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July 15, 2003 Press Contact: William Harms
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The Oriental Institute studies the archaeological heritage of ancient Mesopotamia



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Additional press releases:
Oriental Institute opens major gallery on ancient Mesopotamia

Assyrian bull provides museum focal point

Dictionary documents ancient Mesopotamian language

It happened first in ancient Mesopotamia

Since the beginning of the 20th century, scholars at the University of Chicago have contributed greatly to our understanding of the people and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. The newly installed Mesopotamian Gallery at the Oriental Institute displays many of the objects that were recovered in the early years of this pioneering archaeological work.

The University began its expeditions in 1903 at the site of Bismaya (ancient Adab). In the 1920s, the Oriental Institute began large-scale expeditions in the desert of Iraq east of the Diyala River at the sites of Khafajah, Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna), Agrab and Ishchali. The new gallery will include a display of remarkable statues of praying figures from the Diyala region.

Also beginning in the 1920s, a research team from the Oriental Institute conducted important archaeological work at Khorsabad, the great Assyrian capital city of Dur Sharrukin, in northern Iraq. Those excavations yielded a human-headed, winged, bull, which is a major focal point in the new gallery.

From 1948 until the first Gulf War, the Oriental Institute worked at the site of Nippur, the religious center of Mesopotamia for most of its long history, recovering much information about Mesopotamian cultural history and religious practices.

McGuire Gibson, Professor in the Oriental Institute, has for the past 30 years been field director of the Nippur expedition. During the 1990s, Gibson continued his archaeological investigations in Syria at the site of Tell Hamoukar, an early urban center in the upper reaches of Mesopotamia.

Other sites excavated by Oriental Institute teams in Mesopotamia include Jarmo, a prehistoric settlement in northern Iraq, which the late Robert and Linda Braidwood studied in the early 1950s. The Braidwoods, were among the world’s leading experts on prehistory. That expedition included anthropologists, archaeologists and other scientists, who studied the environment in which the development of early settlements occurred. The Braidwoods’ work there and elsewhere in the region is chronicled in a prehistoric exhibition at the entrance to the new gallery.

Robert McCormick Adams, former Professor and Director of the Oriental Institute, did distinguished work in Iraq from 1956 until the late 1970s. He surveyed thousands of archaeological sites in the southern part of the country, revealing the settlement history of the region over a span of 7,000 years. Recent access to satellite images has made it possible to expand Adams’ work with sophisticated new techniques, which will be explored in the new gallery.
Last modified at 04:56 PM CST on Tuesday, July 29, 2003.

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