Prof. Amos Kloner: In Memoriam

Prof. Amos Kloner was a member of the teaching and research faculty of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University from 1980 until 2009, when he was named professor emeritus. From then until shortly before his passing, he taught and advised students in the department on a volunteer basis.

Amos’s teaching and research focused on the archaeology of Israel and neighboring countries in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. His fieldwork and his advancement of scholarly research were astounding in terms of both quality and quantity.

Amos was born in Givatayim in 1940 to Dina and Pesach Kloner. He attended the Berl Katznelson elementary school in Givatayim and the New High School in Tel Aviv. Having been imbued with a thirst for knowledge by his parents, his teachers, and the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement (where he served as a group leader), Amos was interested from his youth in learning all about the country. He traveled the length and breadth of the country and volunteered in archaeological excavations.

In 1958, Amos was drafted by the IDF. He served in the Nahal Brigade and the Paratroops until 1961. As a reservist in the Six-Day War (1967), he fought in the battle for Government House (Armon Hanatziv) and southern Jerusalem. From 1973 on, Amos carried out his reserve duty as a guide and writer on aspects of Israeli geography and took part in professional conferences on the subject.

While living at Kibbutz Lahav in the northern Negev, he traveled around the area a great deal and discovered ancient ruins, which sparked a passion for archaeology. Amos also took part in Prof. Yigael Yadin’s 1961 excavation of the Cave of Letters. The exciting discoveries in the cave led him to study archaeology and geography. He enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1962 and received his bachelor’s degree in 1965.

In the autumn of 1965, Amos assisted Prof. Avraham Negev in the excavations of Mamshit, and afterwards he became a guide for the Midreshet Sede Boker field school. Through his work, he learned a tremendous amount about the Negev and was suffused with curiosity about ways to survive and live in desert conditions. He also taught groups formed to learn about the country’s geography and tour guide courses run by extensions of the Israel School of Tourism, instilling in his students a love of the land.

After the Six-Day War, Amos took part in archaeological surveys and academic research studies at new sites and areas that had previously been inaccessible to Israelis. As secretary of the Archaeological Survey of Israel from 1968 to 1970, he oversaw the work of the survey teams, was involved in processing the finds, and worked on preparing them for publication, including in the volume Judea, Samaria and the Golan: Archaeological Survey 1967–68 (in Hebrew).

Amos received his master’s degree in archaeology from the Hebrew University in 1973, with a specialization in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. His thesis, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Avi-Yonah, was about columbaria installations at Maresha.

From 1971 to 1989 Amos served as district archaeologist for the Jerusalem and Judean Shephelah District in the Department of Antiquities and Museums of the Ministry of Education and Culture (subsequently the Israel Antiquities Authority). From 1970 to 1980 he conducted salvage excavations, headed emergency surveys in the urban area of Jerusalem, and took charge of the preservation of antiquities. In the 1980s he served as district archaeologist for the Jerusalem and Judea District, and also established and ran the Antiquities Looting Prevention Unit. Meanwhile, together with his colleagues, Amos conducted excavations and surveys at important sites in the Judean Shephelah, and his finds contributed greatly to archaeological knowledge.

Data from the survey of Jerusalem and finds from tombs excavated in the city formed the basis for Amos’s doctoral dissertation at the Hebrew University on Second Temple–period tombs and burial in Jerusalem. Amos received his doctorate in 1980. In his dissertation, updated in collaboration with Prof. Boaz Zissu and published in 2003 as a monograph entitled The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period (in Hebrew), he analyzed the distribution of tombs around the city, presented the layout of the tombs, and analyzed Jewish burial practices.

The information gathered under Amos’s leadership in the survey of Jerusalem and its environs from the 1970s to the 1990s was published between 2000 and 2003 in the three-volume work Survey of Jerusalem. This fundamental publication includes hundreds of previously unpublished illustrations, photographs, satellite maps indicating sites around Jerusalem from the various periods, a collection of maps of the area surveyed, and a summary of archaeological data and cultural features from various periods at hundreds of sites near Jerusalem. Amos’s love and enthusiasm for the study of ancient Jerusalem increased with the years. His vast knowledge made him the quintessential scholar of Jerusalem and its history.

