University of Chicago Oriental Institute

Established in 1919 by James Henry Breasted (the person who coined the term "Fertile Crescent") building on the collection of the Haskell Oriental Musuem - a Christian institute aimed at increasing knowledge of the Holy Lands . It was originally significantly funded by money from John D Rockefeller - who Breasted knew personally and who had supported the University of Chicago since 1891. It occupied its current building in 1931 and is still a prestigious centre of research into Middle Eastern archaeology but, between the wars and funded by Rockefeller dollars, it embarked on a series of massively funded and extravagently operated, excavations and studies around the Middle East and acquired from them, by means typical of the agreements of the day, a large number of artefacts. These are on show in its museum. Following Breasted's death in 1935 Rockefeller withdrew funding. The Institute is known generally as the "OI"

Connected Sites

Site Rationale Link
Ancient Thebes The OI's "Epigraphic Survey" has been operating on site since 1925 - originally in a building "behind" the Colossi of Memnon. See
Biblical Tells Meggido - "The World's first million dollar excavation". The OI excavated 1925 - 1939 when money ran out. The intention had been to do a complete excavation across the 8 discovered levels. Many of the finds are in Chicago - among the most famous are the Megiddo Ivories which are shared with the Rockefeller museum in Jerusalem
Persepolis The OI was in possesion of the "Achaemenid Tablets" from c500BC on loan from Iran since 1937 with the understanding that they would be returned - indeed some had been (They had been discovered by OI archaeologists during excavations at Persepolis in 1933). In 2006 Federal courts ruled that the tablets should be sold and the proceeds used to compensate victims of the Ben Yehuda St bombing of 1997 in Jerusalem which the US claimed had been funded by Iran. A group of vicitms had won a $71 million judgment against Iran in 2003. OI has opposed the seizure - the matter is still unresolved


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