Biblical Archaeology Review 40:6, November/December 2014

Archaeological Views: On the Shoulders of Giants: Directing Jerusalem’s Albright Institute

By Matthew J. Adams

With my appointment as the 51st director of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, my name joins a long list which reads like a Who’s Who of American Archaeology in the region. It includes some big names—William F. Albright, Nelson Glueck, William G. Dever—individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of the discipline and of whom BAR readers are no doubt aware. When I first started, I was frequently asked: “How will you manage to fill such big shoes?” I answered: “I’ll bring my own.” I like to forge my own path, but the head of the trail of the Albright was well marked, thanks to my predecessors.

The medieval scholastic Bernard of Chartres is credited with the oft-cited metaphor of contemporary scholars as dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants, thus allowing them to see further than their predecessors. The metaphor houses two truths. The first is the debt that we owe to our predecessors. Indeed, Bernard’s giants were the Classical philosophers, especially Aristotle, and later Neo-Platonist philosophers of the third–fifth centuries, whose ideas formed the foundation of medieval scholastic thought. The second truth in the metaphor is that while we are indebted to our predecessors, we have a responsibility to look further and in new ways to expand upon their achievements and to create new heights from which future scholars may view.

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