Monday, June 30, 2014

OI Staff Newsletter

 [First posted in OI History 13 February 2009, updated 30 June 2014]

Beginning in February 1998, with the encouragement and support of Gene Gragg who was then Director of the Oriental Institute, I compiled, edited and distributed by email an internal newsletter for the staff of the Oriental Institute. It chronicled the activities of the departments of the OI, and of individual scholars and senior students at the OI. It was distributed widely in the University of Chicago community by means of a listhost mailing list, but its archive was not publicly available.

It appeared on or about the first Monday of each month of the academic year. All told there are 63 issues which appeared between February 1998 and March 2005. It began at about the time of the completion of the basic construction of the New Wing of the Oriental Institute. It ceased at the time I left the Oriental Institute.

It provides a very interesting monthly snapshot of the activities of the OI over that seven year period, and many of the words appearing in it, reappear in later forms in the Oriental Institute Annual Reports.

In the early 1930's there had been another such effort: "Bulletin to the Staff of the Oriental Institute", of which only a couple of issues appeared.

Unfortunately, as with the old ANE list, the online archive of the staff newsletter no longer exists. It seems now likely that the only remaining digital version is resident on the hard drive of a now failing laptop of my own. Fortunately, there is a hard copy on the shelf in the OI Research Archives.

Thanks to the work of OI Research Archivist, Bibliographer Foy Scalf, who began to scan the had copies and upon discovering that they were incomplete, urging me to try to recover the lost files from a ten year old laptop, we now have a complete set available. So a small piece of Oriental Institute microhistoy in now recovered and preserved. They are available at Oriental Institute Staff Newsletter, and via the links below:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Deborah “Debby” Jannotta

Deborah “Debby” Jannotta, for whom The Edgar and Deborah Jannotta Mesopotamian Gallery of the Oriental Institute Museum is named, has died.
The Edgar and Deborah Jannotta Mesopotamian Gallery of the Oriental Institute Museum opened to the public on October 18, 2003, following a seven year renovation project. The 5,428-square foot gallery displays 1383 objects dating from the Paleolithic Period (ca. 100,000 B.P.) to the Sasanian Period (ca. 5th Century A.D.). The gallery space was designed by Vinci/Hamp Architects of Chicago. New cases, constructed of walnut, were designed by Vinci/Hamp Architects and built by Helmut Guenschel of Baltimore.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

News: Secrets from the Tomb: The hunt for Chicago's mummies

By: Alison Cuddy

What sort of mummies are in the Oriental Institute collection?

Who would have thought the ancient dead could actually break news? But that’s exactly what happened when I embarked on my hunt for Chicago’s mummies.
The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) invited me to tag along in February as they took their two mummies, Paankhenamun and Wenuhotep, to be scanned at the University of Chicago.

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

News: Emily Hammer Hired as Director of the Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes

Emily Hammer Hired as Director of the Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes
by Dani Doyle Mar 26, 2014
This August, Emily Hammer, ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor, will start her new role as the director of the lab at the Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes (CAMEL)  at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. The lab's mission is to investigate long-term change in Middle Eastern landscapes through the analysis of spatial data and satellite imagery using Geographical Information Systems.
Emily joined ISAW's Visiting Research Scholar Program in 2012, developing her research and fieldwork on ancient settlement patterns and environment in southeastern Turkey and western Azerbaijan. In that time, she's also been teaching courses on Geographical Information Systems in Anthropology and Archaeology, landscape archaeology, and the history of water in the Middle East here at ISAW and in the Department of Anthropology.

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RIP Frances Güterbock

News comes of the death last week in Crozet Virginia of Frances Güterbock
Frances Guterbock (nee Franziska Hellmann) passed peacefully from this life on Sunday, January 19, 2014, at the Lodge at Old Trail in Crozet, where she spent her last year. She was born in Würzburg, Germany on September 3, 1919, the eldest of three sisters (Erika and Miriam). Her family moved to Turkey in 1936. There she met and married her husband of sixty years, Professor Hans Gustav Güterbock, and bore two sons, Walter and Thomas. They emigrated to Chicago in 1949. She earned a BA from The American College for Girls in Istanbul and a BA in music education from The Chicago Musical College. She lived a long and full life, devoted to family, to music, to literature, to support of her husband's work, to the arts, to teaching, and to her many friends in Hyde Park and around the world...
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Frances's memory to the Chicago Hittite Dictionary, The Oriental Institute, 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, or to the University of Chicago Service League, c/o Dianne Luhmann, 5000 S East End #D14, Chicago, IL 60615. 

