Dr. Ainsley Hawthorn

Cultural Historian & Non-Fiction Author, Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador

Middle Eastern History • Human Senses • Religion in Society • Gender in History • Word Origins


Public Talk - Agnosticism and Reimagining Church

Presented as part of a Midweek Lenten Worship series on Reimagining Church
St. Mark's Anglican Church, St. John's
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Academic Talk - Hacking Sumerian: A Database Approach to the Analysis of Ancient Languages

Presented as part of the Digital Classicist Berlin series
German Archaeological Institute
Monday, November 27, 2017

Public Talk - Community Systems and Belonging

Presented at the launch of NL's 2017 Vital Signs
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Academic Talk - Body Cleaning, Social Norms, and Value in the Epic of Gilgamesh

Presented at the Interdisciplinary Workshop Cleaning and Value
Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main
Friday, June 9, 2017

Public Talk - Social Participation and Belonging

Presented at the launch of NL's 2016 Vital Signs
Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Local Historian Redefining Belly Dance, Literally

Come From Away in a can, period art, and being a better ally

Weekend AM with Heather Barrett, CBC, March 16, 2019Radio/Podcast

URL: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/weekend-am/episode/15679171

Segment begins at 22:00.

VOCM Vital Signs Roundtable

Economic confidence low, community pride high: Vital Signs report

Celebrate Christmas the old-fashioned way: with drunken mayhem

Church attendance is diminishing as multiculturalism is rising, and that's no coincidence

From Dildo to Witless Bay: Where did N.L. get its unusual place names?

All the lovely Juanitas: How did a Spanish name find such popularity in Newfoundland?

Gender neutrality doesn’t hurt children – it’s part of our history

Shaking, shimmying and breaking down stereotypes

Oxford English Dictionary Contacts Local Historian To Help Redefine ‘Belly Dance’

Why do we call Middle Eastern dance “belly dance”?

Let's hear it for the nans: Here's why we all need a (grand) Mother's Day

There's value in preserving religious structures — even for the religiously unaffiliated

Chilling with Brent Beshara

Newfoundland Quarterly, April 18, 2019Online

URL: http://nqonline.ca/article/chilling-with-brent-beshara/

The college admissions scandal is shocking, but the rich have always bought their way into elite universities

Out of the bathroom, into the gallery for an artist working with menstrual pads

In the shadow of Mount Cashel: The tipping point of disillusionment with the Catholic Church

Priests and pastors shoulder a huge emotional burden, but they're burning out ... alone

Chill out, folks; there's no need to be so defensive about Christmas

Provincial Snapshot: Fourth annual report on quality of life in NL released

NL Crime Exceeding National Average: Vital Signs Report

Vortrag von Ainsley Hawthorn – The Shifting Gaze: Vision in the Neo-Assyrian Royal Inscriptions

Early Concepts of Man and Nature Blog, February 15, 2017Online

URL: http://grk1876.blogspot.com/2017/02/vortrag-von-ainsley-hawthorn-shifting.html

Vital Signs report highlights differences between urban and rural NL

Provincial Pulse: Latest issue of Vital Signs focuses on rural and urban differences

Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East
by Ainsley Hawthorn and Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel
June 24, 2019

Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu – “There is nothing in the intellect that is not first in the senses.”

Although we often treat the senses as though they are immutable, fundamental properties of our physiology, the way we parse our sensory experiences is dictated by our cultural context. Accordingly, the essays in Distant Impressionsexplore the social aspects of sensation in the ancient Near East, inviting the reader to move beyond the physiological study of sensation to an examination of its cultural meanings.

The essays in this book approach the question of sensory experience in ancient Near Eastern societies from philological, literary, art historical, and archaeological perspectives. They address the means of sense perception (such as vision, hearing, and smell) and the objects of perception (such as light, noise, and odor), examining the senses within religious, political, and social frameworks. The first part looks at the monumental architecture, bas-reliefs, and tablets of the Neo-Assyrian period, while the second explores sensory dimensions of the built environment and textual representations of sensation in other times and places, such as Neolithic northern Mesopotamia and Hittite Anatolia. Building on recent scholarship that focuses on the social aspects of sensation in history, Distant Impressions brings this approach to bear on ancient Near Eastern studies for the first time.

In addition to the editors, the contributors include Elke Friedrich, Sara Manasterska, Alice Mouton, Kiersten Neumann, Ludovico Portuese, and Diana Stein.


Ainsley Hawthorn is an author and cultural historian based in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Yale University, and her areas of expertise include the ancient Middle East, Middle Eastern dance, the history of writing, religious history, and the cultural history of the senses.

She served for five years as Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, where she co-founded and co-produced Newfoundland and Labrador's annual Vital Signs report, a foundation-university partnership project that presents research data relevant to quality of life in a reader-friendly format. 100,000 copies of the report are distributed province-wide each year.

Hawthorn is a columnist for CBC, has contributed to The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and the Newfoundland Quarterly, and is currently completing her first non-fiction book, The Other Five Senses. She is also a textile artist and a teacher and performer of Middle Eastern and international folk dance.


  • Word Origins
  • Gender in History
  • Religion and Society
  • Public Engagement
  • Sensory Studies
  • The Human Senses
  • Middle Eastern Dance
  • Ancient Middle East
  • Mesopotamia
  • History of Writing
  • Ancient Literature
  • Akkadian and Sumerian Language
  • Ancient Religion and Mythology


  • Yale University
    Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
    Ph.D., 2012
  • Yale Graduate Teaching Center
    Certificate in College Teaching Preparation, 2011
  • Yale University
    Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
    M.Phil., 2008
  • Queen's University
    Philosophy and Greek
    B.A. (Honours) with Distinction, 2004
  • Pearson United World College
    International Baccalaureate, 2000

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