Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Fiery Furnaces "My Egypian Grammar"

The Fiery Furnaces have a song My Egyptian Grammar on  their album Widow City:

You'll find the lyrics over here.
I never thought it could have happened to me.
But on the morning of my eldest daughter's
Second wedding, I blacked out.
They said it was just stress, but I didn't think so:
I couldn't remember the 15 minutes before.
A white-haired half Samoan girl from Darwin
Gave me a ride, it seems; she let me the car in.
But what it was she said, I couldn't say.
Now, that clearly didn't happen. I consulted my Egyptian Grammar.
On p. 333 was the hieroglyph for motorcycle helmet.
I combined this with a leather-back's shell as I felt I was instructed.
I Xeroxed it and posted it down by the bike lock-ups at the Oriental Institute.
Maybe a nether-world entity would see it and pass it on to those responsible.
That kind of thing must happen sometimes.
Now that clearly didn't happen. I consulted by Egyptian Grammar.
On p. 428 was the hieroglyph for French Canal boat.
I met on the Midway someone channeling up a whatever it wasn't:
There are 17 sections of cymbals in the orchestra of the oversold, it said.
Your youth is lost and doesn't it now seem
You can't make smoke--only steam?
Now that clearly didn't happen. I consulted my Egyptian Grammar.
On p. 566 was the hieroglyph for a blue jay.
 There must be a back story.  Who can help?

H/T to TS

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

News: Paging Dr. Jones

Indiana Jones materials to appear on display at Oriental Institute Museum
William Harms
The contents of a package of Indiana Jones material that mysteriously arrived at the University of Chicago will be on display beginning Thursday, Dec. 20 and continuing through February in the lobby of the Oriental Institute Museum.

The mystery began Dec. 12, when a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.” arrived at the University of Chicago Admissions Office.

A student worker realized that the package was meant for Dr. Indiana Jones, the famous archaeologist of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame. Inside the package was a journal of Abner Ravenwood, the fictional UChicago professor who trained Indiana Jones...
This story broke on the University of Chicago Admissions blog: Indiana Jones Mystery Package.  It was solved a few days later: Mischief Managed.

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The changing neighbohood

Some interesting visualizations of what the neighborhood of the Oriental Institute will be like once the renovation and landscaping of the Becker Friedman Institute is complete are here. 

And the Hyde Park Herald has some background on the University of Chicago Woodlawn Avenue Plan.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Manning on Abt on Breasted

Joe Manning blogs a Brief review of Jeffrey Abt’s bio of James Henry Breasted

ASOR Reception at the OI

"Gala Reception at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago that was held on Thursday evening (November 15th, 2012). The Oriental Institute opened its doors to ASOR and provided a lavish spread for the reception.  ASOR provided coach transportation to more to 350 attendees, and everyone had a wonderful time. Special thanks go to Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute, and to all of the staff. A highlight of the evening was the public announcement by ASOR of its “Building a Foundation for ASOR Campaign—Preserving the Past, Securing the Future.” This $1.3 million campaign will focus on endowment support, research and training support, and online resources. President Tim Harrison announced that ASOR has just passed the halfway mark with $670,000 in gifts and pledges, and we plan to complete the campaign by June 30, 2014 (the end of Fiscal Year 2014)".

The following are a selection of photos from the Gala Reception at the Oriental Institute:


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Special Exhibit, "Between Heaven & Earth: Birds In Ancient Egypt," October 16, 2012 – July 28, 2013

What's New
The Oriental Institute Museum announces its new Special Exhibit, "Between Heaven & Earth: Birds In Ancient Egypt," which opens from October 16, 2012 – July 28, 2013. Visitors to the Oriental Institute Museum will be able to step back in time to discover the world of birds in ancient Egypt as they stroll through an exhibit that recreates the feel of a marsh from the Nile, and see videos of birds flying overhead while the sounds of birds calling to each other resonate in the gallery.

The Oriental Institute Museum announces the re-publication of two short articles from this summer's News & Notes quarterly publication, both pertaining to the Museum's new Special Exhibit, "Between Heaven & Earth: Birds In Ancient Egypt," which opens from October 16, 2012 – July 28, 2013. These two articles highlight the various stages of learning and work involved in preparing several of the artifacts for exhibition in the show. 

