Dr. Vitali Bartash 

University of Bonn
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Niebuhrstraße 5
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 / (0)228 / 73


Current Position

Postdoctoral researcher, Bonn Centre for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn. Research project “Labour Mobility and Dependency in the Early Mesopotamian Complex States”.


Vitali Bartash explores the mobility of slave, tributary and hired labour in the earliest trans-regional states in the Near East, the Akkadian and Ur III “empires” (24-21 centuries BCE). The traditional approach based on a doubtful axiom “mobility=freedom” ignored the mobility of these workers due to their legal and socioeconomic dependency vis-à-vis their masters, temple and palace organizations and the state. However, Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform archives tell the opposite – these labourers were on the move because they were dependent. The project’s hypothesis assumes that the emergence and sustenance of a state encompassing “the four corners of the world” caused a dramatic labour shortage. Local and central authorities required immense human resources to build new settlements, palaces, temples and fortifications, expand irrigation and transport networks, and produce lucrative export goods. Vitali Bartash investigates three strategies the authorities implemented to tackle this problem: a) the forced “import” of slaves, prisoners-or-war and deportees, b) the transfer of free citizens bound by tributary obligations and c) the hire of workers of varied legal and socio-economic standing. The goal is to find out how the workers’ status, age, gender and origin were correlated with their work and their mobility, and how all this contributed to what scholars call complexity.

3 books, 15 academic papers and 5 reviews. 20 invited lectures and presentations.


  • 2010–2013                 Ph.D. in Assyriology, University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany
  • 2008–2009                 Studies of Assyriology, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • 2002–2007                 Diploma Studies in History (specialization in Ancient and Medieval History), Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus 

Academic Positions

  • 2011–2020                 Postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Chair of Comparative European Economic and Social History, European University Viadrina, Germany
  • 2020                             DFG Visiting Researcher, University of California Berkeley, Department of Near Eastern Studies. Research project “Kinship in Sumer”
  • 2016–2019                 Researcher in the individual DFG research project “Between protection and exploitation: Children in temple and palace households as a socioeconomic
                                          phenomenon in Early Southern Mesopotamia (3200-2000 BC)”, University  of Munich, Germany
  • 2014–2016                 Parental leave; residence in Washington DC, Helsinki and Vienna
  • 2013–2014                 Postdoctoral fellow, DFG Research Training Group “Value and Equivalence. The genesis and transformation of values from an archaeological and anthropological
                                          perspective” (GRK 1576), University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany
  • 2013                             Research assistant, University of Göttingen, Department of Assyriology.
  • 2010–2013                 Ph.D. scholarship in DFG Research Training Group “Value and equivalence”, University of Frankfurt/Main. Pd.D. project “Establishing Value: A Historical Study
                                          of Weighing in Early Mesopotamia”
  • 2009                            Teaching assistant, University of Göttingen, Department of Assyriology
  • 2008–2009                DAAD Visiting Scholar, University of Göttingen, Department of Assyriology. Research project “The Babylonian epic of creation Enūma eliš in its historical context”

Participation in Academic Centres and Collaborative Projekts

  • 2010–2014                 Member of the DFG Research Training Group “Value and Equivalence. The genesis and transformation of values from an archaeological and anthropological
                                          perspective” (GRK 1576), University of Frankfurt/Main.

Additional Academic Activities

  • 2009–2015               Studied ca. 5000 original cuneiform tablets in the collections of the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, Cornell  University, Yale University and the Schøyen
                                        Collection in Norway
  • 2009–2018               Taught seven courses in culture and languages of the ancient Near East at the Universities of Göttingen, Frankfurt/Main, Munich and Cambridge                          

Third-Party Funding

  • German Research Foundation (DFG), Visiting Scholarship (2020-2021), University of California Berkeley
  • German Research Foundation (DFG), Individual research grant (2016-2019), University of Munich
  • German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), research fellowship (2008-2009), University of Göttingen

Total sum of approximately 0,4 million euros

Selected Publications

  • The Early Dynastic Near East. In: K. Radner, N. Moeller and D. T. Potts (eds.): The Oxford History of the Ancient Near East. Vol. 1: From the Beginnings to Old Kingdom Egypt and the Dynasty of Akkad. New York 2020, 531–611. 
  • Coerced Human Mobility and Elite Social Networks in Early Dynastic Iraq and Iran. In: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 7 (2020), 1–33.
  •  Establishing Value: Weight Measures in Early Mesopotamia. Boston/Berlin 2019.
  • Going for the Subarean Brand: The Import of Labor in Early Babylonia. In: Journal of Near Eastern Studies 77 (2018), 263–278. 
    Sumerian “Child”. In: Journal of Cuneiform Studies 70 (2018), 3–25. 
  • Age, Gender and Labor: Strategies to Classify Humans in Early Cuneiform Records ca. 3350-2500 BC. In: A. Garcia-Ventura (ed.): What’s in a Name? Terminology Related to the Work Force and Job Categories in the Ancient Near East. Münster 2018, 45–80. 
  • Sumerian Administrative and Legal Documents ca. 2900-2200 BC in the Schøyen Collection. Bethesda, MD 2017.
  • Miscellaneous Early Dynastic and Sargonic Texts in the Cornell University Collections. Bethesda, MD 2013.
  • Children in Institutional Households of Late Uruk Period Mesopotamia. In: Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 105 (2015), 131–138.
  • E2-mi2 “Women’s Quarters”: The Earliest Written Evidence. In: F. Buccellati, T. Helms & A. Tamm (eds.): Household and Household Economies in 3rd Millennium B.C. Syro-Mesopotamia. Oxford 2014, 9–20.
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