The Netherlands Institute for the Near East

Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten  -  Institut nĂ©erlandais du Proche-Orient

1 Aug 2023 General

In Memoriam Professor K.R. Veenhof

We regret to share the news that Professor Veenhof, former Professor of Assyriology and board member of NINO, has passed away.


As Professor of Assyriology, first at Amsterdam and later at Leiden University, Professor Veenhof was very much involved with NINO. As president of NINO’s scientific board, he was a designated member of NINO’s general board for almost three decades. During the same period he was also a board member, later the chairman, of Ex Oriente Lux; his combination of these roles was a benefit to us. In addition, Veenhof served as keeper of our Böhl Collection. When he retired as Professor of Assyriology at Leiden University, NINO named a yearly lecture after him. We remember Klaas Veenhof with gratitude.


The below message was distributed by Dr Jan Gerrit Dercksen via the Agade newslist:

It is with great sadness that we inform you that Klaas R. Veenhof, lector Assyriology in Nijmegen (1968-1973), professor of Assyriology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (1973-1981) and at Leiden University (1981-2000), died at his home on 28 July at the age of 87.

His Assyriological output is impressive and he continued working until his illness prevented him from doing so. The last article that Klaas published appeared last year in Revue d’Assyriologie 116; it was the third part of his chroniques bibliographiques on recently published Old Assyrian text editions, a long-cherished project that could finally be realised.

Although also making important contributions to, among other studies, the study of the Old Babylonian period, the world of the Assyrian merchants in Kültepe/Kanesh and its wealth of cuneiform documents was what fascinated Klaas most. His 1971 PhD dissertation (Aspects of Old Assyrian Trade and its Terminology, Leiden: Brill 1972), written under the supervision of F.R. Kraus, challenged Polanyi’s prevailing view on the Near Eastern economy as marketless. Together with Mogens Trolle Larsen, Klaas founded the Old Assyrian Text Project, aimed at reaching a wider audience than the handful of specialists working on this unique corpus of evidence. At about the same time, it became possible for non-Turkish scholars to become involved in the publication of the thousands of tablets excavated at Kültepe since 1948. Klaas received permission to publish several archives and the third volume by his hand, containing texts excavated in 1986, is expected to appear soon. It was during work on one of these archives in 1998 that Klaas had his finest hour, the identification of the Old Assyrian eponym list.

Klaas will be remembered for his erudition and wide interest, which ranged from establishing the meaning of words to analysing legal systems, and the way he was able to inspire his students by his enthusiasm. Klaas has been a key figure in promoting Ancient Near Eastern Studies to a wider audience in The Netherlands, as chairman of the Dutch Near Eastern Society “Ex Oriente Lux”, and long-time editor of its journal JEOL, and by his work for the Netherlands Institute for the Near East.

A bibliography of publications by Klaas Veenhof until 2000 can be found in the Festschrift presented to him (Veenhof Anniversary Volume, Leiden: NINO 2001).


Klaas Roelof Veenhof
Groningen, 9 November 1935 – Heemstede, 28 July 2023