David Kertai
  • d.kertai@ucl.ac.uk
  • Direct: +44 (0)20 7679 4790
  • Internal: 24790
  • Room 411
  • UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY UK

David Kertai

  • BA, MSc, MPhil, PhD
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate

Research Interests

  • Late Assyrian Architecture and Archaeology 
  • Cultural Formation of Empires

Current Research Project

Becoming an Empire. The Role of the “West” in the Cultural Formation and Transformation of Assyria

This project, funded by an NWO Rubicon award, will analyse the influences from the region west of Assyria (modern-day Syria and Turkey) on the formation of an Assyrian culture of empire (14th – 7th centuries BC). It looks at the entire history of Assyria, bridging the artificial divide between the Late Bronze and Iron Age kingdoms and traces the consistencies and changes throughout Assyria’s history.

The study fills a hiatus in our understanding of the cultural formation of empires. The current debate focuses on the periphery, which is nowadays understood as culturally dynamic, but assumes a pre-existing culture of empire. This project will invert the common focus on the periphery in order to highlight the dynamism and agency that went into the formation of empires. It reassesses the nature of Assyrian culture and the processes that shaped it.

The project will concentrate on three related elite contexts: palatial architecture, elite burials and curated collections. An analysis of these contexts will result in a more precise methodological and conceptual framework for studying the Assyrian Empire. This more nuanced and dynamic reconstruction of Assyria’s culture and history will offer a new tool for understanding the cultural formation of empires.

Educational Background

  • 2008 –2011 PhD in the Archaeology of the Near East. University of Heidelberg, Germany Graduate School “Räume, Bilder, Lebensformen in antiken Kulturen”
    The Architecture of Kingship: Palatial Spaces and Communities of the Late Assyrian Period (dissertation title)
  • 2006 – 2008 MPhil in the Archaeology of the Near East, University of Leiden, the Netherlands
    Organising the interaction between people: a new look at the elite houses of the Mittanni and Middle-Assyrian periods (thesis title)
  • 2003 – 2006: BA in Ancient History (Specialisation in the languages and cultures of the Near East), Free University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 1996 – 2003: MSc in Architecture, Technical University, Delft, the Netherlands

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