Tuesday, April 4, 2023

We have changed our name to: Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa (ISAC)

We have changed our name to: Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa (ISAC)

Our previous name, The Oriental Institute has led to confusion, often contributing to the perception that our work was focused on East Asia, rather than West Asia and North Africa. To address this issue, in 2021, we organized a Name Change Committee that worked collaboratively with University of Chicago faculty, staff, students, stakeholders, and supporters, as well as colleagues at peer institutions around the world. The committee collected data representing a broad range of perspectives, which informed their decision to recommend a new name that more clearly honors the cultures, regions, and time periods that we study.

To learn more about ISAC’s decision to change our name, click here to read an article by our Interim Director, Theo van den Hout.

To learn more about the changing history of the word “oriental”, click here to read an article written by Tasha Vorderstrasse, ISAC Manager of Adult Education.

Along with our new name, we also embrace a new logo. In October 2022, we invited ISAC and University faculty, staff, students, Advisory Council Members, volunteers, and docents to contribute their ideas for motifs, objects, and design elements that could serve as inspiration for our new icon. The submissions received overwhelmingly favored floral motifs found throughout the ISAC building, both in our architectural design elements and in our collections.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Oriental Institute Annual Reports

Oriental Institute Annual Reports

Oriental Institute Annual Report
The print versions of the Oriental Institute Annual Report are available for members as one of the privileges of membership. They are not for sale to the general public. They contain yearly summaries of the activities of the Institute’s faculty, staff, and research projects, as well as descriptions of special events and other Institute functions.

Oriental Institute 2019–2020 Annual Report














For an up to date list of all Oriental Institute publications available online see:

Thursday, February 20, 2020

‘Trying desperately to make myself an Egyptologist’: James Breasted’s early scientific network

‘Trying desperately to make myself an Egyptologist’: James Breasted’s early scientific network
Pages: 174–187 (14 total)
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Discovering New Pasts: The OI at 100

Discovering New Pasts: The OI at 100
Theo van den Hout, ed.
Purchase Download Terms of Use
In celebration of the OI’s centennial year, over sixty different authors and contributors have come together to provide a personalized history of the OI’s work past and present. In these pages we invite you to join us on an adventure. Explore the legacy of James Henry Breasted and the institute he founded. Discover the inner workings of the OI and its museum. Travel across multiple continents to learn about groundbreaking research. Enjoy a unique collection of nearly six hundred images, all in one publication for the first time. Learn the story of the institute’s development—from being one man’s dream to becoming one of the world’s preeminent authorities on over ten thousand years of human civilization.

Table of Contents

Foreword. John Rowe
Introduction. Christopher Woods
Note from the Editor. Theo van den Hout
Authors & Contributors
Map of the Ancient World
Timeline of the Ancient Middle East
01. Seeking Permanence
Seeking Permanence: James Henry Breasted and His Oriental Institute. Jeffrey Abt
02. Architecture of the OI
Architecture of the OI. Susan J. van der Meulen
03. Museum
Introduction. Jean M. Evans
A History of the OI Museum. Emily Teeter
The Tablet Collection. Susanne Paulus
Keeping the Past Present: A Short History of the OI Museum Archives. Anne Flannery
Conservation: One Hundred Years of Change. Laura D’Alessandro
Registration. Raymond Tindel & Helen McDonald
04. Education
OI Volunteer Program. Terry Friedman, Sue Geshwender & Janet Helman
Youth and Family Programs. Calgary Haines-Trautman
05. Research Archives
A Kind of Paradise: The Research Archives of the OI. Foy Scalf
CAMEL. Anthony Lauricella
06. Publications
Makin’ Books: OI Publications. Charissa Johnson
07. Egypt
Egypt: Where the OI Began. Brian P. Muhs
The Epigraphic Survey, 1924–2019. W. Raymond Johnson & J. Brett McClain
Chicago House: Technological Innovations in Epigraphic Recording. W. Raymond Johnson & J. Brett McClain
The Chicago Demotic Dictionary. Janet H. Johnson & Brian P. Muhs
The Coffin Texts Project. Robert K. Ritner
The “Ancient Egyptian Paintings” Project. Robert K. Ritner
the Mummy Label Database (MLD). François Gaudard, Raquel Martín Hernández & Sofía Torallas Tovar
Tell Edfu. Nadine Moeller & Gregory Marouard
08. Mesopotamia
Mesopotamian Archaeology at the OI. McGuire Gibson, Karen Wilson & Jean M. Evans
Assyriology and the Assyrian Dictionary. Martha T. Roth
09. Iran
The Past and Present of the OI’s Work in Iran. Abbas Alizadeh & Matthew W. Stolper
10. Afghanistan
OI Cultural Heritage Preservation Projects in Afghanistan. Gil Stein
11. Anatolia
Hittite and Anatolian Studies at the OI. Richard Beal
12. Levant
Northwest Semitics in the OI: Recollections of the Last Half Century. Dennis Pardee
The OI’S Expedition to Megiddo, 1925–39. Eric H. Cline
13. Nubia
The OI and Nubia. Bruce B. Williams & Lisa Heidorn
14. Islamic
OI Projects from the Islamic Period: Texts and Archaeology. Tasha Vorderstrasse
Directors of the OI
Curators of the Museum
Advisory Council and Breasted Medallion Awardees
A Few Faces of the OI
OI Founding Documents
University of Chicago Campus Map
  • Discovering New Pasts: The OI at 100
  • Edited by Theo van den Hout
  • Oriental Institute Miscellaneous Publications
  • Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2019 
  • ISBN: 978-1-61491-049-7
  • pp. xxiv + 428; 584 images (most color)
  • Hardback, 11.5” x 10”

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

OI Centennial webpages

The Oriental Institute unveils its new logo and Centennial webpages

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Film of Oriental Institute Staff 1938

Oriental Institute Staff 1938

This digitized film reel highlights daily life at the Oriental Institute in 1938. From the Oriental Institute Audiovisual Collection.

I  had not seen this before yesterday. Very interesting

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A new acquisitions policy for the Oriental Institute Museum

Oriental Institute Acquisitions Policy approved
JUNE 27, 2017

On May 10, 2017 the Oriental Institute Voting Members approved the following acquisitions policy for the Oriental Institute Museum:

Oriental Institute Acquisition Policy

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago purchases on the market only infrequently and will only acquire items that can be shown to have left their country of origin before 1972, the year the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property entered into force, or to have been otherwise legally exported from their country of origin and legally imported into the United States. Legally-exported items include, but are not limited to, those that are part of a state-sponsored division (partage), scientific samples (faunal remains, carbon, plant, soil and wood, among others), and study collection materials, for which an export license has been granted by the country of origin or is not required under the laws of the country of origin.

In cases where the national ownership laws of an object’s country of origin can be shown to predate 1972, objects must have been exported before the date of that country’s law. The term “country of origin” here refers to the country within whose boundaries, as recognized by the United States Government, the object was discovered in modern times.

The provenance of acquired items shall be a matter of public record.  Once an object has been vetted and approved by the Acquisitions Committee and it is accessioned into the collection, the Oriental Institute will publish an image and any associated provenance information related to acquisition in the Annual Report and on the Collections section of the Oriental Institute’s website.

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.