History of the Tandy Institute for Archaeology


Birth of Biblical Archaeology in Southern Baptist Seminaries and Southwestern


Southern Baptists have invested greatly in the advance of biblical archaeology during the 20th century. These include William H. Morton, a former professor at both Southern and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminaries, who directed excavations at the Moabite royal city of Dibon in the 1950s, and Joseph Callaway, a former Southern Seminary professor renowned for his excavations at Et-Tel/Ai. The genesis of archaeology at Southwestern began in the early 20th century by Earnest Leslie Carlson (1893-1967), a former professor of Biblical Introduction and Semitic Languages at the seminary. This is when a major part of the collections in the Tandy Museum were acquired.

In the late 1970s, Kelm and Israeli archaeologist Amihai Mazar uncovered Tel Batash, the biblical city of Timnah known primarily for the Israelite judge Samson (Judges 14-15). Kelm was a professor of Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when he and Mazar uncovered biblical Timnah.

Archaeological Excavations (1980s)

Southwestern Seminary's archaeological roots can be traced back to George Kelm. Kelm, professor emeritus of biblical backgrounds and archaeology moved to Southwestern Seminary in 1980, where he continued to co-direct excavations at Timnah. He was instrumental in bringing field excavations and an archaeological curriculum to biblical studies at Southwestern. Southwestern co-sponsored the Timnah excavations along with Hebrew University from 1981 to 1989. During this time, the Timnah excavations served as a field school for Southwestern Seminary students studying archaeology. Students involved in the fieldwork at Timnah had opportunities to learn about such subjects as the geography of the Bible lands, important archaeological sites, contemporary Israel, and the history of Timnah itself. They also had the opportunity to tour such nations as Egypt, Greece, Italy, England, Austria, and Switzerland.

Charles D. Tandy Archaeological Museum and the Center for Archaeological Research (1983)

One of Kelm's greatest contributions to Southwestern Seminary was the founding of the Charles D. Tandy Archaeological Museum and the Tandy Center for Archaeological Research. The museum was established on the first floor of Southwestern's A. Webb Roberts Library in 1983. A full lab with ceramic restoration, a photo lab, as well as storage was located in the basement floor of the Naylor Student Center.

Today the Tandy Museum holds photographs, models, maps, and artifacts that represent the full span of archaeological work that occurred at Timnah. These exhibits also display the history and culture of the ancient people who inhabited the city. Linda, Kelm who shared her husband's passion for archaeology and accompanied him on the Timnah digs served in the lab as a ceramic restorer. Linda also served as curator of the museum for more than a decade.

The Tandy Museum is also home to the I. Ruth Martin collection, which was donated to the seminary in 1990. The seminary also holds the Carlson Cuneiform Collection, a collection of tablets, clay envelopes and cone cylinders from the ancient Near East donated to the seminary in the early 20th century by Earnest Leslie Carlson (1893-1967).

With the retirement of Dr. Kelm, the archaeology program suffered as students did not have a Southwestern field school and went to other excavation projects in Israel for training. While archaeology was still taught, it was relegated to a secondary discipline in biblical studies. In the 1990s the only functioning component of the archaeological research center was the Tandy Museum.

Department of Archaeology and Graduate Programs and Field Projects, 2006

One of the goals of the newly elected president in 2002 was the establishment of a well-funded archaeology research and training program. An archaeological task force was established in 2004 after the hiring of Dr. Eric Mitchell to set the foundations for archaeology at Southwestern seminary and revive the dormant program. The revival of the archaeology program at Southwestern was aggressively pursued with focus on faculty hiring, accredited MA and PhD programs, and renewed funding for archaeological research and publication.

Along with the shift of archaeology from biblical studies to the field of social sciences, the hiring of Dr. Steven M. Ortiz (Ph.D. University of Arizona) was instrumental in keeping the archaeology program at Southwestern current to the changing paradigms in biblical archaeology. An accredited archaeology graduate program was established with both MA and PhD programs.

In addition, the Tel Gezer Excavation Project, under the direction of Dr. Ortiz and Dr. Samuel R. Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority came under the auspices of the Tandy Center for Archaeological Research. A second research project was started in 2007 under the direction of Dr. Eric Mitchell, an archaeological survey project requested by the survey department of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In 2012, a third major project began under the direction of Dr. Tom Davis at the site of Kourion in Cyprus, evidence of the growth of the program and the desire to expand the research into the Roman and Byzantine periods. The continued growth of the program led to the start of two more projects in 2016- the establishment of the Illan Balik Expedition in Kazakhstan and  sponsorship and participation in the Karnak Great Hypostyle Project.

Institute of Archaeology, 2009

With the accreditation of the archaeology program and the creation of the Department of Archaeology and Biblical backgrounds in the Division of Biblical Studies, Southwestern was committed to a full program of training the next generation of archaeologists. The 2009 meeting of the Trustees voted on the name change from the Tandy center of Archaeology to the Institute of Archaeology to reflect the integration of the fully accredited graduate program in archaeology, vision of the administration, and the various components of archaeology on campus. It also serves as the foundation for the future growth of the discipline of archaeology at Southwestern and as a training program for archaeology in over 100 Southern Baptist colleges, universities, and seminaries.

Today the Institute consists of the graduate programs in the Department of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds as well as three Lectureship Series. A student archaeology fellowship is also active on campus. The Roberts Library houses the Tandy Museum, J.T. and Zehna Luther Archives, and the Research Seminar Room and Conservation Lab. In addition the Institute currently has three major excavation projects, one survey project, and one recordation project, as well as three research associates. The Ira Leeta Phillips Rare Texts and Manuscript Library/Museum are part of the new MacGorman chapel complex.