Milestone: Amnon Ben-Tor (1935–2023)


Amnon Ben-Tor, one of the giants of biblical archaeology and long-time excavator of the biblical site of Hazor in northern Israel, passed away on August 22. He was 87 years old.

Ben-Tor belonged to the first generation of Israeli archaeologists trained in the State of Israel. He began his studies in 1955 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he participated in his first study excavation at Hazor, which was then directed by the pioneering Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin.

In 1969, Ben-Tor completed his Ph.D. and became a lecturer at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. He was named the Yigael Yadin Professor in the Archaeology of Eretz Israel in 1988, a position he held until his retirement in 2003.

Ben-Tor was among the first archaeologists in Israel to study sites in a regional context. From 1977 to 1988, he conducted the Western Jezreel Valley Regional Project, which included the excavation of not just the large mound of Yoqneam and two smaller sites but also a survey of the valley.

Of course, Ben-Tor was best known for directing the Hazor excavations, which he renewed in 1990 after inheriting the project from Yadin. His excavations were a great success, uncovering monumental Canaanite architecture from the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (second millennium BCE), as well as Iron Age fortifications, storage houses, and domestic structures that contributed significantly to our understanding of ancient Israelite society and to debates about the archaeology of David and Solomon.

Ben-Tor was a formidable archaeologist who shaped the field of biblical archaeology as we know it today. Although this wonderful, charismatic teacher is gone, his legacy lives on through his students, his publications, and the future excavations of Hazor.

Milestone: Dennis E. Groh (1939–2023)


Dennis E. Groh died on April 22 at age 83. He never wanted to be just one thing, and he never was.

Born in Chicago in 1939, he became a high school and college athlete. At the time of his death, he was an honored patristics scholar, a retired university chaplain, and professor of humanities and archaeology at Illinois Wesleyan University. He was also my friend.

When we began digging at Shikhin in 2012, I wanted him at the pottery table because of his knowledge of imported wares. It turned out that we would find little of it at the site, but he generously gave us everything else he had to offer—especially teaching and encouragement.

Groh earned his Ph.D. in 1970 from Northwestern University, where he specialized in patristics, Hellenistic and classical studies, and Roman history and archaeology. His fascination with the Roman and Byzantine worlds led him to digs in Cyprus, Italy, Israel, Tunisia, and Turkey, and to staff positions at Caesarea Maritima, Meiron, Sepphoris, Tel Nessana, and Shikhin. Along the way, he garnered the many honors narrated in the foreword to Studies on Patristic Texts and Archaeology: If These Stones Could Speak … Essays in Honor of Dennis Edward Groh (2009).

Groh leaves behind his wife of 25 years, Dr. Connie Groh, children, and grandchildren. But many of us still envision him at a picnic table at Kibbutz Ha-Solelim in the 1990s, a glass of something resting at his elbow and smoke curling from the cigarette in his fingers, commenting in his smooth baritone on flowers, people, weather, architecture, and something he called “the new aesthetic.”

Milestone: Ilan Sharon (1953–2023)


Ilan Sharon, the former Nahman Avigad Chair of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, passed away at his home in Mevaseret Zion, Israel, on February 24 at the age of 69.

In 1980, Professor Ephraim Stern invited Sharon to join him in his excavations at Tel Dor on the Carmel coast of Israel. Sharon agreed and never looked back. He took pride that Dor was the most thoroughly excavated and published Phoenician site in the world. Sharon devoted great attention to the development of the site’s excavation, recording, and publication methodologies and was the driving force behind efforts to publish the great amount of data accumulated over many dig seasons. He even inaugurated a series of semiannual study seasons that took place in various locales around the world, such as Boston and Jerusalem.

In addition, Sharon published on traditional topics in the archaeology of the southern Levant (e.g., stratigraphy, architecture, and ceramics). Many of his publications involved the interface of archaeology and science, especially radiocarbon dating. These studies provided crucial data for ongoing debates over Iron Age chronology.

Besides his many academic accomplishments, Sharon was a wonderful family man, colleague, friend, lover of good wine and large dogs, an excellent cook, and a teller of long and amusing stories. He was unpretentious and took himself with a good deal of humor and humility.

Milestone: Weston Fields (1948–2023)


Weston Fields, a prominent Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, passed away at his home in Bear Island, Alaska, on May 25.

Fields attended Faith Baptist College in Omaha, Nebraska, and then earned M.A., M.Div., and Th.D. degrees from Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana.

In 1985, Fields moved to Jerusalem to pursue a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at the Hebrew University, where he studied with Shemaryahu Talmon and Emanuel Tov, among others. His Ph.D. thesis, on literary motifs, was titled Sodom and Gomorrah: History and Motif in Biblical Narrative. After his graduation in 1991, Fields was invited to become the Executive Director of the newly created Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, formed to raise funds for the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was very successful in this endeavor; his fundraising efforts made possible the final publication of the scrolls in the series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert. The foundation also worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority to mount scroll exhibitions throughout the world.

Fields’s work, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Full History, volume 1, is an invaluable, thoroughly researched account of the early history (1946–1960) of the discovery, purchase, and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was nearing completion of volume 2 when he passed away; it is hoped that the volume will be published posthumously.

Fields will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues around the world.