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Oriental Institute changes name to the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago on April 4 announced that it will be renamed the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa (ISAC), effective immediately.



Marc Maillot - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Marc Maillot (PhD Université Paris Sorbonne, 2013) as a new member of the faculty of Art History and the new Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute, beginning in winter 2023. Marc's research interests include vernacular architecture both in Egypt and Sudan, Meroitic iconography, social anthropology, and urbanism in antiquity. His fieldwork has focused especially on the Middle Nile Valley, on sites such as Muweis, el-Hassa, and Sai Island, and he is currently exploring Osirian cult practice in Meroitic royal pageantry.


Mehrnoush Soroush - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Mehrnoush Soroush (PhD NYU, 2016, and MA in Architecture from the University of Tehran) as a new member of the NELC faculty, beginning in 2022. Mehrnoush is a  landscape archaeologist who examines the intersection between urban and water history in the Ancient Near East. Her research focuses especially on the extent to which the resilience of ancient cities was tied to their ability to adapt to environmental changes and socio-political developments through adopting new hydraulic strategies and technologies.



Carolina López-Ruiz - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Carolina López-Ruiz (PhD University of Chicago, 2005) as a new member of the faculty of the Divinity School, beginning in fall 2022. Carolina studies ancient Mediterranean cultures through textual and archaeological sources. Her research has been especially concerned with comparative Semitic and Greek mythology and with cultural exchange among Greek, Phoenician, and other cultures around the Mediterranean, including particularly ancient Iberia.


Augusta McMahon - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Augusta McMahon (PhD University of Chicago, 1993) as a new member of the faculty of NELC, beginning in fall 2022.  Augusta's research focuses on late prehistoric and historic Mesopotamia during the 5th through 1st millennia BC, particularly issues of early urbanism and urban challenges, social stress and warfare, political economy, and sensory archaeology. She has excavated widely in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Yemen.



Kiersten Neumann - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Kiersten Neumann (PhD University of California Berkeley, 2014) as a new member of UCAN. She has been a Curator at the Oriental Institute Museum since 2016 and is now also a Lecturer in the Art History Department. Kiersten is a historian of Near Eastern art and archaeology and her research is grounded in theoretical approaches to ancient art, with a focus on sensory experience and visual culture of the first millennium BCE.


Achaemenid tablets returned to Persepolis for public show

A show named “Returning Home” was officially inaugurated on Sunday to commemorate Iran’s cultural heritage week, which comes to an end on May 24, IRNA reported. In 2019, a total of 1,783 tablets were returned home from the Oriental Institute after 84 years.



Genomes, Migrations, and Culture in the Early Civilizations of the Middle East

The Neubauer Collegium selects a project of collaboration between archaeologists and geneticists that will analyze DNA from ancient human remains excavated in the Middle East in order to reconstruct population movements and assess the prevailing explanations for cultural change in the Bronze Age civilizations of this region. UCAN's James Osborne and David Schloen are among four directors.


Oriental Institute archaeologists help discover lost kingdom in ancient Turkey

Archaeologists from the Oriental Institute have helped discover a lost ancient kingdom dating to the ninth to seventh centuries B.C., which may have defeated Phrygia, the kingdom once ruled by King Midas, in battle.

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Landscape Blindness: An Archaeological Ailment

The Neubauer Collegium has selected a project that seeks to diagnose and treat “landscape blindness”—archaeology’s inability to visualize and understand certain massive, multi-scalar and multi-temporal human manipulations of the environment. A team of archaeologists, scholars, scientists, architects and artists will combine field research with collaborative dialogue to consider the theoretical implications of these hitherto unseen landscapes. UCAN's Sarah Newman is one of three directors.


Shattered Buddhist statues restored with help from the OI

UChicago institute helps reassemble ancient, rare Afghan art from first to 6th centuries that was destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. OI researchers, along with Afghan colleagues, are painstakingly cleaning, sorting and reassembling statues from the more than 7,500 fragments left behind, which museum employees swept up and saved in trunks in the basement.



How tech has impacted archaeologists’ hunt for long-lost civilizations

From 3D modeling to digital satellite mapping to machine learning, archaeologists are integrating modern technology into their discovery of long-lost civilizations. Gil Stein, professor of near-Eastern archaeology at the University of Chicago, said that archaeology is a field that’s exceptionally quick to adapt to new ways of using technology.


