About Us

The CBRL British Institute in Amman (BIA) is the Council for British Research in the Levant's local institute in Amman, Jordan. The BIA works to build academic cooperation between British and local universities and other organisations engaged in research; provides facilities for researchers including a library, study space, guest accommodation, equipment, and fieldwork vehicles; organises events including conferences, workshops, public lectures and seminars; and offers Arabic language training in cooperation with the Qasid Language Institute.


The British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH)

History _2

The forerunner to the CBRL British Institute in Amman was established in 1975 as a British field base for visiting scholars to Jordan. It was founded by archaeologist Crystal-M. Bennett and originally located in a house overlooking the main gates of the University of Jordan in Amman (left). In 1978, it was registered as a UK academic charity under the name of the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH) and was approved as a sponsored overseas research institute by the British Academy.

The first BIAAH building in the mid 1980s


Crystal-M. Bennett and the BIAAH

History _1

Crystal-Marie Bennett was born on the Channel Island of Alderney in 1918, read English at Bristol University, and in 1955-7 completed a postgraduate course on the archaeology of the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire at the Institute of Archaeology in London. Following fieldwork in the UK, she joined Kathleen Kenyon's excavations at Jericho for the 1957/8 season, then worked with Peter Parr at Petra before commencing what was to become the principal archaeological project of her career, the study of Edomite settlement in modern south Jordan. Her first season of work was at Umm al-Biyara in Petra in November 1960. She continued to assist Parr in subsequent field seasons at Petra, and Kenyon in Jerusalem from 1961-1967.

Crystal-M. Bennett, founder and first director of the BIAAH


Bennett worked for three seasons at Umm al-Biyara (1960, 1963, 1965); four seasons at Tawilan above Wadi Musa (1968-1970, 1982) and for five seasons at Busaira (1971-74, 1980) discovering settlements which she dated mainly from the late eighth and seventh centuries BC, with finds including stamp seals and impressions naming Edomite kings, and remains (architectural, ceramic) which she linked to the biblical history of Edom. There were exceptional finds of earlier and later dates, including the first cuneiform tablet to be discovered in Jordan, and a hoard of fine jewellery, both from Tawilan. She provided the first rigorous archaeological framework for the study of southern Jordan during the Iron Age.

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Crystal-M. Bennett, Bidul guides and Daoud Jibrin (right), the BSAJ cook, on Umm al Biyarra

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Crystal-M. Bennett and HRH Prince Hassan at Busayra

Bennett was appointed Secretary-Librarian of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (1963-1965), director of that institution in 1970 and in the following years established an archaeological base in Amman, which she also managed. She played a critical role in Jordan in establishing the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History in 1975. In the same year she undertook the direction of the Department of Antiquities' excavations on the citadel of Amman. In 1977 she was awarded an OBE for her services to British archaeology in Jordan; in 1983 she retired from her post in Amman, and Trinity College Dublin conferred an honorary D.Litt. She died in England on 12 August 1987.




For more on the life and work of Crystal Bennett, see:

Balderstone, S. Crystal-M. Bennett Online Biography

Prag, K. (2010) Crystal-M. Bennett OBE, BA, D.LITT., FSA: A Memoir. PEQ 142, 43-63.

Talbot, G. (1987) Crystal-M. Bennett, O.B.E. D.Litt., F.S.A. An Appreciation. Levant 19, 1-2.

Selected publications on the excavations of Crystal-M. Bennett:

Umm al-Biyara: Excavations by Crystal-M. Bennett in Petra 1960-1965 (2011)
Bienkowski, Piotr and contributors

Busayra- Excavations by Crystal-M. Bennett 1971-1980 (2002)
Bienkowski, Piotr and contributors

Excavations at Tawilan in Southern Jordan (1995)
Bennett, C.M. and P. Bienkowski, with contributors

Studies on Roman and Islamic 'Amman: The Excavations of Mrs C.-M. Bennett and Other Investigations, Volume I: History, Site and Architecture (1992)
Northedge, A. with contributions by J. Bowsher et al.


The Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL)

In 1998, following a review by the British Academy, the Institute was incorporated into the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) supporting research in the full spectrum of the humanities and social sciences. In 2009 it adopted the title the British Institute in Amman (BIA) reflecting both common usage and the wider disciplinary coverage.

HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal

Since its foundation, the patron of the BIA has been HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein bin Talal. HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan takes an active interest in the activities the institute and has served as patron on a number of initiatives, most notably the long-running Wadi Faynan Project. 

Since 2009, the CBRL has had formal ties with the Royal Scientific Society, founded by HRH Prince Hassan to promote academic, scientific, and technological activities involved in education and training in Jordan.

HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, patron of the BIA, with Prof Mona Baker and participants at the first Translation Studies Workshop, Sept 2011



Previous Directors of BIAAH and BIA

Crystal-M. Bennett (1978-1983)

Andrew Garrard (1983-1989)

Alison McQuitty (1989-1991)

William Lancaster (1991-1994)

Alison McQuitty (1994-1999, from 1998 as CBRL Director)

Bill Finlayson (1999 - CBRL Director, until 2012 based in Amman)

Carol Palmer (2009 - BIA Director)

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Alison McQuitty, the last BIAAH director and first director of CBRL