Thorkild Jacobsen

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Thorkild Jacobsen
Born (1904-06-07)7 June 1904
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died 2 May 1993(1993-05-02) (aged 88)
Bradford, United States
Residence United States
Nationality Denmark
Fields Assyriology
Institutions University of Chicago (1929-1962),
Harvard University (1962-1974)
Alma mater University of Copenhagen (M.A.)
University of Chicago (PhD, 1929)
Known for The Treasures of Darkness Sumerian King List
Notable awards Guggenheim Fellowship

Thorkild Jacobsen (7 June 1904 – 2 May 1993) was a renowned historian specializing in Assyriology and Sumerian literature. He was one of the foremost scholars on the ancient Near East.


Thorkild Peter Rudolph Jacobsen (Danish pronunciation: yahkobsen) received 1927 an M.A. from the University of Copenhagen and then came to the United States to study at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, where he 1929 received his PhD.

He became a Field Assyriologist for the Iraq Expedition of the The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago (1929-1937) and in 1946 became Director of the Oriental Institute. He served as Dean of the Humanities Division (1948-1951), as an Editor of the Assyrian Dictionary (1955-1959), and as Professor of Social Institutions (1946-1962).

In 1962, Jacobsen became a professor of Assyriology at Harvard University, where he remained until his retirement in 1974. Beyond being an expert translator, he was a brilliant interpreter whose insights led to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the institutions and normative references of Sumerian and Akkadian culture.[1]

Jacobsen retired as a professor of Assyriology at Harvard University in 1974. In 1974 he served as a Visiting Professor at UCLA where he helped develop a strong Assyriology program. Dr. Jacobsen served 1993 as president of the American Oriental Society, an organization of scholars. He was 88 years of age when he died in Bradford, New Hampshire.[2]

Selected works

  • Sumerian King List (1939)
  • The Temple Oval at Khafajah - chapter by Thorkild Jacobsen (1940)
  • Towards the Image of Tammuz and Other Essays on Mesopotamian History and Culture - edited by William L. Moran (1970)
  • The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (1976)
  • The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man: An Essay of Speculative Thought in the Ancient Near East (1977)
  • The Harps that Once... Sumerian Poetry in Translation (1987)

Partial list of excavations



  1. Thorkild Jacobsen, was professor of Assyriology at Harvard (Boston Globe. Boston, MA: May 6, 1993)
  2. Thorkild Jacobsen, Scholar, Wrote of Cuneiform (New York Times. May 5, 1993) [1]
  3. Thorkild Jacobsen. 1968, Near Eastern Studies (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation) [2]


External links