Rockefeller Museum

Rockefeller Museum

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The Rockefeller Museum, formerly the Palestine Archaeological Museum, is an archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 museum
Museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

 located in East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem or Eastern Jerusalem refer to the parts of Jerusalem captured and annexed by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and then captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War...

 that houses a large collection of artifacts unearthed in the excavations conducted in Ottoman Palestine beginning in the late 19th century.

The museum is under the management of the Israel Museum
Israel Museum
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem was founded in 1965 as Israel's national museum. It is situated on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the Bible Lands Museum, the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem....

 and houses the head office of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Israel Antiquities Authority
The Israel Antiquities Authority is an independent Israeli governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Law of Antiquities. The IAA regulates excavation and conservation, and promotes research...

.

History


Visiting Palestine in 1925, during the days of the British Mandate, James Henry Breasted
James Henry Breasted
James Henry Breasted was an American archaeologist and historian. After completing his PhD at the University of Berlin in 1894, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago. In 1901 he became director of the Haskell Oriental Museum at the University of Chicago, where he continued to...

, founder and director of the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

's Oriental Institute, discovered that Jerusalem lacked a proper archaeological museum to house important regional finds.

Encouraged by Lord Plumer, the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

, Breasted approached American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. was a major philanthropist and a pivotal member of the prominent Rockefeller family. He was the sole son among the five children of businessman and Standard Oil industrialist John D. Rockefeller and the father of the five famous Rockefeller brothers...

. Rockefeller agreed to donate the sum of two million dollars, an enormous amount of money at the time. Previously, he had offered to build an archeological museum in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, but he was turned down, possibly due to pressure from the British government, which was anxious to keep America from establishing a foothold in the region.

A short while after the donation was announced, a site was chosen for the building—Kerem el-Sheik—a hill located just outside the northeastern corner of the Old City walls. The museum was designed by Austen Harrison
Austen Harrison
Austen St. Barbe Harrison was a British architect, whose works included Nuffield College, Oxford.-Life:Harrison was born in Kent in 1891. One of his ancestors was the renowned novelist Jane Austen for whom he was named. His upper middle-class family pushed him to pursue a career in the military...

, (Austen St. Barbe Harrison), chief architect of the Mandatory Department of Public Works, who drew up blueprints for a white limestone building integrating eastern and western architectural elements. The cornerstone of the new museum was laid on June 19, 1930, although it only opened to the public on January 13, 1938. Officially, it was called the Palestine Archaeological Museum, but from the outset it was known as the Rockefeller Museum.

The museum was run by an international board of trustees until 1966, when it was nationalized by King Hussein of Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

. Soon after, the 1967 Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

 broke out and control of the museum fell into Israeli hands. During the war, the building was captured by Israeli soldiers and its hexagonal tower was used as a lookout. Fierce fighting took place here between Israeli and Jordanian forces, culminating in an Israeli victory.

Since 1967, the museum has been jointly managed by the Israel Museum and the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums (later renamed Israel Antiquities Authority
Israel Antiquities Authority
The Israel Antiquities Authority is an independent Israeli governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Law of Antiquities. The IAA regulates excavation and conservation, and promotes research...

).

Inside the courtyard of the museum stands one of the oldest pine trees in the country. According to Arab legend, on the site of this pine tree, Ezra the Scribe sat and wrote the Torah for Israel.

Collections


The museum's first curator was John H. Iliffe, who arranged the artifacts in chronological order, from two million years ago to 1700 CE. Among the museum's prized possessions are 8th-century wooden panels from the al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque also known as al-Aqsa, is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem...

 and 12th-century (Crusader-period) marble lintels from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan....

. The collection is based on finds from the early years of archaeological excavation in the region (1890–1948). On display are artifacts unearthed in Jerusalem, Megiddo
Megiddo (place)
Megiddo is a tell in modern Israel near Megiddo Kibbutz, known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance especially under its Greek name Armageddon. In ancient times Megiddo was an important city-state. Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins, indicated a long period of...

, Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, Lachish
Lachish
Lachish was an ancient Near East town located at the site of modern Tell ed-Duweir in the Shephelah, a region between Mount Hebron and the maritime plain of Philistia . The town was first mentioned in the Amarna letters as Lakisha-Lakiša...

, Samaria
Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

, and Jericho
Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

.

Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 discovered at Qumran
Qumran
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

 between 1947 and 1956, consisting of Jewish texts and commentaries, were purchased by Israel soon after they were unearthed. Others were housed in the Rockefeller Museum until the 1967 war, when they moved to the purpose built Shrine of the Book
Shrine of the Book
The Shrine of the Book , a wing of the Israel Museum near Givat Ram in Jerusalem, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls—discovered 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran...

facility.

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