How the OI’s work has evolved since its 1919 founding

From satellite imagery to international politics, the world in which the Oriental Institute’s archaeologist-scholars and museum professionals do their work is very different from that in which the OI was founded in 1919. An interview with OI archaeologists In the University of Chicago Magazine.



Remembering John Janusek,          1963-2019

With great sadness, we announce the unexpected death of John Janusek, distinguished UCAN alumnus and professor at Vanderbilt University. John passed away on October 22, 2019, and will be missed by a great many colleagues and students.


Long Island News12 for Preservation Long Island's Endangered Historic Places

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Burned buildings reveal sacking of ancient Turkish city 3,500 years ago

More than 3,500 years ago, a rising kingdom called the Hittite Empire was expanding, testing the limits of its strength. It would soon destroy Babylon, but first, its army sacked and burned a city nestled in the mountains of modern-day Turkey called Sam’al—located on a major route of trade between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean Sea. The charred ruins from that fateful day were uncovered for the first time in millennia by during an excavation by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute


Ancient Persian artifact nearly 2,500 years old returns to Oriental Institute

After 80 years on loan, stone relief of a lion and bull in combat displayed on UChicago campus. The lion and the bull have been fighting, locked in stone, for nearly 2,500 years—ever since an ancient sculptor carved them into a slab of black limestone and set them into a monumental staircase at Persepolis, the royal center of the great Achaemenid Empire.

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The Life and Works of Jupiter Hammon (1711-before 1806)

Sarah Kautz reports in the Preservation Long Island Blog on the life of America's first published African-American poet, Jupiter Hammon.


Big Brains Podcast - The Politics of Archaeology In Iraq

A podcast in the Big Brains series on "The Politics of Archaeology In Iraq", with Christopher Woods, director of the Oriental Institute. Woods explains how archaeological investment can become a form of diplomacy.



Art installation inside Mansueto Library dome transforms OI’s ancient figures

During a visit to the University of Chicago, visual artist Ann Hamilton became enamored with the Oriental Institute’s collection of stone and ceramic figures—ancient but timeless, inanimate but strangely alive. To celebrate the OI’s 100th anniversary, she has transformed those figures into a public installation inside one of the campus’ most iconic structures.


OI marks 100 years of discovery in ancient Middle East

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago was founded in 1919, and over the course of the next 100 years, it has changed how humans understand their own history through groundbreaking work in archaeology, linguistics, and historical and literary analysis—work that continues today in Chicago and across the Middle East.



Sarah Newman - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Sarah Newman (PhD Brown University) as a new member of the Anthropology faculty, beginning in fall 2019. Sarah is a Mesoamerican archaeologist with a focus on the ancient Maya. Her research examines multiple forms of human-environmental interaction, including monumental anthropogenic landscapes, changes in the cultural and historical constructions of the concept of “waste”, and the nature of human-animal relationships.


New Students

UCAN is pleased to report that both of the archaeology graduate students to whom offers of admission were made by the Anthropology Department have accepted. We look forward to welcoming Dominik Lucas and Resham Tessa Redmond in the fall or 2019.

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Ancient Urban Villa with Shrine for Ancestor Worship Discovered in Egypt

Excavation work led by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute team has unearthed a large urban villa dating back to the early New Kingdom, about 1500-1450 B.C.E. The findings at the site of Tell Edfu in southern Egypt include a large hall containing a rare and well-preserved example of a domestic shrine dedicated to family ancestors.


Shannon Dawdy Film

Shannon Dawdy is producing a new experimental documentary film project, My Star, My Dust, that asks: How are funeral practices changing and what does this say about the beliefs and values of the living? "In the U.S. today, death practices are changing rapidly, and creatively. The growing popularity of cremation has led to a proliferation of new things to do with ashes – incorporating them into artificial reefs, making them into synthetic diamonds, mixing them into paintings, or blending them into a vinyl record...." 



New Students

UCAN is happy to announce that, once again, all four of the archaeology students who were offered admission to the Anthropology PhD program have accepted to join us. We look forward to welcoming Alice Diaz ChauvignéNicole GriggsSiyun Guo, and Daniel Hansen to campus in Fall 2018.


Newly discovered buildings reveal clues to ancient Egyptian dynasties

The archaeological excavation of an ancient Egyptian city at Tell Edfu in southern Egypt, led by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, has discovered well-preserved settlement remains dating to an important turning point in ancient Egyptian history, when the pharaohs began to renew interest in the provincial regions in the far south of their kingdom.

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Robert McCormick Adams, 1926-2018

It is with great sadness that we report that renowned archaeologist Robert McCormick Adams passed away on January 27, 2018. Bob Adams was a former UChicago alumnus, professor of anthropology, director of the Oriental Institute, Dean of Social Sciences, and Provost of the University, as well as Director of the Smithsonian Institution. He was a distinguished and highly influential scholar and an academic leader. Links to an obituary describing his wide ranging accomplishments and a filmed interview are available by clicking on the button and his photo, respectively. A memorial service will be held on May 12 at 11:00 AM in Breasted Hall, Oriental Institute.


Seth Estrin - New UCAN Faculty Member

UCAN welcomes Seth Estrin (PhD UC Berkeley) as a new faculty member in autumn 2017, as he takes up an appointment in the Art History and Classics Departments.



New Students

UCAN is pleased to announce that all four of the archaeology students to whom admission was offered in the Anthropology PhD Program have accepted to join us, and NELC will have three new archaeology doctoral students as well. We look forward to welcoming Rachel GeorgeWilliam McCollumKelsey Rooney, and Philip Watson to Anthropology, and Raghda El-Behaedi,  Emma Kerr, and Charles Wilson to NELC in Fall 2017.


Book chronicles rise of urban planning in ancient Egypt

New research at the University of Chicago offers additional insights into how the pharaohs invested in town planning. Their innovations included the development of the first grid system as part of communities they established around their kingdom, according to Nadine Moeller, associate professor of Egyptian archaeology at the Oriental Institute.



Karl W. Butzer, 1934-2016

Karl Butzer, who was a member of the UChicago Anthropology faculty from 1966-1984, died on May 4, 2016 at the age of 81. Butzer was an extremely influential archaeologist, geographer, and geologist who was instrumental in developing the fields of geoarchaeology and environmental archaeology while at UChicago. He was a highly decorated scholar, winning prestigious awards from archaeological, geological, and geographical societies, including the Fryxell Medal of the Society of American Archaeology. After his two decades on the faculty of the University of Chicago, he also taught at the University of Texas.


Drones bring new dimension to archaeology: Aerial surveys transform Oriental Institute studies of ancient dwellings, help track looting

At first glance, the mounds of basalt blocks dotting the the desolate landscape of the Black Desert in eastern Jordan seem to be part of the natural terrain. A closer study, aided by aerial images, reveals the mounds to be hundreds of collapsed structures—a Neolithic community part of a trading system that extended as far as modern Turkey.



Sweet honey in the rocks

The history of beekeeping stretches back centuries, as Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute, found when a hobby turned into a scholarly pursuit.


For archaeologists, Middle East conflicts create ‘perfect sandstorm’ of challenges

Conflicts in the Middle East have made archaeological work increasingly difficult, but the work must go on, scholars said at a recent conference organized with the help of the Oriental Institute.

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Saving Relics, Afghans Defy the Taliban

Mike Fisher, an archaeologist from the University of Chicago, is working with a team that is cataloging, classifying and restoring the National Museum of Afghanistan’s collection of artifacts.


Chicago high school students find new 'classroom' at O.I. dig in Israel

successful Oriental Institute program, which last year sent talented Chicago high school students on an institute dig in Israel, will be renewed this summer when a new group of students from the Rowe-Clark Academy's Exelon Campus will learn about ancient cultures and the work of archaeologists.



Leslie Freeman, 1935-2012

Leslie Freeman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at UChicago and renowned archaeologist of Paleolithic Spain, died on December 14, 2012. Les received his BA and PhD degrees at the University of Chicago and was a member of the faculty from 1965 until his retirement in 2000. He was a crucial pillar of the archaeology program in anthropology for several decades, eventually helping to shape its expansion and reconfiguration away from paleoanthropology in the 1990s. His innovative research program in Spain was an influential model of international collaboration.


Joint Palestinian-American dig near Jericho yields clues about early Islamic culture

As the Byzantine Empire was in decline, Islam began to dominate the Middle East, with a remarkable culture that showed a command of technology and an appreciation of art and decoration, research by archaeologists shows.

In order to study Islamic civilization in its earliest days, Donald Whitcomb, who directs the Islamic Archaeology project at the Oriental Institute, is undertaking a project with Palestinian colleagues to further excavate an early Islamic site north of Jericho that contains a palace, a bathhouse and what was probably a settlement to the north.



