The W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR) in Jerusalem 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 (ASOR) by its parent organizations—the American Oriental Society, the Society for Biblical Literature, and the Archaeological Institute of America—its purpose was to create an institutional base in Palestine in which scholars could pursue more efficiently and productively their research on issues relating to the Levant. In 1970, under the leadership of then ASOR president G. Ernest Wright, the school was separately incorporated and renamed after its most distinguished director, William Foxwell Albright. Today, AIAR is one of three institutes affiliated with ASOR, the others being in Amman and Nicosia. Support for AIAR is provided by its trustees, alumni, and a large constituency within the ASOR consortium of 150 institutions.
The present AIAR facility, constructed In 1925 for ASOR, is located 500 meters north of the old walled city of Jerusalem. It is within walking distance of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française; the British, German, and Spanish Schools of Archaeology; the Institute of Islamic Archaeology; the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology of the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion; the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology; the Rockefeller Museum; and the Israel Antiquities Authority. This grouping of scholarly resources is an unparalleled concentration of human, bibliographic, and artifactual resources in Near Eastern studies.
The main objectives of the institute, with its long-standing tradition of academic freedom and excellence in scholarship, are to provide a comprehensive scholarly environment for qualified students and scholars in ancient Near Eastern studies; to advance the study of the literature, history, and culture of the ancient Near East, with an emphasis on the disciplines of the archaeology of Palestine and biblical studies; and to help educate the next generation of American scholars in ancient Near Eastern studies, with an emphasis on the training of archaeologists.
The importance of AIAR is measured by its critical contributions to the development of the discipline of Syro-Palestinian archaeology, in particular the archaeology of ancient Israel. These include advancements in excavation methodology, archaeological periodization, and stratigraphic and material culture analyses. They also include the results of the institute's major excavations and surveys, its pivotal role in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the impact of its distinguished alumni on the fields of ancient Near Eastern, biblical, and Judaic studies.
The institute's most productive periods have been under its five long-term directors. William Foxwell Albright (1920–1926, 1927–1929, 1933–1936) is considered the father of the discipline of Palestinian, or biblical, archaeology. Albright's Tell Beit Mirsim excavation reports (1932–1943) produced a pottery dating sequence that gave the emerging field of Palestinian archaeology a chronological foundation that is still used. The framework for this new discipline and the stimulus for its growth were provided by Albright's synthetic volumes on the archaeology of Palestine and religion of Israel (1942; 1949), and by his seminal articles on Hebrew and Phoenician epigraphy.
Nelson Glueck (1932–1933, 1936–1940, 1942–1947) identified more than 1,000 sites in his survey of Transjordan and produced the first scientific demographic synthesis of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, published in four volumes (1934–1951). This is still a primary textbook of the archaeology of Jordan, as is his volume on the Nabateans (1966), based on his excavation of Khirbet et-Tannur.
Paul Lapp (1961–1965) made a major contribution to the study of Palestinian pottery in his pioneering volume on the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods (1961). Also, his excavations at ῾Iraq el-Amir, Tell er-Rumeith, Wadi ed-Daliyeh, Dhahr Mirzbaneh, Tell el-Ful, and Tell Ta῾anach produced significant results for the Bronze and Iron Ages and the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods.
William G. Dever (1971–1975) is best known for his work at Tell Gezer and on three of the Gezer report volumes (1970–1986). His long-term research projects and publications on the material culture of the Early Bronze IV (Middle Bronze I) period, the chronology of Middle Bronze Age II, the Late Bronze II/Iron I transition, and his integrative studies emphasizing new directions in archaeology have become a major focus of study in the archaeology of ancient Israel. Continuing one of Albright's legacies, Dever has trained many of the new generation of American archaeologists presently working in the Middle East.
The AIAR's current director, Seymour Gitin, appointed In 1980, was a student of both Glueck's and Dever's and is known for his publications on the first millennium BCE at Tell Gezer (1990) and on the Iron II period at Tel Miqne/Ekron (1981–1995). Based on the work of his predecessors, he has built an extensive program that offers pre- and post-doctoral researchers multicultural experiences spanning the broad spectrum of Near Eastern studies. The program provides a unique opportunity for the exchange of ideas between the forty annual AIAR appointees, primarily from North America and Europe, and hundreds of researchers living and working in Israel and in other countries in the eastern Mediterranean basin. For many, including Palestinian and foreign scholars working in Arab countries, the institute is their primary contact with colleagues in Israel. The program, which annually involves more than three thousands participants, includes a series of eighty lectures, reports, seminars, workshops, field trips (local and abroad) and social events, and support for twenty-one ASOR-affiliated excavation and publication projects, among which are the long-term projects at Ashkelon, Caesarea, Lahav, Sepphoris, and the institute's excavation at Tel Miqne/Ekron, jointly sponsored with the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The AIAR also has a publications program, an extensive research library, laboratories, and living accommodations for thirty-four people.
To further expand the scope of interregional scholarly collaboration, AIAR recently initiated an international research project, “The Neo-Assyrian Empire in the Seventh Century BC: A Study of the Interactions between Center and Periphery.” Designed to investigate the growth and development of the Assyrian Empire, its participants include researchers who have worked on Cyprus and in Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Spain, Syria, and Turkey. The institute has also created a long-term joint research, lecture, field trip, and fellowship program with the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, a program it plans to extend to other American research centers in the Mediterranean basin.
For almost one hundred years, AIAR has been at the fore-front of archaeological and historical scholarship in the Middle East. It is this tradition that has made the Albright Institute a renowned international research center.
- Albright, William Foxwell, ed. The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim. 4 vols. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 12, 13, 17, 21/22. New Haven, 1932–1943.
- Albright, William Foxwell. Archaeology and the Religion of Israel. Baltimore, 1942.
- Albright, William Foxwell. The Archaeology of Palestine. Harmonds-worth, 1949.
- Dever, William G., et al. Gezer I: Preliminary Report of the 1964–66 Seasons. Jerusalem, 1970.
- Dever, William G., et al. Gezer II: Preliminary Report of the 1967–70 Seasons in Field I and II. Jerusalem, 1974.
- Dever, William G., et al. Gezer IV: The 1969–71 Seasons in Field VI, the “Acropolis.” Jerusalem, 1986.
- Gitin, Seymour. “Tel Miqne-Ekron: A Type-Site for the Inner Coastal Plain in the Iron Age II Period.” In Recent Excavations in Israel: Studies in Iron Age Archaeology, edited by Seymour Gitin and William G. Dever. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 49 (1989), pp. 23–58.
- Gitin, Seymour. Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian, and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer. Jerusalem, 1990.
- Gitin, Seymour, ed. Tel Miqne (Ekron) Excavation Project. 6 vols. Jerusalem, 1981–1995.
- Glueck, Nelson. Explorations in Eastern Palestine. 4 vols. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 14, 15, 18/19, 25/28. New Haven, 1934–1951.
- Glueck, Nelson. Deities and Dolphins: The Story of the Nabataens. London, 1966.
- King, Philip J. American Archaeology in the Mideast: A History of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Philadelphia, 1983.
- Lapp, Paul W. Palestinian Ceramic Chronology, 200 B.C.–A.D. 70. New Haven, 1961.