Prof. Amos Kloner joined the faculty of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology in 1980, and was granted emeritus status in 2009. Even after his retirement, he continued to teach and advise students on a volunteer basis, until shortly before his passing.
His teaching and research focused on the archaeology of the Land of Israel and neighbouring lands in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. He was an amazingly productive scholar, both in terms of the quantity and quality of his published research studies, and his fieldwork in excavations and surveys.
Amos was born in Givatayim (today a suburb of Tel Aviv) in 1940, to the late Dina and Pesa Kloner. He was a pupil at the Berl Katznelson elementary school in Givatayim and at the “New High School” in Tel Aviv. He became interested in learning more about the Land of Israel from his parents, his teachers, and his work as a member and counsellor in the “Hashomer Hatzair” Youth Movement. He hiked the land in its length and breadth and volunteered in archaeological excavations.
In 1958, he was drafted into the IDF and served in the Nahal Brigate and in the Paratroopers until 1961. In the Six-Day war, he fought as a reserve soldier in the battle for Armon HaNatziv (the High Commissioner’s House) in the south part of Jerusalem. After 1973, he did reserve duty in teaching, lecturing, and writing about the Land of Israel.
While at Kibbutz Lahav, he hiked around the kibbutz in the Northern Negev and found ancient ruins which interested him, and this is how he became interested in archaeology. He also participated in the 1961 excavation of the Cave of Letters directed by Prof. Yigal Yadin. The exciting discoveries in the cave led him to study archaeology and geography. He began his studies in 1962 at the Hebrew University, and finished his BA in 1965.
In the fall of 1965, Amos joined the excavations at Mamshit, the Nabatean city in the Negev, as an assistant to Prof. Avraham Negev. He began to learn the hidden mysteries of the Negev, and joined the Sede Boker Field School as a guide. He became interested in how people survived in the harsh desert conditions, and conveyed his love of the land to hikers and future tour guides in training courses.
After the Six-Day War, Amos took part in the archaeological surveys and academic studies of new areas to which access had previously been limited. From 1968 to 1970, he served as the secretary of the Archaeological Survey of Israel, directed the survey groups, participated in studying the finds, and prepared them for publication, including the volume on Judea, Samaria and the Golan, which appeared in 1968.
Amos finished his MA in archaeology at Hebrew University in 1973, focusing on the classical and Byzantine periods. His thesis on the columbaria at Maresha was directed by Prof. Michael Avi-Yonah.
From 1971 to 1989, Amos served as the archaeologist in charge of the Jerusalem and Judean Shephelah region in what was then the Antiquities Branch of the Education and Culture Ministry (today the Israel Antiquities Authority). From 1970 to 1980 he directed salvage excavations, ran emergency surveys in the urban areas of Jerusalem, and focused on preserving antiquities. In the 1980s, he established and ran the Theft Prevention Unit of the Antiquities Branch. In those years, he also participated in many excavations of important sites in the Judean Shephelah, together with colleagues.
The results of the surveys in the Jerusalem area and in excavating graves around the old city served Amos as a basis for his doctoral dissertation at the Hebrew University, on the topic of “Graves and Burial in Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period,” which he completed in 1980. This dissertation was updated with the help of Prof. Boaz Zisu and was published in 2004 as Hebrew book entitled The Jerusalem Necropolis in the Second Temple Period, and it analyzes the extent of graves around and the burial customs of Jews around the city.
The information gathered by Amos during the Jerusalem surveys from the 1970s to the 1990s was published in three volumes in the years 2000-2003. This foundational study includes hundreds of illustrations, photographs, satellite images, and maps indicating all of the sites surrounding Jerusalem, from all periods, a group of survey maps, and a summary of the archaeological data and the cultural phenomena from hundreds of sites in the Jerusalem environs.
From 1978 to 1980, Amos excavated at Hurvat Rimmon near Kibbutz Lahav, where the remains of a synagogue and Jewish village from the late Roman and Byzantine period was discovered. The remains of the village and the synagogue are now being restored, a restoration which Amos supervised. He was engaged in publishing the results of the excavation at Rimmon until his last days.
Amos specialized in the study of ancient production techniques and the use of olive-presses in ancient periods, as a natural continuation to the discovery of such installations in his excavations.
Already in the late 1970s, Amos was one of the first scholars to study cave systems used for hiding in the period of the Bar-Kochva revolt in the Judean Shephelah. In the first field-study of this phenomenon, Amos implemented new field study techniques, based on understanding how widespread the phenomenon of caves dug by humans was, and how frequently these were used as hiding places. His research bridged a substantial gap in our understanding of this phenomenon and its demographic and historical importance. The results of this innovative research were published in 1987 in a book entitled Caves Used for Hiding in the Judean Shephelah, which was edited by Amos and his colleague Yigal Tepper, and which contains discussion of over 130 relevant sites. The finding of these sites, with their winding and narrow tunnels, connecting them to the Bar-Kochba period, and understanding their extent are all foundational to the study of the Bar-Kochba revolt.
The peak of his archaeological activity was directing the archaeological project at Mareshah and Beit Guvrin, involving excavation, survey, and research. This project, which began in 1989 and continued for decades, occupied Amos until the actual evening before his passing. In the lower city of Mareshah, buildings and underground systems were discovered, and 160 caves were surveyed, many of which were then excavated. The great extent of data from Hellenistic Mareshah, which is unparalleled in any other settlement in the land of Israel in this period, teaches us about the economics, the lifestyle, and the administration of the Hellensitic period. These also teach us about the presence of the Idumean ethnic group in the region.
In the Beit Guvrin excavations of 1991-8, monumental architecture related to the Roman and Byzantine polis were discovered, including an amphitheatre, a bath-house, and a church and pilgrim centre. These remains help understand how Roman culture was spread throughout Judea, and sheds light on military organization and on the social and economic aspects of life in a Roman city.
The extensive data from the excavations at Mareshah and Beit Guvrin are used by scholars who continue to use this for their academic theses and dissertations, due to the generosity of Amos and with his encouragement. Many such studies have been written in the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University and at other research centres.
By: Graicer Nili, Zissu Boaz