Dr. Ron Tappy is the G. Albert Shoemaker Professor of Bible and Archaeology. He also serves as the project director and principal investigator of The Zeitah Excavations, an archaeological field project at Tel Zayit, Israel. In addition to completing graduate work at the Jerusalem University College and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Tappy received an MATS degree summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and his AM and Ph.D. (with distinction) from Harvard University. His teaching focuses on the life and literature of the Old Testament period, biblical archaeology, and the history of Israel. Tappy's teaching method examines ways in which the broader cultural context of biblical Israel shaped both the world of the biblical writers and, by extension, their theological outlook. His research and publication interests center on the interrelated nature of the cultural, political, and economic history of Iron Age Israel as well as the various cultural groups with whom Israel interacted. He began excavating at various sites in Israel more than 30 years ago, and his current field research at Tel Zayit involves a full-scale field exploration of a Late Bronze–Iron Age town in the Shephelah (“lowlands”) region of biblical Judah. During the 2005 season of excavation, his team discovered an inscription incised in stone of the earliest known, securely datable Hebrew alphabet. (See New York Times, Nov. 9, 2005.) He has written articles on a variety of topics, including subjects in biblical archaeology, ancient Israelite burial customs and beliefs about the afterlife, the 23rd Psalm, and the Ten Commandments. He is a leading authority on the archaeology of Israelite Samaria and has written two books on that subject. Prior to accepting his current position at PTS, Tappy taught at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., and in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Michigan. He is married to Connie Gundry Tappy and has one daughter, Madeleine Rose Tappy.
Most people in the Pittsburgh Seminary community know Dr. Ron Tappy as the guy who directs The Zeitah Excavations. But many may not know that Ron is also internationally recognized as a world expert on the archaeology and history of Samaria—ancient stomping grounds of Ahab and Jezebel and capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel till the conquering Assyrians swooped in during the late eighth century BCE.
Ron’s latest book, in fact—The Archaeology of the Ostraca House at Israelite Samaria: Epigraphic Discoveries in Complicated Contexts—tells the story not only of a very important group of inscriptions discovered at Samaria (shipping dockets recording the delivery of wine, oil, and other goods to the capital city), but also the stories of both the archaeologists and the funders behind the find. What makes the picture even more interesting is Ron’s setting the stories in the context of what was happening around the world during the time of this dig—the Harvard expedition to Samaria beginning in 1908, just six years prior to the start of World War I.
“The people involved in this endeavor range from excavation director George Andrew Reisner—actually, an expert in Egyptian archaeology who died in his sleep in his excavation camp behind the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau—to philanthropist Theresa Loeb Schiff, sister of James Loeb, who established the Loeb Classical Library,” notes Ron. “And as is often the case, the people who over time have not drawn the spotlight in this saga are actually the actors who kept the story going—like David Gordon Lyon, curator of Harvard’s Semitic Museum. When he was on site at Samaria, Lyon kept an extensive personal diary that illuminates everything from the team’s serious interpersonal conflicts to problems with photographic equipment to double-crossing by some of the hired help, just for starters. And without Lyon’s consistent work back in Cambridge, Mass.—writing reports on the excavation to the President of Harvard, interfacing with funders, acting as the excavation’s liaison with the American Schools of Oriental Research, for example—the expedition might well have ended far short of discovering the Ostraca.”
Readers can discover this fascinating story in chapters 1 and 6, complete with photographs of the site and the people involved. Ron’s book also includes section drawings from the excavation that he has enhanced and colorized, never-before-published original field drawings of the Samaria Ostraca showing the inscriptions, and extensive quotations from Reisner’s and Lyon’s private excavation diaries.
When Ron’s not teaching in the classroom or writing a book or article, you’re likely to find him in Israel examining pottery and other artifacts unearthed from nine excavation seasons at Tel Zayit as he prepares to publish the official excavation report on The Zeitah Excavations.
The Archaeology of the Ostraca House at Israelite Samaria: Epigraphic Discoveries in Complicated Contexts (American Schools of Oriental Research, 2016)
Literate Culture and Tenth-Century Canaan: The Tel Zayit Abecedary in Context (co-editor with P. Kyle McCarter and contributing author; Eisenbrauns, 2009)
The Archaeology of Israelite Samaria: Vol. I, Early Iron Age through the Ninth Century BCE, Harvard Semitic Studies 44 (Scholars, 1992), and Vol. II, The Eighth Century BCE, Harvard Semitic Studies 50 (Eisenbrauns, 2001)
“The Harvard Expedition to Samaria: A Story of Twists and Turns in the Opening Season of 1908,” Buried History 52 (2016)
“Tel Zayit,” in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 5 (The Israel Exploration Society, The Biblical Archaeological Society, and The Israel Antiquities Authority, 2015)
“The Final Years of Israelite Samaria: Toward a Dialogue between Texts and Archaeology,” in Up to the Gates of Ekron: Essays on the Archaeology and History of the Eastern Mediterranean in Honor of Seymour Gitin (The W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and The Israel Exploration Society, 2007)