Assyria Foundation Honors Oriental Institute Scholars


Chicago (AINA) — The Chicago based Assyria Foundation and the Assyrian community honored scholars and editors from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago on the occasion of the completion of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (CAD). Begun in 1921 by Dr. James Breasted, the founder of the Oriental Institute, CAD is a dictionary of Akkadian (ancient Assyrian), the original language of the Assyrians, written by 88 scholars over a period of 94 years. It has 9,700 pages and 28,000 entries. The Oriental Institute has made the dictionary freely available to encourage research into Assyrian language, culture and history.

The event was held on Sunday, June 15 at the Assyrian National Council of Illinois building and was attended by over two hundred Assyrians and the following Assyrian organizations:

  • Assyria Foundation (principal organizer), represented by Robert DeKelaita, President of the Assyria Foundation.
  • Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation, represented by Homer Ashurian.
  • Assyrian American National Federation, represented by William Youmaran.
  • Assyrian National Council of Illinois, represented by Sheba Mando.

Representing the Oriental Institute was:

  • Dr. Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute.
  • Dr. Martha Roth, Professor of Assyriology, editor of CAD.
  • Dr. Chris Woodward.
  • Dr. Matthew W. Stolper.
  • Dr. Jennie Myers.

Mr. DeKelaita opened the ceremony, saying the dictionary “…is a lens into the language of the past; the language of our forefathers; the language of the beginning of civilization in Mesopotamia. As Dr. Martha Roth, who is present here today has stated, ‘every term, every word becomes a window into the culture.'”

Dr. Gil Stein emphasized the importance of the Assyrian Dictionary in understanding the ancient culture of the Assyrians for modern Assyrians and stated that a nation without a history or collective memory ceases to exist. Citing the cultural and linguistic continuity of the Assyrians, spanning a period of over 6,700 years, he affirmed their claim to their collective ancient history.

Dr. Stein expressed deep gratitude to the Assyrian community of Chicago, and called upon them to participate more in various events of the University of Chicago. Dr. Gil Stein has been one of the most active Directors of the Oriental Institute, and reached out to the Assyrian community, meeting with the heads of various organizations and churches.

Dr. Roth gave an overview of the dictionary, saying:

“But we know that no one ever really has the “last word.” Even before our twentieth-century Dictionary was completed, other dictionary projects had begun to use the enormous potential of twenty-first century tools. The massive data bases of millions of cuneiform materials are now being harnessed to ask new questions about ancient Assyria, to organize new “dictionaries” and other resources for scholars and students to continue the crucial study of one of the world’s richest, foundational, civilization, the evidence for which civilization is every hour now in ever-increasing danger of being irretrievably lost.”

Dr. Sargon Hasso presented a history of Bishop Toma (Thomas) Odo, whom the award presented to the Oriental Institute Scholars is named after. Bishop Odo wrote an Assyrian-Assyrian dictionary titled Treasure of the Syriac Language as well as many treatises on grammar and theology.

Each scholar from the Oriental Institute was awarded a Bishop Toma Odo plaque in honor of the their monumental achievement in finishing the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary.

© 2014 Assyrian International News Agency.