William M. Sumner, 1928-2011

William Sumner, archaeologist of ancient Iran and Director of the Oriental Institute from 1989-1997, died July 7, 2011 at the age of 82. Known especially for his research on the Elamite civilization and the roots of the Persian empire, he undertook major transformations of the Oriental Institute during his term as Director.


Archaeological project seeks clues about dawn of urban civilization in Middle East

team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has joined a team of Syrian colleagues in excavating a key site from the prehistoric society that formed the foundation of urban life in the ancient Middle East.



UChicago anthropologist Shannon Dawdy receives MacArthur Fellowship

Anthropologist Shannon Lee Dawdy, one of the nation's leading researchers on topics related to New Orleans and the Caribbean, has been named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow.


University of Chicago launches first archaeological dig at site of 1893 World's Fair

A group of undergraduates at the University of Chicago has come in touch with the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, launching the first archaeological dig of the famed Chicago fair site in Jackson Park. The dig is directed by Anthropology graduate student Rebecca Graff as part of her PhD research.



Urban archaeology project leads students back to 1893

Students in the College are conducting an excavation of the World's Columbia Exposition of 1893 on the Midway. The dig began in early April as part of the new Chicago Studies program offered in the College. They are taking a class with Rebecca Graff, a graduate student specializing in American urban archaeology. Graff is writing her dissertation on 19th-century American habits of tourism and consumption based on the World’s Columbian Exposition.


Archaeologists find silos and administration center from early Egyptian city

A University of Chicago expedition at Tell Edfu in southern Egypt has unearthed a large administration building and silos that provide fresh clues about the emergence of urban life.

The discovery provides new information about a little understood aspect of ancient Egypt-the development of cities in a culture that is largely famous for its monumental architecture.



F. Clark Howell, 1925-2007

F. Clark Howell, the renowned paleolithic archaeologist and physical anthropologist, died on March 10, 2007 at the age of 81. Clark received his PhD from the University of Chicago and spent 25 years on the faculty of the Anthropology Department before moving to UC Berkeley in 1970. He is known for highly influential research projects in Spain and Africa that greatly expanded understanding of early human culture and biological evolution. He was also a pioneer in the use of the potassium-argon dating technique in archaeology and made great efforts to bring the results of scientific research to a popular audience.


Archaeologist in New Orleans Finds a Way to Help the Living

Shannon Dawdy, a 38-year-old assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, is one of the more unusual relief workers among the thousands who have come to the devastated expanses of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She is officially embedded with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a liaison to the state's historic preservation office.

Her mission is to try to keep the rebuilding of New Orleans from destroying what is left of its past treasures and current culture.



Dietler discovers statue in France that reflects an Etruscan influence

A life-sized statue of a warrior discovered in southern France reflects a stronger cultural influence for the Etruscan civilization throughout the western Mediterranean region than previously appreciated. Michael Dietler, Associate Professor in Anthropology, and his French colleague Michel Py have published a paper in the British journal Antiquity on the Iron Age statue, found at Lattes, a Celtic seaport Dietler is studying in southern France.


Robert J. Braidwood, 1907-2003

Robert Braidwood, Professor Emeritus in the Oriental Institute and the Department of Anthropology at UChicago, died on January 15, 2003, at the age of 95. Bob was a pioneering and enormously influential figure in the prehistoric archaeology of the Near East. Working always in partnership with his archaeologist wife, Linda, he was an early advocate of integrating scientific specialists into archaeological fieldwork, had a seminal influence in the development of field survey methods, and excavated a large number of famous sites, among many other contributions. He first came to the Oriental Institute in 1933 (hired by James Henry Breasted), and was still coming in to the OI to work in his 90s. After a lifetime of collaboration, Linda died a few hours after Robert, at the age of 93.



Linda S. Braidwood, 1909-2003

Linda Schreiber Braidwood, the longtime collaborator and wife of Robert Braidwood, died on January 15, 2003. Linda earned an MA from the University of Chicago in 1946, and became a research associate of the Oriental Institute in 1947. The Braidwoods married in 1937, after a joint expedition to the Amuq Valley in Syria, and they worked together on a series of famous excavation and publication projects over the following 65 years.


Professor, colleagues discover 10 examples of 2000-year-old Celtic art

A previously unknown form of ancient art, which incorporates careful arrangements of tiny shells, has been discovered at a site in southern France by Michael Dietler, Associate Professor in Anthropology, and his European colleagues. The 2,000-year-old artwork includes a two- and one-half-foot-long image of a horse or donkey and was discovered on the floors of homes at the site.

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