P.L.O. Guy was born in Scotland, the son of a solicitor. He studied at Oxford and Glasgow Universities but failed to gain formal qualifications. He worked briefly in a solicitor’s office, and then as a mechanic at Paisley and Paris motor works in Glasgow. An interest in machines and technology was a common theme of Guy’s future life and career. During World War I he served in both the British and French armies reaching the rank of Captain within the Machine Gun Corps. Guy’s interest in archaeology began in 1919-1920 when he was invited to assist C.L. Woolley at Carchemish as photographer, taking over the role previously held by T.E. Lawrence. Guy subsequently joined Woolley at Amarna (Egypt) in 1921-1922 where he conducted a study of Amarna period pottery.
In 1922 Guy became Chief Inspector for the Palestine Department of Antiquities under the direction of John Garstang. Based in Haifa, he worked mainly in northern Palestine where he surveyed and attempted to stem the destruction of archaeological sites. He also conducted excavations of several Iron Age tombs near Tell Abu Hawam. In 1927, Guy left the Department of Antiquities to become the director of the University of Chicago Expedition to Megiddo. He is best known for his innovative use of balloon photography at the site, and for his interpretation of the ‘stables’ of Stratum IV which he assigned to the Solomonic era (tenth century BC) following Biblical passages (e.g. I Kings 9:15). Guy’s evocative interpretations were followed for several decades, and are now used as a cautionary example of how the Bible can be misused in archaeological interpretation of (the stables have been recently redated to the eighth century BC).
Leaving Megiddo in 1934 under controversial circumstances, Guy was subsequently appointed as Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (1935-1939). Following a suggestion by Sir Charles Close, then Chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund, Guy was to initiate a new Archaeological Survey of Palestine (the ASP) as a joint project of the British School and the Fund. Guy saw this new project as the inheritor of the Fund’s original Survey of Western Palestine conducted over sixty years earlier (PEQ 69, 1937). Despite the ASP’s lofty ambitions, the survey was curtailed by the Arab Revolt, which disrupted much archaeological work in Palestine. He was still able to conduct some work in the southern coastal area and southern desert, including rescue excavations at Tell Qudadi, and building surveys at Latrun, Ramleh, and Jisr Jindas. Guy’s work on the ASP remains largely unpublished. His field notes, photographs and plans are held in the PEF’s archives and await future reassessment.
During World War II, Guy reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and was a military governor in Libya and Eritrea. Following the war, Guy briefly directed a stud farm near Acre. After Israel’s war of Independence in 1948, Guy stayed in Israel and became a senior figure within the fledgling Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums as Director of Excavations and Surveys. In his final years, Guy remained actively engaged in fieldwork at Jaffa, Ayyelet Hashahar, and Khirbet al-Kerak (Bet Yerah). He never retired, and died in 1952 following an illness. He is buried in the Alliance Church International Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Jack Green, 2008
Also see: Green, J.D.M. 2009. Archaeology and Politics in the Holy Land: the Life and Career of P.L.O. Guy. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 141, 3. Pp. 167-187
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