Frances Guterbock

The Biographical Memoir of her husband Hans Gustav Güterbock, published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol, 146, No. 3 (September 2002) includes the following paragraph:
An additional bond that linked him not only with his wife, Frances, an accomplished singer and pianist, but also to his teacher, Benno Landsberger, was music. He enjoyed concerts and had subscriptions to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera, and there was always music-making in his house, as when Frances and Landsberger played four hands. His musical bent led him to interpret several Babylonian texts dealing with the tuning of the harp, and to identify this notation in a Hurrian song, a rendition of which was volunteered by Frances Güterbock. 
I believe she is the last of the generation of refugees from Germany who landed at the Oriental Institute in the middle of the 20th century with the assistance of Thorkild Jacobsen.

She was a delightful woman and it was a honour to have known her.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Old ANE Archive

The ANE email discussion list operated from the beginning of July 1993, with only a few short interruptions until February 16, 2006. It was moderated by me until shortly before my departure for Athens in the summer of 2005. The archive of traffic from the beginning until the end of 2001 is archived at the Oriental Institute Research Archives

I have just discovered that the headers (at least) of the later archive, lost in Chicago when the listhost software was upgraded, remains visible and accessible at the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. I'm led to believe that there are also some privately held archives of traffic for these years. I'd be grateful to know more about them.

The ANE archive is an interesting record of the interaction of a wide variety of scholars and interested laypersons from all over the world in the early years of electronic communication. I have been asked from time to time to write about the phenomenon, but I have not yet done so, except for a short note about the Nazism and ANE studies controversy, and in 
The Web Editor: 'Abzu and Beyond', in Ariadne 21 (23 September 1999).

ANE-2, the successor to ANE remains active to this day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

News: Clues to Lost Prehistoric Code Discovered in Mesopotamia

Clues to Lost Prehistoric Code Discovered in Mesopotamia
By Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor   |   October 10, 2013 07:44am ET

Researchers studying clay balls from Mesopotamia have discovered clues to a lost code that was used for record-keeping about 200 years before writing was invented.
The clay balls may represent the world's "very first data storage system," at least the first that scientists know of, said Christopher Woods, a professor at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, in a lecture at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, where he presented initial findings.
The balls, often called "envelopes" by researchers, were sealed and contain tokens in a variety of geometric shapes — the balls varying from golf ball-size to baseball-size. Only about 150 intact examples survive worldwide today. [See Photos of the Clay Balls & Lost Code]

Read the rest

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Curators’ Choice

Keepers of University collections reveal the pieces closest to their hearts.
Jack Green, Chief Curator, Oriental Institute
Situated along the bustling trade route between Egypt and Syria, the ancient city of Megiddo (in modern-day Israel) was a crossroads of globalization in the late Bronze Age. A massive archaeological excavation here by the Oriental Institute in the 1920s and ’30s unearthed 382 pieces of carved ivory in a palace cellar. Combs, ointment containers, and decorative trinkets bearing aesthetic influences from surrounding regions were stacked in a single room.
“We actually don’t know why all these pieces were found together,” though people have been known for several centuries to hoard and collect ivory, says Green. Even more mysterious, the treasure pile was topped with the remains of a dead cow, perhaps as part of a sacrifice or ritual. The OI holds the only collection of Megiddo ivories in North America. “They’re wonderful because they really show the trade connections in the eastern Mediterranean at that time.”

Female Sphinx Plaque, ivory, Megiddo, Stratum VIIA, Late Bronze IIB (1300–1200 bc). A22213.
This well-preserved ivory sphinx speaks to Megiddo as a cultural crossroads infused with the influence of globalization. Though situated far from Egypt, locals created artistic objects that captured their perceptions of the distant land. “They’re taking an Egyptian motif—the sphinx—and combining it with other motifs that might be thought to be Egyptian to create this hybrid,” Green says. “But it’s really not something that you’d normally see in ancient Egypt.” Resident Egyptologist Emily Teeter adds, “an Egyptian would look at this and think, ‘It’s supposed to be Egyptian? You’ve got to be kidding me.’”

