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When St. Pius X in 1909 established at Rome the Pontifical Biblical Institute, its statutes laid down that there should be a branch in Palestine, not only for on-the-spot completion of seminary professor formation, but for co-operative and independent research. Immediately designed as founder of the Jerusalem house was the French Egyptologist Alexis Mallon. Under the shadow of war, he spent fifteen years gathering a library and excavating at Elephantine, until in 1926 he could install his little community in a stately building ten minutes walk west of Calvary. Though the tragic partition of 1948 cut this house off from the near-totality of biblical sanctuaries of Arab Christian enterprises, still the few Jesuit of Jerusalem have had the consolation of representing alone their 35,000 confreres in the area on which Ignatius original decision had been to concentrate his entire resources. Mallon in 1929 made a tour of prospection around the Dead Sea in company with Albright and other Jerusalem academic leaders. He decided to begin excavating that very year at a sherd-strewn mound named Ghassul. It was east of Jericho and the Dead Sea, in the plain where Joshua encamped below Nebo. Mallons hopes of finding Gomorrah here were disappointed. The chronology of his pottery and of Abraham went gradually off in opposite directions. But by his death in 1934 he had had the satisfaction of unearthing the most remarkable of all pre Bronze-Age cultures. It has since been verified at a hundred other Palestine sites, though nowhere with the incredibly skilled and imaginative wall-frescoing, of which further samples were unearthed for the Biblical Institute at Ghassul in 1960.
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