Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dinner in the Tomb


For decades a print of this photograph hung on the wall just inside the door of the Research Archives.

TitleOriental Institute
ViewEgyptian Dinner 1
SeriesII: Buildings and Grounds
DescriptionArchaeologists dining in the tomb of Ramses XI, Valley of the Kings (Wadi al-Biban al-Muluk) near Luxor, Egypt. The empty chair at the head of the table is that of Lord Carnarvon who took the picture. From left to right: Dr. James Breasted, Harry Burton, Alfred Lucas, Arthur Callender, Arthur Mace, Howard Carter, and Sir Alan Gardiner.
Subject TermsBreasted, James Henry, 1865-1935 | Carter, Howard, 1874-1939 | Mace, Arthur Cruttenden, 1874-1928 | Gardiner, Alan Henderson, Sir, 1879-1963 | Lucas, Alfred, 1867-1945 | Burton, Harry, 1879-1940
PhotographerCarnarvon, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of, 1866-1923
Photograph DateUndated
Physical FormatPhotographic prints; 11.1 x 16.6 cm
CollectionArchival Photographic Files
RepositoryUniversity of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center
Image Identifier

A Postcard...

From CHUCKMAN'S collection of postcards of Chicago. Who is that in the picture? Watson Boyes? I think so - compare these for example.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

As the year ends...

Various persons and places a are producing their traditional year end lists of top this and thats. Uchiblogo, the University of Chicago Magazine's blog has a feature today called You Read it Here:

In 2009 we tried some new things on our blog UChiBLOGo and kept things interesting in the pages of the Magazine. Some ideas played out more successfully than others. Here are some of 2009's highlights, by the numbers:

Five most popular magazine stories, online

  1. "Chicago Schooled"
    Michael Fitzgerald, AB’86, writes about how the visible hand of the recession has revitalized critics of the Chicago School of Economics.

  2. "Life under wraps" and "Meresamun: A life in layers"
    On display for nine decades, the coffin of a 2,800-year-old Egyptian mummy Meresamun has never been opened. But CT imagery peeled away paint, plaster, and linen to reveal the woman inside...
Meresamun has to be the biggest OI story ever! 44,600 hits on the word in google as of today!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

News: Rita Picken Professorship

University of Chicago News, December 22, 2009.
The Oriental Institute has established a professorship in honor of the late Rita Picken, a long-time volunteer docent who, for three decades, shared her fascination with the ancient Near East with school children and adults visiting the Oriental Institute Museum.

The Rita T. Picken Professorship in Ancient Near Eastern Art will enhance the work of the Oriental Institute by adding a faculty member whose expertise in ancient art will complement the institute’s strengths in languages and archaeology, said Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute.

The professorship is being established with a $3.5 million gift from Rita Picken’s daughter, Kitty Picken, who began volunteering with her mother in 1977.

“Rita Picken was a true friend of the Oriental Institute. She loved ancient art and artifacts, and shared her enthusiasm with many generations of adults and school children as a docent in our museum,” Stein said.

Rita and Kitty Picken also sponsored the Picken Family Nubia Gallery and the Oriental Institute’s recent special exhibition on the ancient Egyptian mummy Meresamun.

Rita Picken, who was a Life Member of the Oriental Institute’s Visiting Committee, received in May the Breasted Medallion, the highest honor the institute gives for a career of volunteer service.

“She was a person whose sweetness, gentle wit and sparkling eyes always brightened up the room. The Oriental Institute was like a second family for her, and we all will miss her greatly,” Stein added.

Modern scholars rely on three complementary kinds of evidence to reconstruct early cultures, Stein explained. Archaeologists study artifacts, “to tell us about ancient behavior and what people actually did.” Scholars also examine texts written by philologists and ancient historians, which “lets us hear these ancient people describe in their own words the details of how their societies worked,” said Stein.

The third method, which the Picken professorship will help support, is the study of images that “provides insights into the ideologies of ancient people―how they expressed power and piety through visual symbols,” Stein added. This crucial third piece of the puzzle for understanding ancient Near Eastern cultures will build on the Oriental Institute’s traditional strengths in archaeology and textual studies. The institute has not had an art historian on its faculty since 1985, when the late Helene Kantor retired.

“With the Rita T. Picken Professorship in Ancient Near Eastern Art, we will be able to bring back the study of images, giving us a truly holistic perspective on the ancient Near East. I don’t know of any other research center that will have all of these powerful approaches to studying the past united under one roof in an integrated program of research and graduate training,” Stein said.

“Different cultures in the ancient Near East were closely interconnected and they were the world’s earliest globalized societies, where art objects and art styles were the currency of prestige and power. Art objects were some of the most important goods of that time, and they were traded or given as royal gifts across vast distances,” Stein said.

“We hope to attract a scholar whose knowledge of the art of multiple ancient cultures, such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, would allow him or her to understand the complexity of visual symbols in this globalized ancient world,” said Stein.

Along with her daughter Kitty, Rita Picken joined the Oriental Institute as a docent in 1977, and the mother-daughter team also enrolled in classes. “The Oriental Institute became family for us,” said Kitty Picken.

