The faculty in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations includes the world’s foremost scholar of Sumerian linguistics and lexicography as well as leading experts in Akkadian literature, Babylonian medicine, the origins of Islam, tribal and nomadic society, and Mesopotamian religion, magic, and medicine. Students benefit from the on-campus Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa, an internationally recognized leader in research and scholarship on the archaeology, philology, and history of the ancient Near East.
Beyond attaining proficiency in one of the Near Eastern languages (for example, Akkadian, Arabic, Egyptian, or Hebrew), students plan programs in consultation with faculty advisers. Areas of specialization include Archaeology and Art of the Ancient Near East, Classical Hebrew Language and Civilization, Cuneiform Studies (including Assyriology, Hittitology, and Sumerology), Egyptian Languages and Civilization, Islamic and Modern Middle Eastern Studies (including Arabic, Armenian, Modern Hebrew, Kazakh, Persian, Turkish, and Uzbek), and Near Eastern Judaica.
The languages and civilizations of the Near East have been a major part of the University’s teaching and research commitment since its inception. William Rainey Harper, the University’s first president, was a Hebrew scholar and author of a grammar widely used in institutions of higher learning for more than three-quarters of a century. Research done at UChicago has helped to form the very basis of the modern disciplines of Assyriology, Egyptology, and ancient Near Eastern archaeology. The creation of “Islamic Civilization” as a curriculum was effected at UChicago. In all these areas and related subfields, a faculty of distinguished scholars now extends this tradition, keeping the University of Chicago at the forefront of worldwide developments in Near Eastern studies. Graduates of the department have for decades been among the leading international experts in their fields.
An interdisciplinary approach to learning is a characteristic of the UChicago intellectual tradition. In the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, students are encouraged to participate in courses, seminars, and workshops where they, as well as the NELC faculty, interact with their counterparts in anthropology, art history, classics, comparative literature, history, law, linguistics, political science, and religious studies. This interdisciplinary and team approach is especially facilitated by the participation of many of the students and faculty in the work of the University’s Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa and Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The department also publishes the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, one of the leading journals in ancient Near Eastern and Islamic studies.
Students in other fields of study may complete a minor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.