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Biblical Archaeology Review 47:3, Fall 2021

Strata: Milestones: Bert de Vries (1939–2021)

By Barbara A. Porter

On March 28, Bert de Vries, long time director of the Umm al Jimal excavations in Jordan and former director of the American Center of Research (ACOR) in Amman, died at age 82 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he and his wife, Sally, lived for many decades.

He was born in Zierikzee, Zeeland, in the Netherlands. After World War II, his family emigrated to Ontario, Canada, in 1952. He studied physics and engineering at Calvin College (now University) and received a second B.A. in divinity from Calvin Seminary. For his Ph.D., he studied at Brandeis University. He began teaching history and archaeology at Calvin in 1967, and his academic career was centered there even after his formal retirement in 2013. He received Calvin’s Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching in 1998, aptly given, as his passion for teaching and mentoring was manifest throughout his life.

In 1968, he went to Jordan for the first time to be the architect at Tell Hesban. On that trip, he also visited the black basalt ruins of Umm al Jimal in northeastern Jordan, which were to be the focus of his professional life for the next 50 years. From 1972 to 1974, the de Vries family (Bert, Sally, and their four children) lived in Amman when Bert was the Albright Fellow at ACOR. In 1972–1973, he conducted a comprehensive survey of Umm al Jimal and in 1974, along with Jim Sauer of ACOR, made the first soundings at the site. Bert and Sally also lived in Amman from 1988 to 1991 when he was the ACOR Director. He joined the ACOR Board in 1995, and he and Sally established an ACOR fellowship in 2004 to support students coming to Jordan to participate in excavations or to undertake a research project.

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