Ruth Amiran (Brandsteter)
Hebrew: רות עמירן
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About Ruth Amiran
Born in 1914 at Yavne'el, Israel, Ruth Amiran's father, Yehezkel Brandsteter, had immigrated to Palestine from Tarnow, Galicia in 1908. Initially he was employed as a construction worker for a few months in Haifa, in what would later become the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). Thereafter he went on to the Mashavot in the Galilee. Settling in Yavne'el (south of Tiberias) in 1910, he completed establishing their household, and Amiran's mother, Devora, joined him in 1913.
Ruth Amiran's interest in archaeology, which predated her move to Haifa, in 1928, was developed on walks from her home to the mound of Yenoam, located in the fields of Yavne'el. On her visits to the tel she collected pottery sherds, which she would spread out in the back yard. She would intensely scrutinize them looking for similarities and differences between them.
Amiran moved to Haifa in 1928 and enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1933 and received a Master's degree in 1939. Her thesis, "The Pottery of Grar," supervised by Professor Eleazer Lipa Sukenik, was an analysis of the pottery of Tel Jemmeh (10 km south of Gaza). In 1934-1935 she participated in the excavation of Et-Tell/Ai, (20 km north of Jerusalem) directed by Judith Marquet-Krause. After graduation Amiran worked in the Department of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at The Palestine Archaeology Museum, (PAM, also known as Rockefeller Museum (then a part of Palestine and the British Mandate Department of Antiquities). With the end of the British Mandate, Amiran was employed by the State of Israel's Department of Antiquities. At this time she organized the infrastructure for Israelï¿½s regional museums. These museums were a central depository for the artifacts of the many excavations held in the various regions, for here they would be displayed. These museum collections were augmented by substantial numbers of artifacts held in private collections, mainly in the Kibbutzim. Amiran organized these private collections together with the excavated artifacts and transformed them into organized regional museum displays and storage.
Between the years 1955-1959 Amiran took part in the Hazor Expedition (directed by Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University) as director of Area B, and she oversaw the processing of the ceramic finds from the excavation. During these years, she laid the foundations for the study for her 1969 pivotal magnum opus, the "Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land: From Its Beginnings in the Neolithic Period to the End of the Iron Age " (Ramat Gan: Massada Press).
In the early 60s Amiran began working as an excavator-researcher in the Israel Museum, where she spearheaded the foundation of an official, active Excavation Department. In 1962-1963 she directed several excavations, among them Tel Nagila, (28 km east of modern-day Gaza, on behalf of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies in Jerusalem, (now defunct), which she co-directed with Avi Eitan). She also excavated with Carmela Arnon from 1976 to 1983, at Tel Kishion (10 km north-east of Afula), sponsored by the Israel Museum and Israel's Department of Antiquities.
From 1962 until 1984, Amiran directed the excavations at the Canaanite city of Arad. During 18 seasons, the archaeologists exposed a sizeable Canaanite city of some 25 acres. These excavations indicated that Arad exhibited sophisticated urban planning; the city was divided into quarters, each with a specific function: the west was reserved for the temple complex and residential areas were located in the south. Arad also showed that the city was surrounded by a fortified wall, some 1200 m in length and 2.4 m in width, with two gates and two posterns. Along the inside of the wall was a main ring road, and the city was planned with a network of streets. From the gates, cross streets extended into a topographic depression in the city's center. Here drained rainwater flowed into a large reservoir, thus guaranteeing a continued water supply during the long rainless summers. Ruth Amiran married a geographer, Professor David Amiran; they were childless. Amiranï¿½s main field of study focus was the ancient pottery of the land of Israel. Her articles reflect a multi-disciplinary approach to ceramic analysis of pottery. Ceramics were artifacts created by humankind since the Neolithic period, and she became the authority on the historic development of the potter's art, including methods of manufacture, pottery's chronological and typological aspects and the distinctive ceramic horizon markers of each period, as well as interest in the potter's status in ancient society. She was also concerned with functional analysis and the artistic and religious uses of pottery. In her view, the ceramic vessel was "a valuable artifact by itself, as a product expressing the technical and artistic achievements of its period."
Ruth Amiran died in December 2005. But her contribution is a reflection of the archaeology of Israel, from its very early days to the early 1980s. Her enormous contribution and legacy, the study of the ancient pottery in the land of Israel, was to prove invaluable for Israeli archaeological research.