Ancient world dictionary finished — after 90 years

This is a great article I pulled from yahoo news. Check this out and be amazed at once again how important the primary sources and original writings are from the ancient world.

Ancient world dictionary finished — after 90 years

By SHARON COHEN, AP National Writer Sharon Cohen, Sat Jun 4, 9:56 am ET

CHICAGO – It was a monumental project with modest beginnings: a small group of scholars and some index cards. The plan was to explore a long-dead language that would reveal an ancient world of chariots and concubines, royal decrees and diaries — and omens that came from the heavens and sheep livers.

The year: 1921. The place: The University of Chicago. The project: Assembling an Assyrian dictionary based on words recorded on clay or stone tablets unearthed from ruins in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, written in a language that hadn’t been uttered for more than 2,000 years. The scholars knew the project would take a long time. No one quite expected how very long.

Decades passed. The team grew. Scholars arrived from Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Berlin, Helsinki, Baghdad and London, joining others from the U.S. and Canada. One generation gave way to the next, one century faded into the next. Some signed on early in their careers; they were still toiling away at retirement. The work was slow, sometimes frustrating and decidedly low-tech: Typewriters. Mimeograph machines. And index cards. Eventually, nearly 2 million of them.

And now, 90 years later, a finale. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is now officially complete — 21 volumes of Akkadian, a Semitic language (with several dialects, including Assyrian) that endured for 2,500 years. The project is more encyclopedia than glossary, offering a window into the ancient society of Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, through every conceivable form of writing: love letters, recipes, tax records, medical prescriptions, astronomical observations, religious texts, contracts, epics, poems and more.

This is just a summary of the article.:)

For the complete article just click on the hyperlink title and enjoy! These sorts of discoveries and careful, tedious, planning always amazes me. I like to think of archaeologists, historians, and people involved in textual criticism as puzzle masters (and anybody else I may have forgot:). They get down and dirty in the dirt and rock and look at what appears as a mess to most people, and then have to assemble it all to get a clear picture. They must have fantastic imaginations. 🙂 After this, they report their findings to the world and we are all amazed. My wife and I had the privilege to spend a week on a dig at Ramat Rachel in Israel which is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, so we have experienced some of the intensity of a dig, 🙂 and it is hard work but rewarding. We uncovered oil lamps, pottery, coins, seals, and much more from the 5th century B.C.E. Israelite period right through to the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.

I hope you enjoyed this article and let me know your thoughts.


Peter J. Fast

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