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Call for Papers - 2018 Prize for Best Article

Contemporary Levant is pleased to announce the launch of its annual CBRL Prize for Best Article. The award will recognize excellent research and scholarship that will advance our understanding of the Levant region. For more information about Contemporary Levant, please see here.  

A committee from the CBRL and the editorial board of Contemporary Levant will select the best article. The winner of the prize will receive the amount of £100 and will be presented with a certificate of recognition at the CBRL annual general meeting held in December.


Eligibility: this is an open call. We are looking for original unpublished articles from scholars in different stages of their careers and from different disciplines (anthropology, sociology, politics, religion and theology, cultural studies, modern history, social geography, media, film studies and literature). 


Submission: articles between 8000 and 10000 words (including abstract and footnotes) should be submitted as an electronic version to Dr Alice Stefanelli:


Deadline: The deadline for submission is 31st July, 2018.


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CBRL Director, Professor Bill Finlayson


The Council for British Research in the Levant has announced that its long-serving Director, Professor Bill Finlayson, has left his post, effective 31 March 2018.

Bill’s long and distinguished association with CBRL began in 1999 shortly after the formal merger of the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH) with the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (BSAJ), when he was appointed Regional Director operating from Amman. 

One of his early achievements was in completing the merger process, and in re-establishing an institutional presence in East Jerusalem at the former BSAJ premises, now the Kenyon Institute.  In 2003 he moved the British Institute in Amman, as it then became, to its current premises in Tla’ Al-Ali. 

Bill played a major role in transforming the CBRL from a small archaeological research base into a multi-disciplinary research body with a vibrant research culture that reflects the wide disciplinary remit requested by the CBRL’s main sponsor, the British Academy.

His own research on the Neolithic helped ensure the CBRL’s strong international reputation as a leading archaeological research centre, working in partnerships with Jordanian, British, European and American colleagues. Highlights included his excavations with Professor Steven Mithen at Wadi Faynan 16, a substantial PPNA settlement in southern Jordan, his heritage and experimental archaeological research at Beidha and his excavations at Dhra’.  

Bill also brought cultural heritage management skills to the CBRL, leading to new collaborations with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and Ministry of Tourism within a new inter-disciplinary framework.

CBRL’s operations broadened under Prof Finlayson’s leadership and the increasing volume of research being undertaken in Syria drove a CBRL strategy to expand its operations into Syria until the war erupted in 2011 and the initiative had to be abandoned.

Bill relocated to London from 2011 in a new post as CBRL's UK Director, providing overall supervision for the development of the institutes in Amman and Jerusalem led respectively by Dr Carol Palmer and Dr Mandy Turner.  At the same time he took responsibility for extending CBRL's network among British universities, for developing research excellence, for ensuring the publication of CBRL's research in Levant and Contemporary Levant, and for engaging in the increasingly crucial business of securing continued funding through the British Academy.  In this he achieved major successes not only on behalf of CBRL but also for the other British International Research Institutes (BIRI).


The Chairman of CBRL, James Watt, commented:  "Bill has countless friends in the world of archaeological research and across the Levant, as well as in the wider range of disciplines in which CBRL has been working, as well as among BIRI counterparts.  He has made a great contribution to the success of CBRL as well as to research into the archaeology of the Neolithic, on which he is a recognised authority.  He leaves CBRL with the good wishes of all for his continuing work in this field and for his professional future in general."

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Launch of Crusader Landscapes in the Medieval Levant: The Archaeology and History of the Latin East

Dr Micaela Sinibaldi, Acting Deputy Director at our Kenyon Institute and Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University on the launch of the 2016 volume, Crusader Landscapes in the Medieval Levant: The Archaeology and History of the Latin East.

Upon his retirement at Cardiff University, Prof. Denys Pringle’s colleagues suggested a Festschrift – an updated overview of Crusader Archaeology and History in the Levant. Along with three colleagues, all Denys' former students, Kevin Lewis, Balázs Major, Jennifer Thompson and assisted by Prof. Peter Edbury as editorial consultant, we formed an editorial team and invited potential authors to contribute to the book; their enthusiastic response was nearly overwhelming.

