Irving Finkel

Assistant Keeper
Ancient Mesopotamian (i.e. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian) script, languages and cultures

Department: Middle East


+44 (0)20 7323 8310

Dr Finkel is the curator in charge of cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia, of which the Middle East Department has the largest collection- some 130,000 pieces – of any modern museum. This work involves reading and translating all sorts of inscriptions, sometimes working on ancient archives to identify manuscripts that belong together, or even join to one another.

Museum work also includes working with children and adults to promote greater familiarity with the ancient Middle East, by means of lectures, workshops and media activity. Dr Finkel specializes in ancient Mesopotamian medicine and magic, and is also interested in literature, religion and the history of ideas in this part of the world. He is also interested in the history of board games throughout the world, and especially the preservation of traditional board games in many non-western societies. He has participated in the Museum websites about Mesopotamia and Games.

Current projects

Late Babylonian Cuneiform Chronicles (joint study - with Prof. R. van der Spek of VU University Amsterdam - of ancient Babylonian historical sources

Babylonian Medicine in the Second Millennium BC (a study of important new British Museum archives)

The Indian Board Game Survey – with the Anthropological Survey of India (major report in preparation)

Previous projects

Babylon: Myth and Reality exhibition

Across the Board, touring exhibition within Britain of board games from the British Museum

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Honorary Member, the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity of the University of Birmingham

Council Member, the Anglo-Israel Archaeology Society

Editorial Board, Board Game Studies

Recent publications

I. L. Finkel and J. Taylor, Cuneiform (British Museum Press, 2015)

I. L. Finkel and M. J. Geller (eds.), The Wellcome Conference on Babylonian Medicine (Styx, 2007)

I. L. Finkel, ‘Report on the Sidon Cuneiform tablet,’ Archaeology & History in Lebanon, 24 (Autumn 2006) pp. 114-20

I. L. Finkel , ‘Documents of the Physician and Magician,’ and ‘Explanatory Commentary on a List of Materia Medica,’ in I. Spar and W. G. Lambert (eds.), Cuneiform Inscriptions in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, (2005)pp.155-76; pp. 279-83

I. L. Finkel , ‘Pachisi in Arab Garb, Board Games Studies, 5 (2003) pp.65-78

I. L. Finkel , J. E. Reade, ‘On some inscribed Babylonian alabastra,’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (2002)