Dr. Vitali Bartash 

Postdoctoral Researcher

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Room U1.213
Heussallee 18–24
D-53113 Bonn
Member of 
© Vitali Bartash

Academic Profile

Research project: "Foreign Forced Labour in Early Mesopotamia"

I am a specialist in the languages and history of the ancient Near East with a focus on Sumer, southern Iraq in 3500–2000 BC. Previously I have studied weight metrology (Frankfurt 2010–2013), children (Munich 2016–2019) and kinship (Berkeley 2020) in Sumer.
My project at the BCDSS is about foreign captives, deportees and slaves in the earliest transregional states of the Near East, the Akkadian and Ur III Kingdoms (24th–21st centuries BC). I test the hypothesis that the state as a network of palatial, temple and private households depended on and craved for forced foreign labour. I argue that these complex states would not have been sustainable without the import of foreign labour. Using figurative language, foreigners were the yeasts that allowed the dough to grow.
I aim to find out how and where these early complex societies procured foreigners, who were these incomers in terms of ethnicity, age and gender, on which terms they were integrated (slaves, serfs or free) and how local households profited from their labour. On the theoretical level, I explore the relationship between socio-political complexity, space, mobility, ethnicity, age and gender.
This study relies on the philological, historical, demographic and spatial analysis of some 100.000 archival, legal, lexical and literary cuneiform documents written in Sumerian and Akkadian (Early Semitic) languages.

3 books, 16 articles and chapters and 5 reviews. 20 invited lectures and conference papers.

Ph.D. in Assyriology, University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Studies of Assyriology, University of Göttingen, Germany

Diploma Studies in History (specialization in Ancient and Medieval History), Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus

since 2020
Postdoctoral researcher, Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn, Germany

DFG Visiting Researcher, University of California Berkeley, Department of Near Eastern Studies, research project "Kinship in Sumer"

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

Parental leave; residence in Washington DC, Helsinki and Vienna

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

Research assistant, University of Göttingen, Department of Assyriology.

Ph.D. scholarship in DFG Research Training Group "Value and equivalence," University of Frankfurt/Main, Ph.D. project "Establishing Value: A Historical Study of Weighing in Early Mesopotamia"

Teaching assistant, University of Göttingen, Department of Assyriology

DAAD Visiting Scholar, University of Göttingen, Department of Assyriology, research project "The Babylonian epic of creation Enūma eliš in its historical context"


  • Forthcoming. Slaves, Captives and Deportees in Mesopotamia, 3300–2000 BC.
  • 2019. Establishing Value: Weight Measures in Early Mesopotamia. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records 23. Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • 2017. Sumerian Administrative and Legal Documents ca. 2900–2200 BC in the Schøyen Collection. Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology 35. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press.
  • 2013. Miscellaneous Early Dynastic and Sargonic Texts in the Cornell University Collections. Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology 23. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press.


Edited Volumes

  • Forthcoming. Humans as Gifts: Historical and Anthropological Approaches.
  • Forthcoming. Beyond Slavery and Freedom in the Ancient Near East.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • Forthcoming. With Andrew Pottorf. "'Those Who Prostrate Themselves' (muškênū, MAŠ.GAG.EN) in Third Millennium BC Mesopotamia." 
  • 2022. "Gudea’s Iranian Slaves: An Anatomy of Transregional Forced Mobility." In IRAQ 84: 25–42.
  • 2020. "Coerced Human Mobility and Elite Social Networks in Early Dynastic Iraq and Iran." In Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 7: 1–33.
  • 2018. "Going for the Subarean Brand: The Import of Labor in Early Babylonia." In Journal of Near Eastern Studies 77: 263–278.
  • 2018. "Sumerian 'Child.'" In Journal of Cuneiform Studies 70: 3–25.
  • 2015. "Children in Institutional Households of Late Uruk Period Mesopotamia." In Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 105: 131–138.
  • 2015. "On the Sumerian City UB-me, the Alleged 'Umma.'" In Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2015:002: 1–7. Open access