We soon realized that we were faced with a huge challenge: preparing a volume composed of 27 chapters in only 22 months, without any funds secured. Thanks to the participation of so many leading scholars in the field along with a plan to include 105 illustrations, all our funding applications were successful and we were offered a contract with University of Wales Press.

CBRL was the main funding body, not only for the book production, but also for our four book launches: Cardiff, London, Jerusalem and Amman. There was additional funding from the Institute of Historical Research in London, the Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust and the Barakat Trust. Endorsement came from Prof. Hugh Kennedy (School of Oriental and African Studies), Prof. Christopher Tyerman (University of Oxford) and Prof. Jonathan Phillips (Royal Holloway, University of London). 

Denys Pringle at Cardiff University with three of the book editors, L - R: Jennifer Thompson, Micaela Sinibaldi and Bal√°zs Major. (Photo (c) Zsolt Wagner)

A conference at Cardiff University in honour of Denys Pringle was the ideal opportunity for the volume’s authors to present their contributions with an initial launch. Organised by a team of Denys’ PhD students, the conference took place over two days in September 2016. 

The book presentation at Cardiff University at the end of the conference in honour of Denys Pringle.  (Photo by Michael Fulton)

At a second book launch at the British Academy in London, Prof. Jonathan Phillips gave a lecture on the memory of the Crusades.

Denys Pringle at the British Academy in London with three of the book editors (from left: Kevin Lewis, Micaela Sinibaldi and Jennifer Thompson) after the lecture offered by Jonathan Phillips, second from right. (Photo by Elizabeth Lewis).

The volume was launched internationally with an event at CBRL’s Kenyon Institute in Jerusalem in October 2016 at which Denys Pringle gave a lecture on the walls of Ascalon, his current field project; many of our authors based locally were present for the event.

For the April 2017 launch in Amman, we partnered with the Jordan Museum who provided a fitting venue for an event that was attended by the Italian Ambassador to Jordan. On this occasion I presented a lecture on Petra in the Crusader period, one of the chapters of our volume. The Jordan Times published a review of the event here.

 The book launches were a great opportunity to thank the authors for their important contributions and to recognise the generous support of our sponsors. As editors, we are proud of the volume we have put together, which involves many world-class scholars. The book offers and an updated overview on the field of Crusader studies, which is still a very vibrant one.

Thank you to all those who hosted and helped with the organisation of these book launches - these events were a fantastic opportunity to share our work. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to my colleagues co-editors for the dedication, passion and professional work they have put into this challenging but certainly very exciting and rewarding project.

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Professor Sam Lieu elected President of the International Union of Academics (UAI)

Professor Sam Lieu elected President of the International Union of Academics (UAI)

CBRL is delighted to announce that long-standing member, Prof. Sam Lieu, has been elected to President of the International Union of Academics (UAI). Only the second Australian scholar and the first Academician of Asian-descent to hold this prestigious post in the 98 years of UAI’s history, Prof. Sam Lieu has a broad research interest in Ancient and Early Medieval History, especially in the study of the contacts between Ancient Civilizations across Central Asia. Established in 1919, the UAI is the global organisation of national academies in the fields of the humanities and social sciences in 61 countries. 

Congratulations Professor Lieu!

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Tribute to Dr John Wilkinson

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Dr John Wilkinson, former Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (BSAJ). We send our deepest sympathies to his wife Mzia.

John was associated with the British School of Archaeology (now the Kenyon Institute, CBRL) for many years, serving as a member of council between 1976 and 1979 and as Director between 1979 and 1984. On behalf of CBRL, John’s Deputy Director at the BSAJ, Denys Pringle, pays tribute:

 “John took up the post of Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in 1979, succeeding Dr Crystal-M. Bennett, who had moved to Amman towards the end of the previous year to become Director of the newly established British Institute there.

