Milestones: Ghazi Bisheh (1945–2022)

Former Director-General of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities

Ghazi Bisheh (1945–2022)

Ghazi Bisheh.
Photo courtesy Barbara A. Porter

On January 24, 2022, the archaeological community in Jordan lost Ghazi Bisheh, an ardent researcher who devoted almost half a century to archaeological research. He was born in Amman in 1945, to a family of Circassian refugees who had settled in Amman in the 19th century. Ghazi spent most of his youth at his grandparent’s house overlooking the city’s ancient Roman nymphaeum, whose nymphs lured him to study archaeology.

Ghazi graduated from the University of Jordan in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in archaeology. During his studies, he became fascinated with early Islamic architecture and in 1970 he left Jordan to earn a master’s degree in Islamic art and architecture from the University of Michigan, where he also received his Ph.D.

Upon his return to Jordan in 1973, Ghazi joined the Department of Antiquities, first as director of registration and documentation and then as director of excavations. In 1989, he was promoted to Director-General, a position he held twice, first from 1989 to 1992 and then again from 1995 until his retirement in 1999. Ghazi was also an associate professor of archaeology at Yarmouk University in northern Jordan.

Across his long career, Ghazi excavated at many sites in Jordan, including Hesban, Madaba, Qasr Hallabat, Qusayr Amra, and Qastal. His publications were numerous and covered topics ranging from ancient inscriptions to mosaic art to Islamic architecture. He also regularly helped organize international conferences and workshops, and was a major figure in the archaeological community of Jordan, helping found the Petra National Trust and serving on the board of trustees of the Jordan Museum.

Ghazi was a man of the world who believed that archaeology belongs not to individual nations but to all humanity. As noted in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review, he devoted considerable energy and thought to combating looting, antiquities trafficking, and illicit forgeries.* He also believed in the importance of cultural heritage education and, as such, helped develop innovative and creative ways to engage Jordan’s youth in archaeology.

Dr. Bisheh will be sadly missed, not only by his family, friends, and colleagues, but by the entire archaeological community who worked in Jordan. He will be remembered as an inspiration and a true model for all scholars.


Catreena Hamarneh is on staff at the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Amman, Jordan. She previously worked at the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and the German Jordanian University.

* See BARlines, “Jordan Antiquities Department Gets New Director,” BAR, July/August 1995, and Hershel Shanks, “How to Stop Illegal Excavations,” BAR, September/October 1996.

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