Biran, Avraham

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BIRAN, AVRAHAM (1909– ), archaeologist and diplomat. Born in Petaḥ Tikvah, of a third generation Ereẓ Israel family, Biran received his education at the Reali Secondary School in Haifa and at the David Yellin College in Bet ha-Kerem, Jerusalem. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he studied with William Foxwell *Albright.

From 1935 to 1937 he participated in various archaeological excavations with the University of Pennsylvania in Iraq and with the American Schools of Oriental Research near Irbid in Jordan. He also accompanied Nelson *Glueck on his discoveries along the Gulf of Elath, and in Palestine directed the excavations of the birthplace of the prophet Jeremiah in Anathoth (1935).

In 1937, Biran was appointed District Officer of the Palestine Mandatory Government for the area of the Jezreel Valley. During this period he carried out an archaeological survey of the area. Transferring to Jerusalem in 1945, he became District Officer of the Mandatory Government for Jerusalem. He served as liaison between the United Nations representatives and the Jewish military authorities during the fighting before the 1948 Declaration of Independence.

Biran held a variety of positions with the government of Israel, initially as administrative assistant to Dov *Joseph, the military governor of Jerusalem, becoming governor of Jerusalem for several months. From 1949 to 1958 he was Israel Consul-General in Los Angeles and in 1958 was the director of the Armistice Affairs in the Foreign Ministry.

Returning to archaeology, Biran took up the position of director of antiquities and museums of Israel and in 1974 became director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem. In this capacity he directed the excavation of the Israelite sites of Ira and Aroer in the Negev; the ancient synagogue of Yesud ha-Ma'alah; and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel, at Tel Dan. These last excavations revealed a city founded in the 6th millennium b.c.e.; massive fortifications of the 2nd millennium, including a unique triple-arched gate of the 18th century b.c.e. still standing as originally built; a 14th-century b.c.e. tomb with Mycenean imports; evidence for the first settlement of the tribe of Dan, their installations for metal work; the Israelite sanctuary where *Jeroboam had set the golden calf, the religious center of northern Israel with its high place, chambers, altars; a royal scepter; and a dedicatory inscription in Greek and Aramaic – "To the God who is in Dan." Biran was chairman of the Israel Exploration Society from 1978 (in 1999 he was named its president), the Government Names Committee, and the International Committee of Museums and Sites (Israel) of unesco. In 2002 he was awarded the Israel Prize.

[Elaine Hoter]