Another passing was noticed recently, that of David Stronach. He was emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, when he passed away on June 27, 2020. He was 89 years old.
I reached professor Stronach at Berkeley almost 40 years ago, as we were attempting to assess the impact of the first Persian Gulf War on the archaeology of the region. We discussed the excavations at Nineveh, that famous capital city of the Assyrian Empire that is mentioned in the Old Testament, in particular the story of Jonah.
Stronach was director of the British Institute of Persian Studies in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s. News reports said that he is most famous for conducting archaeological excavations at Pasargadae, the 6th century capital city of Cyrus the Great when Cyrus reigned over the Persian Empire. The Archaeological Institute of America recognized him in 2004 with a Gold Medal for “Distinguished Archaeological Achievement.”
In our interview he discussed the excavating of ancient Nineveh just before the first Gulf War broke out. The damage from that war was minor compared to what happened in recent years when ISIS took over Mosul and destroyed the traditional tomb of Jonah, among other archaeological crimes. But that, on the other hand, led to the discovery of the remains of the palace of Esarhaddon, underneath that tomb, within the mound of Nebi Yunis.
As mentioned in our interview, Stronach learned archaeology at the side of Max Mallowan. His account of his association with Mallowan, and Mrs. Mallowan (Dame Agatha Christie) is printed in this issue of Backdirt, published by the Cotsen Institute of UCLA in 2014. (It’s a PDF, scroll down to page 68.)