Irving Finkel

Dr Irving Finkel is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian (i.e. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian) script, languages and cultures Department: Middle East at the British Museum, headquartered in London’s Bloomsbury. He 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.
Exile in Babylon

Dr Irving Finkel, curator of the remarkable exhibition, Babylon: Myth and Reality, at the British Museum, took us back to the times of Jewish exile and looked at the long lasting influence of this outstanding civilisation on Jewish culture.

Sex, Lies and Regal Japes; The story of Esther, the sex-crazed king and his evil counsellor
A Purim Spiel, with a contemporary twist, bringing a little bit of Persia to Bloomsbury, with a backbeat of Iranian rhythms and all hosted by our favourite modern-day Sheherazade, David Schneider. Unmasking the Book of Esther we revealed the story behind the story of Purim, hatching all-new conspiracy theories and, in the spirit of the festival, blurring boundaries between good and evil, sacred and profane. Bringing the world of inversions, masks and hidden meanings to life was our all-star c...
Irving Finkel The Ark before Noah

A man walked into the British Museum one day in 2008 and handed Irving Finkel a palm-sized piece of clay carrying instructions for building the ark. Dating from 1850 BC, the cuneiform tablet is a copy of the Babylonian Story of the Flood. Finkel, a world expert on ancient Mesopotamia and a profound and entertaining speaker, returns to Jewish Book Week to reveal his decoding of the little rectangle, with unanticipated revelations about the story origins.

Synagogues in the Islamic World

In this exquisite volume Professor Mohammad Gharipour charts the development of synagogues in lands under Muslim rule, from North Africa and Spain to Central Asia and the Middle East. He shines a spotlight on the extraordinary architectural and artistic collaboration between Muslims and Jews in creating spaces for Jewish worship.

The Writing in the Stone
Life into death, magic and demons. The landscape of this dark and powerful story is ancient Assyria some 3,000 years ago. It is a world where writing is in the world’s oldest script, cuneiform, and unseen forces can be conjured up by the state’s leading exorcist. In the capital, Ninevah, resides a deep and complex man, the power behind the King of the World. When faced with impending disaster, he emerges as a psychopathic killer. Master story-teller and historian Irving Finkel pre...
Cracking Ancient Codes: Understanding Early Writing
Writing is perhaps the greatest invention in human history; it made history possible. But how did scholars first decipher forgotten scripts? Join Irving Finkel and Andrew Robinson as they show us how we unlocked the secrets of cuneiform and hieroglyphics, and how many ancient writings remain mysterious today. Irving Finkel takes us through his work on cuneiform, which has uncovered secrets from over five thousand years ago, including the st...
The First Ghosts
Ghosts – nearly every civilisation has its stories; they inhabit something of the essence of what it is to be human. Whether we ‘believe’ or not, we are all aware of ghosts and the rich mythologies and rituals surrounding them. They have inspired, fascinated and frightened us for centuries – yet most of us are only familiar with the vengeful apparitions of Shakespeare, or the ghastly spectres haunting the pages of gothic literature. But their origins are much, much older, as I...