The Secrets Between the Old Pages

By Dr. David Gurevich

“You are like Indiana Jones!”, a random visitor to the PEF archives commented on hearing the purpose of my work. I was standing behind a tripod that fixed my camera above a thick open file (Fig. 1). The well-aged pieces of paper contained the text of a manuscript written over 130 years ago. It was composed in Jerusalem and submitted as a report to the PEF office in London. “It’s so interesting. Perhaps you’ll find something!”, she continued.

The author examining plans at the PEF archives.

Figure 1. The author examining plans at the PEF archives.

Normally I would object at being compared to that iconic Hollywood character. The “treasure hunters” reputation of archaeologists was denounced in my eyes long ago. It happened during my first year of undergraduate studies. In the first introductory lecture it was explained that archaeologists do not hunt for treasures, causing a serious disappointment amongst the somewhat-naive audience. Having said that, today, after becoming a Fulbright post-doc research fellow at Harvard University, I do find myself in some way looking for a “treasure”, but of a different type – information and means that would help us to understand better ancient Jerusalem. This time I came after them to London.

About a year ago I visited the PEF for the first time. The modest entrance to its 2 Hinde Mews establishment hardly prepares the visitor for what he is about to discover behind the doors. Being a scholar in the field of Jerusalem studies, I had encountered the PEF’s pioneering work from the very beginning of my scientific career in archaeology. Actually, a significant amount of data that I analyzed in my doctoral dissertation came from the reports of Charles Wilson, Charles Warren and Conrad Schick who all explored Jerusalem on behalf of the PEF in the 19th century. As surprising it might be, several sites in Jerusalem have not been visited by any scholar since then. Such is the case, for instance, of Birket Israil, a huge ancient pool that abuts the northern wall of the Temple Mount. Warren conducted probe excavations inside the pool between 1867 and 1870, but in the 1930s the pool was filled with soil and a modern parking lot was created on top. Nowadays, this site of antiquity is buried deep below the surface, and keeping in mind all the political sensitivities there is no a chance to conduct new excavations. Warren’s data, therefore, was the primary source for my research.

Back to my first visit in the PEF archive. For the first time in my life I was examining the original letters sent from Jerusalem to London in the 19th century (Fig. 2): plans with signatures of Warren, notes written in old-style handwriting of Schick, yellowish pieces of paper with editorial remarks in red ink… I indentified a portion as unpublished material. How many secrets might these records still reveal? But it was also evident that I would need much more than a day to work on these precious materials. Thanks to the PEF grant program I was provided with an opportunity to come again recently, this time for over a week. My goal was to systematically review all the materials concerning the water systems of ancient Jerusalem. “Digging” for “mysteries” in the archives. In some way, similar to Indiana Jones.

Figure 2. Old letters are carefully arranged in archival files, titled by subjects. For instance, "PEF/JER/WIL" stands for materials related to the work of Sir C. Wilson on Jerusalem.

Figure 2. Old letters are carefully arranged in archival files, titled by subjects. For instance, “PEF/JER/WIL” stands for materials related to the work of Sir C. Wilson on Jerusalem.

The first thing you notice spending time in the PEF offices is a unique working environment. Whenever I took a short break, I wandered around the premises just to inspire the atmosphere. Each item bears a story. Here sits an old brown suitcase storing notes sent by the expedition of the historical Survey of Eastern Palestine. The suitcase seems also to be from the same period. In the main hall one notices an exhibition of artefacts obtained by the PEF through the years. Here are exhibited a few Crusader “grenades” (aka sphero-conical vessels) that were retrieved by Warren’s excavations. Nearby, one finds a few of the famous Shapira’s Moabite figurines (Fig. 3. Wilhelm M. Shapira was a controversial character in 19th century Jerusalem. He was an antiquities dealer, who is most known for his proposition to provide to the British Museum an “authentic scroll of Deuteronomy written by Moses”. The fragments of scrolls were, by the way, offered on “sale” – just one million pounds. And the Museum almost bought it.

