Beate Pongratz-Leisten was trained as a translator and interpreter of French and Spanish at the École Supérieure d'Interprètes et de Traducteurs, Paris, and the University of Mainz. In 1983 she embarked on a second career in ancient Near Eastern Studies, Egyptology, and Religious Studies at Tübingen University and Harvard University. She received her doctorate and habilitation from Tübingen University. Before joining the faculty of ISAW she taught at Tübingen University and Freiburg University in Germany, as well as at Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton Theological Seminary.
Interests: political, intellectual and religious history of the ancient Near East, materialities of culture, literature, formation of textual communities, transmission of cultural memory, ritual performance and ritual texts.
Her publications include several books on the cultural and religious history of ancient Mesopotamia. She just finished a monograph on the topic Religion and Ideology in Assyria and co-edited with Karen Sonik a volume of collected essays under the title Materiality of Divine Agency.
Together with colleagues from Classics, art history, cognitive sciences and linguistics she has founded the research group Ancient Cultures and Cognitive Sciences (ACCS) to investigate aspects of ancient cultures including the shaping of belief and social bonding with the divine, divine agency, construction of demonology and the formation and textualization of knowledge.
In combination with her research seminars held in the spring she organized several workshops including Materiality of Divine Agency in Cross-Cultural Perspective (2011), Between Belief and Science: The Contribution of Writing and Law to Ancient Religious Thought (2012), Ancient and Modern Perspectives on Historiography in Mesopotamia (2013), Ancient Near Eastern Literature: Topics, Issues, Approaches (2014), Ritual and Narrative: Texts in Performance in the Ancient Near East (2015), and The Formation of Cultural Memory: Ancient Mesopotamian Libraries and Schools and their Contribution to the Shaping of Tradition and Identity (2016).
She is a member of the American Oriental Society, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, Berlin and was awarded several fellowships including fellowships of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in 2000 and of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University in 2003/04. In 2007/08 she was awarded a NEH grant at the Institute for Advanced Study.