Dictionary of ancient language completed

June 6, 2011 at 8:17 PM
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CHICAGO, June 6 (UPI) -- A dictionary of a language written on clay tablets and carved in stone in Mesopotamia between 2500 B.C. and A.D. 100 is done after 90 years, U.S. academics say.

The goal of project at the University of Chicago was to identify, explain and provide citations for the words written by Babylonians, Assyrians and others in the region, a university release said Monday.

"I feel proud and privileged to have brought this project home," said Martha Roth, editor-in-charge of the 21-volume Chicago Assyrian Dictionary.

James Henry Breasted, founder of the university's Oriental Institute and one of the country's premier Middle Eastern archaeologists, began the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary project in 1921.

The dictionary entry for each word denotes various meanings and the contexts and ways in which it was used.

Robert Biggs of the Oriental Institute worked on the dictionary and also as an archaeologist on digs where he recovered tablets.

"You'd brush away the dirt, and then there would emerge a letter from someone who might be talking about a new child in the family, or another tablet that might be about a loan until harvest time," he said.

"You'd realize that this was a culture not just of kings and queens, but also of real people, much like ourselves, with similar concerns for safety, food and shelter for themselves and their families.

"They wrote these tablets thousands of years ago, never meaning for them to be read so much later, but they speak to us in a way that makes their experiences come alive."

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