Figure 3. Shapira's Moabite items exhibited in the PEF office.

Figure 3. Shapira’s Moabite items exhibited in the PEF office.

“Whenever you finish working with a plan, just put it please on the Temple!”, Ms. Felicity Cobbing, the Curator of the PEF, instructed me. “The Temple” refers to the model of Herod’s Temple constructed by Johann Martin Tenz which is kept inside a big glass case. Tenz was one of the gifted students in the handcraft workshop organized by the Jerusalem’s Anglican Missionary in the 19th century. And as my week in the PEF office went on, the pile accumulated on “the Temple” raised up higher and higher. Even when using the PEF’s loo, one encounters the archaeology: while sitting in-a-process, you notice a photograph on the wall. This depicts the Iron Age toilet from Jerusalem that is provided with a kind explanation of its function. Know your ancestors!

Perhaps the most exciting moment for me was when I came across a single short letter from 1901 (Fig. 4). It was written by Conrad Schick in Jerusalem, where he had resided permanently since 1846. In the last years I have studied his works systematically. The PEF has in possession probably hundreds of his letters, but this particular letter was different. “I am now about to prepare Plan and Section of the Jeremia’s Grotto for Sir Wilson, as my health in thanks to God, still good”, wrote Schick with his impressive cursive handwriting. Not so long after, he passed away at the age of 79. I was holding one of his very last letters. Definitely, a touching moment.

Eventually, my task in London was completed. I departed with a flash drive holding copies of many old documents taken for more careful examination. My goal is to discover what kind of answers these may bear. After “digging”, now comes the stage of processing the data. I’m looking for fragments of information that back in the 19th century were considered irrelevant and therefore were omitted from the published reports. Today these fragments may reveal shed new light on the archaeology of Jerusalem. Stay tuned!

C. Schick's letter to the PEF from July 22, 1901.

Figure 4. Conrad Schick’s letter to the PEF from July 22, 1901.

 

 

Charles Warren in Jerusalem … continued

By Kevin Shillington

Charles Warren was a keen Freemason, having already at the age of 23 been the Master of a Lodge in Gibraltar. Before my visit to Jerusalem I had learned that Warren had been involved in a Masonic ritual in a cavern, somewhere deep underneath the Old City. There were two possible candidates for the site: one called ‘The Masonic Hall’, the other ‘King Solomon’s Quarry.’ A recent book on Warren’s Freemasonry appears to claim that these two sites were one and the same – hence my need to clarify the issue.[i] The site known as the ‘Masonic Hall’ is a chamber that Warren tunnelled his way into in February 1869. It was half-filled with rubble and soil, but rising out of the centre of the earth floor was a smooth pillar with a broken top. The scene reminded Warren of a traditional Masonic myth and so he named the chamber the ‘Masonic Hall’ (Figs 1 & 2). The famous war artist William Simpson, also a senior Freemason, was visiting Jerusalem a month later and he sketched the scene. As can be seen from Simpson’s sketch, the column was originally the support for twin arches that lined the roof.

 

The ‘Masonic Hall’ as drawn by William Simpson, from a copy in the Masonic journal Ars Quatour Coronati, 1888. Warren ordered the clearing of the rubble, which, when he first entered the chamber, reached up to the mark on the column.

Figure 1. The ‘Masonic Hall’ as drawn by William Simpson, from a copy in the Masonic journal Ars Quatour Coronati, 1888. Warren ordered the clearing of the rubble, which, when he first entered the chamber, reached up to the mark on the column. By the time Simpson made his sketch, the hall had been partially cleared of rubble.

