Dr. Frans Wiggermann

Research Interests:

Assyriology; Iconography; Near Eastern Archaeology


Frans Wiggermann is Professor (Emeritus) of Assyriology at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam. He is a worldwide expert for Semitic languages, Iconography and Demonology of the ancient Near East. He defended his PhD dissertation at the VU in 1986, and the resulting book Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts has become a classic in the field. 

Project Abstract

Time in Mesopotamian mythology establishes a sequence of periods from a first period of total chaos, to the here and now of ordered civilization. Then, with ordered civilization finally in place, the sun and the moon ticked away the days, months, and years that regulated work in the fields, the cult, kingship and administration.

In order to prosper and stay out of harm’s way it was mandatory to know the right thing to do at the right moment, but exactly what that might be was less clear. Fortunately well trained scribes, exorcists and diviners were there to consult their handbooks, and apply an array of remedies to the ills and worries of king and commoner alike. Obviously, however, as long as its source was just human, the lore of the specialists, whether oral or written, could not cover the presumed authority of its practitioners. A solution was found in the myth of the seven sages, developed in the second half of the second millennium BC, and coinciding, not incidentally, with a thorough reorganization of the corpus of medical and magical texts.

Oannēs was the first of the seven mythological sages, and Berossos was his prophet; an allround cuneiform scholar living around 300 BC, he was the first and the last to write a comprehensive history of Mesopotamia ab ovo, the Babyloniaca. Unfortunately little of this book, written in Greek, has been preserved, and even that only second and third hand. Under the name Uanna the same Oannēs appears in the Mesopotamian sources, written as well as visual, where he left his signature and title on the Bablonian Creation Myth Enūma Eliš: Uanna adapa, Oannēs the sage (ho Annēdōtos < *Annēdōpos). 

The interface of these three sources (Mesopotamian written and visual; Berossos) and their relation to magic, notions of religious authority, and the periods of mythological history will be the subject of my contribution to Einstein Center Chronoi.

Curriculum vitae


Senior Fellow Excellence Cluster Topoi D-4 - Immaterial Causes and Physical Space


Senior Fellow Excellence Cluster Topoi D-1 - Space of Nature (2014)

Research Fellow at Lichtenberg Kolleg, Göttingen


Member of EU project Consolidating Empire at Leiden University


Researcher in the interdisciplinary group "Magic and Religion", NIAS


Epigrapher of the excavation Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria


Assistant Professor in Assyriology, VU Amsterdam


Lecturer in Assyriology, VU A'dam

Selected Publications

2011. “Agriculture as Civilization: Sages, Farmers, and Barbarians.” In Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, edited by K. Radner, and E. Robson, 663-689. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2007. “Some Demons of Time and their Functions in Mesopotamian Iconography.” In Die Welt der Götterbilder, edited by B. Groneberg, and H. Spieckermann, 102-116. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter.

1999. “Magic in History. A Theoretical Perspective and Its Application to Ancient Mesopotamia.” In Mesopotamian Magic, edited by T. Abusch, and K. van der Toorn, 3-34. Groningen: Styx.

1997. “Transtigridian Snake Gods.” In Sumerian Gods and their Representations, edited by M. J. Geller, and I. Finkel, 33-55. Groningen: Styx.

1992. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits. The Ritual Texts. Gorningen: Styx.