educator, and


Born in Lebanon, Bliss was the son of American missionaries and educators. Unable to hold standard employment because of marginal health, In 1890 he was asked by the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) to continue William Matthew Flinders Petrie's pioneering archaeological excavation at Tell el-Ḥesi in southern Palestine. Bliss trained under Petrie in Egypt before going to Tell el-Ḥesi where, In 1891 and 1892, he conducted the first truly stratigraphic excavation in Palestine. Bliss's work combined Petrie's ceramic chronology with his own original stratigraphic concept, thereby founding the discipline of Palestinian archaeology.

Bliss continued to excavate on behalf of the PEF until 1900: in Jerusalem (1898) and later at Tell Zakariya (῾Azekah), Tell eṣ-Ṣafı, Tell el-Judeideh, and Tell Ṣandaḥanna (Marisa/Mareshah). For these sites, he produced the first modern archaeological report for Palestine (with R. A. S. Macalister, 1902). In 1900 Bliss was dismissed as excavator for the PEF primarily because his careful excavation methods were too time consuming and did not yield finds thought sufficient to raise funds. Within thirty years William Foxwell Albright recognized this as a tragic mistake. After his dismissal, Bliss prepared one final archaeological monograph (1906), describing the development of Palestinian research from its beginnings until 1902. The theoretical foundations he defined for archaeological research in Palestine are still in use today.

Bliss served as dean of men at the University of Rochester in New York State from 1911 through 1914 and as a tutor at the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut until the end World War I. In 1919 he was an adviser to the British general Allenby on the antiquities of Syria and Palestine, and In 1920 and 1921 he was an archaeological consultant to the American Schools of Oriental Research. He retired In 1921.

[See also ῾Azekah; Ḥesi, Tell el-; Judeideh, Tell el-; Mareshah; Palestine Exploration Fund; and the biography of Petrie.]


  • Albright, William Foxwell. “Bliss, Frederick Jones.” In Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 22, suppl. 2, pp. 44–45. New York, 1958. The basic biographical sketch of Bliss by someone who knew him.
  • Bliss, Frederick Jones. A Mound of Many Cities, or, Tell el Hesy Excavated. London, 1894. The first major archaeological monograph based on stratigraphic excavation in Palestine. Delightful reading, but generally accessible only in major university and research libraries.
  • Bliss, Frederick Jones. Excavations at Jerusalem, 1894–1897. London, 1898.
  • Bliss, Frederick Jones, and R. A. S. Macalister. Excavations in Palestine during the Years 1898–1900. London, 1902.
  • Bliss, Frederick Jones. The Development of Palestine Exploration. New York, 1906.
  • King, Philip J. “Frederick Jones Bliss at Tell el-Hesi and Elsewhere.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 122 (1990): 96–100. Basic review of Bliss's contributions to the field of archaeology.
  • Matthers, John M. “Excavations by the Palestine Exploration Fund at Tell el-Hesi, 1890–1892.” In Tell el-Hesi, vol. 4, The Site and the Expedition, edited by Bruce T. Dahlberg and Kevin G. O'Connell, pp. 37–67. Winona Lake, Ind., 1989. Detailed review and modern critical analysis of Bliss's excavations at Tell el-Ḥesi.

Jeffrey A. Blakely