From 1978 to 1980, Amos excavated at Horbat Rimon (next to Kibbutz Lahav), where the remains of a synagogue and a Jewish village from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods were uncovered. He later oversaw the rebuilding and restoration of the village and ancient synagogue, which are still under way. He worked on the final publication of Horbat Rimon excavations until his last days.

Amos specialized in ancient production technologies and the operation of wine presses and olive presses in antiquity, having discovered several such installations in his excavations.

As far back as the late 1970s, Amos pioneered the scientific identification of hiding complexes from the Bar Kokhba Revolt at Jewish sites in the Judean Shephelah. In fieldwork in this region, Amos applied new survey methods, based on an understanding of the extensive presence of man-made, rock-cut caves, including ramified subterranean complexes from this period and earlier. The analysis of the archaeological finds bridged a substantial information gap regarding settlement distribution at the time and sketched a socioeconomic picture of it; previously this information had been unknown to scholars due to the lack of explicit historical sources. The details of the fieldwork and its innovative conclusions appeared in 1987 in the book Hiding Complexes in the Judean Shephelah (in Hebrew), edited by Amos and his colleague Yigal Tepper, which sums up knowledge about hiding complexes at approximately 130 sites. The existence of purposely created subterranean spaces linked by narrow, winding passages, defined by Amos as “hiding complexes,” dating of them to the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, and an assessment their geographical distribution in the Judean Shephelah in particular and in Judea in general constitute important cornerstones in the study of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

The crowning glory of his archaeological career was heading the decades-long work of the team excavating, surveying, and researching the sites of Maresha and Beit Guvrin beginning in 1989 on behalf of the Department of Antiquities and Israel Antiquities Authority. Amos continued his work at Maresha until just before he died. In the lower city of Maresha, the team surveyed residential buildings, rock-cut underground complexes underneath them, and approximately 160 underground systems, some of which they also excavated. The material, epigraphic, and architectural finds from Hellenistic Maresha—their abundance unparalleled anywhere else in Israel from that period or any other—tell us about the local economy and industry, the Hellenistic lifestyle, building and hewing methods, and patterns of governmental administration, and contribute significantly to our knowledge of the presence of ethnic Idumeans in Maresha and Idumea.

The Beit Guvrin excavations conducted in 1991–1998 uncovered monumental Roman- and Byzantine-period buildings belonging to the polis, including an amphitheater, a bathhouse, and a church, as well as a Crusader church and fortress. The material and archaeological finds at Beit Guvrin help us understand the assimilation of Roman culture in Judea and shed light on military, social, and economic aspects of the Roman city.

Based on the finds from Maresha and Beit Guvrin and with Amos’s generous assistance and encouragement, many theses and dissertations have been written for advanced degrees in the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University and other academic institutions, thereby enriching our knowledge about the culture and population of the Judean Shephelah in the relevant periods.

Following the comprehensive excavations and the spectacular finds, Amos worked on creating the Beit Guvrin–Maresha National Park and setting it up for visits by the public. This national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been visited by hundreds of thousands of Israelis and foreign tourists.

Amos also traced the routes of ancient roads in Israel and Jordan and studied how people coped with life in the Negev in antiquity. He studied settlement patterns, the building of storage dams, the digging of cisterns, and methods of desert agriculture. Recently Amos researched Idumean culture and settlement in the Judean Shephelah and throughout the Negev in the Persian and Hellenistic periods, based on finds at various sites, especially Maresha.

Amos devoted some of his time to the public, sharing his knowledge of Jerusalem and the Judean Shephelah. To him, his work in the classroom and in the field was the fulfillment of an educational and Zionist mission to learn about and love his country. He was co-editor of the journal Nikrot Zurim and a member and professional advisor of committees and of councils of public and academic institutions in Israel and abroad. He was a member of the Archaeological Council and of the council of the Israel Exploration Society.

In 2005 Amos was awarded the EMET Prize in social sciences for archaeology. His thorough and innovative research, published in hundreds of books and academic papers, earned him recognition, authoritative status, and honor among the community of scholars of the Land of Israel in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, both in Israel and abroad.

His skills as a teacher and tour guide, his inspiring and devoted work as an advisor, his sense of professional responsibility, and his uncompromising quest for scientific truth made Amos admired by his students and beloved by his colleagues.

May his memory be a blessing.

Written by Boaz Zissu and Nili Graicer.

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