The NGSBA Mission

The Skirball Archaeological Center of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical ArchaeologyThe Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology is an academic institution with an active field research program. Our work focuses on the Land of Israel, asking both universal questions about the development of human society and more particular ones concerning the special nature of ancient Canaan and Israel and the world of the Bible. The universal and particular mesh well together; so much of modern history is determined by what occurred in antiquity. The ethnic and religious schisms of our region, and the attending political conflicts, have their roots in antiquity.

Read more...

History of the School

Ben Gurion attending the opening of the HUC in 1963The Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology was established in 1963 by Nelson Glueck, an ordained rabbi and respected field archaeologist and president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at the time. The campus was initially called Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School, founded to provide a base for American scholars and researchers engaged in Near Eastern studies. Until the 1948 war the research center for such scholarship had been the American School of Oriental Research (now the Albright Institute) in east Jerusalem. When, following the war, it became difficult for scholars to move between east and west Jerusalem and between Israel and Arab countries, Glueck decided to create an alternative center in Israeli west Jerusalem. 

In the beginning an American scholar was appointed director annually, but in 1968 William G. Dever became its first permanent director; he was followed by Joe E. Seger in 1971. 
At a time when Reform Judaism was not exactly welcomed by the orthodox establishment of Israel, archaeology was seen as a foundation for the realization of reform Judaism’s spiritual connection with the Land of Israel. Archaeological research was considered almost sacrosanct by Israel’s secular establishment, and it didn’t hurt that Glueck was well connected.

Read more...

What is Biblical Archaeology

Biblical archaeology, “is a branch of biblical studies, an interdisciplinary pursuit that seeks to utilize the pertinent results of archaeological research to elucidate the historical and cultural setting of the Bible” (W.G. Dever “Biblical Archaeology”, in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Ancient Near East, vol 1, p. 318). Biblical archaeology must carry out scientific archaeology according to international standards of best practice, but its research questions will be derived from the study of the biblical text. At the same time, professional scholarship and a nuanced academic approach to the biblical text must inform biblical archaeological research.

Read more...

Why does Progressive (Reform) Judaism sponsor archaeological research?

The connection between archaeology and progressive Judaism was initiated by reformed Rabbi and archaeologist Nelson Glueck (1900-1971). Most of Glueck’s work was carried out in the desert of the Levant--the Negev, Sinai and Transjordan. Glueck's aim was to illustrate and document the formative experience of Israelite-Jewish peoplehood. In his view, the bible preserved the historical memory of the Jewish people. At the same time he acknowledged that the bible was primarily a theological document and as such there was no point in trying to “prove the Bible” (Biblical Archaeologist 22/4 [1959]: p. 106).

Read more...

Our founder: Nelson Glueck (1900-1971)

Nelson GlueckBorn in Cincinnatti, Ohio in 1900, Nelson Glueck was one of the foremost leaders in the field of biblical archaeology and Reform Judaism. He read the benediction at the swearing-in ceremony of President John F. Kennedy. 

At the age of 23, Glueck was ordained as a Reform rabbi by the Hebrew Union College and four years later was awarded his Ph.d at Jena, Germany, for his dissertation on the biblical concept of hesed (the Hebrew term for goodness or divine kindness). Until World War II he worked with William Foxwell Albright at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (ASOR, now the Albright Institute) and at Albright’s excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim. Later, Glueck himself served as director of ASOR, as well as having a faculty position at HUC in Jerusalem.

Read more...

Past director: Avraham Biran (1909-2008)

Biran with Avraham Biran (Bergman) was born in 1909 in Petah Tikvah, grew up in Rosh Pina and was educated at the Reali School in Haifa, where he also taught for a short while. In 1930 he moved to the United States where he received his MA at the University of Pennsylvania and his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Between 1935 and 1937 he was a research fellow at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (now called the Albright Institute). During this time he participated in the excavations of Tell Jerisheh and Ras el-Kharrubeh in Palestine, at Irbid and Tell el- Khleifeh in Transjordan and at Tepe Gawra and Khafajeh in Iraq.

Read more...

Directors Reports

Every year the NGSBA director submits a report to the president of approximately 4-5 pages in which he or she summarizes the activities of the previous year and makes projections for the coming year. These reports are a good indicator of the school’s strengths, successes and shortcomings. The most recent of these are available below as PDF files.

Read more...