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Dr Martin Worthington

Position:Al Maktoum Associate Professor in Middle Eastern Studies

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Born in York and raised in Italy, Martin studied Ancient History and Egyptology at UCL.  In the course of this degree he became intrigued by Ancient Mesopotamia, and a 1-year scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service enabled him to spend a year at Leipzig University, to start studying Babylonian, Assyrian and Sumerian under Annette Zgoll and Claus Wilcke.  These languages stayed with him ever since.  He went on to do an MPhil and PhD in Assyriology at Cambridge, supervised by Nicholas Postgate.

At Trinity, Martin contributes to various parts of teaching on the Ancient Near East, in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies.  Modules he teaches (though not in every year) include Reading Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Introduction to Babylonian and Introductory Sumerian. He is the director of the online MPhil The Middle East in a Global Context. He is open to taking on doctoral students, who are encouraged to contact him directly in advance of submitting a formal application.

Most of Martin’s research is on Mesopotamian philology, literature, or the relation between the two.  His first book, Principles of Akkadian Textual Criticism (De Gruyter, 2012) was the first extended exploration for Babylonian and Assyrian of a crucial question: how far can we trust our manuscripts?  And what if they contain mistakes?

His more recent book Ea’s Duplicity and the Gilgamesh Flood Story (Routledge, 2019) is an extended argument about nine remarkable lines of Babylonian poetry: he argued that these lines, uttered by the god Ea, are so worded as to be understandable in different ways – a feature which Ea used to trick humans into building the Ark.  This argument about Ea’s duplicitous utterance, whose nature and implications extend in many directions, was widely reported in international media as a discovery of the earliest example of ‘fake news’.

Martin has also published on topics including Babylonian/Assyrian magic and medicine, Mesopotamian social history, Sumerian lexicography, and narrative strategies in Middle Egyptian literature.

Always happy to be invited to talk in schools, Martin is a great believer in public outreach.  In this vein he directed the world’s first Babylonian-language film, The Poor Man of Nippur (freely available on Youtube), and authored Teach Yourself Complete Babylonian (2nd ed. 2018). He has also undertaken translations into Babylonian for the soundtrack of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Legendary Pictures, 2019) and for dialogues in Eternals (Marvel, 2021).

He is a Trustee of the Enheduanna Society, a registered charity which is devoted to popularising the literature of Mesopotamian literature through oral storytelling, and has put many recordings of such performances online open-access.

Before joining Trinity in August 2020, Martin was a junior research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge, then a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SOAS, University of London, then Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, where he was also a Fellow of St John’s College.

His current main lines of research include ‘Mesopotamian Orality’, ‘The structure of the Akkadian poetic line’, and ‘Sargon’s Riddle’.