Jan Assmann (originally Johann Christoph Assmann; born July 7, 1938) is a German Egyptologist who was born in Langelsheim.
Assmann studied Egyptology and classical archaeology in Munich, Heidelberg, Paris, and Göttingen. In 1966-67, he was a fellow of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, where he continued as an independent scholar from 1967 to 1971. After completing his habilitation in 1971, he was named a professor of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg in 1976, where he taught until his retirement in 2003. He was then named an honorary professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Constance, where he is today.
In the 1990s Assmann and his wife Aleida Assmann developed a theory of cultural and communicative memory that has received much international attention. He is also known beyond Egyptology circles for his interpretation of the origins of monotheism, which he dates to the Exodus from Egypt of the Israelites.
Assmann suggests that the ancient Egyptian religion had a more significant influence on Judaism than is generally acknowledged. He used the term "normative inversion" to suggest that some aspects of Judaism were formulated in direct reaction to Egyptian practices and theology. He ascribed the principle of normative inversion to a principle established by Manetho which was used by Maimonides in his references to the Sabians. His book The Price of Monotheism received some criticism for his notion of The Mosaic Distinction.