While in Jerusalem as the first Annual Professor of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Albert T. Clay, a professor of Assyriology at Yale University, perceived a need for greater communication and cooperation (from cultural and ecumenical perspectives) among scholars conducting research in Palestine. To that end, on 9 January 1920, he organized a meeting attended by twenty-nine scholars. The society held its first official meeting on 20 March of that year, at which time Père Marie-Joseph Lagrange of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française was elected its first president. Thereafter, the Palestine Oriental Society met quarterly, usually at the ASOR facilities. Other prominent charter members of the society were William F. Albright, Eliezer Ben Yehudah, Herbert Danby, Père Édouard Dhorme, and Père Louis Vincent. The society's last president, serving from 1941 to 1948, was J. H. Iliffe.

The society's stated purposes were to provide scholars from different backgrounds and nationalities with a forum in which to share their findings in all aspects of archaeological and oriental studies; to facilitate greater cooperation and coordination of efforts; to sharpen the focus of research through mutual criticism; to promote publication of findings; and to take advantage of the new openness toward archaeological excavations that characterized British rule in Palestine.

One of the society's major contributions was its publication, the Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society. Twenty volumes of the journal were issued from 1920 through 1941; an index was published In 1948, at the end of the British Mandate in Palestine, as its twenty-first and final edition. Virtually every aspect of Near Eastern archaeology is represented in the numerous articles the journal published, including Bible, botany, climatology, folklore, geology, history, inscriptions, epigraphy, linguistics, literature, mosaics, numismatics, pottery, prehistory, religion, and synagogues.

[See also American Schools of Oriental Research; École Biblique et Archéologique Française; and the biographies of Albright, Lagrange, and Vincent.]


  • King, Philip J. American Archaeology in the Mideast: A History of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Philadelphia, 1983. In addition to being the standard book on the history of ASOR, this work contains valuable information about significant research organizations related to ASOR.
  • Glueck, Nelson. The Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society: Indices to Volumes I–XXI, 1920–1948. Jerusalem, 1966. Published on the occasion of the reprinting of the complete set of JPOS volumes, with a list of all the articles published in the journal by author and subject.

Charles E. Carter