Dr. Åke W. Sjöberg, Emeritus Clark Research Professor of Assyriology in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and emeritus curator of the Babylonian section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, died August 8 at age 90.
Dr. Sjöberg received an MA from Uppsala University, Sweden, in 1955 and a doctorate from Heidelberg University, Germany, in 1960, coming to Penn in 1966 after several years working on the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary at the Oriental Institute in Chicago.
Dr. Sjöberg taught both Sumerian and Akkadian for 30 years until his retirement in 1996. He applied the very highest standards of philological rigor to the study of Sumerian literature in two important monographs which set new standards in the field, as well as scores of scholarly articles written in English, German and Swedish.
In the early 1970s, Dr. Sjöberg, working with Dr. Erle Leichty, founded the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project. The publication of the first print volume, the letter B, in 1984, changed the field of Sumerology forever and was widely reported, even making the New York Times “Word of the Day”—a cuneiform version of the Sumerian form of Halleluyah—on April 18, 1984.
Dr. Sjöberg also established new standards of generosity in his curation of the tablet collection of the Penn Museum, welcoming junior and senior scholars alike and always making time to help decipher particularly difficult passages of cuneiform.
Dr. Sjöberg was elected to membership of the American Philosophical Society, and in 1994 received an honorary doctorate in theology from the Royal University of Uppsala.
Dr. Sjöberg is survived by his wife, Gunnil.