“Part of what Rita enjoyed was the feedback she received from the fourth and fifth graders on her tours,” said Kitty Picken. “She would always ask them what they thought would still be around from our own civilization 1,000 years from now. They would tell her, ‘probably Tupperware bowls,’ but that the lids would not fit. Then she’d laugh and say that archaeologists might consider the lids religious symbols if they didn’t know what they were.”


See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Oriental Institute and Its Projects on Youtube

[Originally posted on 1 May 2009, updated 15 October 2009, updated 22 October 2010, updated December 10, 2009, updated January 10, 2009. Updated July 9, 2010. Updated 10/5/10]

Matthew Stolper, Head of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, kicked off the event by discussing the languages of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, as a symbol of inclusiveness of the empire of many people and many languages

Cracking the Code: using language to unlock ancient history

[This first video is not on YouTube, but is still worth watching]

and see also

Persepolis sequence from The Human Adventure

OI on Twitter


Monday, December 7, 2009

Changes at the Journal of Near Eastern Studies

The Journal of Near Eastern Studies is the Departmental Journal of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and is closely associated with the Oriental Institute.


A recent announcement from JNES reads:
The editors and publisher of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies are pleased to announce several exciting changes to JNES.

Effective with the 2010 volume, JNES will move from quarterly publication to semiannual publication, with two issues now appearing each year, in April and October. The amount of content published in JNES will not decrease, however, because each issue will contain at least twice as many pages as previously. Current subscriptions due to expire with the January 2010 issue will now expire with the April 2010 issue; current subscriptions due to expire with the July 2010 issue will now expire with the October 2010 issue. Current JNES subscribers should therefore be assured they will receive all the journal content they have paid for, and more.

Corresponding with the frequency change, we will introduce the first significant redesign of JNES since 1942. An increased trim size (8.5” × 11”) will better accommodate larger photographs and drawings, and a smoother text stock will allow for better reproduction of halftones as well as the possibility of color figures. A two-column interior format and an updated typeface will make the journal easier to read. Additionally, the full-color cover of each issue will feature a different artifact from the collection of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, to be loosely connected in terms of theme to one or more of the articles appearing in the issue.

The JNES editors will also be adjusting the balance between articles and book reviews. The aim is to focus increasingly on original research, and JNES will therefore publish more articles and fewer (though more substantial) book reviews. This goal will only be fully realized, of course, once JNES works through its considerable backlog of book reviews sometime within the next two years.

Otherwise, the traditional editorial scope of JNES—all aspects of the vibrant and varied civilizations of the Near East from ancient to premodern times—will remain unchanged.

Back issues of JNES are available in JSTOR: Journal of Near Eastern Studies
Index to JNES volumes 1 - 55

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Biographical Memoirs: Erica Reiner

Biographical Memoirs: Erica Reiner, by Martha Roth, PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY VOL. 153, NO. 3, SEPTEMBER 2009.
ERICA REINER was born 4 August 1924, in Budapest, to Imre,
a young lawyer, and Clara (née Ehrenfeld), both from well-to-
do modern Orthodox Jewish families. Erica and my mother,
Anna Reiner, close fi rst cousins, spent school vacations together either
in the country at my mother’s or in the city at Erica’s. My mother talked
about the elegance of Erica’s Budapest home—the Fräulein teaching
French and German to Erica and her sister, Eva; shopping at the best
stores; always the best schools. At university in Budapest, Erica studied
French literature and Semitics. Her father was by then a prominent
lawyer, and later a member of the Judenrat in the ghetto. Even during
the darkest days of 1944–45, when Jews were restricted and then pro-
hibited from public life, Erica refused to stop attending classes; she
simply removed her yellow star and went to lectures. Although many
members of the Reiner family, particularly of the older generation,
shared the fate of most Hungarian Jewry, many of Imre’s immediate
and extended family whom he had brought into the shrinking Budapest
ghetto (including my mother), survived long enough to see liberation.
In 1948 Erica received her licence from Péter University in Buda-
pest, and went off to Paris to continue her studies in French literature.
There she lived with her mother’s brother, Michel Gyarmaty, who was
the artistic director of the Folies Bergères. Michel’s apartment, like his
stage sets, was elaborate, gilded, and baroque, and he introduced Erica
to a new and exciting life in postwar Paris. In addition to giving her the
decorating and entertaining style for which Erica became famous at the
University of Chicago in Hyde Park, two important events in those
years shaped her life. First, when Erica realized that she and later her
family would not return to Hungary and that a career in French litera-
ture would elude her in Paris, she switched her studies to Semitic lan-
guages and linguistics, and began studying with Professor Jean Nou-
gayrol. Second, the twenty-four-year-old Hungarian beauty had a tragic
love affair. Her Spanish lover, an engineering student, eventually re-
turned to Spain; but he left her with a deep commitment to his Catholic
faith, which Erica made her own. As devout a Jew as she had been be-
fore, in Paris she turned her passion to Catholicism and remained a de-
vout Catholic for the rest of her life...

And see also:

Her History of the CAD: An Adventure of Great Dimension: The Launching of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary

In Memoriam Erica Reiner, 1924–2005 appeared in the Oriental Institute 2005-2006 Annual Report

Obituary from the University of Chicago News and Information Office: Erica Reiner, 1924-2005, Published Jan. 3, 2006