Ancient Civilizations

Archaeologists uncover ancient civilizations in the Middle East.

A century ago, UChicago scholars argued a controversial idea: Western civilization had its roots in the ancient Middle East—not in Greece or Rome. Today, scholars at the OI and across the University continue shaping the study of the early civilization through archaeological work and their research on the world’s most ancient languages.

In 1919, UChicago Egyptologist James Henry Breasted formed the Oriental Institute (OI)—a world-renowned museum and interdisciplinary research center dedicated to the study of early civilizations in Western Asia and North Africa.

OI archaeologists carried out large-scale expeditions in modern-day Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Israel, unearthing massive temple complexes as well as objects of everyday life. For over 100 years, these items have helped researchers sketch a portrait of life in the some of the world’s oldest cities.

Janel M. Mueller, Formidable Intellect and Pioneering Figure at UChicago, 1938–2022

Janel M. Mueller

Janel Mulder Mueller, the William Rainey Harper Professor Emerita in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and former dean of the Humanities Division, died Oct. 21 in Chicago. She was 83 years old.

The first woman to lead an academic division at UChicago, Mueller combined a formidable intellect with an awareness of her role as a pioneer in higher education.

“Janel’s teaching was rigorous and inspirational at all levels,” said UChicago colleague James K. Chandler, the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of English Language and Literature and Cinema and Media Studies. “She trained generations of young scholars in and beyond early modern studies who are now, in their turn, leaders in their fields.”

Two UChicago Humanities Scholars Receive the International Balzan Prizes

Martha C. Nussbaum and Philip V. Bohlman

UChicago Prof. Philip V. Bohlman and UChicago Prof. Martha C. Nussbaum were awarded the International Balzan Prizes for their seminal and sustained contributions respectively to ethnomusicology and music research and wide-ranging philosophical topics.

The annual Balzan Prizes honor “scholars and scientists who have distinguished themselves in their fields on an international level.” Bohlman has received the first Balzan Prize in ethnomusicology—a relatively new field—and only one of five awards in music scholarship ever granted. Of the four Balzan Prizes awarded in 2022, UChicago faculty received an unusually high 50 percent share.

Franklin D. Lewis, Prolific and Dedicated Scholar of Persian Literature, 1961-2022

Franklin D. Lewis

Franklin D. Lewis, a distinguished scholar of Persian literature at the University of Chicago for nearly 20 years, passed away on Sept. 19 in Chicago after a long illness. He was 61 years old.

Throughout his prolific career, Lewis published multiple books and articles. According to his colleagues, his masterpiece was Rumi: Past and Present, East and West, The Life Teachings of Jalāl al-Din Rumi (2008), which reassesses all previous research on the life of Persian’s foremost Sufi poet and navigates the complex history of the poet’s later reception worldwide.

“The book will serve as a touchstone for any future research on Rumi and has been translated into Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Danish,” said Paul Losensky, professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University. “Frank’s work, however, went beyond the mystical poets. His articles and chapters contribute to collected volumes and offer insights into other major figures in the classical tradition such as Ferdowski, Sa’di, and Hāfez.”

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