The past plays a decisive part in the formation of the present for every individual and group. At the same time, today it is ever more clear that the present also has a pivotal role in the construction of the past, and the latter frequentlychanges due to political, cultural, religious and social currents. In the last generation or so, there has been a significant increase in studies in both the Humanities and Social Sciences dealing with the place of the past in the present, and the role of the present in determining the memory of the past. This intensive activity has given birth to sygnificant developments in the way that scholars have studied the "memory of the past," its formation and further crystallization. Most of these studies, however, have dealt with modern societies or individuals.
The research group "Past and Past Perfect" (or in Hebrew: "The Past of the Past"), composed of researchers studying societies in the societies in the Near East and the Mediterranean during the ancient and medieval times, proposes to set as its focus a unique perspective: How did pre-modern societies look at their past? What was the role that it played in their own present, at what role did their "present" play in their conception of their past? This double, even dialectical, historical view will permit a better understanding of each of the studied groups. Research into a variety of periods, societies and areas (within a larger region) that are significantly different from each other, as well as the employment of diverse methodologies and approaches by each of the members, will enable a more general synthesis and wide reaching conclusion that can then be reapplied to the specific societies in question, thus enabling a richer and more nuanced understanding of the "formation of memory" in each of them. The central goal of the group is thus to identify the impact of various causes, contexts and situations on the crystallization and expression of this "memory of the past" in groups differing in historical, cultural, social and political circumstances, and to generalize on the basis of the findings. In order to further this goal, three themes have been identified that will be the basis of each year's work of the group.