Gitin, Seymour

views updated


GITIN, SEYMOUR (Sy ; 1936–), U.S. archaeologist. Gitin was born in Buffalo, New York. He earned a B.A. in ancient history at the University of Buffalo and studied ancient Near Eastern languages and literature in the rabbinic program at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. There he earned a B.A. (1959) and an M.A. in Hebrew letters as well as receiving ordination (1962). During this period, he spent a year in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University, studying ancient Hebrew texts and archaeology, and in 1961 he participated in the archaeological survey of the Western Negev directed by Nelson *Glueck.

In the late 1960s, he continued his archaeological studies with Nelson Glueck and with William G. Dever at the Hebrew Union College, first in Cincinnati and then in Jerusalem. From 1970 through 1975, he studied Near Eastern languages at the Hebrew University with Jonas Greenfield and epigraphy and paleography with Joseph Naveh, and completed an intensive tutorial archaeological research program with faculty members of the Hebrew University and his dissertation supervisor William G. Dever. In 1970, he joined the Tell Gezer excavation staff, where he was a senior field archaeologist from 1971 to 1975. In 1971, he also served as senior field archaeologist for the Jebel Qa'aqir excavations. In 1976, he became director of the Gezer Publications Program and during 1977–78 was assistant professor of the archaeology of the Land of Israel at the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College. In 1979, he was awarded a Ph.D. from the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. His dissertation, A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron Age, Persian, and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, appeared as an Annual of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology. In 1980, he was appointed as the fifth long-term director and professor of archaeology at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, where in 1994 he became the Dorot director and professor of archaeology.

As Albright director, Gitin has been the creative force behind the establishment of the institute as an international center for the study of cultural and economic interconnections in antiquity in the Eastern Mediterranean basin. He also developed a doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship program in ancient Near Eastern studies at the Albright, which is one of the most extensive research programs of its kind in the world. Despite the complex political climate of the region, this program has successfully promoted academic ties and collaboration between students and scholars of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Today, the Albright is the only such institute in the Middle East where foreign, Israeli, and Palestinian scholars continue to interact and exchange information on a friendly and congenial basis.

Gitin's own research has resulted in major contributions to the field of archaeology, as seen in his groundbreaking work in late Philistine studies of the Iron Age ii, which has dramatically altered the traditional perception of the history of the Philistines. His research is based on the results of the Tel Miqne-Ekron excavations, jointly sponsored by the Albright Institute and the Hebrew University, and directed by Gitin for 14 seasons during the years 1981–96 with his colleague Trude *Dothan. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Gitin has demonstrated that around 1000 b.c.e., the Philistines had not assimilated into one of the major culture groups, the Canaanites, Phoenicians, or Israelites. Rather they continued to exist for another 400 years, at the end of which the Philistines of *Ekron achieved the zenith of their economic development under the influence of the Neo-Assyrian empire. In his more than 60 publications on the development of Philistine material culture, best summarized in his 1997 article "The Neo-Assyrian Empire and its Western Periphery: The Levant, with a Focus on Philistine Ekron," Gitin has shown that it was a process of acculturation which ultimately contributed to the disappearance of the Philistines from the pages of history. This is supported by his publications, "A Royal Dedicatory Inscription from Ekron" (1998, with T. Dothan and J. Naveh), analyzing one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century, and "Israelite and Philistine Cult and the Archaeological Record: The 'Smoking Gun' Phenomenon" (2003). These and his other publications on the unique assemblage of incense altars from Ekron have helped to establish a new perception of Philistine cultic practices and their sitz im leben in the ancient Near East.

Gitin also created and directs the international research project "The Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 7th Century bc: A Study of the Interactions between Center and Periphery." The project, under the aegis of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, located at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, d.c., is designed to investigate the growth and development of the first "world market" in history and involves 50 scholars working in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

In recognition of his archaeological experience, Gitin was appointed editor of the three-volume work in progress, The Ancient Pottery of Israel and Its Neighbors from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic Period, which is destined to become the archaeologist's "ceramic bible." The project is sponsored by the Israel Exploration Society, the Albright Institute, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Gitin is the recipient of the University of Buffalo's Distinguished Alumni award (1998), a doctorate of human letters, honoris causa, from the Hebrew Union College (2003), and the Israel Museum's Percia Schimmel Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Archaeology of Eretz Israel and the Lands of the Bible (2004).


B. Boone, "In Search of a Lost World (Archaeologist Seymour Gitin, '56, Makes a Historic Discovery about the Long-Elusive City of Ekron, Ancient Capital of the Philistines)," in: ub Today, State University of New York at Buffalo (1997), 34–35; J.A. Blakely, "The Albright Institute 1980–2000, Establishing a Vision (S. Gitin's Directorship)," in: J.D. Seger, An asor Mosaic, A Centennial History of the American Schools of Oriental Research (2000), 175–217; S.W. Crawford, "Introduction and Appreciation," in: S.W. Crawford et al., Festschrift in Honor of Seymour Gitin (2006).

[Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]