Mission Statement of the Oriental Institute Museum and the Department of Public Education and Outreach

The Mission Statement of the Oriental Institute Museum and the Department of Public Education and Outreach is now available on its website.

Mission Statement

Within the Oriental Institute, the Oriental Institute Museum and Department of Public Education and Outreach promote interest in and understanding of ancient civilizations of the Middle East, and their connections to the modern world, for a broad and diverse audience. In order to tell the story of the rise of civilizations, communicate the excitement of archaeological, linguistic, and historical discovery, enhance understanding and appreciation of cultural similarities and differences, show connections between the ancient and modern worlds, and highlight the research of the Oriental Institute:
  • We preserve our collections and information about them
  • We facilitate and conduct research related to the collections
  • We educate our general and scholarly audiences through informative and engaging exhibits, programs, publications and website.
Read the rest here

Monday, September 17, 2012

News: Dictionary Translates Ancient Egypt Life

Dictionary Translates Ancient Egypt Life
Published: September 17, 2012 
New York Times
Ancient Egyptians did not speak to posterity only through hieroglyphs. Those elaborate pictographs were the elite script for recording the lives and triumphs of pharaohs in their tombs and on the monumental stones along the Nile. But almost from the beginning, people in everyday life spoke a different language and wrote a different script, a simpler one that evolved from the earliest hieroglyphs.
EVERYDAY SCRIPT: A Demotic Egyptian writing sample at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.
These were the words of love and family, the law and commerce, private letters and texts on science, religion and literature. For at least 1,000 years, roughly from 500 B.C. to A.D. 500, both the language and the distinctive cursive script were known as Demotic Egyptian, a name given it by the Greeks to mean the tongue of the demos, or the common people. 

Demotic was one of the three scripts inscribed on the Rosetta stone, along with Greek and hieroglyphs, enabling European scholars to decipher the royal language in the early 19th century and thus read the top-down version of a great civilization’s long history. 

Now, scholars at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago have completed almost 40 years of research and published online the final entries of a 2,000-page dictionary that more than doubles the thousands of known Demotic words. Egyptologists expect that the dictionary’s definitions and examples of how words were used in ancient texts will expedite translations of Demotic documents, more of which are unpublished than any other stage of early Egyptian writing. 

A workshop for specialists in Demotic research was held at the university last month as the dictionary section for the letter S, the last of 25 chapters to be finished, is being posted on the Oriental Institute’s Web site, where the dictionary is available free. Eventually a printed edition will be produced, mainly for research libraries, the university said. 

Janet H. Johnson, an Egyptologist at the university’s Oriental Institute who has devoted much of her career to editing the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, called it “an indispensable tool for reconstructing the social, political and cultural life of ancient Egypt during a fascinating period,” when the land was usually dominated by foreigners — first Persians, then Greeks and finally Romans...

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

News: Lady Liberty shines at Oriental Institute exhibit

Lady Liberty shines at Oriental Institute exhibit
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is famous for its ancient arts, but a new exhibit looks at the Statue of Liberty -- piece by piece.
The exhibit features mammoth copper slices of the Statue of Liberty. It's a mixture of sculptures that date from BC to present day.
"We thought showing these huge fragments of the Statue of Liberty would be just a wonderful thing... to juxtapose contemporary art with ancient art," Emily Teeter, curator, said. Two examples: a piece from 700 BC and another from 2012.
"I think it works," Teeter said.
The Oriental Institute is sponsoring the show in conjunction with the university's Renaissance Society. The five pieces are all to the exact scale of the real statue.
The sculptor's family escaped from Vietnam in search of freedom. Danh Vo now lives in Berlin and is reconstructing the entire statue in pieces.
"Well, the original statue came in pieces from France and this one is being made in China in a similar way. The artist was able to get hold of the blueprints. The original blueprints," Susanne Ghez, director renaissance society at U. of C., "Absolutely."
It's not all that easy to recognize the Statue of Liberty because most of these pieces are replicas of liberty's long garment. So just use your imagination and think big.
The original statue of liberty was in pieces so this does make some sense. But also ... Is there some symbolism here? Did the sculptor have something to say about democracy going to pieces?
"Very much so. I think it's his idea of spreading democracy around the world. Spreading it in bits and pieces. The military states, the wars in the Middle East. And that's a statement coming from somebody who's coming from Vietnam. It's very much a critique of democracy," Hamza Walker, associate curator Renaissance Society, U of C., said.
Ultimately there will be hundreds of such pieces and they will be exhibited around the world.
(Copyright ©2012 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sad News: Eleanor Guralnick

The AIA today reports the death on July 28 of Eleanor Guralnick.

