Bert de Vries is Professor of History and Archaeology Emeritus at Calvin University. He used a background in engineering, ancient literature and history to shape the work of the Umm el-Jimal Archaeological Project (UJAP), which he has directed for nearly fifty years.
After his first visit in 1968, he, his family have returned often and forged strong bonds with the site’s current residents, who know him as “Abu Butros” and his wife Sally as “Umm Butros.”
From his own specialization as archeological architect, he and the UJAP team worked on many things, such as:
- Mapping and excavations in order to learn the archaeological history of successive cultures at Umm al-Jimal, 1972-1998.
- Creation of a virtual tour and museum on the internet (www.ummeljimal.org), with Open Hand Studios, 2009 to 2013
- Preservation and presentation of House XVII-XVIII funded by grants from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), 2012-2014.
- Creation of a trail with 33 interpretive signs, funded by by USAID-ACOR-SCHEP, 2015-2018.
- Design, construction and opening the Interpretive & Hospitality Center in cooperation with Department of Antiquity (DOA)\ Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) and Khammash Architects, and funded by MoTA and the PAX Fund, 2017-2020.
- Community engagement, site management and tourism services, including creation of Hand by Hand Heritage, funded by various grants, USAID-ACOR-SCHEP and the PAX Fund, 2009-2020.
Last summer de Vries was awarded the King Abdullah Medal of Excellence at the opening ceremony of the Interpretive and Hospitality Center at Umm al-Jimal.
De Vries and the UJAP team are now working implementing operation of the Interpretive and
Hospitality Center with the PAX Fund, writing the Site Management Plan with Department of Antiquity (DOA), the Water System Reactivation Project with the DoA and Municipality and the comparative study and preservation of Three Churches with the Calvin University Field School.