In Memoriam: Lawrence Stager (1943–2017)

Bible and archaeology news

Lawrence Stager, the Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel, emeritus, at Harvard University, died on December 29, 2017, at the age of 74. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy of excellent scholarship and interdisciplinary work will live on. May he rest in peace.

Below, read a short biography of Stager from the September/October 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

How Larry Stager Came to Ashkelon

lawrence-stagerOn July 10, 2016, the Israel Museum awarded the Percia Schimmel Award for Distinguished Contribution to Archaeology in Eretz Israel and the Lands of the Bible to Lawrence E. Stager, the Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel, emeritus, of Harvard University. Now an Eretz Israel volume—published by the Israel Exploration Society—is being prepared in Larry’s honor. Joining the ranks of William Foxwell Albright, Nelson Glueck, Harold Louis Ginsberg, Harry Orlinsky and Frank Moore Cross, he is the fifth American to receive such a tribute.

From rural Ohio to Cyprus, Tunisia and Israel, Larry has traversed the world—and helped uncover significant portions of it—breathing new life into ancient texts and giving voice to groups long gone and abandoned. His work has not only provided archaeological background for understanding the Bible, but it has also illuminated the ancient Philistines, Phoenicians and Israelites—shedding light on their identity and how they lived.

His work has been innovative and interdisciplinary. He recognized the value of incorporating the natural sciences and textual sources, such as the Bible, into archaeological research to recover more information and create a more complete picture of the ancient world.

Larry grew up near Dunkirk, Ohio, a land known for farming and football. From there he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and attended Harvard University for both his undergraduate and graduate studies, where he studied the archaeology of ancient Israel with G. Ernest Wright and Frank Moore Cross, among others. He also spent a year-long fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In our free eBook Frank Moore Cross: Conversations with a Bible Scholar Hershel Shanks conducts five interviews with the renowned Bible scholar.

Larry began his career of archaeological fieldwork at the site of Gezer in Israel and then at Tell el-Hesi and in the Buqe’ah Valley. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard, Larry first taught at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. During this time, he excavated at Idalion, Cyprus, and Carthage, Tunisia. He launched excavations at Ashkelon, Israel, in 1985—immediately after leaving the Oriental Institute and returning to his alma mater, Harvard University, as the Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel and President of the Harvard Semitic Museum.

Larry would direct excavations at the Mediterranean seaport of Ashkelon for the next three decades. How he came to dig at this site is an interesting story in itself. In 1983, Larry was invited to spend a year at the Israel Institute of Advanced Studies of Jerusalem. While there, he had the chance to attend soirees at Professor Benjamin Mazar’s apartment and have personal meetings with Mazar on Shabbat. It was Mazar who encouraged Larry to apply to dig at Ashkelon, a large and significant archaeological site that had not been excavated since 1921. Previous to this, Philip J. King, who was then president of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), had introduced Larry to Leon Levy and Shelby White, trustees of ASOR and his personal friends. Levy and White were hoping to fund an archaeological excavation that would further the field of ancient Near Eastern archaeology. In Ashkelon, there was a complex site that needed to be excavated; in Larry Stager, there was a capable archaeologist looking for a site to excavate; and in Leon Levy and Shelby White, there were willing benefactors. It was a winning formula. Larry applied for the license in 1984. His application was approved, and the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon was born.

After more than 30 years, the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon concluded excavations in the summer of 2016. Yet research on the site—and its role in the ancient world—will continue.
 


 

Read more about Ashkelon in Bible History Daily:

Philistine Cemetery Unearthed at Ashkelon

The Philistine Marketplace at Ashkelon

Ashkelon Through the Ages
 


 

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  • David says

    Rest in peace, Larry; good work!


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