In recent years she had been working on the Khorsabad Relief Project at the Oriental Institute.

Monday, July 16, 2012

News: An Oriental Institute exhibit shows why images of ancient artifacts aren’t as accurate as we imagine.

Tut-tut: An Oriental Institute exhibit shows why images of ancient artifacts aren’t as accurate as we imagine.
By Sarah Miller-Davenport, AM’08 | 
Carved into a wall of Egypt’s Luxor Temple, a blurred tableau of religious offerings—its sandstone contours eroded after millennia of abuse from sand and salt—comes into sharp relief through a painstaking operation involving photography, draftsmanship, and scholarly deliberation.
A crumbling piece of plaster excavated from northern Iraq, showing the shadowy outline of three standing figures, metamorphoses into a portrait of Assyrian King Sargon II communing with a deity. That scene is then incorporated into an artist’s imagined replication of an intricate wall painting. In the process, the original object is transformed from rubble to living witness, and what began as a shard of a lost culture is elaborated into a rich narrative of a knowable past.
The work of conjuring images like these is as much a part of archaeology as unearthing the objects themselves. Since the 19th century, reconstructed images of the ancient Middle East have been reproduced in texts, exhibitions, and popular culture. But rarely is the accuracy of those images questioned in a public venue. An exhibit at the Oriental Institute, Picturing the Past: Imaging and Imagining the Ancient Middle East, showcases the role archaeologists and artists play in creating popular perceptions of ancient history. The exhibit, which runs through September 2, illuminates how reconstructing ancient sites and artifacts relies not only on objective scientific information but also on hypothesis and speculation. One of its central questions is: how do we know what we know? It’s a problem that stalks all scholarly inquiry, but perhaps especially the study of the ancient past, whose evidentiary remains are fragmentary...
 The article neglects to mention that the catalogue of the exhibition is available for free download as well as for purchase:

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gil Stein appointed to third term as Oriental Institute director

Gil Stein appointed to third term as Oriental Institute director
Gil Stein, a leading scholar of ancient Mesopotamia, has been reappointed for a third five-year term as director of the Oriental Institute, a position he has held since joining UChicago in 2002.

“The Oriental Institute serves as a nexus for research on campus on the ancient Near East, with an extraordinary collection of objects recovered during OI excavations,” wrote Provost Thomas Rosenbaum in a message to faculty. “Under Gil’s leadership, the OI has implemented the first stage of the integrated Database, a long-term project to connect the Oriental Institute’s major archives including hundreds of thousands of objects, images and data records into a single searchable digital resource, and established the Public Education Department with a broad mission of outreach to the University community, elementary and secondary school students, and the public.”     
Gil Stein
Gil Stein

The U.S. State Department recently chose the Oriental Institute to help inventory collections at the National Museum of Afghanistan (Kabul) and develop a bilingual English-Dari database of the museum’s holdings, Rosenbaum added.

Over the past five years, the Oriental Institute has made major strides in both archaeological and text-based scholarship. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary has been completed after 90 years of work, and the Institute is now developing a new project to explore and document the early development of writing systems in Mesopotamia during the third millennium B.C.

The Persepolis Fortification Archive project and the Epigraphic Survey are using advanced digital technology to document crucial written records of the Persian Empire and ancient Egypt. In the last five years the Oriental Institute has dramatically increased the scope of its archaeological research, initiating four new excavations in Egypt (Edfu), Syria (Tell Zeidan), Israel (Marj Rabba in the Galilee) and the first joint American-Palestinian excavations in the West Bank at Khirbet al-Mafjar (early Islamic Jericho)

“The Oriental Institute is a uniquely valuable resource for scholarship and for the University of Chicago. I deeply appreciate being given the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing work of strengthening the Institute and building its research capacity for the future,” Stein said.