Gaming Board, ivory and gold, Megiddo, Stratum VIIA, Late Bronze IIB (1300–1200 bc). A22254 A&B.
“If I had to choose one object amongst all of them, this gaming board would probably be it,” says Green. Designed for a Parcheesi-like pastime of the upper crust known as the “game of 58 holes,” this “super luxe” item was a sign of worldly sophistication. Made of fragile elephant ivory, the piece retains much of its gold embellishment and is one of few such boards ever discovered intact. “You could imagine a governor or wealthy Canaanite mayor using one of these,” Green says. “An international-style gaming board was very much the fashionable thing.”

Emily Teeter, Egyptologist and Research Associate, Oriental Institute

Annuity Contract, papyrus, ink (detail), 365–364 BC, Late Period, Dynasty 30, Reign of Nectanebo, 22 December 365 BC–20 January 364 BC, Faiyum, Hawara, purchased in Cairo, 1932. OIM 17481.
“I love the resonance of ancient and modern in this piece,” Teeter says, describing an expansive papyrus scroll that details a northern Egyptian marriage contract from 364–365 BC. Written in Demotic script, a later form of hieroglyphics, the document specifies that the man must provide his wife a set amount of silver and grain each year—for life. “He has to continue to pay this, regardless of what house she’s living in,” says Teeter, explaining that divorce, much like now, was quite common in ancient Egypt. “There was no real stigma to it.” Penned on multiple sheets of costly papyri affixed together, each of which features only a small amount of text, the contract itself was a status symbol for the couple. “They didn’t need this much papyrus,” says Teeter. “They’re showing off.”

A Complaint from Tomb Builders, limestone, pigment, New Kingdom, Dynasty 20, Reign of Ramesses III, ca. 1182–1151 BC, Luxor, Deir el-Medina, purchased in Luxor, 1936. OIM 16991.
This limestone plaque inscribed with cursive hieroglyphics chronicles the first recorded labor strike in Egyptian history, circa 1153 BC. “It’s such a humble-looking object, but it says so much about the society,” Teeter says. After being shorted on pay, builders constructing tombs for Ramesses III’s sons in the Valley of the Queens walked off the work site and put down their tools at a local temple.
“We are exceedingly impoverished,” they wrote to the vizier overseeing the project. Though the plaque itself breaks off midtext, the result—the tombs were finished—attests to a successful strike. “People think of ancient societies where the pharaoh is all powerful,” Teeter says, “but there was a lot of give-and-take.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Digging through Data at the Oriental Institute

Digging through Data at the Oriental Institute
In The Ancient Near East Today

By: Scott Branting, Jack Green, and Foy Scalf
Posted on 
Think back to the time when you last visited a library and flicked through a card catalog to find a book. Card catalogs were made obsolete by computer databases in the 1980s, and were followed by online access to libraries’ collections during the 1990s and 2000s. In this digital world of Wi-Fi, data mining, and the insatiable hunger for immediate online access to research materials, the library card catalog is now almost consigned to the graveyard.Fig. 1. Groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, April 28, 1930. University president Robert Maynard Hutchins (center left) looks on as Dr. James H. Breasted uses a shovel to break ground.Fig. 1. Groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, April 28, 1930. University president Robert Maynard Hutchins (center left) looks on as Dr. James H. Breasted uses a shovel to break ground.Fig. 2. The card catalog era:  Research Archives of the Oriental Institute, circa 1975.Fig. 2. The card catalog era: Research Archives of the Oriental Institute, circa 1975.
Advances in online museum collections databases have been significantly slower. Information from a museum’s card catalogs was commonly integrated into computer databases beginning in the 1980s, making it easier for curators and registrars to maintain, access, and update information on the objects at their fingertips. In the 1980s the Oriental Institute’s Museum began using dBase 3, but this was not a networked system, and was only accessed via single computers within the museum collections area. The leap towards online access to collections has been much more intermittent and variable across museums, often because the data serves a smaller and more specialized group of users than libraries. But over the past decade or more, many museums have made their collections available online in some form, ranging from the entire collections database with images, to simple lists of displayed materials, or at least the highlights.
The world is rapidly entering an era when anyone, anywhere – not only the cloistered scholar – can fully access digitized books, articles, images of objects, manuscripts, and photographs in museum and library collections. The only limitations are the staff time and funding to make such ventures possible. Yet what often emerges from multiple, online databases could be described as data overload, or data complexity. The ‘holy grail’ in digital terms remains the integration of multiple databases that contain disparate data and collections that share common elements, and the ability to conduct searches on a single database that can bring up results from multiple sources for immediate comparison... [Read the rest]