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Free, Joseph P. (1911-1974) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Free, Joseph P. (1911-1974)

Historical Note:

Joseph Paul Free was an educator, archaeologist, author, speaker, and Christian lay-leader. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 1, 1911, he was the son of Joseph LaVerne and Enna Edith (Lamb) Free. He attended Stony Brook, a preparatory school in Long Island, New York. His college years were spent at Princeton where he secured an A.B. in 1932, an A.M. in 1933, and a Ph.D. in 1935. Dr. Free was a postgraduate student at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago from 1940 to 1948.

On August 20, 1935, he married Ruby Aldrich from Garfield, Kansas. Their children are Alice Anita and David Paul Free. Mrs. Free had a vital interest in Dr. Free's work. While at Wheaton, she took all of his archeology courses as well as other related courses from the University of Chicago. She and the children accompanied Dr. Free on the Dothan expeditions. Mrs. Free was his co-director and delivered numerous lectures on their archaeological finds. Mrs. Free was instrumental in arranging the Dothan Exhibit now housed at Wheaton College.

As an educator, Dr. Free was Assistant Professor of Archeology at Wheaton College from 1935 to 1940, Associate Professor of Archeology from 1940 to 1943, as well as Professor and Director of Archeology from 1943 to 1966. He was the Fred McManis Professor of Archeology from 1955 to 1967. Dr. Free resigned from Wheaton in 1966 to work full-time with his wife, Ruby, on archaeological excavations in the Holy Land. With the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war, Dr. and Mrs. Free were prevented from returning to the Middle East. He accepted the position of Professor of Archaeology and History at Bemidji State College in 1966 and retained that position until his death in 1974.

Dr. Free's activities as an archaeologist include service as a staff member of the American School of Oriental Research excavating at Dibon in Arab Palestine during 1951 and 1952, Director of the Wheaton Archaeological Expedition excavation, excavating at Ancient Dothan in Arab Palestinian from 1953 to 1960, 1962 and 1964, as well as Director of the excavation of a prehistoric mound near Bimidji, Minnesota, during the late sixties. Dr. Free's excavations at Dothan, located sixty miles north of Jerusalem, reveal one of the richest stores of biblical artifacts unearthed in recent years. His excavations in Minnesota evidenced the existence of the early American Blackduck culture which was active between 900 and 1300 AD. As both an archaeologist and an educator, Dr. Free founded the Near East Archaeological Society in 1960 and the Society's Journal, The Bulletin. During 1962, he was Director of the Near East School of Archeology located on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.

In addition, Dr. Free was a prominent writer and speaker in the field of biblical archeology. His best known work is the book Archeology and Bible History, first published in 1950. He wrote a series of reports on the Dothan excavations which were published in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research from various years between 1953 and 1974. Dr. Free wrote dozens of magazine articles on archeology in Christian periodicals. From 1942 to 1964, he was archaeological editor for the Sunday School Times. Dr. Free and his wife, Ruby, became active in the National Society of Arts and Letters when they moved to Minnesota. In 1966, he acted as National Literary Chairman of that organization.

Note Author: Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections staff

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