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Bert de Vries

Professor Emeritus, History and Archeology
Director, Archeology minor

Office: Hiemenga Hall 492

Educational background

B.S., Physics and Engineering, Calvin College
B.Div., Calvin Theological Seminary
Ph.D. Mediterranean Studies, Brandeis University
Specialties: Near Eastern Languages and Literature. Thesis: “Style of Hittite Epic and Mythology”

Research and professional interests

Bert de Vries is Professor Emeritus of History and Archaeology at Calvin College, where he began teaching in 1967, and is an archaeological architect. He has worked on and directed several archaeological projects in Jordan from 1968 to the present including service as architect on several major studies of ancient communities - including the first-phase Hesban Project from 1968-1976 and the Roman Fortifications of Central Jordan, 1982-1989. His own major project is at Umm el-Jimal in Jordan. He is currently writing on the following themes: (1) ‘society and religion’ at Umm el-Jimal in the transitions from paganism to Christianity and Islam; (2) archaeology and history of Arab settlement in South Syria in the centuries before Islam, and (3) Archaeological heritage and modern communities at Umm el-Jimal and other sites in the southern Levant.

Recent activities

From 2009 to 2013, Professor de Vries and a team of archaeologists and students conducted site documentation field work at Umm el-Jimal for the creation of a virtual museum on the website, as well as on-site tour facilities and a community heritage center. This fieldwork was partly funded as a component of the Global Moments in the Levant Group Research of the University of Bergen. In 2011 the work was funded by a Site Preservation Grant from the American Institute of Archaeology. In 2012 he oversaw the preservation of Byzantine/Umayyad Complex XVII-XVIII at Umm el-Jimal funded by a grant from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). In 2013 financial and logistical support from Al Hima, a Jordanian NGO for sustainable community heritage development, has enabled the formation of an Umm el-Jimal Cooperative Association, Al-Jahwara Al-Sa’diyya (“The Black Jewel”) which will oversee self-sustaining projects in site maintenance, heritage preservation and tourism services, based in the newly planned Umm el-Jimal Heritage Center. See the Umm el-Jimal blog for the latest updates.

Continued Research

From 2013 to 2017 this combined process of site preservation and community development will continue, especially the cooperation with Al Hima to implement the work of Al Jawhara and to complete the design and construction of the Heritage Center. These activities will be enabled and expanded through the following new grant-funded programs:

  • Continuation of Preservation and Presentation of House XVII-XVIII at Umm el-Jimal, Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (U. S. State Department), with field work to be completed in the spring of 2014. A volume documenting and analyzing the work on this building is in preparation.
  • Empowering rural women in Mafraq Governorate through the management and preservation of the Umm el-Jimal’s archeological site in Jordan as income-generating activities, a UNESCO, UN Women and Umm el-Jimal Project Partnership, 2013-2016. This project focuses on the enabling of an already existing Women’s Cooperative at Umm el-Jimal, whose members will be trained and enabled to work in heritage and antiquities alongside al Jawhara.
  • Urban Transformation in the Southern Levant, a collaborative project involving Geography, Archaeology and History Departments at Birzeit University in the West Bank and Bergen University in Norway; with major roles for both the Umm el-Jimal Project and its partner Open Hand Studios, 2014-2017, NORHED (Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development). The research framework is a comparative study of the urban transformation processes at selected sites in Palestine and Jordan, including Umm el-Jimal. B. de Vries is a member of the senior collaborative team.

Life outside of Calvin College

Prof. de Vries, a passionate peace activist, seeks and teaches alternatives to war in the Middle East. In April 2009 he helped organize Healing Children of Conflict of West Michigan, dedicated to the medical treatment of children injured by the wars in Iraq and Gaza.

To get away, he gardens, hikes wilderness trails, reads fiction, and travels a lot. Recent favorite authors include Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book), Michael Chabon (Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), Erin Morgenstern (Night Circus), Margaret Atwood (Year of the Flood and Madd Addam), Michelle Orange (Running for Your Life) and Alexandra Fuller (Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight). Besides trips to Norway and the Middle East for research, frequent destinations are the Guatemala Highlands and southern Nevada to stay connected with children and grandchildren.

Other information

Professor de Vries retired from teaching in the History Department in May 2013. He will continue to administer the Archeology minor program at Calvin, teach archaeology, and direct the fieldwork and publication of the Umm el-Jimal Project during his retirement.

He is active in the operation of ACOR, The American Center of Oriental Research, a research institute in Amman, Jordan, and regularly organizes sessions of scholarly presentations at the national meetings of ASOR, the American Schools of Oriental Research.

See a partial list of Bert de Vries' publications.

Read Bert de Vries's posts on Historical Horizons, the history department blog.