The Dominican friars and members of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem pay tribute to the memory of Brother Marcel Sigrist, o.p., (1940-2024) former director and professor of Assyriology, who died on May 03 in Strasbourg. They entrust him to your prayers.

It seems that languages outside the Indo-European horizon shaped the destiny of fr. Marcel Sigrist. The first call from his superiors was not Akkadian or Sumerian, but Finnish, as he was to join the Dominican community in Helsinki to establish ecumenical relations. With this in mind, preparatory studies in Sacred Scripture led him in 1969 to the École Biblique in Jerusalem, where those in charge (P. Benoit, F. Langlamet, R. Tournay) were soon inclined to train him as a professor of Old Testament.

Once again, his education was to take a turning point: an outstanding student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the great Assyriologist Hayim Tadmor advised him to go to Yale University in the USA, where he specialized in Assyriology and Sumerology. In 1976, he published his doctoral thesis entitled “Ninurta à Nippur. L’économie du culte pendant la période d’Isin et Larsa”. Marcel Sigrist remained faithful to the Ur III period (2000-1600 B.C.) with numerous publications. C.) with numerous publications: Neo-Sumerian Economic Texts from Syracuse University (1983), Neo-Sumerian Account Texts in the Horn Archaeological Museum (with L. T. Geraty, 1984), Ur III-Texte: Verstreute Publikationen aus Zeitschriften (six volumes, 1986), Princeton Theological Seminary Tablets: Ur III period (1990, part 2 in 2005), Drehem (1992), Neo-Sumerian Texts form the Royal Ontario Museum. The Administration at Drehem (1995), Neo-Sumerian Archival Texts in the Nies Babylonian Collection (with U. Kasten, 2001), Ur III Administrative Tablets form the British Museum (with T. Ozaki, 2006 and 2015) to name but a few books reflecting his scholarly activity in this field. All this without mentioning Babylonian studies such as Old Babylonian Account Texts in the Horn Archaeololgy Museum, 1990 and 2003, or scientific articles.

During his time at the École Biblique, fr. Marcel taught the annual Akkadian course and seminars on specialized Mesopotamian topics. Now a professor emeritus, Brother Marcel used to spend summers at Yale reading, as the first modern expert, numerous copies of the 40,000 cuneiform inscriptions in this unique collection. His ability to read on the fly and correctly interpret Sumerian cuneiform signs was world-renowned. For fifteen years, he was also librarian, leading an outstanding institution in the scientific world of the Bible and its neighboring cultures. In addition to his teaching duties, Br. Marcel served three terms as director of the École Biblique (1991, re-elected 1994 and acting director 2011-2015).

At the end of his life, we can express our gratitude, and that of many researchers, for a life well spent in the service of science and the transmission of knowledge. A Dominican friar’s mission at the École Biblique et Archéologique in Jerusalem and beyond.

Messe d’Adieu au fr. Marcel Sigrist – 7 mai 2024 fr. Jean-Michel Poffet op former Director of the École Biblique de Jérusalem


Fr. Marcel Sigrist in the École library


Official presentation of Mélanges d’assyriologie to Br. Marcel Sigrist o.p. by Br. Jean-Jacques Pérennès o.p. at the centenary celebration of the School’s recognition as a École archéologique française.