ancient history

Free ancient treasures, no digging required


University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute has started a collection of academic books on ancient Middle East languages, history, and culture available free to download.

U. CHICAGO (US)—A wealth of material that documents the ancient Middle East has become available through a new, free online service at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

The material comes from the institute’s extensive collection of academic books on ancient Middle East languages, history, and cultures. The effort began in 1906, when the university started issuing publications that have been essential for studying the past. Since that time, more than 272 books have been published, including dictionaries of the Assyrian and Hittite languages, historical and archaeological studies, and oversized folio volumes that document Egyptian temples and tombs.

Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute, says, “Our publications are the lasting record of our excavations and research. They are fundamental tools for scholars of the ancient Middle East throughout the world. Making these books available to our colleagues, to educators and the public reflects our mission to share knowledge.”

New titles are now available for free download at the same time they are issued in print. Individuals, libraries and institutions may download one complimentary copy for personal use from the Oriental Institute.

To date, 147 Adobe PDFs (portable document files), each containing an entire book, many of which have long been out of print, can be accessed at the site. An additional 125 older titles, which comprise the institute’s Egyptological collection published since the 1920s, are being scanned in preparation for free Internet distribution.

Another 138 older titles, which document the institute’s research on Anatolian, Arabic, Iranian, Mesopotamian, Syro/Palestinian cultures, among others, will continue to be scanned and distributed as time and funds permit.

Thomas Urban, manager of the Publications Department at the Oriental Institute, says, “Technology now makes it possible for us to make these works widely available. So much effort goes into each volume—the author’s original research, editorial work, artwork and photography. It is rewarding that these books, many of which are long out of print, can be consulted.”

Print copies of the publications are available through the Oriental Institute’s distributor, David Brown Books.

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