Program in Early Cultures


Brown’s Program in Early Cultures brings together all those at Brown who are interested in the cultures, religions and histories of ancient civilizations.

The program provides support for a wide array of courses, events, lectures, conferences, and study groups. Chronologically, the program defines “ancient” as roughly “pre-medieval” or simply “early." Geographically, the “ancient world” represented at Brown is global: comprising early China, central Asia, India, Persia, West Asia (Mesopotamia, Iran, Anatolia, and Israel), Egypt, the Mediterranean (especially Greece and Italy), the early Islamic and Byzantine worlds, as well as the Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and South American civilizations.


The faculty involved in Early Cultures number more than forty, from a variety of affiliated academic units. Connections with late antique and early medieval civilizations (in the Latin West, Greek or Byzantine East, and the Early Islamic World), explored by the Program in Medieval Studies, offer further opportunities for collaboration.

Activities and Collaborations

The program supports an array of activities and collaborations, including conferences, workshops, work-in-progress seminars, and student-led study groups.

The program encourages all interested faculty and graduate students (individually or collaboratively) to design courses, conferences, seminars, study groups, workshops, or other programming examining early cultures on a global scale. Examples have focused on comparative method; writing systems; war and society; slavery, death and ritual; women and religion; and scientific and mythical thought.

Graduate Certificate

The program offers a Graduate Certificate in Early Cultures, designed to allow students already enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Brown to enhance their training in global pre-modernity.


We offer funding to faculty, postdocs, and graduate students in any department for research activities or graduate-level courses related to early cultures globally. Significant support is available for conferences and other events, and graduate students are also encouraged to apply for top-up funding for research travel or other activities.