A team of scholars have finished a dictionary of the long dead language Assyrian language, which hasn’t been spoken for more than 2,000 years, after 90-years of painstaking work.

The work began at the University of Chicago in 1921, and it was based on words recorded on clay or stone tablets unearthed in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is now officially complete and contains 21 volumes of Akkadian, a Semitic language, with several dialects, including Assyrian.

The Assyrian Dictionary is said to be the key into the one of the world’s first urban civilisations.

“Virtually everything that we take for granted has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing.” Said Gil Stein, director of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

The work to complete the Dictionary has taken longer than anyone could have anticipated. The project involved several generations of scholars from Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Berlin, Helsinki, Baghdad and London, who travelled to Chicago to work on it. Robert Biggs, professor emeritus at the university, devoted nearly a half-century to the dictionary, uncovering tablets on digs in the Iraq desert.