William F. Albright

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William Foxwell Albright (born May 24, 1891, Coquimbo, Chile—died Sept. 19, 1971, Baltimore, Maryland, United States)[1] was a historian, linguist, and expert in ceramics, as well as was one of the world's most influential American archaeologists to ever live.[2] William F. Albright was a Christian who has contributed significant work to defending the historical veracity of the Old Testament, including contributing a large amount of important work to numerous other fields, including ceramics,[3] epigraphy,[4] and numerous other fields.[5][6] Albright was "a master of so many disciplines linked to the study of the ancient Near East, in particular, the world of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), that he is considered one of the last great orientalists."[7]

Albright graduating

Early life

William F. Albright's parents were Wilbur and Zephine Albright. Albright's parents were strict Methodists who applied to the Methodist Episcopal Mission Board to work as missionaries on behalf of the church, and there they were appointed to preach in Chile, where Albright was eventually born and grew up during his childhood. Unfortunately, by the age of five, Albright suffered from a crippled hand and near-sightedness, which caused him to be bullied at a young age. Albright's condition would not improve until later in his lifetime, when an operation performed on him would slightly straighten his hand. At an early age, Albright became very interested in history, and by the age of ten, his parents promised they would fulfill his wish and buy him the two-volume History of Babylonia and Assyria published by Professor R. W. Rogers of Drew University, just as long as he fetched some bread from the local bakery.

At the age of twenty-two, he acquired a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, then famously saying “I am neither man nor woman. I am neither brute nor human—I’m a scholar!”[8] Johns Hopkins University was where he would later earn his doctorate in Semitic languages, in 1916.[9] Albright, complementing his native languages of English and Spanish, learned Hebrew and Assyrian, as well as studied numerous other languages, including the study of French, German, Latin, and Greek under his professor Paul Haupt, a distinguished professor of Semitic languages himself. Soon after receiving his doctorate in 1916, he enlisted into the draft, although few people expected him to do much with his crippled hand and bad eyesight. Contrary to what everyone thought however, in 1918, he was entered into the U.S. Army for limited service, and worked there for six months.


Soon, Albright's professional career in scholarship began. He became the director for the prestigious American School of Oriental Research between 1920-1929, and later in 1970, it was renamed the W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in his honor.[10] Albright conducted excavations in numerous Near Eastern sites, including Tell el-Fuja, Tell Beit Mirsim, and other sites. He used pottery and the stratigraphic record in Tell Beit Mirsim to compose the first ever comprehensive ceramics and pottery chronology,[11] and conducted ceramics work in Palestine that laid the foundations for the soon to be established coming ceramics typology to help date the archaeological record, with countless scholars later adopting his system. In the middle of the 20th century, one of the greatest finds in the history of archaeology was made—the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1948, it was Albright himself who was the man to authenticate the scrolls,[12] as well as having established a minimum date of 100 BC for the Great Isaiah Scroll, the most important manuscript of the Book of Isaiah in the world. Throughout Albright's life, he was showered with honors and awards, became the first non-Jew to win the Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem (Yakir Yerushalayim) award, and forever engraved his name in the history of the archaeology of the Near East.


William F. Albright wrote nearly 1,100 scholarly books and papers throughout his lifetime.[13] Several of Albright’s influential writings that have had considerable influence in the development of biblical and Middle Eastern scholarship include The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (1932–35),[14] The Vocalization of the Egyptian Syllabic Orthography (1934),[15] The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim (1932–43),[16] From the Stone Age to Christianity (1940–46),[17] Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (1942–46),[18] and The Bible and the Ancient Near East (1961).[19]


  1. W.F. Albright
  2. William F. Albright
  3. Albright, William Foxwell. "The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim. IA: The Bronze Age Pottery of the Fourth Campaign." The Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 13 (1931): 55-127.
  4. Albright, William Foxwell. "The early alphabetic inscriptions from Sinai and their decipherment." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 110 (1948): 6-22.
  5. Albright, William F. "The Names Shaddai and Abram." Journal of Biblical Literature (1935): 173-204.
  6. Albright, William Foxwell. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan. Athlone Press, 1968.
  8. Ibid., pg. 6
  9. William Albright
  10. History The Early Years
  11. Tell Beit Mirsim
  12. The Great Authenticater
  13. William Foxwell Albright 1891 - 1971 A Biographical Memoir
  14. Albright, William Foxwell. The archaeology of Palestine. Peter Smith, 1960.
  15. Albright, William Foxwell. The vocalization of the Egyptian syllabic orthography. Vol. 5. Kraus Reprint, 1934.
  16. Albright, William Foxwell. The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim. American schools of oriental research, 1943.
  17. Guillaumont, A., and William Foxwell Albright. "From the stone age to christianity. Monotheism and the historical process." (1949): 231-240.
  18. Albright, William Foxwell. Archaeology and the Religion of Israel. Johns Hopkins Press, 1956.
  19. Albright, William Foxwell. The Bible and the ancient Near East: essays in honor of William Foxwell Albright. Eisenbrauns, 1961.

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