The University of Chicago has had a commitment to research and teaching in the Near East since its founding in 1892. Its first president was a Biblical scholar, and among its early faculty hires were F. R. Harper, an Assyriologist and James Henry Breasted, an Egyptologist. The university’s first excavations were at Bismaya (ancient Adab) in Iraq in 1904–05. The founding of the Oriental Institute by Breasted in 1919 marked a great increase in the exploration and elucidation of the ancient fields, and the Institute still maintains numerous archaeological, surface survey, and epigraphic investigations, as well as dictionary-writing, philology, history, remote sensing, and other long-term projects at home.
Most of the faculty at the Oriental Institute teach in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, which also encompasses the Medieval and Modern Near East, with major interest in Iraq. Students can obtain B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies offers an M.A. in Medieval and Modern studies, and has recently taken on the administration of a 2-year M.A. program for the ancient fields.
Prominent among the faculty and staff involved in ancient and modern Iraq are:
McGuire Gibson, Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology
Gil Stein, Professor of Prehistory and Urbanization
Abbas Alizadeh, specialist in prehistory and the Uruk period
Scott Branting, remote sensing, agent-based modeling
Matthew Stolper, Assyriologist
Walter Farber, Assyriologist
Chris Woods, Sumerologist
Fred Donner, Islamic History, especially Iraq
Donald Whitcomb, Islamic Archaeology
John Woods, History, especially Mongols
Orit Bashkin, Modern Middle Eastern History, especially Iraq