An Introduction to the Department
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 founder and 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 Chicago 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 Chicago. 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.