Obituary: Avraham Biran

Born Petach Tikva, October 23, 1909. Died Jerusalem, September 16, 2008, aged 98.


Influential archaeologist Avraham Biran used the Bible as documentary evidence to interpret and support his findings.

In this, he was at odds with those who deny the Bible as a historical record. But his excavations at Tel Dan in northern Israel, begun just before the 1967 Six-Day War and continuing today, confirmed that the long-occupied site was once the base of the tribe of Dan.

In 1993 he made his most significant find there; an inscription dated to 800 BCE referring to beth David, the house of David — the only non-biblical reference to David in the biblical period.

Biran was born Avraham Bergman in Ottoman-ruled Palestine and studied archaeology in the US, returning with a doctorate in 1935. He worked as a district office under the British Mandate, then the Israel government, and served its Foreign Office for five years.

In 1961 he returned to his true field as head of the Department of Antiquities. In 1974 he became director of bibilical Archeology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew Union College. He led the Government Names Committee, finding Hebrew names for places with only Arab names.

Wherever possible, he used archaeological evidence to establish the place-name in biblical times. He received the Israel Prize in 2000.
He is survived by two sons, a daughter and three grandsons.

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