Ancient Assyrian Dictionary In Chicago Completed After 90 Years

By on Jun 5, 2011 in Amazing, Education, Universities, World Comments
Assyrian Dictionary Headquarters in 1932
University of Chicago, Oriental Institute (1932)
Image Credit: The Oriental Institute

After 90 years, the University of Chicago, Oriental Institute project of creating an Ancient Assyrian Dictionary is finally finished, according to reports by several international news sites.

Based on the reports, the Assyrian Dictionary, started in 1921, is based on words recorded on clay or stone tablets discovered in ancient ruins in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. These words were reportedly written in a language not spoken for over 2,000 years. It was believed that the translated cuneiform texts may have been written using wedged-shaped characters.

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary was a collaboration of several team of scholars from Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Berlin, Helsinki, Baghdad, London, US and Canada. The dictionary is similar with a an encyclopedia rather than the usual glossary type and it has 21 volumes of Akkadian, a Semitic dialect that includes Assyrian, that is 2,500 years old. The collection has about 10,000 pages and 28,000 words.

The project was considerably slow during the early generations as the researchers use manual typewriters, mimeograph machines and index cards. Scholars were able to use millions of index cards.

Below is a statement from Gil Stein, director of The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, who takes care of the Assyrian dictionary.

The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world’s first urban civilization. Virtually everything that we take for granted … has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing.

If we ever want to understand our roots we have to understand this first great civilization.

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