Timothy P. Harrison appointed director of the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures

Timothy P. Harrison, a renowned academic leader and scholar with decades of research experience in the Middle East, has been appointed director of the University of Chicago’s Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa (ISAC), effective Sept. 1.

He also will serve as a professor in UChicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the College.

A UChicago alum, Harrison, AM’91, PhD’95, is currently a professor of near Eastern archaeology at the University of Toronto. He focuses his research on the rise of early social complexity in the ancient Near East, specifically the complex societies of the Bronze and Iron Age of the Levant. He has more than 35 years of experience conducting field research, primarily in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

Harrison has directed excavations at Tall Madaba in Jordan and has led the Tayinat Archaeological Project in southeastern Turkey since 2000. Recently, he has led a team participating in the post-conflict documentation, preservation and restoration of the cultural heritage of Iraq, focused primarily on Mosul (Nineveh).

“Tim is an outstanding scholar whose leadership and expertise will help ISAC continue to deepen its impact and elevate its eminence as the world’s leading center for the study of the ancient civilizations of West Asia and North Africa,” said Provost Katherine Baicker. “I am thrilled to welcome him back to the University of Chicago and look forward to the important work I know he will do in this role.”

Harrison has held several academic leadership positions, including serving two terms as president and as past president of the American Society of Overseas Research, the leading international professional association dedicated to the study of the cultures and history of the Middle East. He launched the Computational Research on the Ancient Near East project—a global research collaboration that aims to cultivate and analyze archaeological data. Harrison also served two terms as chair of the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations.

Harrison is deeply familiar with the University and with ISAC, which has helped shape his scholarly development. He earned a PhD and AM from UChicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining ISAC, which has been a pioneer in the scientific exploration of the ancient Near East and contributed foundationally to our knowledge of human history and culture,” Harrison said. “At a time when the importance of humanistic scholarship is increasingly questioned and marginalized, the institute’s unwavering commitment to interdisciplinary research that contributes deep understanding to issues of pressing global concern—whether they be climate and the environment, or complex social issues such as inequality and conflict—renders its mission more vital and relevant than ever. I look forward to working together with this exceptional community of scholars to advance its mission and continue its distinguished legacy of foundational research.”

Harrison will succeed Theo van den Hout, the Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor of Hittite and Anatolian Languages in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the College. Van den Hout has served as interim director of ISAC since April 2021 and oversaw the institute’s recent renaming.