Chapters, Conference Papers and Other Articles

  • 2022. "'The Return to the Mother': Freedom and Liberation in Early Mesopotamia." In Freedom and Liberation in Mediterranean Antiquity, Proceedings of the International Conference at the Bonn Centre for Slavery and Dependency Studies, October 5–8, 2022, edited by H. Löhr. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
  • 2020. "The Early Dynastic Near East." In The Oxford History of the Ancient Near East. Vol. 1: From the Beginnings to Old Kingdom Egypt and the Dynasty of Akkad, edited by K. Radner, N. Moeller, and D. T. Potts, 531–611. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 2018. "Age, Gender and Labor: Strategies to Classify Humans in Early Cuneiform Records ca. 3350–2500 BC." In What’s in a Name? Terminology Related to the Work Force and Job Categories in the Ancient Near East, edited by A. Garcia-Ventura, 45–80. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag. 
  • 2017. "Supervision over Weighing in Early Dynastic and Sargonic Mesopotamia." In Private and State in the Ancient Near East, edited by R. de Boer and J. G. Dercksen, 79–87. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
  • 2014. "E2-mi2 'Women’s Quarters': the Earliest Written Evidence." In Household and Household Economies in 3rd Millennium B.C. Syro-Mesopotamia, edited by F. Buccellati, T. Helms, and A. Tamm, 9–20. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • 2012. "Die Entstehung eines Gewichtssystems in Mesopotamien." In Werte im Widerstreit: von Bräuten, Muscheln, Geld und Kupfer, edited by Ch. Trümpler and P. Breunig, 9–14. Wiesbaden: Hessisches Ministerium für Bildung und Kunst.
  • 2010. "Puhru: Assembly as a Political Institution in 'Enūma eliš.'" In Language in the Ancient Near East. Proceedings of the 53e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Vol. 1, edited by L. Kogan et al., 1083–1109. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.


Articles in Encyclopaedia

  • Forthcoming. "Orphan(s). Ancient Near East." In Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its reception, vol. O, edited by C. M. Furey et al. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
  • Forthcoming. "Old Age. Ancient Near East." In Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its reception, vol. O, edited by C. M. Furey et al. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.


Book Reviews and Review Articles

  • 2019. "B. R. Foster, Sargonic Texts from Telloh in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Part 2 (2018)." In Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 82: 524–525.
  • 2018. "H. Neumann (ed.), Wissenskultur im Alten Orient: Weltanschauung, Wissenschaften, Techniken, Technologien (2012)." In Journal of the American Oriental Society 138: 687–688.
  • 2017. "M. Molina, Sargonic Cuneiform Tablets in the Real Academia de la Historia (2014)." In  Journal of the American Oriental Society 137: 184–186.
  • 2015. "New Texts from the Early Dynastic I–II Period." Review article of C. Lecompte, Archaic Tablets and Fragments from Ur (2013). In Rivista degli Studi Orientali 88: 119–127.
  • 2013. "G. Chambon, Normes et pratiques. L’homme, la mesure et l’écriture en Mésopotamie (2011)." In Bibliotheca Orientalis 70: 422–424.


Notes and Popular Articles

  • 2015. "Children in Ancient Sumer: How Much Do We Know?" In The Ancient Near East Today, E-newsletter von The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR).
  • 2014. "Addendum to CUSAS 23, no. 151." In Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires 2014/1: 13–14.
  • 2023–24: "Slavery: Theoretical Approaches" (University of Bonn)
  • 2023: "Introduction: Slavery and Other Forms of Strong Asymmetrical Dependencies" (co-taught lecture series; lecture "Mesopotamia" on 10.10.2023) (University of Bonn)
  • 2022: "The Literatures of the Ancient Near East" (University of Bonn)
  • 2021–2022: "3000 Years of the Ancient Near East. History, Society and Culture" (University of Bonn)
  • 2017–2018: "Age Groups in the Ancient Near Eastern Societies" (University of Munich)
  • 2017: "Sumerian Crime Stories: Criminal Cases in Sumerian Legal Records" (seminar 25.10.2017, University of Cambridge)
  • 2013: "Hurrian II: "The Song of Release" (University of Göttingen)
  • 2013: "Akkadian II: Letters from Šehna / Šubat-Enlil / Tell Leilan" (University of Göttingen)
  • 2012–2013: "Sumerian II: Long-Distance Trade in the Ancient Near East according to Sumerian sources" (University of Frankfurt)
  • 2012–2013: "Hurrian I: Mitanni-Hurrian" (University of Göttingen)
  • 2009: "Introduction into the Akkadian Cuneiform and Syllabary" (University of Göttingen)

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.

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

Taught seven courses in culture and languages of the ancient Near East at the Universities of Göttingen, Frankfurt/Main, Munich and Cambridge                         

  • 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.

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