Wendell Phillips graduated from the University of California with a degree in paleontology in 1943. At the age of twenty-seven, he participated in his first expedition to Africa and Egypt. Two years later he led his own expedition to southern Arabia. He also founded the American Foundation for the Study of Man (AFSM) in 1949 with the mission to “conduct scientific research, study and investigate man and his habitats with emphasis on archaeological investigation, excavation, preservation, analysis and dissemination of scientific results.”
In 1950 and 1951, Phillips and his team excavated the site of Timna in the Wadi Beihan, where they unearthed one of the largest temples in the region, several important residences, and the Timna cemetery. The discovery of a wealth of inscriptions at Timna established a solid basis for South Arabian paleography, and the pottery finds from different occupational levels at Hajar bin Humeid allowed the creation of a chronology for the region.
In the spring of 1951 Phillips and his team moved to Marib in Yemen to fulfill his dream of excavating the Awam Temple, associated with the Queen of Sheba. Local tribal hostilities, however, prevented the team from completing the season. Under the guidance of Phillips’s sister, Merilyn Phillips Hodgson, the American Foundation for the Study of Man resumed work at Marib from 1998 until 2006.