When John arrived in Jerusalem as director of the BSAJ in August 1979, he found himself the head of an institution with a proud tradition of excavating but with no immediate prospect of being able to mount an excavation, whose principal current research project (apart from the mountains of unpublished archaeological material from previous excavations still requiring attention) was an architectural survey of Islamic buildings, managed and executed largely by architectural historians – and despite his deep knowledge and understanding of Biblical, late Roman and Byzantine Palestine, John was not himself a trained field archaeologist.

John’s own research on Jerusalem and the Holy Land had developed hand-in-hand with his earlier role as Dean of St George’s College, in which a large part of his teaching consisted of explaining the topography, sites and monuments of Palestine to visiting clergy and lay people through lectures and site visits. This work had borne fruit in the form of two major books presenting translations and discussions of all the major Latin and Greek Christian pilgrimage texts relating to the Holy Land up to the time of the First Crusade, and a synthesis of the textual and archaeological evidence relating Jerusalem at the time of Christ. These books were backed up by a series of scholarly papers concerned with specific aspects of the monuments and topography of late Roman Jerusalem, pilgrimage, Holy Land topography, and liturgy. In most of these publications his text was accompanied by his own finely drawn maps, plans and reconstructions.

John’s principal contribution to the School as Director was to focus the attention of staff on research and the publication of its results. He was assiduous in seeking funding for the survey of Islamic buildings and obtained the necessary sponsorship from the World of Islam Festival Trust that allowed the volume on Mamluk buildings to be successfully completed and published under the authorship of Michael H. Burgoyne and Donald S. Richards. He also convinced the BSAJ’s council to increase funding for the library, allowing it to develop into one of the best working libraries in East Jerusalem for the study of Islamic and Crusader history, archaeology and architecture. He was instrumental, along with Professor Jaroslav Folda and Dr Alan Borg, in assisting me, as Assistant-Director, in launching a complementary survey project on the church buildings of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem; and together with Professor Folda and myself he organized a conference on Crusader art at St George’s College in 1982. He also ran a smaller workshop at the School on the orientation of religious buildings the following year. By the time that he stepped down as Director in October 1984, the School had also become active once again in below-ground archaeology, albeit now in pre-1967 Israel, through the excavation that I was able to direct at the Crusader ‘Red Tower’ (Burj al-Ahmar) in summer 1983.

John’s own research during his period as Director between August 1979 and October 1984 focused mainly on completing his doctoral thesis on ‘Interpretations of Church Buildings before 750’, which he successfully defended at the Courtauld Institute, University of London, in 1982. Despite being incapacitated for a while by a stroke, he also found time to complete a study of the column capitals of the Haram al-Sharif and another book of translations of pilgrim texts, covering the twelfth century.

After returning to London, John became involved in the 1990s in the state of academic life in Georgia following the civil war and, in 2000, founded the friends of Academic Research in Georgia (FaRiG).

John’s love and enthusiasm for Jerusalem continued through his life and infected all who met him. Despite having no archaeological training as such, his work is an object lesson for excavators of what a rigorous analysis of the documentary evidence combined with acute observation of the surviving monuments can contribute to archaeological knowledge and understanding.”

Denys Pringle, February 2018

The funeral service will be at Christ Church, Victoria Road, Kensington, London W8 5RQ, on Friday 16 February at 2 pm followed by tea in the church.

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Extended deadline for Fellowship applications Apply now!

We have extended the application deadline for Visiting Research Fellowships and Senior Research Fellowships to 15 February 2018. Please see the funding page for further information.

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Dr Mark Whittow (1957 - 2017)

All at CBRL have been deeply saddened at the untimely and tragic death of our former Honorary Secretary, Mark Whittow, who died in a car accident just before Christmas. 


