Gurney, Oliver Robert
'Oliver Robert Gurney' (January 28, 1911 - January 11, 2001) was a noted British cuneiform scholar. He is often regarded as the link between classic cuneiform studies, through his study under Sayce, Archibald Henry and the modern upsurge in interest and regard towards the field, through his mentorship of Black, Jeremy Allen. Born on January 28, 1911 to Robert Gurney and Sarah Gamzu, he was the nephew of a Hittite scholar, John Garstrang, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. Initially reading Greats at New College Oxford, studying the Homeric epics, but afterwards, at the urging of his uncle took on a doctorate in the study of the Hittite Languate at Berlin University, publishing his first work,
Prayers of the Hittite King Mursili II in 1940.
During the war, Gurney served in the Royal Artillery, reaching the rank of captain through his service in the Sudanese Defense Force. Meanwhile, he was given the Shillito Readership at Oxford to continue his work in Hittite and Assyrian studies, a distinguished honor previously bestowed upon notable colleagues like S.H. Langdon and R. Campbell Thompson. He became a professor in 1965.
Preferring work translating and interpreting ancient texts to the field work of archaeology, he compiled, in cooperation with Samuel Kramer, a thorough volume of important Sumerian literature and other important documents from the Kassite Period in Ur. This would be followed by a similar volume of Babylonian works. His work with musicologists in deciphering the heptatonic musical scale of Babylonian music was another of his important discoveries.
Oliver Gurney died on January 11, 2001, survived by his wife Diane, and a stepdaughter.
*Prayers of the Hittite King Mursili II, 1940 *The Hittites, London 1952 *The Sultanepe Tablets 1 and 2, London 1957 and 1964 (with J.J. Finkelstein on 1 and P. Hulin on 2) *Geography of the Hittite Empire, London 1959 (with J. Garstrang) *Middle Babylonian Legal Documents and Other Texts, London 1974 *Sumerian Literary Texts in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1976 (with S.N. Kramer) *Some Aspects of Hittite Religion, Lecture Series from 1976
Shillito Readership at Oxford (1945-1978), ad-Hominem Professor at Oxford (1965-1978), Fellow of Magdalen, Fellow of the British Academy, founding member of British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara where he was president (1982), and editor of the journal (1956-1997), Council of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, foreign membership of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago.