March 5, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 11

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    'From Clay Tablets to CD-ROMs'

    Behind-the-scenes look at ancient-dictionary projects

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The Oriental Institute will provide adult visitors with a rare behind-the-scenes tour of its ancient-dictionary projects in a free public program, "From Clay Tablets to CD-ROMs," at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8.

    The world's first written records were produced in the ancient Near East, beginning in Sumer about 3000 B.C. Scholars at the Oriental Institute have been studying such ancient texts, written on clay tablets and papyrus, for decades. Their work has led to the creation of three major dictionary projects: Hittite, Demotic and Chicago Assyrian.

    Editors involved in these projects will discuss their work and give tours of the areas of the institute where the dictionary work is conducted. The presenters will include Oriental Institute Professors Miguel Civil, Director of Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon Project; Harry Hoffner, the John A. Wilson Professor and Co-Editor of the Hittite Dictionary Project; Janet Johnson, Editor of the Demotic Dictionary Project; and Martha Roth, Editor-in-Charge of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. Also presenting will be Thomas Urban, Senior Editor of Oriental Institute Publications. The texts of the ancient Near East vary widely, from royal decrees and law codes to personal letters and favorite recipes. As a result, researchers have uncovered a wealth of information about the ancient languages of the area and about the cultures and histories of the people who spoke them.

    The Oriental Institute has been at the forefront of using computer technologies to organize this information, and much of their research is now accessible through CD-ROMs and Web sites. Advanced technology also has allowed researchers to electronically rejoin fragments of ancient documents that are physically stored in archives thousands of miles apart.

    "From Clay Tablets to CD-ROMs" is cosponsored by the Membership and Museum Education Offices at the Oriental Institute. Although free, advance registration is required. To register, call 702-9507.