Erica Reiner, 81; Expert on Assyrian Language, Editor of Dictionary

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Erica Reiner, 81, an authority on one of the world’s oldest written languages, died of lung cancer Dec. 31 at her home in Chicago.

For more than two decades, Reiner was the main editor of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, an encyclopedic work depicting the culture of Mesopotamia and the language that prevailed in the region for 2,500 years.

She began working on the Assyrian dictionary in 1952. The first of its 23 volumes was published in 1956, using texts from clay tablets recovered by archeologists. Two more volumes are at the printer, and a final volume is to be published later this year.


“It is difficult to overstate the significance of Erica Reiner’s contributions to the understanding of the ancient Near East,” said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, where Reiner taught for 40 years.

A native of Budapest, Reiner received her undergraduate degree in linguistics from the University of Budapest in 1948. After studying languages in Paris, she earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago.