ssa logo

Send comments to webmaster.


Prize Winners

2001 2000
1999 1998


Dissertation Award
Barbara A. Porter: Ph.D. - Columbia University

Old Syrian Popular Style Cylinder Seals

Barbara Porter has set a new and terrifying standard for dissertations. After several years working as an assistant curator in the departments of Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, she set out to get her doctorate at Columbia, under the late Professor Edith Porada. Ten years and 1300 pages later Barbara Porter has given us the last word on Syrian Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000-1600 B.C.) popular style cylinder seals. Her work is encyclopedic in scope. Dr. Porter has hunted down and cataloged 396 seals, many of which are hidden away in over 50 private and university collections, auction houses and excavation sites. She includes photographs of each. Mohja Kahf writes that the work is "meticulous, thorough, not to say exhaustive. It is well written, precise, and fascinating."

What is a cylinder seal? They turn out to be nothing less than a window into the identity of ancient Syrians of the Bronze age. The social and business elite used them as sealing devices, but for the popular classes they were kept above all as amulets, and it is as such that the wide variety of images used on the cylinders must be understood. In cataloging and skillfully interpreting the iconography of these seals, Barbara Porter provides us with a dictionary for understanding the people of ancient Syria.

Dr. Barbara Porter
452 Riverside Dr. #55
NYC, NY 10027

M.A. Thesis
Sabine Mohasseb Saliba
Université de Provence: Aix-Marseille

"Waqf et gérance familiale au Mont Liban à travers l'histoire du couvent maronite de Mar Challita Mouqbès (XVIIe-XIXe siecles), [Waqf and family administration in Mount Lebanon through the history of the Maronite convent of Mar Challita Mouqbès (XVII -XIX centuries)]"

Sabine Mohasseb Saliba has written an excellent history of the Convent of Mar Challita Mouqbes - the oldest functioning convent of Mount Lebanon - using a treasure of family documents some written in Karshuni, Arabic in Syriac script. The Mohasseb family administered the Waqf from its founding in 1628 until the present, with the exception of only one 60 year period which followed the assassination of the director Antoun Mohasseb by his cousin. Not only does Sabine Saliba bring alive the politics of a family and the strategies of Waqf administration in Mount Lebanon, but she adds to church history and the larger social and religious history of Lebanon. This is a carefully researched and well-written essay. It is hard to believe that it is a master's and not doctoral thesis.

E-mail = Sabine Saliba

Convent of Mar Challita Mouqbès

No "Best Paper" prizes were awarded in 2001


1) Best PhD dissertation:

Dr. Keith Watenpaugh - UCLA
Bourgeois Modernity, Historical Memory and Imperialism: The Emergence of an Urban Middle Class in the Late Ottoman and Inter-War Middle East. Aleppo, 1908-1939.

Runner up: Dr. Jonathan Rae, Oxford
Rejection of Custom: Aridland Conversation in Syria.

2) Best MA thesis ($50 award):

Gebhard Fartacek, University of Vienna
"Die Manifestation des Heiligen. Eine ethnologische Untersuchung zur Konstruction sakraler Plätzer in Syrien"

3) Best student paper

Christoph Schumann, Erlangen University
"The Generation of Broad Expectations: Nationalism, Education and Autobiography in Syria and Lebanon, 1930-1958"


Best MA/DEA Thesis

Frank Peter, University of Provence
"Enchevêtrement des intérêts et stratégies d’opposition. La politique économique du ‘Bloc National’ en Syrie mandataire (1928-1933)"


Best student paper
Stefan Erdle, Freiburg University (Germany)
"Biograhical Study of Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib (1886-1969), Syrian Intellectual at the end of the Ottoman Era and the French Mandate Period,