What have these stones…?

By John Bartlett, formerly Editor of Palestine Exploration Quarterly and PEF Chairman

I took part, as my first experience of archaeology, in the second season (January-June, 1962) of Kathleen Kenyon‘s Jerusalem digs, which followed her famous Jericho excavations. Kenyon was particularly concerned to locate the early walls and so the early location of the city of Jerusalem, and made important Middle and Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age discoveries on the slopes of Ophel and elsewhere.

As one of the newest recruits, I was in charge of the lowest square at the bottom of the Ophel slope, with a pick-man, a hoe-man, and three basket boys. This involved climbing from top to bottom, and bottom to top, of the Ophel hillside at least twice a day, starting at 5.0 a.m.and working through until 2.0 p.m. Half way through the season I was transferred to the Armenian Garden, a pleasant and less exhausting location, where under the enthusiastic guidance of Pere de Vaux, and with the help of a small railway with a tipping truck, we excavated remains from medieval Jerusalem.

Among the team I remember Ian Blake, who with calm efficiency took over the photography when the official photographer fell into the trench and was hospitalised; David Ap-Thomas, who was Hon. Sec. of the Society for Old Testament Study; Agnes Spycket fromĀ  the Louvre, Dorothy Marshall who ran the technicalities of recording the pottery and finds, Awni Dajani from the Jordanian Dept of Antiquities, Peter Parr from the British School in Jerusalem, Douglas and Maggie Tushingham from the Royal Ontario Museum, Jo Callaway from the USA. Above all there were Pere de Vaux and some of his students from the Ecole Biblique, and Kathleen Kenyon herself, whose daily stamina as she walked up and down Ophel and drove the Pontiac car round the sites was astonishing, and whose ability to assess and guide our work on her daily visits to each square was inspiring.

After the daily siesta, in late afternoon as the walls of Jerusalem reflected a warm glow, I used to walk aboutĀ  the old city, observing both buildings and the people. I was at the time a student preparing for ordination in the Church of England, and my introduction to other major Christian denominations and to the world of Islam in Jerusalem was an eye-opener. I realised immediately that there was more to religious belief than one Christian denomination could offer, and that has had a strong effect (I believe salutary) on my own contribution as a university teacher and Anglican clergyman.

This effect emerged in the sonnet I wrote that April. I wrote it because one evening after dinner, Ian Blake and I were talking with Theodora Newbould, who ruled Watson House and its domestic administration with great wisdom and efficiency. Ian was an English graduate of Trinity College, Dublin (where I subsequently became Associate Professor of Biblical studies), and we were talking about poetry. Theodora said that all young men should be able to write sonnets even if they could not write poetry, and we both took up the challenge, and presented Theodora the next morning with our efforts.

Mine is given here (hidden and forgotten for 50 years, it remerged from dusty files last month). Ian’s was better, but, alas, I have no copy of it. But I do recall that one morning he sent down the hill of Ophel to me at the bottom, by the hand of a basket boy, a piece inspired by Wordsworth and Coleridge which spoke of a vision that came upon the inward eye of a host of basket boys….

Jerusalem 1962 was a wonderful education for which I have always been grateful, and I salute the memory of Kathleen Kenyon and Pere de Vaux and all the many other members of the dig who contributed.

Jerusalem sonnet

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