The Dominicans and the professors of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem pay tribute to the memory of Jacqueline Balensi, who died on 6 March in Perpignan. Jacqueline received a scholarship from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres to study at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in 1971-1972, at the invitation and suggestion of Father Jean Prignaud, o.p., who was in charge of excavations at the École.

In 1977, Jacqueline defended a doctorate in Lyon on the Late Bronze Age in the excavations by R.W. Hamilton (1938) at Tell Abu Hawam in Akko Bay. In 1973, Father Benoît asked her to publish a paper on the Recent Bronze period excavated by Father de Vaux at Tell el-Far’ah – Tirsa, capital of the Northern Kingdom, before it was transferred to Samaria. She continued her career at the École until 1976, when she joined the CNRS. Neither a Dominican nor a nun, she resolutely shared the school’s vocation with her Dominican confreres: to develop a practice of archaeology that would nourish the history of the Ancient Near East.

In particular, she made a major contribution to the School’s research by taking part in the excavations at Tell Keisan (in Lower Galilee) from 1972 to 1974, and by publishing a Mycenaean III C 1 vase in the Revue Biblique. On the strength of her doctorate, she was authorised to resume excavations at Tell Abu Hawam, in two campaigns in 1979 and 1980, in conjunction with Michal Artzi of the University of Haifa, in order to refine the stratigraphy of the Late Bronze Age. She associated the Spanish archaeologists Lola Herrera and Carolina Asnar with her work on Tell Abu Hawam.

After the departure of Jean Prignaud, o.p., in 1974, Jacqueline Balensi taught archaeology for two years to the students of the École, leaving a lasting impression on them. Today, the students still remember her as a teacher who was patient and gentle. She was one of the first generation of women to live at the École, in 1974.

She continued her career in France, in Lyon, where she made an active contribution to research at the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, in the HISOMA (History and Sources of the Ancient Worlds) laboratory, and joined the CNRS, from which she retired in 2010.

The École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem pays tribute today to an exceptional woman who was able to share her recognised scientific skills with generations of students with profound humanity. The brothers remember her in their prayers.

Photos: Photothèque ÉBAF
Emeline d’Hautefeuille