Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

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W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
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Established 1900
Type Private research institute
Director Dr. Seymour Gitin
Location Jerusalem
Affiliations American Schools of Oriental Research
Website http://www.aiar.org/

The W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR), is an archaeological research institution located in East Jerusalem. It is the oldest American research center for ancient Near Eastern studies in the Middle East. Founded in 1900 as the American School of Oriental Research, it was renamed in 1970 after its most distinguished director and the father of Biblical Archeology, William F. Albright. Its mission is to develop and disseminate scholarly knowledge of the literature, history, and culture of the Near East, as well as the study of civilization from pre-history to the early Islamic period.

Today, the Albright Institute is one of three separately incorporated institutes affiliated with the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the others being the American Center of Oriental Research –ACOR- in Amman, Jordan, and the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute –CAARI- in Nicosia, Cyprus. In 1948, the then American School of Oriental Research, also known as the Jerusalem School, played a significant role in the discovery and identification of the Dead Sea Scrolls (see below). Between 1981 and 1996, the Albright Institute, together with the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, excavated at the ancient Philistine site of Tel Miqne-Ekron, one of the five Philistine capital cities mentioned in the Bible.

Located in an historic 1920’s-period building, now a Jerusalem landmark, the Albright maintains residential and research facilities including a 35,000 volume library, publications offices, and archaeological workshops.

Fellowships[edit]

The Institute’s unique international fellowship program fosters a culture of intellectual integrity and respect. It provides an opportunity for students and scholars from all over the world including Israelis and Palestinians to interact and exchange information and ideas in a friendly and convivial environment, which is not duplicated in any other such institution in the region. It also promotes working relationships with related institutions in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. More than 3,000 persons participate in the Albright Institute’s annual wide range of programs including lectures, reports, workshops, field trips, and social events. The Institute also supports 31 ASOR-affiliated and Albright-assisted excavation, survey, and publications projects. In the current academic year, the Albright awarded over $340,000 in grants, fellowships, and fees. This year’s 64 Fellows include 34 Fellows with stipends and fee awards, and 30 Associate Senior, Post-Doctoral, and Research Fellows with funding from other sources. In the academic year 2012-13, the Institute initiated the Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professorship, which is open to internationally recognized senior scholars of all nationalities who have made significant contributions to their field of study.

The Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

The Institute played a significant role in the discovery and preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls contain approximately eight hundred separate works written between the 2nd century BCE and the 1st century CE. They include the only Jewish Bible manuscripts from that period, including a manuscript of Exodus that dates to c. 250 BCE. Manuscripts or fragments of every book in the Hebrew Bible except the Book of Esther were unearthed, as well as many other Jewish religious texts, many previously unknown. Most scholars believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the property of the Essenes who lived at the site of Khirbet Qumran. The Essenes were a Jewish sect active in the last century BCE and the first century CE, at the same time as the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

In the spring of 1948, the Institute was contacted by a representative of Mar Samuel, the Metropolitan (Archbishop) of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, who wanted to authenticate four ancient scrolls that he had recently purchased from an antiquities dealer. One of the younger scholars in residence at the Institute at that time, John C. Trever recognized the antiquity of the manuscripts and photographed three of the four scrolls in the basement of the Albright under very adverse conditions. Trever was the first to photograph 1QIsaiah(a), a complete scroll of the book of Isaiah dating to approximately 100 BCE. Trever sent copies of his photographs to his mentor—famed Near Eastern scholar and former Institute director William F. Albright, who sent him a telegram congratulating him on the "greatest manuscript discovery of modern times!”

In early September 1948, Mar Samuel, contacted ASOR-currently the Albright Institute-in Jerusalem and the then Director Professor Ovid R. Sellers. Samuel showed Sellers some additional scroll fragments that he had acquired. Sellers then focused on finding the cave in which the scrolls had been found. In late 1948, nearly two years after the discovery of the scrolls, scholars had yet to locate the cave where the fragments had been found. Conducting such a search was dangerous. When the British mandate in Palestine ended on May 15, 1948, war broke out immediately, and peace would not be restored until November. The cave was finally discovered on January 28, 1949 by a UN observer, and Sellers brought his box brownie camera to take the first photos of the cave, which were soon published in Life Magazine.

