The Oriental Institute: Mission and Priorities

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is an interdisciplinary research center whose goal is to integrate archaeological, textual, and art historical data to understand the development and functioning of the ancient civilizations of the Near East from the earliest Holocene through the Medieval period. We achieve this by conducting archaeological excavations, artifact analyses, the development of new research methodologies, the stewardship of systematic museum collections, philological studies, historical research, and the development of dictionaries of ancient languages.

Research Activities of the Oriental Institute

The Oriental Institute sponsors both archaeological and text-based research projects.

Text-based research at the Oriental Institute centers on three key lexicographic projects: the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (CAD), the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, and the Chicago Hittite Dictionary (CHD). A second key project of text–oriented research is the Epigraphic Survey, focused on recording key monuments in ancient Thebes/Luxor in Egypt.

One of the great strengths of the Oriental Institute’s archaeological program is its vast regional coverage across geopolitical boundaries and its time depth; experts in Mesopotamian, Syro-Palestinian, Anatolian, Iranian, Egyptian, and Nubian archaeology and textual studies all work in the same building to offer research, teaching, and field projects for the entire Near East, with a temporal depth of coverage from the Neolithic through the Islamic period, with a concentration on the well attested cultures of the third through the first millennia B.C. This critical mass of scholarship in complementary disciplines is unmatched anywhere in the world.

The Oriental Institute has sponsored archaeological and survey expeditions in nearly every country of the Near East. Eight field projects are currently active in Egypt, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey. These completed and ongoing excavations have defined the basic chronologies for many ancient Near Eastern civilizations and made fundamental contributions to our understanding of basic questions in ancient human societies, ranging from the study of ancient urbanism to the origins of food production and sedentary village life in the Neolithic period. The Institute also focuses on the development of new methodologies for field research such as the advanced remote sensing procedures and protocols developed by the Institute’s CAMEL (Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes) laboratory.