Figure 2. The ‘Masonic Hall’ today, part of the ‘Western Walls’ archaeological complex. Warren broke in through the hole in the roof – the dark patch against the back wall, right of centre. The earth at that time was two-thirds of the way up the column. [Photo KS]

Figure 2. The ‘Masonic Hall’ today, part of the ‘Western Walls’ archaeological complex. Warren broke in through the hole in the roof – the dark patch against the back wall, right of centre. The earth at that time was two-thirds of the way up the column. [Photo KS]

The other site was Zedekiah’s Cave, also known as King Solomon’s Quarry. The cave, long-known from ancient and medieval times, had been blocked up, but the entrance was rediscovered by Dr James Barclay in 1854, or rather by Dr Barclay’s dog, that disappeared down through a hole into the cave while being taken for a walk. The entrance is just outside the city wall near Damascus Gate and the cave extends through numerous chambers for several hundred metres. It is clearly the product of human quarrying and when Warren saw the evidence that stone masons had cut huge blocks out of the walls of the cavern, he convinced himself that this must be the work of King Solomon’s stone masons. In Freemasonry tradition, the latter were the original Freemasons, from whom the modern ones take their inspiration. What better place to hold an unofficial Masonic meeting?

Dr Robert Morris, an American Freemason, visited Jerusalem in May 1868 and Warren proposed that they hold a meeting in the far depths of King Solomon’s Quarry, as near as possible to the site of the Temple Mount above (see Figs 3,4 & 5).

Figure 3. The Freemason Leon Zeldis of Hertzlya kindly allowed me to see his copy of this very rare book by the American Freemason, Robert Morris and to make photocopies of the relevant pages that recorded the Masonic meeting in Zedekiah’s Cave.

Figure 3. The Freemason Leon Zeldis of Herzlya kindly allowed me to see his copy of this very rare book by the American Freemason, Robert Morris and to make photocopies of the relevant pages that recorded the Masonic meeting in Zedekiah’s Cave.

Figure 4. An illustration of the cavern in Zedekiah’s Cave, as reproduced in Morris’s book. The etching was based upon Morris’s account of the Masonic meeting held there in May 1868, which describes a pillar in the centre of the cavern and a flat rock which they were able to use as an altar for their ritual.

Figure 5.

Figure 5. The author in one of the caverns of the Cave, with the mason’s marks clearly visible in the roof and the far wall. In fact the quarrying was far more likely to be of the Herodian and Medieval periods and seems to have been blocked up in the 16th Century. Photo KS.

There is no contemporary claim that Warren or anybody else held a Masonic meeting in the ‘Masonic Hall’. In modern times, Freemasons rarely, but occasionally, follow Warren’s example and hold meetings in Zedekiah’s Cave.

[i] C.N. Macdonald, WARREN! The Bond of Brotherhood (Colin Neil Macdonald, Singapore, 2007), p56.

Charles Warren: Pioneer of Jerusalem Archaeology, 1867-70

By Kevin Shillington

The larger project, of which this forms a part, is a full biography of Sir Charles Warren (1840-1927), Royal Engineer extraordinaire. Warren first came to prominence in the mid-Victorian Age as ‘Jerusalem Warren’, the man generally credited with pioneering archaeological excavation in, around, and under, the Old City of Jerusalem, and in particular, the Haram al-Sharif (which Warren translated as ‘The Noble Sanctuary’), known to Jews as the ‘Temple Mount’. As someone with no previous knowledge of Jerusalem or its archaeology, I felt it essential that I ‘walk in the footsteps of Warren’ as well as talk to current archaeologists about the significance of Warren and his work, and the PEF was kind enough to award me a grant to cover my flight and hotel: 20 October – 1 November 2014.

First I needed to understand the topography of Jerusalem – extremely complicated and very difficult to visualise from purely archival and literary study.

