Over 4,000 years after the death of Sargon the Great, scholars have finally finished compiling a dictionary for the Akkadian language.
The Akkadian language is probably the first language in the world that was written down, using a set of small, stylized pictures called cuneiform. From its origins in the ancient city-state of Akkad in what is now Iraq, use of the language spread along with Sargon’s empire to cover much of the Middle East. The Code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest known written legal codes, was written in this language.
Speaking to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Gil Stein, head of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, which compiled the dictionary, explained the project’s importance:
“The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world’s first urban civilization. Virtually everything that we take for granted … has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing. If we ever want to understand our roots, we have to understand this first great civilization.”
Work on the dictionary started in 1921. Back then, scholars thought they were looking at the Assyrian language, so the project is called the “Chicago Assyrian Dictionary” even though the language in question was later found to be Akkadian, of which Assyrian is simply a dialect. Read more