Samuel M. Paley, Ph. D, an internationally known archaeologist who frequently took University at Buffalo students on digs in the Middle East, died of brain cancer March 31 in his New York City home. He was 68.
Dr. Paley, who led the most recent excavation last summer, had been on leave from the university since his illness was diagnosed before the current semester.
A professor of classics and head of Judaic studies at UB, he conducted digs in Cyprus, Israel and Turkey for more than four decades. He specialized in interpreting Assyrian reliefs and helped create a digital program that brought to life the Northwest Palace of King Ashur-nasir-pal II.
Born in Manchester, N. H., and raised in Boston, Dr. Paley received his undergraduate degree from New York University and his doctorate from Columbia University. He had a lifelong interest in ancient and modern languages.
He joined the UB classics department 33 years ago and founded the Judaic Studies program in 1992.
Dr. Paley published three books about the Northwest Palace, begining in 1976 with “King of the World: Ashur-nasir-pal II of Assyria (883-859 B. C.)” The series documented the ruins with meticulous descriptive detail and architectural renderings.
Later, in collaboration with architects and virtual reality specialists, he produced the virtual version of the museum, which can be viewed by visiting http://www.learningsites.com/ NWPalace/NWPalhome. html.
Dr. Paley also assessed the palaces of Nimrud and Nineveh for conservation projects during the Iraq War and had recently been a consultant for UNESCO World Heritage sites.
A tireless excavator and fundraiser for his projects, he helped uncover a Hellenistic sanctuary and late Bronze Age remains on the Phlamoudhi plain in Cyprus, and he participated in several digs at Tel Nagilah, Tel Arad and Tel Dan in Israel.
He later became co-director of research on early, middle and late Bronze Age settlements in west-central Israel and was part of two projects that explored 6,000 years of civilization in central Turkey.
“Unwavering in the search for excellence and knowledge,” and an entertaining speaker, Dr. Paley mentored hundreds of students and was deeply respected by scholars around the world, his family said.
He was religious director of Temple Emanu-El in Batavia.
Surviving are his wife, Barbara “Bobbi” Koz Paley; three daughters, Raquel, Michal and Avital Lazar-Paley; a stepson, Jamie Koz; and two brothers, David and Norman.
Services were Friday in Manhattan’s Central Synagogue.
Addendum: Dr Paley is also survived by two sons-in-law and three grandchildren.