Real Lexicon of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology

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The Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie ( RlA , originally Reallexikon der Assyriologie ) is an interdisciplinary reference work in 15 volumes, which deals with the ancient oriental cultures.


The idea for the RlA came to the Berlin Assyriologist Bruno Meissner in 1922, who recognized that Assyriology , although still quite young at the age of around 70, was missing a reference work based on Pauly's Realencyclopedia of Classical Classical Studies and the Real Lexicon of Prehistory . Meissner found interested colleagues in his Berlin colleague Erich Ebeling and in the Walter de Gruyter publishing house , which already published the magazine for Assyriology . Although there was widespread approval in specialist circles, it was six years before the first fascicle was published.

Initially, the editors planned to publish two volumes totaling 1,600 pages, but the rapidly growing new knowledge made it necessary to expand the planning. By 1938 the first two volumes had been published, which had 974 pages, but had only reached the letter "E". A total of 35 authors (including Arthur Ungnad ) were working on the RlA up to that point, all but two (an Italian and a Slovene) from Germany. The language of the entire project was German. Ebeling alone contributed almost 20 percent of all contributions. During the Second World War and the first few years afterwards, work on the lexicon could not be continued. At the first Rencontre Assyriologique in Paris in 1950, Adam Falkenstein said that from now on the work could only be continued in an international context.

At the second event of this kind a year later, Alfred Pohl said that a continuation of the old RlA was no longer possible because many of the articles were out of date and the rights to the lexicon were held by the publisher. In addition, the articles should from now on also be able to be written in English and French. Only the lemmas should all remain in German or be written in English when starting over from scratch. Pohl reckoned it would take about ten years, in which 150 authors should write eight to ten volumes. The financing of the project, which was to deal with all cuneiform cultures, should be taken over by UNESCO . Many scientists, such as Falkenstein and Jean Nougayrol , expressed their skepticism, as there were only a small number of researchers who, however , were busy processing various new finds, such as those from Mari . Finally, a preparatory commission for a new encyclopedia was established, which included Édouard Dhorme , Erich Ebeling, Henri Frankfort , Albrecht Götze , Franz de Liagre-Böhl and Alfred Pohl.

A year later the topic was up for debate again. There were advocates for the continuation of the old encyclopedia and advocates for a new, English-language " Encyclopédie des cunéiformes ". In a vote, 27:22 scientists voted for a continuation of the old encyclopedia. In 1957 the time had finally come for the first fascicle of the third volume to appear. The editor was Margarethe Falkner Weidner , who had to fall back partly on old, partly even outdated pre-war manuscripts. Nevertheless, she was able to expand and internationalize the circle of authors. With the article “Fever”, René Labat wrote the first article in French, but it was translated into German. The title, which until then had only read Reallexikon der Assyriologie , was owed to the development of research, now expanded to Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Near Eastern Archeology .

In 1966 Wolfram von Soden became editor, Ruth Opificius became editor . Von Soden redesigned the encyclopedia as it is today. An editorial board took the place of a single editor. In addition, editors have been appointed for individual subject areas and trilingualism has been introduced. For example, the article “Laws” by Guillaume Cardascia was published in French for the first time . In the meantime, 73 authors from 14 countries (Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, England, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Iraq, Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA) worked at the RlA.

In 1972 von Soden handed over the editing to Dietz-Otto Edzard , who had been co-editor since 1966. The editorial staff, which until then had been based in Münster , moved to Munich , where the Hittite scientist Gabriella Frantz-Szabó was hired as a full-time editor. During Edzard's editing, seven volumes with over 4000 pages (the letters H to P) were published by 2005. 68 authors from 15 countries wrote the letter L alone (420 articles). On average, each letter has 500 pages, which is twice the number of pre-war volumes. Funding was provided by the German Research Foundation until 1986 , then by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . After Edzard's death in 2004, Michael P. Streck became the new editor of the RlA. The editorial board moved from Munich to Leipzig . Gabriella Frantz-Szabó headed the editorial department until 2006, and in the following years various other employees were employed for the project.

The project was originally financially secure until 2011. At the end of 2011, however, the letters T to Z were still in front of the authors. Therefore, the project was extended by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences until 2017, and the last fascicle of the entire work was published in 2018. Following the successful completion of the project, the volumes of the "Real Lexicon of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology" have been available online as PDF files since 2019 via the publication server of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and can be researched using the "Lemmaliste".


  • Gabriella Frantz-Szabó: Our knowledge of the ancient Orient. The Real Lexicon of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology . On the working method and history of an interdisciplinary and international research project . In: Akademie Aktuell . No. 10 , April 14, 2003, ISSN  1436-753X , p. 36–39 ( [PDF; 7.4 MB ; accessed on April 12, 2018]).
  • Michael P. Streck: The ancient Orient as a mosaic. In: Akademie Aktuell , issue 3/2006, pp. 53–55 ( PDF ).
  • Michael P. Streck, From "A, god of water" to "cypress". In: AkademieAktuell , Edition 1/2018, pp. 58–61 ( PDF ; text on the Lexicon website ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Digital access: Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Aräologie. Retrieved March 8, 2019 .