Remembering Bert de Vries (1939–2021)

6 April 2021

As you may know, a pillar of ACOR and the archaeological and heritage communities of Jordan, Prof. Bert de Vries, passed away last week. The depth and impact of this loss is difficult to put into words. The world is a dimmer and less vibrant place without Bert. His passion for Jordan, its heritage, and people will continue to serve as a beacon for those who continue to labor in his footsteps. ACOR is grateful to have had him as our guide and partner.

Please find below some collected resources about Bert, director emeritus of ACOR (just one among many roles in his more than 50 years working in Jordan, of course, none more important than husband to Sally, father, friend, and mentor), which we hope you will share as widely as possible in his memory. 

Bert de Vries 

(March 4, 1939 – March 28, 2021) 
Prof. Bert de Vries at Umm al-Jimal in March 2018; J.D.M. Green/ACOR.

Born in Zierikzee, Zeeland in the Netherlands, Bert de Vries emigrated with his family to Chatham, Ontario, Canada in 1952, after WWII. He attended Calvin College (Michigan, USA) where he graduated with degrees in Physics and Engineering, followed by a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity from Calvin Seminary. He received his PhD from Brandeis University (Massachusetts, USA) in Mediterranean Studies, after which he began teaching history and archaeology at Calvin College, where he taught from 1967-2018. Bert first travelled to Jordan in 1968 to serve as an architect surveyor at Tel Hisban, and subsequently spent more than fifty years working in Jordan, doing research and excavating, most notably at Umm al-Jimal (since 1972). From 1988-1991, Prof. de Vries served as director of the American Center of Research (ACOR), living and working in Jordan full-time, leaving as a result of the First Gulf War. Especially, though not exclusively, in those capacities he became a mentor to countless academics, advocate for local communities, and fierce defender of the environment. With him throughout was his wife and partner, Sally de Vries, who has contributed much to the understanding and heritage of Jordan.  

In addition to his devotion to budding scholars, his children, grandchildren and Sally, Bert loved Umm al-Jimal, and the wonderfully hospitable community that became a second home. Bert is affectionally known as Abu Boutros there. For nearly 50 years, he directed excavations and documentation at the 2000-year-old site. For the last fifteen years he fostered what he called “Community Archaeology” (yet another area in which he was at the forefront of the field, among the founders). As the modern town grew around the ancient site, he engaged local community members in the preservation and presentation of the site, especially in the face of conflict and destruction across the border in Syria. He worked with local Jordanians and Syrians to help support refugees and their host community. To Bert, cultural heritage and the humanities were tools for peace, understanding and compassion, and he put them to work effectively in modeling non-violence on campus, in the classroom, and in Umm al-Jimal. He built a local and international community of experts who strive to walk in his footsteps to carry on his legacy.


Other links and information about Bert and his work and legacy: 

ACOR lecture by Bert: 

Bert De Vries photographic collection: 

Photo essay through the lens of Bert de Vries: 

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