On behalf of CBRL, former Chairman, Adrian Sindall, pays tribute to Mark:


“Mark was an Honorary Officer at CBRL from 1999 to late 2001. At that time, Mark was already acquiring his reputation as a gifted scholar, author and teacher. He had recently published his early seminal work, The Making of Byzantium 600 to 1025 and he was increasingly demonstrating his flair for undergraduate teaching having been elected to a teaching fellowship at St Peter's College Oxford. So, what good fortune for CBRL when Mark agreed to become our Hon Secretary. When he joined us, we were in our first year as the joint designated successor to BIAHH and BSAJ, an amalgamation dictated by the British Academy. An early priority was to find new administrative offices for CBRL. Mark decided to have these in his own rooms at St Peter's and drove down to London in his notoriously battered Land Rover to transfer, single-handedly, the archives and other CBRL impedimenta up to Oxford


There was much to do. A new and imaginative Executive Committee was just finding its feet. Bill Finlayson had recently arrived in Jordan to reform and develop our Amman based operations. Jo Clarke was taking the first steps to rebuild and develop CBRL in Jerusalem, a process which would prove a difficult and challenging one over the next couple of years. At the same time, CBRL held an impressive new range of international conferences, launched enhanced programmes of both publications and research grants, and was building a new momentum of activity in Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria. Across this range of endeavour, Mark was unfailingly innovative and supportive, working tirelessly and seasoning all with his special brand of style and wit. Sadly, it was too good to last. By late 2001 Mark had, understandably, concluded that the growing demands of his flourishing teaching and research life at St Peter's meant that he would have to stand down as our Honorary Secretary. The CBRL was, and still is, much in his debt. He was a prime mover in the early building and development of CBRL. So, we remember him with both fondness and gratitude.


Next September Mark was due to become Provost of Oriel College. And, as both a Byzantinist and mediaeval historian, was deeply engaged in a proposed volume for the Oxford History of Mediaeval Europe 1000 to 1100. His loss will be widely felt.  We send our deepest sympathies to his wife Helen and to their three children George Mary and Flossie.”


Adrian Sindall, CBRL Chairman 1999- 2003 


An obituary by Lawrence Goldman and Henrietta Leyser has been published in the Guardian here

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2018 Travel Grant Appeal

Every year, CBRL awards postgraduate travel grants to develop the next generation of researchers. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to travel to the Levant for a research project, you’ll know the value of such an experience.

We are urgently seeking funds to continue the CBRL Travel Grant scheme next year. Our target is to fund five young researchers and to do this, we need to raise £4,000. Your support in helping us reach this target and continue this research programme is essential - donations of all sizes will be gratefully received.

Since 2016, changes and restrictions to CBRL’s core British Academy funding mean that this cannot be used towards postgraduate projects. Instead, over the past two years, CBRL has continued this important part of its activity thanks to the generosity of our members and friends.

By supporting young researchers with a travel grant of up to £800 we can offer students the opportunity to develop field trip investigation for research of either a self-contained project, or for research that is part of a larger project.

If you would like to fund the full value of a travel grant with a donation of £800, we would be delighted to name this scholarship as you would wish.  If you are a UK tax payer, you will be eligible to gift-aid your donation, allowing CBRL to benefit from a further 25% of the value of your donation.

You can donate via our website here, by sending a cheque made out to the ‘Council for British Research in the Levant’, or by completing and returning a form that can be downloaded here. To gift-aid a postal donation, please complete and return the gift-aid declaration in section 2 of this form.

Please return all postal donations to: CBRL, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH.

If you wish to know more, please contact CBRL’s Development Officer, Maggie McNulty by phone on 0207 969 5330 or email or please feel free to contact any of our Trustees.

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CBRL at the World Science Forum, Jordan, 2017

CBRL hosted a panel at the World Science Forum this year in Jordan to explore the role that science can play in archaeology. A panel of leading British academics in the field of archaeological science research considered how people have responded to perennial challenges, including climate change, and how people have maintained their food supply.

Representing CBRL at the World Science Forum 2017 is Dr Carol Palmer, Director of CBRL’s British Institute in Amman, and James Watt CVO, Chairman of CBRL. Carol is an environmental archaeologist and anthropologist with a special interest in Middle Eastern rural societies past and present. Former Ambassador to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, James has a strong interest in scientific diplomacy. HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal has been the British Institute in Amman’s patron since its establishment in the 1970s. Since 2009, the Institute has held formal ties with the Royal Scientific Society. 

For more information about the panellists and the research presented, please see here

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