Benjamin Mazar (1906–1995) was one of the patriarchs of Israeli archaeology.a Born in Russia, Mazar studied Near Eastern philology in Germany, where he took his doctorate at the age of 22. After emigrating to Palestine in 1928, he learned the fundamentals of field archaeology from the dominant figure in Biblical archaeology, William F. Albright, who became his most influential teacher. In 1943 Mazar joined the faculty of the Hebrew University as a lecturer in Biblical history and the historical geography of Palestine. He was promoted in 1951 to professor of the history of the Jewish people in the Biblical period and the archaeology of Palestine. The next year, he became the rector of the Hebrew University and then, the following year, its president. In 1968 he was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious honor.

Though Mazar’s contributions to the development of the Hebrew University are great (among other things, he was responsible for the development of the Ramat Gan campus), his legacy for archaeology is paramount. Crowning his long career in the field is the decade-long excavation he directed just south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount beginning in 1968. There he discovered Umayyad palaces, Byzantine houses and numerous remains and artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods. His influence, however, extended far beyond his scholarly work, field discoveries and numerous scholarly publications: Considered a “consummate teacher,” Mazar taught many of the leading archaeologists (including his granddaughter Eilat, above), scholars and museum curators in Israel today.