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Julia Giessler

E-Mail:giessler [at] schriftbildlichkeit.de


Ph.D. Project

"Body Styling, Body Modification and Its Socio-Cultural Aspects in Ancient Mesopotamia"



This dissertation project seeks to create a first-time compilation of the ancient Mesopotamian phenomena of body styling and body modification as well as analysing their socio-cultural meanings. The materialities, functions and terminologies of the applied forms of physical alterations shall be deduced based on the relevant cuneiform-sources.   

The use of the body as a medium upon which to visualise signs of significant social or cultural aspects forms the subject of this investigation. The skin is therein focused for offering the potential of displaying iconographic as well as script-based representations. The interaction of iconographic and script-based forms of notation will be examined, as well as their operational capability within the illiterate social classes of ancient Mesopotamia. Furthermore, the iconographic and script-based forms of notation placed on the skin’s surface shall be discussed in relation to those features marked onto the body as a three-dimensional medium. The investigation of these varying materialities of body marking serves as a paradigm for the study of different visual semiotic systems.  

The forms of body styling and body modification, as recorded in the cuneiform sources, served mainly to indicate private or divine ownership in a prescriptive as well as descriptive manner. The juridical, religious or social meanings that emerge from the textual sources are to be set out in this investigation. Apart from the apparent semiotic function that body marks could fulfil concerning dependent individuals in general, there are additional ritual or cultic levels of meaning inherent in the styling and modifications of the bodies of temple personnel. Additionally, the existence of contrasting decorative functions of physical alterations will be examined.

A further core theme of this work will be the philological verification of tattoo, branding and incision practices as well as non-permanent dye-marking. A terminological categorisation of the applied marking techniques will be targeted by means of examining the semantic fields of contiguous items.



Curriculum Vitae

Since 10/2012

Doctoral Fellow at the DFG Research Training Group “Notational Iconicity: On the materiality, perceptibility and operativity of writing” (Freie Universität Berlin)  



Reader for Prof. Rieken (Philipps-Universität Marburg): correcting the proofs of “Einführung in das Hethitische”, “Untersuchung zu den Konditionalsätzen, Konzessivsätzen und Irrelevanzkonditionalia des Altirischen“



Research Assistant at DFG Project “An buhez sant Gwenôle” (Philipps-Universität Marburg)



Magistra Artium (Philipps-Universität Marburg), thesis topic: „Signs on the body – a socio-cultural contemplation of body-styling and body-modification in the Ancient Near East“



Student Assistant at the institute for Celtic Studies / General and Comparative Linguistics (Philipps-Universität Marburg)


Assyriological Studies (main subject), Celtic Studies, Tibetan Studies (Philipps-Universität Marburg)



German Language and Literature (main subject), Celtic Studies, Tibetan Studies (Philipps-Universität Marburg) 



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