On my office shelf sit 14 well-worn volumes of Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, a monumental work by the early UChicago professor of Assyriology Robert Francis Harper. Despite their age—the volumes were published between 1892 and 1914—Harper’s work remains an indispensable resource for anyone researching the history of the ancient Near East. My edition of Assyrian and Babylonian Letters is a cherished personal and professional link to this University.

We are all particularly conscious of our history this fall as the University observes its quasquicentennial anniversary, marking 125 years of scholarship. In the Humanities, we celebrate this milestone by collecting works from the Division’s history that have transformed our fields. The fascinating result is a compendium of monographs, edited volumes, memoirs, compositions, sculptures, installations, translations, and more from the 1890s up to the present. The list only hints at our faculty’s legacy of important scholarship and creative work, and showcases some of the very best of our collective intellectual enterprise.

Although the list’s scholarly weight is impressive, we refuse to rest on our laurels at the University of Chicago. This fall we welcome 17 new faculty members in nine departments across the Division. These scholars inherit our tradition of excellence but are tasked with carving their own intellectual paths. For example, the field of Assyriology continues to be a strength for this University more than a century after R. F. Harper’s death in 1914. With the hires of new Assyriologists—along with new scholars in Latin American film, medieval Chinese architecture, Italian literature, and more—we demonstrate our continuing commitment to rigorous scholarship in fields old and new.

For most of my 35 years at UChicago I worked on the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project, building on the work of scholars like Harper. When the project began in 1921, it was anticipated to take ten years to complete. We finally finished in 2011. During the entire duration of the project, the volumes of the Assyrian and Babylonian Letters sat on the editor’s shelf as a reminder of our legacy and as a resource for further inquiry. So too the accomplishments of the University’s first 125 years have prepared us well for a future of excellence, innovation, and eminence in scholarship and teaching.

With best wishes,

Martha T. Roth
Dean of the Division of the Humanities