DR. AVRAHAM BIRAN, DIRECTOR, NELSON GLUCK
SCHOOL OF BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY, HEBREW UNION COLLEGE-JEWISH INSTITUTE
OF RELIGION/JERUSALEM, AWARDED ISRAEL PRIZE, THE STATE OF ISRAEL'S
Avraham Biran, a third
generation Israeli, received his MA and Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University
under William Foxwell Albright and was Thayer Fellow in the American
Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, 1935-37. Formerly Director
of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, he is Director
of HUC-JIR's Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem.
He participated in the excavations of the University of Pennsylvania
in Iraz, at Tepe Gawra near Mosul and Khafaje near Baghdad and in
the American Schools of Oriental Research excavations near Irbid
in Jordan. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries
at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Professor Biran directed the excavations
of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama'alah,
and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan, 1966-1993.
"It gives me the greatest joy to congratulate our teacher Professor
Avraham Biran on this Yom Ha'atz'ma'ut (Israel Independence Day).
He is so richly deserving of the prestigious Israel Prize, and we
at the College-Institute bask in the rays of his glory and celerbate
his accomplishments on this day. His work in the field of archaeology
has brought great distinction to HUC-JIR, and has contributed so
richly to the cultural heritage of the Jewish people. We applaud
Professor Biran today, and give thanks for his energy, his character,
and his knowledge.In the words of our tradition, we thank God, "she-halak
meihachmato l'ireiav -- who share divine wisdom with humans." May
Professor Biran continue to grow from strength to strength," stated
Dr. David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President.
Prominently located at the most copious of the Jordan River's
headwaters, Tel Dan has intrigued generations of explorers and archaeologists.
Its identification with biblical Dan by Edward Robinson in 1838
conjured up images of a thriving Israelite cult center rivaling
the temple in Jerusalem. In 1966, with the site threatened by military
activities related to its forward position on the Syrian border,
Avraham Biran, then director of the Israel Department of Antiquities
and Museums, embarked upon salvage excavations which developed into
a full-fledged and still active research project. Tel Dan has revealed
an almost uninterrupted sequence of occupation from the Neolithic
period through the late Roman period in a series of unique discoveries
whose full implications are only just beginning to be understood.
Avraham Biran's book, "Biblical Dan" (Israel Exploration Society/Hebrew
Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1994) is a chronicle
of Tel Dan's history: its initial settlement at the dawn of civilization,
its first urban episode in the Early Bronze Age, the massive earthwork
fortifications and unique mud-brick gate of the Middle Bronze Age
(with an arch structure predating by 2000 years the Roman "invention"
of this architectural form), the tombs of the Middle and Late Bronze
Ages, the evidence for the migration of the tribe of Dan in the
early Iron Age, and finally, the rise of a national cult center
in the Israelite period in all its architectural and artifactual
glory. In 1993 at Tel Dan, the northernmost city in the biblical
kingdom of Israel, Dr. Biran discovered the "House of David" stele.
The inscription on this stele, written in early Aramaic paleo-Hebrew
script and dating from the 9th century B.C.E., is the first archaeological
evidence supporting the existence of the House of David.
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