Jeeninga museum at AU receives artifacts from ancient Palestine

Fri, 2012-07-20 09:59 -- univcomm

Date:  11/22/2000

Title:  Jeeninga museum at AU receives artifacts from ancient Palestine

The Gustav Jeeninga Museum of Bible and Near Eastern Studies at Anderson University recently received 30 artifacts from the personal collection of Nancy Lapp and her late husband, Paul. She considered the AU museum because of a long-time working relationship with Dr. Gustav Jeeninga, professor emeritus of biblical studies. Jeeninga taught Old Testament and archaeology at AU for 29 years, retiring in 1989.

He joined Lapp and her late husband on various digs, and he was often first on their list when they had pieces to sell. Nancy, who is the curator of the James L. Kelso Bible Lands Museum at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, once again remembered Jeeninga when she decided to sell pieces from her own collection.

Knowing what the museum already owned, Jeeninga looked over the list and selected 30 pieces he believed would enhance the current collection. The artifacts—all pottery—were sent from Pittsburgh and Jeeninga left his retirement home in Florida to meet them at AU.

According to David Neidert, museum director, the pottery comes from two places in Palestine—Bab edh-Dhra, a Dead Sea location, and Tekoa, home of Old Testament prophet Amos. The pieces range from the Bronze Age (3150 to 1200 B.C.) through the Iron Age (1200 to 587 A.D.).

“We already had quite a bit of pottery from Palestine, but it’s a real help to have the various types of pots,” Jeeninga explained.

Pottery is important to archaeologists. “When a potter shaped new pots, he was inclined to make new types, new forms. Since pottery breaks so easily, people always needed new pottery. In a very short time, you would get a number of different types,” said Jeeninga. When archaeologists excavate, pottery is useful in identifying the time period of the site. Besides building chronology, pottery identifies what people of that age used in their households, how they lived, how they cooked and how they ate.

Jeeninga became interested in Near Eastern artifacts as a Bible student, when an Old Testament professor brought Scripture to life through archaeological references. Jeeninga then studied archaeology at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

“When I came here to teach, I decided I needed objects to illustrate to the students and bring the Bible alive for them,” said Jeeninga. His first piece was a bronze statue of a Sumerian priest.

After a while, Jeeninga’s personal collection was competing for space in his office. The university administration finally agreed to give him a trophy case in the library. His collection outgrew that, too. Finally, in 1963, a storage room on the lower level of the School of Theology was converted into a museum.

According to Neidert, the museum serves students in a variety of disciplines, not just Bible students. “I came in one evening and there were 20 students drawing Shalmaneser’s obelisk so they could get a sense of form from ancient drawings and carvings,” he said.

The museum is also drawing crowds from off campus, including classes from area schools, senior citizens groups, and faculty and students from other colleges. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by scheduling an appointment with Neidert at (765) 641-4526.

For more story profiles from the Anderson University campus, follow-up with Signatures magazine produced by the AU Publications Office.