Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Christopher Woods appointed director of the Oriental Institute

Christopher Woods appointed director of the Oriental Institute
Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods, a leading scholar of Sumerian language and writing, has been appointed director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Woods will become the 13th director of the Oriental Institute, widely considered the world’s leading interdisciplinary center for research on civilizations of the ancient Near East. Founded in 1919, the institute serves as home to a museum and extensive collection of artifacts and research materials. It sponsors archaeological and survey expeditions across the Near East including Egypt, Turkey and Israel.
Woods will begin his new role on July 1. He succeeds Gil Stein, professor of archaeology at UChicago, who has served as the institute’s director since 2002.
“Chris is an outstanding scholar who also has a deep understanding of the Oriental Institute,” Provost Daniel Diermeier said. “He will advance the institute’s important work and build on the strong leadership that Gil Stein has provided over the last 15 years.”
Woods is an associate professor of Sumerian in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University. His research and writings focus on Sumerian language as well as early Mesopotamian religion, literature, mathematics and administration. He serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies and oversees the Oriental Institute’s post-doctoral scholars program.
Woods’ publications include The Grammar of Perspective: The Sumerian Conjugation Prefixes as a System of Voice and the forthcoming Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon 18. He is editor of Visible Language: The Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond. He led the launch of an interdisciplinary effort to explore early writing, entitled Signs of Writing: The Cultural, Social, and Linguistic Contexts of the World’s First Writing Systems. Sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, the project enhanced UChicago’s role as an international center for the study of early writing.
“The opportunity to lead an institute where legends in our field have worked and to build on what Gil has done is one of the greatest honors in the field of Near East studies,” Woods said. “The Oriental Institute is the original interdisciplinary institute at the University, and I look forward to building new partnerships across campus and to developing collaborative projects that reach across fields.”
Prior to joining UChicago, Woods received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and doctorate in Assyriology from Harvard University, where he was a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows.
In his announcement Diermeier highlighted the accomplishments of Stein and thanked him for his service to the institute. Under Stein’s leadership, the institute has expanded its research capabilities, opened up new areas of scholarship, and resumed field research in countries such as Iraq and Israel, where institute scholars had not worked for years. Stein’s initiatives included developing a database to turn the institute’s extensive archives into a searchable digital resource and establishing the public education department for outreach to the University community, elementary and secondary schools, and the public.
Stein will take on the new role of Senior Advisor to the Provost for Cultural Heritage, starting July 1, with the goal of planning and implementing a cross-disciplinary initiative for the preservation of cultural and archaeological heritage for the University.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

David Rockefeller and the Oriental Institute

David Rockefeller died this week at the age of 101.
Rockefeller’s ties to the University spanned a lifetime, from touring Egypt and the Middle East as a teenager with distinguished University archaeologist James Henry Breasted to the endowment of a professorship in UChicago’s economics department, from which he received his doctorate. Rockefeller was associated with the University’s Board of Trustees for seven decades, providing a strong connection to the institution’s founding in 1890.
His Memoirs include the telling of the story of his visit to Egypt and the Near East in 1928 with his family, on a tour led by James Henry Breasted. The episode was excerpted in The University of Chicago Magazine December 2002, Volume 95, Issue 2 in an article entitled Three Months Among the Pyramids:
Father was enthralled by the discoveries of archaeologists who had uncovered so much about the emergence of the great civilizations of antiquity. As a young man he had taken a special interest in the work of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, headed by the distinguished Egyptologist Dr. James Henry Breasted. For a number of years Father supported Breasted’s work in Luxor and at the Temple of Medinet Habu across the Nile just below the Valley of the Kings
In late 1928, Dr. Breasted invited Mother and Father to visit his “dig” in Egypt and to review the work of the institute. Neither of my parents had ever been to that part of the world, and after some discussion they readily agreed to go. I was in the ninth grade at the time and quickly made it obvious to my parents that I wanted to go with them. I had read about the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb only a few years earlier, and a trip to Egypt seemed to me the most exciting of adventures. Father was concerned about my missing so much school because of the length of the trip, which would last for more than three months, but I finally persuaded him to let me go on the grounds that I would learn so much from the experience. He agreed on condition that a tutor went along to keep me up to date on schoolwork. This was the best deal I could get, so I eagerly agreed. 
IMAGE:  From an Oriental Institute tour at Megiddo in 1929: David Rockefeller is third from the left; his father, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, stand beside him. James Henry Breasted, founder of the Oriental Institute, is third from the right.
From an Oriental Institute tour at Megiddo in 1929: David Rockefeller is third from the left; his father, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, are fourth and fifth from the right. James Henry Breasted, founder of the Oriental Institute, is third from the right. 
We sailed from New York on the S.S. Augustus in early January 1929. At the last moment Mary Todhunter Clark, known as Tod, who was a close friend of [my brother] Nelson’s from summers in Seal Harbor, came along as well...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Oriental Institute Oral History Project Interview with John Larson, Museum Archivist

Published on Jan 19, 2017
Oriental Institute Oral History Project
Interview with John Larson, Museum Archivist
Saieh Hall for Economics at the University of Chicago