When approached to join Phillips’s expedition, William F. Albright was perhaps the country’s most distinguished scholar of the ancient Near East. A professor of Semitic languages, Albright had produced major studies on biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Ugaritic. In the 1930s he developed a system for dating ceramics by examining the sequence of excavated strata. According to Phillips, “Expeditions come and expeditions go, potsherds are found or they remain in the ground, but there is only one Professor Albright and there will never be another.”
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gus Van Beek excavated Hajar bin Humeid and established the first chronology for ancient South Arabian ceramics, a major contribution to the field. He studied ancient Near Eastern archaeology at Johns Hopkins University under Albright. In 1959 Van Beek joined the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and was responsible for a major exhibition devoted to the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a result of his work in southern Arabia and at subsequent sites, Van Beek also became a leading authority in ancient and contemporary mud architecture around the world.
Archaeologist and epigrapher
Professor of Hebrew and Oriental languages at the University of St. Andrews, Alexander Honeyman supervised the first season excavation at Timna cemetery in 1950. He also was the bookkeeper and distributed weekly wages to the local workers. A meticulous excavator, Honeyman discovered the gold necklace belonging to Fari’at and the fine alabaster head that the workers referred to as Honeyman’s daughter and nicknamed “Miriam.” His discoveries at Timna allowed him to revise his understanding of Qataban tombs and burial practices. Phillips noted, “He began his investigations of certain selected tombs… determined to explore each one more thoroughly rather than do a more cursory job on the whole cemetery.”
“With hardly a moment’s rest,” Phillips recalled, “Dr. Jamme was back at work on his beloved inscriptions.” An expert in ancient Semitic languages, Father Albert Jamme of the Society of Missionaries of Africa became a leading researcher in reading, interpreting, and classifying ancient South Arabian inscriptions. His first major field experience was as chief epigrapher at Timna, where he copied thousands of inscriptions. In 1952 he published some three hundred inscriptions from the Timna cemetery alone. Two years later, in 1954, he joined Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he taught for decades. His archives are kept there today.
Business manager and driver
Gladys Terry and her husband Bill, the expedition’s field director and photographer, first joined Phillips on his 1947–49 expedition to Africa. She showed her superior mechanical capability by driving a two-ton truck and trailer from Cairo to Capetown. Terry became the first American woman explorer to reach Beihan and Hadhramaut, where her “pace-setting was so expert that not a truck blew a tire or broke a spring on that rocky road,” a practically impossible feat. She also maintained the field accounts of three major expeditions.
Arab speaker and secretary
Only nineteen years old, Eileen Salama served as translator and expedition secretary. Born in Cairo, she grew up speaking English, French, Syrian, Italian, and of course Arabic. Phillips credited her “for the tremendous good will she created for our expeditions wherever she went” and for “her major role in obtaining hitherto unobtainable information first hand from leading sultans, princes, saiyids, sheikhs, and sheriffs of South Arabia….”