The Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley is one of the oldest such departments in the country. The faculty's expertise includes dozens of languages and visual and material culture traditions, ranging over North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia from antiquity to modernity.
The department of MELC is over 100 years old. Founded in 1894 as the Department of Semitic Languages, its remit broadened over the course of the 20th century such that it was renamed twice, first to Near Eastern Languages in the 1940s, and again to Near Eastern Studies in the 1970s. In 2021, the department adopted its current name.
Teaching in MELC covers a wide range of textual and material sources from the Middle East, understood broadly, ranging from antiquity to modernity. Languages taught in the department include the following. Ancient: Ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic), Sumerian, Akkadian, Eblaite, Ugaritic, Aramaic (biblical, Babylonian, imperial, Syriac), Hebrew (biblical, inscriptional), Avestan, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Parthian, Bactrian, Sogdian. Medieval to Modern: Classical Arabic, Classical Persian, Modern Standard Arabic, spoken dialectal Arabic, modern Hebrew, Persian, Turkish. The department boasts specialists in archaeology, digital humanities, literature, material culture, and philology.