Spatial Coverage

33.792540N 34.145508W; 29.568361N 38.891602W

Temporal Coverage

01 March 1920 – 15 January 1936



This data is taken from the Minute Book of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (BSAJ), now kept in the archive of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, UK ( It was assembled during recently completed doctoral research [1]. The Minute Book, Volume 1 of 2, contains handwritten entries noting minutes of the School’s Organising Committee (later Council) meetings, and minutes of the School’s Annual General Meetings (AGM). The School’s “Reports of the Season” in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly replaced extensive minute notations after 1928; the information published in these reports replaces the Minute Book entries after 1928.

Sampling Strategy

The information presented here covers students admitted under the Directorship of John Garstang (1919 – 1926) and John Crowfoot (1927 – 1936) at the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. It is influenced by previous work on students at the British School at Athens [2], [3] and students of the Oxford-based archaeologist of Roman Britain Francis Haverfield [4], as well as prosopographical methodology [5], [6]. It is presented as a template for future databases based on a combination of unpublished archives and published reports, and is particularly relevant for investigations of students in archaeological training institutions/archaeology departments.

Quality Control

The information presented here has been compiled by comparing multiple sources, both published and unpublished.


All efforts have been made to give complete biographical information where possible. The Minute Book entries do not always list full names, date(s) of admission and duration of study, affiliations and work done at the School consistently. Information gleaned from other primary and secondary sources has been used to fill in the gaps in the Minute Book entries where appropriate.

Dataset Description

Object Name

File set: Data from Students of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1920-1936

Data Type

Combined primary and secondary source data.

Format Names and Versions

Original files in the archive are Word 2011 for Mac. These have been converted to plain text files. The main file is one table, which has been converted to CSV, with columns delineated by the ‘|’ symbol.

Creation Dates

10 January 2008 – 09 December 2011

Dataset Creators, Roles and Affiliations

Thornton, Amara, Honorary Research Associate, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Repository Location


Publication Date

02 February 2012





Reuse Potential

Recent interest in the history of archaeology has resulted in a number of examinations of the British Schools abroad, and their staff and students. Beginning with the foundation of the British School at Athens in 1886, the British Schools were the springboard for many an archaeological career. The Schools functioned as centres (albeit in the BSAJ’s case essentially virtual rather than physical) of information, contacts and resources for the intellectual British traveller abroad, as well as the local community [20], [21] (also BSAJ Minute Book 8 February 1921; 16 January 1924).

David Gill has produced two books and a blog detailing the lives and work of students, directors and associates of the British School at Athens [2], [3], [7]. However, complementary data for the other British Schools, the British School at Rome, established in 1901 [8]; the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, established in 1905 [9], [10]; and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, established in 1919, crucial for understanding the history of archaeology at a time when the students, staff and associates of the Schools overlapped, has yet to be as comprehensively compiled.

Representatives of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the British Academy came together in 1919 to provide a centre for archaeological training in the newly created British Mandate of Palestine, the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem [11]. The doctoral research from which this database is taken concentrates on students admitted to the School under its first two Directors, John Garstang and John Crowfoot, taking the history of the School and its students to 19361. It complements previous research done on the BSAJ [12] but seeks to present data on the School’s students as comprehensively as possible, using a combination of primary and secondary source material.

The data presented here represents only one aspect of the BSAJ’s history. By limiting it to only students, it neglects the (equally important) role in the School’s excavations of the paid locally recruited and imported labourers and foremen, which Stephen Quirke’s recent book [13] has done so much to highlight for Flinders Petrie’s excavations in Egypt. It also sidelines the contributions of scholarly visitors and government officials, as well as volunteers and technical staff such as architects and photographers, who, though part of the excavation teams, were not formally attached to the British School as students. Finally, under John Crowfoot’s Directorship the School embarked upon co-sponsored excavations with other institutions such as the American School, Harvard and Yale Universities and the Hebrew University. This data does not reflect the contributions of students and staff affiliated to these institutions who worked alongside British School students and staff. However, looking in detail at the School’s history demonstrates the importance of all these factors to the history of archaeology. Further detailed research on archaeology in Mandate Palestine and Transjordan could examine the nature of international relations in excavation work and the relationship between excavators and local government and communities for employment.

