribed in past and present.

Coins and medals (Yale University Art Gallery) Yale’s collection of coins and medals is among the University’s oldest, dating to the early years of the nineteenth century. By 1863 the holdings numbered some 3,000 items; two decades later the Greek and Roman portions alone totaled over 3, 200. The collection now comprises approximately 100,000 pieces and is by far the largest assemblage at any American university.

The Council on Archaeolgical Studies at Yale The interdepartmental Council on Archaeological Studies is composed of faculty from a broad range of disciplines, including Anthropology, Classics, Geology and Geophysics, and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.The council aims to give students a solid background in both practical and theoretical aspects of the field of archaeology.

GIS at Yale University GIS is used for many purposes that range from calculating space, analyzing spatial relationships, patterns or trends, to cartography, visualization, and site management. The Yale University Library Map Department GIS Service provides a comprehensive service that covers geospatial data searching, acquisition, data manipulation, instruction, software access, distribution, and output.

The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, established by a transformational gift from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin ’78, is dedicated to improving the science and practice of art conservation around the world through the use of digital and other technologies. Among other things, the Institute works closely with Yale’s Digital Collections Center to sponsor and facilitate research.

Judaica Yale has a long and rich tradition in the study of Jewish religion, history, and thought dating back to Yale's founding, when Hebrew language was a required course of study. Now, with an undergraduate major in Judaic Studies, and a graduate program training future academic leaders, the study of Jewish life and thought is thoroughly integrated into the University's offerings in the Humanities.

Peabody Museum Yale University’s earliest museum collection, begun in the 18th century, was a miscellaneous assortment of “natural and artificial curiosities” from around the world typical of college collections of the time. The Peabody acquired its first collection of Egyptian antiquities in 1888. Since then the collection has grown considerably, until these holdings in the Division of Anthropology are among the oldest and most extensive of university collections of Egyptian artifacts in the United States. The Anthropology collections and Archives will be of particular interest to YISAP scholars.

University Art Gallery Yale’s art from the premodern world comprises over 13,000 objects from the Near East, Egypt, Greece, Etruria, and Rome that range in date from the Neolithic through the early Byzantine periods. With approximately 6,500 objects, the Gallery’s Department of Asian art encompasses the regions of East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan), continental Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Islamic-era Near East, while the Gallery holds thousands more objects representing Ancient American and Indo-Pacific cultures.

Yale Babylonian Collection Founded in 1909 by a gift from J. Pierpont Morgan, the Yale Babylonian Collection is the largest collection of documents, seals, and other artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia in the United States, and one of the leading collections of cuneiform tablets in the world.

Yale Egyptological Institute Under the aegis of the Yale Egyptological Institute in Egypt, funded by the William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Endowment for Egyptology, Yale currently has three archaeological projects in Egypt. The concession of the Theban Desert Road Survey (TDRS)/Yale Toshka Desert Survey (YTDS) encompasses much of the desert region between the northern edge of the Qena Bend, extending west to Kharga Oasis and south to Dunqul Oasis and the region of Aniba.

Yale Monastic Archaeology Project (YMAP) The project is organized under the executive direction of Stephen J. Davis. YMAP currently sponsors work at two centers of early Christian monasticism: the White Monastery near the town of Sohag, and the Monastery of St. John the Little in the Wadi al-Natrun. The White Monastery project involves excavation and analysis of monastic remains; restoration and conservation of wall paintings; and architectural documentation of the main church, led by Bentley Layton. The Wadi al-Natrun project has conducted excavations of a monastic midden and a large mud-brick residence, as well as archaeological surveys of almost one hundred other structures, including a central church.

The Yale Papyrus Collection at the Beinecke The Yale Papyrus Collection has formed gradually over the years since 1889, when it was founded. Many of the acquisitions consisted of unsorted fragments of manuscripts, and almost every item was in need of considerable conservation work.

Steering Committee (2013–16)

Graduate Coordinators

  • Email
  • Christina S. Kraus (Classics/Renaissance Studies)
  • Hindy Najman, Associate Coordinator (Judaic Studies/Religious Studies)

Contact Information

  • Yale Initiative for the Study of Antiquity and the Premodern World (YISAP)
  • 401 Phelps Hall
  • 344 College Street
  • New Haven, CT 06520