Akkadian dictionary published, available free online
A dictionary of the ancient Akkadian language, the language of Assyria and Babylon, has been completed after 90 years and published by the University of Chicago.
"This is a heroic and significant moment in history," beamed Dr Irving Finkel of the British Museum's Middle East department.
As a young man in the 1970s Dr Finkel dedicated three years of his life to The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project which is based at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
That makes him something of a spring chicken in the life story of this project, which began in 1921.
Almost 90 experts from around the world took part, diligently recording and cross referencing their work on what ended up being almost two million index cards.
The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is 21 volumes long and is encyclopaedic in its range. Whole volumes are dedicated to a single letter, and it comes complete with extensive references to original source material throughout.
Once again, we see that human nature has no history:
"It is a miraculous thing," enthuses Dr Finkel.
"We can read the ancient words of poets, philosophers, magicians and astronomers as if they were writing to us in English...."
But what is so striking according to the editor of the dictionary, Prof Martha Roth, is not the differences, but the similarities between then and now.
"Rather than encountering an alien world, we encounter a very, very familiar world," she says, with people concerned about personal relationships, love, emotions, power, and practical things like irrigation and land use.
If you want a copy for the bookshelf, it's only nineteen-ninety-five -- $1,995, that is. If you just want access to the info, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is available for free download.
Volume 6 (Het) was the first volume published, back in 1956. Its foreword explains how the entries are ordered and organized. Volume 1 (A, part 1) has an introduction that tells the history of the discovery and study of the Akkadian language, beginning in a small way in the 17th century and blossoming with the discoveries of Ninevah and Babylon in the early 19th century, and recounts the development of the dictionary from its inception in 1921 until the publication of Volume 1 in 1964.
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