Fig.1: This view of the south-east corner of the Haram was taken from the top of the Mount of Olives. The wall in shadow to the right of the picture is the eastern face, that in sunlight, the southern face. The wall leading away to the top left of the picture, alongside the main road, is the southern wall of the Old City. At the bottom of the picture is the sharp fall-away of the Kidron Valley. I found I could not make sense of this topography until I had walked round and through the entire Old City. [Photo: KS]

Fig.1: View of the south-east corner of the Haram taken from the top of the Mount of Olives. [Photo: KS]

The wall in shadow to the right of Fig 1 is the eastern face of the Haram, the wall in sunlight is the southern face. The wall leading away to the top left of the picture, alongside the main road, is the southern wall of the Old City. At the bottom of the picture is the sharp fall-away of the Kidron Valley. I found I could not make sense of this topography until I had walked round and through the entire Old City.

Understanding Warren’s Jerusalem in the light of today’s Old City is aided by illustration (Figs 2-4):

Fig.2:  The buttress of Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall of the Haram, photographed by Felix Bonfils in the 1850s and thus, as it appeared when ‘discovered’ by the American theologian Edward Robinson in 1852. [Picture reproduced by kind permission of Fr Jean-Michel Tarragon, from his collection at the Ecole Bibliotheque, Jerusalem.]

Fig.2: The buttress of Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall of the Haram, photographed by Felix Bonfils in the 1850s and thus, as it appeared when ‘discovered’ by the American theologian Edward Robinson in 1852. [Picture reproduced by kind permission of Fr Jean-Michel Tarragon, from his collection at the Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem.]

Fig.3: Robinson’s Arch in Warren’s day, from the famous Simpson etching of 1867 [original in PEF Archive], with Warren seated with drawing board on his lap.

Fig.3: Robinson’s Arch in Warren’s day, from the famous Simpson etching of 1867 [original in PEF Archive], with Warren seated with drawing board on his lap.

Fig.4 : Robinson’s Arch 147 years later (2014) with, in the centre of the paved street, a metal fence guarding the underground access to Warren’s actual shaft, sunk in the picture above. Warren excavated down to bedrock (a practice which he maintained in all his shafts), which is the same depth again as that between today’s ground level and the base of Robinson’s Arch.[Photo: KS]

Fig.4 : Robinson’s Arch 147 years later (2014) with, in the centre of the paved street, a metal fence guarding the underground access to Warren’s actual shaft, sunk in the picture above. Warren excavated down to bedrock (a practice which he maintained in all his shafts), which is the same depth again as that between today’s ground level and the base of Robinson’s Arch.[Photo: KS]

I was fortunate to have Dr Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who for the past three years has been “continuing Warren’s research”, to guide me through the ‘warren’ of Warren’s ‘underground Jerusalem’ (Figs 5-7).

Fig 5, Slomit & piece of Rob. Arch DSC_0793

Fig 5: Dr Weksler-Bdolah showing me a reproduction of a large piece of rock that had fallen from Robinson’s actual Arch, probably during the Roman destruction of AD 70. [The original is in the Museum]. It was part of the underground ‘rubble’ that Warren blasted his way through with dynamite, causing damage to the rock itself, as can be seen from this picture. [Photo: KS]

Fig.6: One of the ‘galleries’ that Warren and his team excavated below Robinson’s Arch, from a copy of the original Simpson painting in the PEF Archive, showing Warren with lighted candle peering round a huge rock that blocked the roof of his tunnel.

Fig.6: One of the ‘galleries’ that Warren and his team excavated below Robinson’s Arch, from a copy of the original Simpson painting in the PEF Archive, showing Warren with lighted candle peering round a huge rock that blocked the roof of his tunnel.

Fig.7: The author, with electric torch in hand, in the same place today, which has been excavated much deeper for easier passage than in Warren’s day. The rail above was for transporting buckets of rubble cleared in modern times. [Photo: PS]

Fig.7: The author, with electric torch in hand, in the same place today, which has been excavated much deeper for easier passage than in Warren’s day. The rail above was for transporting buckets of rubble cleared in modern times. [Photo: PS]

To be continued …