William Frederic Badè (1871–1936)
Professor of Old Testament literature and Semitic languages at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California from 1902 until his death and excavator of the site of Tell en-Nasbeh located northwest of Jerusalem (1926, 1927, 1929, 1932, and 1935)
Born in Carver, Minnesota, Badè spent his earliest years on a farm in the Midwest. In his youth he demonstrated academic interest and gifts, and studied diligently, mastering Latin and Greek. His academic abilities earned him an opportunity to attend the Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1892. He then enrolled in the Moravian Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1894.
Thereafter he learned Hebrew and soon went on to Yale to study the Near Eastern background of the Hebrew Bible. During two years there, he improved his knowledge of Hebrew and learned Arabic, Akkadian, Ethiopic and Aramaic. Eventually he came to read fourteen languages and speak, in addition to the English and German he had learned as a boy in his home, fluent French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Arabic. In 1898 he received his Ph.D. degree from the Moravian Theological Seminary and was subsequently appointed professor of Hebrew and Old Testament literature there until 1902 when he was invited to PSR.
With the end of World War I and the establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine, Badè realized that there would be increasing opportunities to excavate within the borders of ancient Israel. He saw archaeology as a valuable tool for correcting, revisiting, or confirming tradition and felt that seminaries should teach archaeology along with Hebrew, Greek, and literary criticism.
Although not trained as an archaeologist, Badè carried out his excavation at Tell en-Nasbeh based on the highest standards of his day. He cleared about two thirds of the site, intending to test its identification with biblical Mizpah of Benjamin, which is now generally accepted. The method he employed was the so-called Reisner-Fisher method, dividing the tell into 10-meter squares and excavating in strips. Following the excavation, the strips were filled in. Badè kept meticulous records, including plans, photographs, and descriptions of about twenty-three-thousand artifacts, all of them drawn to scale. Badè’s fieldwork ranks above the contemporary excavations at Beth-Shemesh and Beth-Shean.
Badè died after the final season at Tell en-Nasbeh so that the excavation’s final report was prepared by his colleague, Chester C. McCown, and chief recorder, Joseph C. Wampler. Badè’s publication of the site is generally limited to preliminary reports of the early campaigns and short articles on specific finds. Although many excavators before him had written brief summaries of their methodologies as prefaces or appendices to their reports, Badè’s A Manual of Excavation in the Near East was the first volume written as an independent account of the work of an excavation and the development of its methodology.
Badè’s work made significant contributions to the field of archaeology in his generation. His concern for systematic excavations and careful recording of data, as well as for training the next generation of archaeologists, provided a sound model for his colleagues. Although his methodology has been superseded as the field has advanced, his own dedication and work contributed to its advance in his own lifetime.
In addition to being a longtime teacher and scholar,and an archaeologist and excavator, William Frederic Badè was also a naturalist and outdoorsman, and a companion and biographer of John Muir. Berkeley aroused in him a love of nature, which led to a long-lasting friendship with John Muir, the well-known naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club. Consequently, Badè himself became deeply involved with the Sierra Club, holding the positions of editor for ten years and club president from 1918 to 1922. He strongly believed in upholding the Club’s principles of conservation and protecting the natural landscape. Papers and correspondence documenting Badè’s involvement with environmentalist committees can be found in the John Muir Archives at the University of the Pacific. Badè also had connections to what is now the the University and Jepson Herbaria at the University of California, Berkeley.