Unlike its counterparts in Athens and Rome which provided both facilities and accommodation for students, but similar to Flinders Petrie’s British School of Archaeology in Egypt, the BSAJ did not have its own purpose-built building. The sense of community such a building might have fostered never substantially materialised. For the first decade of its history the School had a flat in Way House, Jerusalem, shared with the Government Museum and the Department of Antiquities [12], [14]. By the early 1930s, however, the realities of archaeology in Palestine combined with the deterioration of the School’s finances were noted in the BSAJ’s Annual Report [14]:

… in Palestine the circumstances are so far different [to Athens and Rome] that most of the work of the School goes on in excavation camps and other field work; comparatively little time is spent in Jerusalem, and students seem always (and rightly) to prefer life in the open country … By giving up the lease of the upper floor of the temporary Government Museum, which has been the School’s headquarters hitherto, it is estimated that an annual sum of about £300 is being saved in rent, repairs, maintenance and service.

This lack of communal space had an effect on the School’s ability to foster cohesion. The School’s main projects in the 1930s were the excavations at Samaria, directed by John Crowfoot, and Dorothy Garrod’s excavations at Athlit; the prominence of the two projects are reflected in the list of admitted students to the School. They attracted considerable attention and (consequently) sponsorship – without them the School would have closed. The BSAJ Council pragmatically reported in 1934 [15] that

We cannot always count on receiving assistance from special sources of revenue, and particularly is that so when there is no spectacular work at hand. You can appeal for help for work which is producing results such as Miss Garrod’s excavations in the caves of Athlit, but it is difficult to appeal for special contributions for publishing the results, or for carrying on the normal work of the School in the education of students.

It is evident from the data on BSAJ students that the School underwent a substantial change during the early 1930s. Under Garstang’s Directorship, and with the first flush of university subscriptions, students came to the School from a variety of educational institutions, and close work with the emerging archaeological infrastructure of Departments of Antiquities in Palestine and Transjordan is apparent. By the middle of John Crowfoot’s tenure as Director, the relationship with the Department of Antiquities, re-evaluated after Garstang’s departure, had changed [12]. Finances, always wayward, had become increasingly restricted, and excavation projects attracted students rather than general archaeological training. In addition, despite the early hope that Biblical students would find Palestine a particularly attractive place to visit and study, Crowfoot reported [15] that

… we shall have to admit the truth … that there has been a real re-orientation of interest here in England, and that we can no longer look for support to the old sentiments which accorded a unique and pre-eminent value to every scrap of secular information forthcoming from the Holy Land.

This ‘re-orientation’ might perhaps be attributed to the general economic climate in England following the Wall Street Crash in 1929, but as Crowfoot’s statement indicates it may also relate to a shift in priorities amongst the general populace with the death of Victorian/Edwardian mentality and interests in the trenches of the First World War, married to an increasingly professionalised and university educated archaeological sector. Obtaining University subscriptions was as important as cultivating donations from the public, and duly written into its Ordinances [16]. The nature of the archaeological discipline would re-orientate with even more force with the introduction of radio-carbon dating in the 1950s. Successive generations of archaeologists have ensured that archaeology today distances itself from the archaeology in past periods.

However, in examining the lives and careers of BSAJ students the importance of personal relations in archaeology [1], and the gender balance of archaeological training as women in Britain obtained the vote and equal status in the hallowed halls of Oxford University is demonstrated [17], [18], [19]. The data highlights the variety of projects and interests amongst BSAJ students and staff, and sheds further light on the early training of some of the most famous archaeologists of the twentieth century. With this information scholars can begin to re-evaluate assumptions relating to the background and education of (prospective) archaeologists of earlier generations, and probe the social, political and economic context of archaeological work.