In 1952, Roland de Vaux, the head of the French Biblical School in Jerusalem, organized a search of the caves in the cliffs above the Dead Sea near the site of Qumran. ASOR joined this expedition, and discovered Cave 3, the cave in which the famous Copper Scroll was found. Cave 3 was the only Qumran cave to be completely excavated by professional archaeologists.

The Albright Institute continues to play a role in Scrolls scholarship to the present day. In the 1990s, Board Chair Joy Ungerleider established a Dorot Dead Sea Scrolls fellowship at the Albright to enable young American scholars to work on the Scroll fragments in the nearby Rockefeller Museum. One of the first holders of this fellowship was Sidnie White Crawford, Board Chair and former president of the Institute, who lived and worked at the Albright from 1989-1991 on the editions of several Deuteronomy manuscripts from Cave 4, and the Reworked Pentateuch manuscripts, also from Cave 4. The Albright has hosted many Scrolls scholars while they pursued their research, including Eugene C. Ulrich (University of Notre Dame), Mark Smith (New York University), and Eileen Schuller (McMaster University). In addition, former fellow and trustee Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) has produced the seminal work on Qumran archaeology in the twenty-first century.

The Ekron Royal Dedicatory Inscription[edit]

The Albright’s excavations at Tel Miqne Ekron is a joint project with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was excavated from 1981 until 1996 under the direction of the Albright’s Dorot Director and Professor of Archaeology, Seymour Gitin, and Professor Trude Dothan of the Hebrew University. The excavations have led to one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Israel in the 20th century, perhaps second only to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1996, a significant artifact for the corpus of Biblical Archaeology was recovered, a monumental dedicatory inscription of the seventh-century king of Ekron Ikausu. The inscription not only securely identifies the site by mentioned the name Ekron, but it gives a king-list of the rulers of Ekron, fathers to sons: Ya'ir, Ada, Yasid, Padi, and Ikausu, and the name of the goddess Patgayah to whom the temple is dedicated.

Both Padi and Ikausu are mentioned in the seventh century BCE Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals as Kings of Ekron, thus providing a basis for dating their reigns. This makes the Ekron Inscription prime documentary evidence for establishing the chronology of events relating to the late biblical period, especially the history of the Philistines. The Goddess Patgayah refers to the Aegean mother goddess of Delphi, and Ikausu meaning the Achaean or the Greek may point to the Greek heritage of the Philistines or reflect contact between the Philistines and their ‘homeland’ Greece in the Archaic period of the 7th century, during which there was intensive economic and cultural exchange.

Directors[edit]

Long Term Directors:

Among the 41 Annual Directors Were:

  • Charles C. Torrey
  • George a. Barton
  • Robert E. Harper
  • James A. Montgomery
  • Chester McCown
  • Millar Burrows
  • Clarence S. Fisher
  • James L. Kelso
  • Douglas Tushingham
  • Marvin Pope
  • Oleg Grabar
  • George Mendenhall
  • David Noel Freedman
  • Robert J. Bull
  • Eric M. Meyers
  • Albert Glock

ASOR/Albright Past Presidents:

  • James A. Montgomery
  • Millar Burrows
  • Carl H. Kraeling
  • A. Henry Detweiler
  • G. Ernest Wright
  • Ernest S. Frerichs
  • Joe Callaway
  • Joe. D. Seger
  • Max Miller
  • Patty Gerstenblith
  • Sidnie White Crawford
  • J. Edward Wright


For over a century, the Institute has been a beacon of archeological scholarship in the Middle East for scholars from all over the world engaged in research in ancient Near Eastern studies including biblical archaeology, history, ancient languages and literature and other related fields. AIAR has had an enormous impact on the careers of a long list of distinguished scholars who conducted research at the Albright as well as on archaeologists who participated in excavations or received logistical support for their research.

Distinguished Alumni Include[edit]

Egyptologist Flinders Petrie lived with his wife at ASOR-Jerusalem in 1933, and died there in 1942.

Sources[edit]

  • King, Philip J. American Archaeology in the Mideast: A History of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1983).
  • Clark, D.G. and V.H. Matthews 100 Years of American Archaeology in the Middle East: Proceedings of the American Schools of Oriental Research Centennial Celebration (2003).

External links[edit]