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Author photo. Erica Reiner [credit: University of Chicago]

Erica Reiner [credit: University of Chicago]

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Erica Reiner was born in Budapest, Hungary. She completed her undergraduate degree in linguistics at the University of Budapest in 1948. After studying the Elamite, Sumerian, and Akkadian languages at the École Practique des Hautes Études in Paris, she received a Diplôme. In 1952, she came to the USA for further graduate study at the University of Chicago and received her Ph.D. in 1955. Dr. Reiner joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1956 and eventually became the John A. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in the University's Oriental Institute. Planning and documentation for an Assyrian Dictionary had been underway at the Institute for many years when Dr. Reiner arrived. Together with A. Leo Oppenheim, Dr. Reiner led the team to publish the first of what would become 23 volumes in 1956. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary revolutionized the study of the world’s oldest written languages, but it was more than a list of words and their translations; it also served as a cultural encyclopedia of Mesopotamian civilization. Dr. Reiner took over the project at Prof. Oppenheim's death in 1974. She also wrote numerous books and scholarly articles. Her understanding of Babylonian history and science was legendary among scholars. Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring Rope Cut: Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria, a collection of essays, was published in 1985. Astral Magic in Babylonia (1995) examined Babylonian magical practices that made use of plants, stones and the celestial bodies. After her retirement in 1996, Dr. Reiner continued to contribute to the Dictionary -- working on the project for a total of 44 years.
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