20th August 1918

Archaeologist Crystal Bennet was born

Alderney-born archaeologist, Crystal-Margaret Rawlings, founded the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History, now known simply as the British Institute in Amman, she was its director for its first five years.

Bennett attended Bristol University, but not to study archaeology. That came later, in 1954, after she had been married to – and divorced from – Philip Bennett, whose surname she took. After the divorce, she moved in with Bennett’s mother and took her son with her.

When she enrolled at London’s Institute of Archaeology, aged 36, she concerned herself primarily with Roman sites and led excavations in Berkshire and Somerset.

Interest in the Middle East

Within three years, she had two diplomas under her belt and had turned her attention towards Palestine, Jericho, Petra and Jerusalem.

She led many excavations in Jordan. In the process, she discovered the first tablet ever found in that country bearing cuneiform, one of the oldest-known forms of writing.

She later founded the British Institute in Amman following 1967’s Six-Day War between Israel and five Arab states, supported by eight other nations. Because the British School of Archaeology was based in Jerusalem at the time, staff working there had found it difficult to gain access to neighbouring countries.

Bennett therefore set up facilities in her own flat in Amman, and later rented a house opposite the University of Jordan, which she established as the Institute in 1975.

In 1998, the Institute merged with British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, from which it was effectively born, to form the Council for British Research in the Levant. It still operates under that name to this day.

Crystal Bennett died aged 68 at home in Bruton, Somerset.


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