(1846–1923), French

epigrapher,

archaeologist,

Orientalist, and

diplomat and

pioneer

in the study of ancient Palestinian inscriptions. Born in Paris, Clermont-Ganneau excelled as a student of Semitic languages and was sent to Jerusalem In 1867 as dragoman-chancellor for the French consulate. In 1869, he was the first to recognize the significance of the Mesha stela discovered at Dibon (Dhiban) in Moab. [See Moabite Stone; Dibon.] He subsequently facilitated its purchase and transfer to the Louvre Museum in Paris. Among his later epigraphic discoveries in Jerusalem were the eighth-century BCE Hebrew inscription in the Siloam Tunnel and the Greek inscription from the Herodian period prohibiting the entry of Gentiles into the Temple Court. [See Siloam Tunnel Inscription.]

After a transfer to another diplomatic post in Constantinople In 1871, Clermont-Ganneau returned to Palestine In 1873–1874 on special assignment for the British-sponsored Palestine Exploration Fund. His wide-ranging researches included studies of the history of the Dome of the Rock and of ancient Jewish burial customs in Jerusalem and architectural surveys of Gaza, Nablus (Shechem), and Jericho. In his discovery of bilingual Greek-Hebrew boundary inscriptions in the vicinity of Tell Jezer, he was the first scholar to identify the site conclusively with ancient Gezer. [See Shechem; Jericho; Gezer.]

Clermont-Ganneau alternated for the next few years between diplomatic and scholarly careers: In 1874, he was appointed to the faculty of the École des Hautes Études in Paris; In 1881, he served as French vice-consul in Jaffa; In 1882, he was chief translator for the foreign ministry in Paris; and In 1883 he was the French consul in London. Following his appointment In 1891 to a professorship in archaeology and epigraphy at the Collège de France, Clermont-Ganneau devoted himself entirely to antiquarian studies. He led an expedition to Crete and Cyrenaica In 1895 and undertook excavations at Elephantine Island in Egypt In 1901. [See Crete; Elephantine.]

Clermont-Ganneau was an aggressive and outspoken critic of artifacts he considered forgeries. In 1873, he exposed as modern fakes the so-called Moabite pottery purchased by the Berlin Museum and succeeded in turning scholarly opinion against the Deuteronomy manuscript fragments brought to London by a Jerusalem antiquities dealer, Moses Shapira, In 1882.

Bibliography

  • Allegro, John M. The Shapira Affair. Garden City, N.Y., 1965.
  • Clermont-Ganneau, Charles. Archaeological Researches in Palestine during the Years 1873–1874. 2 vols. London, 1896–1899.
  • Silberman, Neil Asher. Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archaeology, and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land, 1799–1917. New York, 1982.

Neil Asher Silberman