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The Department of Near Eastern Studies offers courses in the history, civilization, archaeology, religion, languages and literature of the Near East, a region that has had an important impact on the development of human history and plays a vital role in today's world community. Encompassing the Near East from ancient times to the modern period, the department's course offerings encourage students to take an interdisciplinary approach to the cultures of this region and emphasize methods of historical and literary analysis.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies is Jonathan Tenney.

Major Requirements


A major in Near Eastern Studies offers students the opportunity to explore the languages, literatures, archaeology, cultures, religions and history of the Near East/Middle East from antiquity to the modern day. The major is designed both to acquaint students broadly with the region and its cultures as well as to study a particular subfield in depth.


  • The applicant for admission to the major in Near Eastern Studies (NES) must have completed at least two Near Eastern Studies content courses, one of which can be a language course. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in language courses and/or NES 2651 or 2754 either before signing into the major or early on in their major.
  • Prospective majors must meet with the director of undergraduate studies before submitting a major application.
  • To qualify as a major, a cumulative grade average of C or better is required.

Major Requirements

The precise sequence and combination of courses chosen to fulfill the major is selected in consultation with the student’s advisor. All majors must satisfy the following requirements (no course may be used to satisfy two requirements; S–U option not permitted):

 1.   Language:
      Two years of one Near Eastern language OR, in exceptional cases, one year of two Near Eastern languages.

 2.   EFFECTIVE JANUARY 2016: In addition to the language requirement, eight courses are required to complete the major. Of these eight course, at least three must be at the 3000 level or above, and one must be a Research Seminar (designated NES-RS in the Courses of Study). If you have taken a course that you feel meets the criteria, but is not marked as NES-RS, please contact the department for approval:

      A. Two Core Courses:
          i.    NES 2651 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam   OR   NES 2754 Introduction to Near Eastern Civilizations
          ii.   NES 4560 Theory & Method in Near Eastern Studies        

      B. Three Historical Breadth: Must fulfill temporal breadth, defined as: one course whose chronological parameters fall within the following periods. Courses should be chosen in consultation with your NES advisor.

          i.    3000 B.C.E to 600 C.E

          ii    600 C.E to 1800 C.E 

          iii   1800 C.E. and the present. 

          The following are examples (Class Roster):
               3000 B.C.E to 600 C.E

  • NES 2610 Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
  • NES 2623 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
  • NES 2629 Introduction to the New Testament
  • NES 2644 Introduction to Ancient Judaism
  • NES 2661 Ancient Seafaring
  • NES 2666 Jerusalem through the Ages
  • NES 3664 Ancient Iraq I
  • NES 3665 Ancient Iraq II  

              600 C.E to 1800 C.E

  • NES 2214 Qur’an and Commentary
  • NES 2556 Introduction to the Qur’an
  • NES 2634 Muslims and Jews in Confluence and Conflict
  •  NES 2655 Introduction to Islamic Civilization
  • NES 2673 History of the Middle East: 13th to 18th Centuries
  • NES 3651 Law, Society, and Culture in the Middle East 

              1800 C.E to the present

  • NES 2635 Jews and Arabs in Contact and Conflict: The Modern Period
  • NES 2674 History of the Modern Middle East: 19th to 20th Centuries
  • NES 3693 History of Jews and Christians in the Modern Middle East
  • NES 3697 History of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
  • NES 3719 Crime and Conflict in the Modern Arabic Novel

        C. Three Major Electives

Note: a maximum of two independent studies can be applied to the major; a maximum of two non–cross-listed courses may be applied to the major; a maximum of two courses may receive credit for more than one major; a maximum of 15 credits of relevant, departmentally approved course work taken overseas or at another university may be applied to the major.

Contact Professor Jonathan Tenney, Director of Undergraduate Studies, or your major advisor with any questions about how your NES classes fulfill the College's distribution requirements.

Minor Requirements


Cornell University undergraduates with an interest in the history, societies, cultures, archaeology and religions of the Near East are invited to complete a minor in Near Eastern Studies by taking five courses (minimum of 15 credits), subject to the following conditions:

  1. At least three courses should be at the 3000 level or above.
  2. Two languages courses at the 2000 or 3000 level may count towards the minor.
  3. Three (or more) courses will explore the history, archeology, literature, or religions of the Near East. Students may choose to focus on one of these disciplines or on the ancient, late antique, medieval or modern periods across the disciplines.

Students interested in the NES Minor should consult the NES Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), Jonathan Tenney. Minors will remain in conversation regarding their course of study with the NES DUS or be assigned to a member of the NES faculty who will serve as their minor advisor.

Honors Program


To graduate cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, a student in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences must complete a departmental honors program and be recommended by the department for an honors degree. 

The Near Eastern Studies Honors Program is open to department majors who have done superior work and wish to devote a substantial portion of their senior year to advanced, specialized and independent study in Near Eastern Studies.

Admission to the Honors Program

For admission to the honors program, candidates must have at least a 3.5 GPA and have demonstrated superior performance overall in Near Eastern Studies courses.

Honors Degree Requirements

Candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with honors in Near Eastern Studies must fulfill the normal requirements of the major as well as enroll in the honors courses, NES 4998 in the fall and NES 4999 in the spring semesters of their senior year. (NB: NES 4998, and NES 4999 do not count as one of the seven content courses for the major.)

After consulting with their major adviser, candidates should submit an honors application and proposal to the department during the second semester of their junior year. The Near Eastern Studies main office has more specific guidelines for the honors thesis.

Past Honors Theses

Funding Opportunities

There are several opportunities for students to receive funding for conducting research in the Middle East.

KROLL Travel Awards 

The Kroll Travel Award, sponsored by the Department of Near Eastern Studies & Jewish Studies Program, is potentially offered to students traveling to Israel during the summer to participate in academically recognized archaeological digs and/or other academic programs. Awards will range from $250-$1000 and the competition is open to graduate and undergraduate students.

Applications must include:

  • Project proposal
  • Budget (including documentation of costs when possible)
  • Brief description of other funding sources
  • Letter of recommendation from one of your Cornell professors.

Awards will be made based on the quality of the proposed project and its connection to Jewish Studies and/or Near Eastern Studies. The deadline for submission is early April. Please submit proposals to Chris Capalongo, 409 White Hall or via email to

Harry Caplan Travel Fellowships: 

Harry Caplan was one of Cornell’s most renowned and beloved professors of Classics.   Two summer travel fellowships are awarded annually to outstanding juniors, not necessarily classics majors, to support travel or other projects that enhance serious study of the classical cultures of the Near East, Greece, Rome and Latinate medieval Europe.   Students apply by submitting a proposal for the grant to the Classics Department on the first Friday of November.

Hirsch travel scholarships:

Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies offers graduate and undergraduate scholarships to support fieldwork-based travel and research. In order for graduate students to be eligible to apply for Hirsch travel scholarships or CIAMS research grants, they must a) be a member of CIAMS and b) have completed the prerequisite CIAMS seminar. For more information visit

The Archaeological Institute of America offers several Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants for archaeological research and publications. They have a November 1st deadline for several of the Fellowships and the Publication Grants:

Career Opportunities & Alumni

A major in Near Eastern Studies can help prepare you for a career in the following:

  • International organizations
  • Development and aid agencies
  • Government agencies
  • Journalism
  • Think tanks
  • Non-Governmental Organizations

The major will also prepare you for graduate study of the Near East.

For more information on the careers our undergraduate alumni have pursued, click here.