Black, Jeremy Allen

'Jeremy Allen Black' (September 1, 1951 - April 28, 2004) was a leading Assyriologist, master of Sumerian literature, and Oxford University Lecturer. Born in Middlesex, Isleton, he was educated at Oxford University, reading Sumerian and Akkadian under the tutelage of Gurney, Oliver Robert. Following a one year tenure at the Oriental Institute (1981-1982), he joined the British Archaeological Expedition to Iraq (1982-1988), an organization he eventually became the director of. Eventually returning to his Alma Mater, Oxford University, Black became a University Lecturer of Akkadian in 1988, rising to the level of Chairman of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies from 1999-2001.

Grammatical studies

From the time of the publication of his revised dissertation, <i>Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory</i> (1984), a reconsideration of the Old Babylonian grammatical texts, through the end of his life, Black was one of the leading specialists in Sumerian grammar. Besides his study of the grammatical texts, the most important grammatical paper was presumably his study of real and unreal conditional sentences: "Real and Unreal Conditional Sentences in Sumerian" (1995). Perhaps of even greater importance that his own work, Black also organized several workshops on Sumerian grammar in the late 90's.

Personal

In 1987, he married fellow Near East scholar Ellen McAdam, and though the marriage ended in divorce, they remained close friends and colleagues, with a joint exhibition on the Sumerians in the works at the time of his death. He was a conossieur of classical and baroque music, and paricipating in several choirs.

His work in synthesizing and consolidating Sumerian and Akkadian grammar and language has been essential in advancing the field of Near East studies by allowing for greater public access to Mesopotamian resources, especially via his most recent project, the [http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/ Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature], an online database aiming to put 400 poetic compositions of Sumerian literature and their translations online.

In addition to his work in increasing the accessibility of Sumerian literature, with his book The Literature of Ancient Sumer being acclaimed as "The standard tool for university teaching and research" by the Royal Asiatic Society and "The most comprehensive collection available" by Choice, he also attempted to bridge the gap between works of extreme technicality that would be comprehensible only to people in his field and works that could be understood by readers with only a passing interest in the subject. While his brilliance in the subtleties of Sumerian linguistics is shone in his essays on Ideophones (in the Festschrift for Claus Wilcke p. 35), and diachronic and synchronic variation (from Acta Sumerologica 22), each offered new insights into the syntax of Sumerian writings, in his preface to Reading Sumerian Poetry, he states that his purpose is "to write so that what I say can be understood by those who know nothing of the Sumerian language, as well as by experts in the subject" (Black vii).

Major works

*Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory, Rome 1984 *Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, London 1992 (with A.R. Green) *Reading Sumerian Poetry, London 1998 *Aconcise Dictionary of Akkadian, Wiesbaden 1999 (with J.N. Postgate and A.R. George) *The Literature of Ancient Sumer, London 2004 (with G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zolyomi) *"The Babylonian Grammatical Tradition: The First Grammars of Sumerian" from Philological Society Volume 87:1 (1989) *"Eme-sal Cult Songs and Prayers" from Aula Orientalis Revista de estudios del Proximo Oriente Antiguo Volumen IX Festschrift to Miguel Civil, Barcelona 1991 *"Real and Unreal Conditional Sentences in Sumerian" 1995 *"Sumerian Noises: Ideophones in Context" from Literatur, Politik und Recht in Mesopotamien Festschrift fur Claus Wilcke, Wiesbaden 2003 *"The study of diachronic and synchronic variation in Sumerian" from Acta Sumerologica 22 (2003)

Remarks

Studied under O. Gurney, Oxford University Ph.D., Oxford University, 1980 Research Associate, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, 1981-1982 Assistant Director, then Director, British Archaeological Expedition to Iraq 1982-1988; Lecturer in Akkadian, Oxford University, 1988-2004 Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford, 1988-2004

Obituaries
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