Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

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"ISAW" redirects here. For the food, see Isaw.

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) is a center for advanced scholarly research and graduate education at New York University. ISAW's mission is to cultivate comparative, connective investigations of the ancient world from the western Mediterranean to China. Areas of specialty among ISAW's faculty include the Greco-Roman world, the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Central Asia and the Silk Road, East Asian art and archaeology, Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, ancient science, and digital humanities.

ISAW was founded in 2006 with funding from the Leon Levy Foundation.[1] It is a discrete entity within New York University, independent of any other school or department of the university, with its own endowment and its own board of trustees, and is housed in separate facilities in a historic six-story limestone on East 84th Street in Manhattan.[2]

The Director of ISAW is Roger Bagnall.[3] ISAW faculty conduct historical, archaeological, socio-cultural and linguistics research and offer doctoral and postdoctoral programs.

Academic programs[edit]

ISAW's graduate program offers a PhD in the Study of the Ancient World.[4]

ISAW also offers hosts Visiting Research Scholars conducting postdoctoral research. There are three types of appointment for visiting scholars:[5]

  • Visiting Assistant Professors, appointed for two years, during which they are expected to teach two undergraduate courses and one graduate seminar.
  • Visiting Research Scholars, appointed for one year of research, funded in part or in whole by ISAW. These scholars may be at any point in their career from postdoctoral to retired.
  • Externally-funded Scholars, who have the same responsibilities and privileges as the categories above, but do not receive financial support from ISAW.

Scholars in all three categories are expected to be in residence at ISAW for the duration of their appointment and to participate in the intellectual life of the community, including presenting a public lecture.


In order to support its mission of communicating information about antiquity to the public, ISAW organizes public exhibitions. Past exhibitions include:[6]

Most exhibitions have been accompanied by illustrated catalogs, many of which are co-published by ISAW and Princeton University Press.


ISAW houses a research library of approximately 40,000 non-circulating print volumes.[11] The ISAW Library is a branch library of the NYU Division of Libraries, with facilities located on four floors of ISAW's facilities on East 84th Street. The library is open to members of the ISAW and NYU communities, as well as to scholars from other institutions who can demonstrate a need to access materials in the collection for their research.

Particular areas of strength in the ISAW Library's print collection include Greek and Roman material culture and history, Papyrology, Egyptology, Mesopotamian Archaeology and Assyriology, Central Asia and Iran, and Early China.

The library is also engaged in providing access and support for new and emerging forms of digital scholarship, scholarly communication, and pedagogy in ancient studies.[12] The library's digital initiatives include the Ancient World Digital Library (AWDL) and a joint project with ISAW Digital Programs to help catalog the online and open access resources described on the Ancient World Online (AWOL).


ISAW has produced or sponsored both print and electronic publications related to the ancient world.[13] These include:

  • Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth Sanders, eds. Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature. NYU Press, 2014. ISBN 9781479823048
  • George Hatke. Aksum and Nubia: Warfare, Commerce, and Political Fictions in Ancient Northeast Africa. NYU Press, 2013. ISBN 9780814760666
  • David Wengrow. The Origins of Monsters: Image and Cognition in the First Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Princeton University Press, 2013. Based on the author's Rostovtzeff Lectures delivered at ISAW in 2011. ISBN 9781400848867
  • Roger S. Bagnall and Giovanni R. Ruffini. Amheida I: Ostraka from Trimithis 1. NYU Press, 2012. Also published in an open-access online version. ISBN 9780814745267
  • ISAW At Five, a book produced for ISAW's Five Year Celebration in May 2012.
  • ISAW Papers, an open-content scholarly journal that publishes article-length works on any topic within the scope of ISAW's scholarly research.
  • The Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology
  • ISAW Newsletter

Online resources[edit]

ISAW has developed and participates in a number of online resources and digital projects related to the ancient world, including:


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°46′48″N 73°57′37″W / 40.7799°N 73.9603°W / 40.7799; -73.9603