Epstein, Claire

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EPSTEIN, CLAIRE (1911–2000), Israeli archaeologist, expert on the Chalcolithic culture of the Golan Heights. Born in London, Epstein was the only daughter and oldest of three children of German immigrants, Olga and Mortimer Epstein. Educated at the University of London in English and Italian literature, Epstein became active in Zionist circles, studying Hebrew and helping to found the local branch of the Habonim youth movement. She also translated material from Hebrew for the Peel Commission. In 1937 Epstein immigrated to British Mandate Palestine, settling in Tel Aviv where she worked as liaison to the Mandate Government until 1942. Answering a call to help with the war effort, she joined the Women's Corps of the British army, serving four and a half years in Egypt. Shortly after returning to Tel Aviv, Epstein became a member of the newly established kibbutz En Gev on the s.e. shore of the Sea of Galilee. In 1955 Epstein joined kibbutz Ginnosar and remained one of its members for the rest of her life. Epstein's first digging experience was as a field supervisor on the Tel Hazor under the direction of Yigael Yadin. It was only at the age of 50 that Epstein embarked on her formal studies at the Institute of Archaeology of University College, London, eventually earning her Ph.D. under Kathleen Kenyon in 1962 on the subject of "Palestinian Bichrome" pottery. As a full-time archaeologist, working for the Israel Department of Antiquities (later the Israel Antiquities Authority), Epstein conducted numerous surveys and excavations in Israel, notably the Golan emergency archaeological survey in 1967. Subsequently Epstein excavated numerous Chalcolithic sites on the Golan Heights, and the results of her work were eventually published in a monograph titled The Chalcolithic Culture of the Golan (1998). Epstein was the author of numerous articles on the late prehistory of Israel, including excavation reports, and research papers, one of which was on her interpretation of the stratigraphy of the sacred area at Megiddo. Epstein was the recipient of numerous prizes: the Percy Schimmel Award, the prestigious Israel Prize, and the Irene Levy-Sala Award.


"Obituaries: Claire Epstein (1911–2000)," in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 18 (2000), 111–14.

[Eliot Braun (2nd ed.)]