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Frankfort, Henri


FRANKFORT, HENRI (1897–1954), excavator, teacher, and author in the field of Near Eastern archaeology. Frankfort, who was born in Amsterdam, was concerned with the archaeology, culture, and religion of the entire Middle East. His wide-ranging scholarship enabled him to comprehend the ancient Near Eastern cultures in their totality, with a special awareness of their common features as well as the peculiarities of each. After studying in England with the great archaeologist W.M. Flinders *Petrie, Frankfort returned to Holland and received his Ph.D. at Leiden. He seems to have flirted briefly with Zionism but was generally uninterested in Judaism. (His mother perished in the Holocaust.) Frankfort participated in excavations at el-Amarna, Abydos, and Armant in Egypt, and at Tell Asmar, Khafaje, and Khorsabad in Mesopotamia. From 1932 to 1938 he was also professor at the University of Amsterdam and from 1939 to 1949 he was professor at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. In the last phase of his career, Frankfort produced "cultural syntheses," namely, The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man, An Essay on Speculative Thought in the Ancient Near East (with others, 1946; abridged by the elimination of the chapter on the Hebrews, republished as Before Philosophy, 1951). Frankfort's wife, Henriette Groenwegen Frankfort, collaborated with him in this project.; Kingship and the Gods, A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature (1948, 19552); The Birth of Civilisation in the Near East (1951); and The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient (1954). During this phase he returned to Europe and became director of the Warburg Institute and professor of pre-classical antiquity at the University of London. Thus, Frankfort's development began with the treatment of excavated materials, progressed to classification and interpretation of Near Eastern archaeological remains (the Cylinder Seals…, 1939), and culminated in a cultural-historical-archaeological interpretation of these early civilizations.


P. Delougaz and T. Jacobsen, in: jnes, 14 (1955), 1–4 (incl. bibl. and photograph). add. bibliography: A. Joffe, in: jnes, 57 (1998), 232–34; D. Wengrow, American Journal of Archaeology (1999), 597–613.

[Penuel P. Kahane /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

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