By David Dobson
Special to the Rockford Register Star
Rockford native and archaeologist James Henry Breasted is featured in a new exhibit at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-20.” The exhibit opens Jan. 12 and runs through August.
The exhibit follows the travels of Oriental Institute founder Breasted during the formation of the modern Middle East and displays objects he purchased. From 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Jan. 13, Geoff Emberling, Oriental Institute Museum chief curator, will discuss the photographs, artifacts and archival documents of the exhibit.
The Institute and its museum are at 1155 E. 58th St. in Chicago, on the grounds of the university. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays; and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. The telephone number is 773-702-9520, and the museum’s Web site is oi.uchicago.edu.
Breasted is known for founding the Oriental Institute in 1919, described by the university as a “research organization and museum devoted to the study of the ancient Near East … the Institute, a part of the University of Chicago, is an internationally recognized pioneer in the archaeology, philology and history of early Near Eastern civilizations.” The Institute‘s Web site describes its museum as a “world-renowned showcase for the history, art and archaeology of the ancient Near East.” The newly remodeled museum is open to the public for a suggested donation of $7 for adults, $4 for children.
Born in Rockford in 1865, Breasted became fascinated with ancient languages of the Near East while studying at Chicago Theological Seminary. He studied at Yale and earned a doctoral degree in Egyptology in Germany in 1894.
Upon graduation, Breasted began a professorship with the University of Chicago and traveled extensively in the ancient Near East. Breasted accompanied famed archaeologist Howard Carter at the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1923. Breasted was featured on the cover of Time magazine Dec. 14, 1931, described by the magazine as the “foremost Egyptologist of the U.S.”
He wrote numerous books on ancient history and inscriptions, including a leading textbook. Breasted died in 1935 and is buried in Rockford’s Greenwood Cemetery.
An excellent resource on Breasted’s life is “Pioneer to the Past,” a biography written by his son Charles in 1943. The University of Chicago provides information about Breasted’s life and work at uchicago.edu; search for “Breasted.”
See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.