The British Institute in Amman (المعهد البريطاني في عمّان)


The British Institute in Amman is an international research institute in Jordan. We have been at the centre of British research and scholarly life in Amman for decades. In addition, since 1998 we have been part of the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL), a wider regional network that engages all disciplines of the humanities and social sciences. In 2009, we adopted the title the British Institute in Amman (BIA) reflecting both common usage and the wider disciplinary coverage. We are registered as a charity in the UK and with the Ministry of Culture in Jordan.

We are a scholarly community offering facilities, support and advice to visiting and local researchers, and provide a venue for thought, critical reflection and the exchange of knowledge. We facilitate access to broader academic communities in Jordan and beyond through our well-established networks.

Research carried out at the Institute is varied, ranging from the study of Jordan’s Neolithic heritage, aerial archaeology, linguistics, food anthropology, forced migration, the many aspects of Jordan’s rapid development, and the history and current impacts of local and international politics.

Our patron is HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal. Since 2009 we have held formal ties with the Royal Scientific Society (RSS), founded by HRH Prince Hassan to promote academic, scientific and technological activities related to education and training in Jordan. HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan takes an active interest in the activities the institute and has served as patron on a number of initiatives, most notably the long-running Wadi Faynan Project.

 

The British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH)

The first BIAAH building in the mid 1980s

The Institute began in the 1970s as an archaeological field station for visiting researchers. It was founded by archaeologist Crystal-M. Bennett and originally located in a house overlooking the main gates of the University of Jordan in Amman (left).  It was registered as one of the British Academy's sponsored institutes in 1978 under the name of the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH). 

 

Crystal-M. Bennett and the BIAAH

Crystal-M. Bennett, founder and first director of the BIAAH

Crystal-Marie Bennett was born on the Channel Island of Alderney in 1918, read English at Bristol University, and in 1955-7 completed a postgraduate course on the archaeology of the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire at the Institute of Archaeology in London.

Following fieldwork in the UK, she joined Kathleen Kenyon's excavations at Jericho for the 1957/8 season, then worked with Peter Parr at Petra before commencing what was to become the principal archaeological project of her career, the study of Edomite settlement in modern south Jordan. Her first season of work was at Umm al-Biyara in Petra in November 1960.

She continued to assist Parr in subsequent field seasons at Petra, and Kenyon in Jerusalem from 1961-1967.

Crystal-M. Bennett, Bidul guides and Daoud Jibrin (right), the BSAJ cook, on Umm al Biyarra

Bennett worked for three seasons at Umm al-Biyara (1960, 1963, 1965); four seasons at Tawilan above Wadi Musa (1968-1970, 1982) and for five seasons at Busaira (1971-74, 1980) discovering settlements which she dated mainly from the late eighth and seventh centuries BC, with finds including stamp seals and impressions naming Edomite kings, and remains (architectural, ceramic) which she linked to the biblical history of Edom.

There were exceptional finds of earlier and later dates, including the first cuneiform tablet to be discovered in Jordan, and a hoard of fine jewellery, both from Tawilan.

She provided the first rigorous archaeological framework for the study of southern Jordan during the Iron Age. 

Crystal-M. Bennett and HRH Prince Hassan at Busayra

Bennett was appointed Secretary-Librarian of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (1963-1965), director of that institution in 1970 and in the following years established an archaeological base in Amman, which she also managed.

She played a critical role in Jordan in establishing the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History in 1975.

In the same year she undertook the direction of the Department of Antiquities' excavations on the citadel of Amman.

In 1977 she was awarded an OBE for her services to British archaeology in Jordan; in 1983 she retired from her post in Amman, and Trinity College Dublin conferred an honorary D.Litt. She died in England on 12 August 1987. 

For more on the life and work of Crystal Bennett, see:

Balderstone, S. Crystal-M. Bennett Online Biography

Prag, K. (2010) Crystal-M. Bennett OBE, BA, D.LITT., FSA: A Memoir. PEQ 142, 43-63.

Talbot, G. (1987) Crystal-M. Bennett, O.B.E. D.Litt., F.S.A. An Appreciation. Levant 19, 1-2.

Selected publications on the excavations of Crystal-M. Bennett:

Bienkowski, Piotr and contributors. (2011) Umm al-Biyara: Excavations by Crystal-M. Bennett in Petra 1960-1965 .

Bienkowski, Piotr and contributors. (2002) Busayra- Excavations by Crystal-M. Bennett 1971-1980.

Bennett, C.M. and P. Bienkowski, with contributors. (1995) Excavations at Tawilan in Southern Jordan.

Northedge, A. with contributions by J. Bowsher et al. (1992) Studies on Roman and Islamic 'Amman: The Excavations of Mrs C.-M. Bennett and Other Investigations, Volume I: History, Site and Architecture. 

Directors of BIA and BIAAH 

Carol Palmer (2009 - BIA Director)

Bill Finlayson (1999 - CBRL Director, until 2012 based in Amman)

Alison McQuitty (1994-1999, from 1998 as CBRL Director)

William Lancaster (1991-1994)

Alison McQuitty (1989-1991)

Andrew Garrard (1983-1989)

Crystal-M. Bennett (1978-1983 - Founding Director)

Alison McQuitty, the last BIAAH director and first director of CBRL