After a study of Oriental Philology at the universities of Berlin, Leipzig, Marburg and again Leipzig in the years 1926-1932, Hans Güterbock defended his Leipzig dissertation in the beginning of 1933. Already at the age of 22, while still a student, he published his first volume of Hittite cuneiform texts in the series Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazköi (KUB XXV, Berlin 1930). His dissertation, “Die historische Tradition und ihre literarische Gestaltung bei Babyloniern und Hethitern bis 1200” soon followed and was accepted on 28 February 1933.
In these early years he took part as the epigrapher in the renewed (1931) excavations at Hattusa, under the leadership of Kurt Bittel. The changing political situation in Germany, however, made his position increasingly difficult until he was forced to leave and sought refuge in Turkey where he became the first professor of Hittitology at the newly founded university of Ankara (1936). In his Turkish years Güterbock was engaged in the housing of the renowned Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara in a former Bedestan and Caravanserai, dating to the late 15th century AD and taught his Turkish students not only their respective fields of study, but also the copying of cuneiform texts.
In 1949 Güterbock joined the faculty of the Oriental Institute of University of Chicago after having spent one academic year in Uppsala, Sweden as a guest lecturer. He was named the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in 1969.
From 1975 onwards Güterbock with his successor Harry A. Hoffner, who had come from Yale to Chicago in 1974, led the Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, better known as the Chicago Hittite Dictionary or CHD. With grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Güterbock and Hoffner hired a group of research associates and started completing their lexical files. In 1979 the first fascicle appeared. Since just a few years earlier Annelies Kammenhuber had started her Munich-based Hethitisches Wörterbuch with the letter A, Güterbock and Hoffner felt it would not be opportune to start at the beginning of the Hittite alphabet as well and so the decision was taken to begin in the middle. Since then the letters L, M, N, P and three-fourths of the S have been covered.
Hoffner taught at Wheaton College in Illinois, Brandeis, and Yale before coming to Chicago as full professor in 1975 where Güterbock was to retire not long after. Several years earlier, Güterbock had been asked by the German publisher of the thus far only Hittite dictionary, Johannes Friedrich’s Hethitisches Wörterbuch, if he could do a fully revised edition. He had collected all kinds of words and word usages but felt he had to decline since he didn’t have a really systematic card file of the then published Hittite corpus. This all changed when Hoffner joined the faculty of the Oriental Institute. Since his earliest days studying Hittite Hoffner had compiled systematic and comprehensive files, and the combination of the two scholars was ideal. The German publisher had meanwhile already contracted Annelies Kammenhuber and she started publishing in installments a completely renewed Hittite-German lexicon in 1975. However, Güterbock and Hoffner were not to be deterred: they obtained their first of many grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1976, hired two research associates and students, and started the Hittite-English CHD. The first fascicle, as they called it, appeared in 1979. The only concession they made was to start in the middle of the alphabet, with the letter L, so as not to duplicate immediately the work of the Munich project that had begun with A.