Located in Amman, Jordan, the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) was established In 1968, but its origins belong to the turn of the century. In 1900 the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR) was established in Jerusalem as a permanent research center that would facilitate regional biblical, historical, linguistic, and archaeological studies. After 1967 the school became known as the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. In the aftermath of the 1967 War, because it is situated in East Jerusalem, it became logistically impossible to continue using the institute as a base of operations for archaeological field projects in Jordan and neighboring Arab countries. Dr. G. Ernest Wright, then president of ASOR, called for the establishment of a new research institute in Amman, and In 1968 an apartment was rented near the first traffic circle on Jebel Amman. Like its predecessor in Jerusalem, the future of the Amman institute was very uncertain at its genesis. Funding was minimal and the new center had neither a library nor other assets.
In 1971 ACOR was legally incorporated and registered in both the United States and Jordan as a nonprofit educational and cultural organization. It is governed by a board of trustees in accordance with its charter and bylaws. Although ACOR is technically an independent organization, it has always maintained a close working relationship with its parent organization, ASOR.
For the first seven years of its existence, ACOR operated with a modest annual budget of less than $25,000 provided by grants from the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), ASOR, and private contributions. Its directorship was a one-year appointment that also carried with it the title “annual professor.” In addition to facilitating the research projects of U.S. and Canadian scholars, the directors also taught courses at the University of Jordan and were instrumental in setting up the master's program in archaeology there. The ACOR directors in order of their terms of service between 1968 and 1975 were Rudolph Dornemann, Murray Nichol, Bastiaan van Elderen, Siegfried Horn, Henry Thompson, and George Mendenhall. During those early years a cook was the only full-time employee.
In 1971, the center moved to somewhat larger quarters near the third circle on Jebel Amman and a small library collection was established. The appointment of James Sauer as director In 1975 marked an important turning point for ACOR. Sauer was the first long-term appointment, serving from 1975 to 1981. During his tenure, a hostel was established to provide accommodations for visiting scholars, and the number of research projects working through the center more than doubled. The operating budget tripled and income generated from the hostel and equipment rental made the institute less dependent on external funding sources. By 1977 ACOR had outgrown the third-circle facility and a newly constructed two-story house was rented near the sixth circle on Jebel Amman. In 1980 new fellowships were established with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The rapid growth of ACOR's projects and program, along with rising rental costs in Amman, spawned a discussion in the late 1970s about the advisability of constructing a permanent facility for ACOR. Crown Prince Hasan ibn Talal encouraged this course of action, pledging his government's support in securing land.
The task of overseeing the fund-raising and construction projects was undertaken by David McCreery, who served as director from 1981 to 1988. Throughout the 1980s, the number of field projects working through ACOR, of long-term appointees, of library volumes, and of resident scholars continued to increase. The public lecture series and field trips to archaeological sites initiated by Sauer grew in popularity.
In June 1986 the new ACOR facility, located at the western edge of Amman, near the university and the British and German archaeological Institutes, opened its doors. The 25,000-square-foot facility comfortably accommodates thirty people, a library, private study carrels, a conservation lab, workrooms, storage rooms, and a lecture room.
Between 1988 and 1994, ACOR was directed by Bert de Vries (1988–1991) and Pierre Bikai (since 1991). Under these most recent directors a Cultural Resource Management program was established in cooperation with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to protect and conserve endangered sites. ACOR works closely with Jordanian and U.S. governmental agencies to coordinate the interests of the international scholarly community and governmental agencies interested in developing archaeological sites for their touristic and economic value to the country. The ACOR library holds more than twenty thousand volumes, making it one of the best in the region. In 1994, a newly equipped conservation lab was inaugurated and immediately put to use by a U.S./Finnish/Jordanian team working on the fifth-sixth-century Petra papyri. [See Petra, article on Recent Finds.]
Approximately forty archaeological field projects are currently associated with ACOR. ACOR is today actively promoting the investigation of Jordan's prehistoric and post-classical (Islamic) periods. Although archaeological research has always been the focal point of the institute, throughout the early 1990s the scope of ACOR-sponsored research was broadened dramatically. The institute now offers fellowships in a variety of disciplines under the overall rubric of Near Eastern Studies. The institute houses up to thirty scholars and students on a regular basis and has an overflow capacity of up to seventy during the peak excavation season. ACOR has become a truly international institute.
In 1992 ACOR initiated a new program with the goal of producing high-quality archaeological publications in Jordan. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the first major ACOR publication—The Mosaics of Jordan—appeared In 1993, followed by volumes on the architecture of the Great Temple of Amman and the Jordan Antiquities Database and Information System. A publications endowment has been established to ensure the longevity of ACOR's publication program. In its brief twenty-five-year history, ACOR has undergone several transformations, to take its place, despite political and financial obstacles, as a dynamic research institute in the Near East.
- Bikai, Pierre, ed. ACOR, the First Twenty-Five Years: The American Center of Oriental Research, 1968–1993. Amman, 1993.
- Kanellopoulos, Chrysanthos. The Great Temple of Amman: The Architecture. Amman, 1994.
- King, Philip J. American Archaeology in the Mideast: A History of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Winona Lake, Ind., 1983.
- Palumbo, Gaetano, ed. JADIS, the Jordan Antiquities Database and Information System: A Summary of the Data. Amman, 1994.
- Piccirillo, Michele. The Mosaics of Jordan. Amman, 1993.
David W. McCreery