Obituary: Professor Alan Millard

Words by Former student, Dr. Paul Lawrence and Dr. Bruce Routledge from the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology.

Professor Alan Ralph Millard died in Leamington Spa on 6th June, 2024 aged 86. He was predeceased by Margaret (née Sibley) his wife of nearly 55 years and survived by their children Clare, Stephen and Jonathan.  Alan joined the University of Liverpool in 1970 serving as Rankin Lecturer in Hebrew and Semitic Languages (1970-1976), progressing to Senior Lecturer (1976-1985), Reader (1985-1992), and Professor (1992-2003).  Appointed in the Department of Oriental Studies, Alan retired from the School of Archaeology, Classics and Oriental Studies (now Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology) in 2003.

Alan was born in Harrow, Middlesex (1 December, 1937).  Already as a school boy he showed his interest in the past, excavating The Manor of the More in Rickmansworth and publishing the results as a member of the Merchant Taylors’ School Archaeological Society.  Alan studied Semitic Languages at Magdalen College, Oxford under Sir Godfrey Driver, graduating in 1959.  From 1961-1963 he was Assistant Keeper in the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities at the British Museum.  During this time, Alan did important work publishing Aramaic inscriptions from the British School of Archaeology in Iraq’s excavations at Nimrud,  cataloguing tablets from old excavations at Kuyunjik (Nineveh, Iraq) and, most famously, rediscovering tablets that formed part of the Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis (a creation and flood story), which had remained in a drawer unrecognised for several decades.  From 1964 to 1970 Alan was the librarian at Tyndale House in Cambridge, an institution with which he remained deeply involved throughout his career.  Alan completed an M.Phil. at SOAS under D.J. Wiseman in 1967 before taking up his post in Liverpool.  He was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1971 and as a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, Hebrew University in 1984.  From 2001-2005 he served as Vice-Chair of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (now British Institute for the Study of Iraq).  For many years he was on the editorial board of  Palestine Exploration Quarterly and an active member of the Society for Old Testament Study.

Alan had interests and an international reputation in the primary publication of Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions and in the Akkadian of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  His monographs  The Eponyms of the Assyrian Empire 910-612 B.C and La statue de Tell Fekherye et son inscription bilingue assyro-araméenne, with Ali Abou-Assaf and Pierre Bordreuil, are fundamental presentations of primary data that continue to be widely cited.  Alan also had an intense interest in the history of writing and questions of literacy in the biblical period.  These interests, and his personal commitment to the evangelical expression of Christianity, were represented in his popular and public-oriented work.  His books Discoveries from Bible Times (1997) and Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus (2000) both reached wide audiences.  He also served as one of the translators of the New International Version of the Bible.

Despite his many academic achievements, Alan’s real impact came as a teacher, mentor and colleague, both in his academic duties and as a member of faith communities on and off campus.  Former students and colleagues have provided the following tributes to Alan:

Dr Paul Lawrence (Translation Consultant, SIL International): “I had the privilege of studying for a BA and PhD under Alan’s guidance. He was a somewhat reserved man, but one who cared deeply for the well-being of his students urging them to take a weekly day off. Alan and his wife Margaret loved to entertain their students in their home in West Kirby.

Alan demanded that his students be cautious when making claims in their written work. Loose turns of phrase and inaccuracies were corrected in his tiny angular handwriting. Yet he was generous in giving away books and articles and regularly sought to give his students opportunities to teach in the university. After I had finished my studies Alan kept in touch and frequently challenged me to keep writing. Alan became a personal friend even proffering advice on how to manage the arrival of a second child.

Alan’s many students now scattered around the world remember him with great fondness. Those who share Alan’s faith will rejoice that Alan’s name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20) and believe that Alan will now have discovered that there is still writing in heaven!”

Prof. Piotr Bienkowski (Emeritus Professor of Archaeology and Museology, University of Manchester): “Alan was my teacher and supervisor, and later we became colleagues and friends, excavating in Syria and co-editing a book together. He was an immensely kind, learned and supportive man. I co-edited one of his two festschrifts (2005), and the final sentence of the preface bears repeating to honour his passing: As a scholar, teacher, colleague and friend he has always been careful, considered, objective, wide-ranging, generous – and an inspiration.”

Prof. Doug Baird (ACE): “‘Alan was incredibly supportive and kind to new colleagues. I remember him regularly seeking me out in my office in an attic in Abercromby Square, despite the challenges it presented to someone of his height, to enquire after my wellbeing and that of my daughter after our move to Liverpool. He cared passionately about the Archaeology Library. Whilst he was assiduous in attending to all his duties it is fair to say he had little regard for University administrative processes, but he always made sure he was the School (SACOS then) library rep and helped build up the archaeology collection into the unique resource it is today, yet another testament to his legacy and one I am sure he would be pleased with.”

Prof. Stephen Taylor (Electrical Engineering and Electronics): “Alan Millard was the leader the University Staff Christian Fellowship (SCF) when I began attending in 1997. He hosted the SCF in his office in SACOS, providing tea and coffee for those who gathered each Tuesday lunchtime to discuss a passage from the Bible. Alan was careful in preparing the programme for each term, organising different staff members to lead. He was gracious and knowledgeable and we benefitted greatly from his scholarship. He maintained a keen interest in Biblical archaeology well after his retirement returning to Liverpool periodically for conferences. He had a strong personal faith in Jesus Christ and he will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.”