He said his top two priorities are to expand the scope of Oriental Institute research, and to secure the resources to build a solid foundation in people, programs and infrastructure. “These are the crucial building blocks to maintain our position as one of the world’s leading centers of innovation and discovery in studying the civilizations of the ancient Middle East,” Stein said.

He noted that the region is sometimes unstable politically. “By ensuring the critical mass of scholarly expertise and resources at the Oriental Institute, we will be able to move rapidly and flexibly take advantage of these new research opportunities when they do arise — especially in key regions such as Iraq and Iran,” Stein added.

A professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Stein has been conducting fieldwork in Syria at Tell Zeidan, where he is investigating the earliest precursors of Mesopotamian urbanism in the Ubaid period — ca. 5300 B.C. He also has worked in Turkey, where he has overseen important excavations at Hacinebi, a 5,500-year-old Mesopotamian colony in the Euphrates River valley of southeast Turkey that is part of the world's first-known colonial system.

Stein is the author of Rethinking World Systems: Diasporas, Colonies and Interaction in Uruk Mesopotamia, edited The Archaeology of Colonial Encounters and The Uruk Expansion: Northern Perspectives from Hacinebi, Hassek Höyük and Gawra, and co-edited (with Mitchell Rothman) Chiefdoms and Early States in the Near East: The Organizational Dynamics of Complexity. He has been a National Science Foundation graduate fellow, a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a resident scholar at the School of American Research, and has held a Howard Fellowship from Brown University.       
Prior to joining UChicago, he was a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University. He received his bachelor’s in archaeology from Yale University (1978) and his PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania (1988).

Friday, May 25, 2012

University of Chicago Centennial Exhibition Catalogues

The Special Collections Research Center at Regenstein Library has made available online the four University of Chicago Centennial Exhibition Catalogues.

The University of Chicago FacultyThe University of Chicago and the CityPresidents of the University of Chicago

Of most relevance for the Oriental Institute are the biographical sketches in the first of these, in particular:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Job: Head of Public Education & Outreach

Posted on the OI's What's New page on 4 April 2012

Oriental Institute Job Posting: Head of Public Education & Outreach
The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is a research organization and museum devoted to the study of the ancient Middle East. Founded in 1919 by James Henry Breasted, the Institute is an internationally recognized pioneer in the archaeology, philology, and history of early Near Eastern civilizations.

The Oriental Institute seeks a dynamic and forward thinking Head of Public Education & Outreach who will provide long and short range planning for all exhibition and museum related educational programs including those for students, educators, families, scholars and the general public. We seek a creative thinker who can foster new ways of thinking about museum education with responsibility for implementing adult education and online educational programming, supervising program staff, developing and managing program budgets, engaging in fundraising efforts and writing grant proposals. A proven track record of successful development of educational programs is required and a degree in art history, near eastern studies or related field is strongly desired.

To apply for this position, please apply online at the University of Chicago’s job posting website at

Requisition #: 089490

Review of applications will begin on April 30th, 2012.

The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity Employer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

News: Our City, Our Story: Pioneer of the Past

Our City, Our Story: Pioneer of the Past
The story of a forgotten Rockford son, a collossal figure in his time. Still casting a shadow of his impact from the Oriental Institute to all textbooks of ancient history.
Our City, Our Story aims to find and tell the stories which make up our identity. This is Rockford, Illinois.
See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

News: Dancers in the OI

Dance Council / Performances

The Dance Council is a newly created co-curricular program with Theater and Performance Studies, involving more then 300 students, 7 productions annually, with a sweeping range of forms from Ballet to Bhangra.

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exhibition spotlight: ‘Before the Pyramids’ at the Oriental Institute

Egyptological has a short illustrated Exhibition spotlight: ‘Before the Pyramids’ at the Oriental Institute Photos and commentary by Brian Alm. Published on Egyptological, In Brief, on 18th January 2012

The following short article provides a virtual tour of some of the items on show in the recent exhibition from the Oriental Institute Museum’s 2011 exhibit, Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization, at the University of Chicago.

The nine-month exhibit closed Dec. 31, 2011, but the accompanying 288-page catalogue, including nearly 150 pages of essays by 22 authorities on Predynastic Egypt, is available from the Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637, U.S.A.; (e-mail); (Web site); 773-702-9520 (Emily Teeter, ed., 2011. Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago).