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Jerusalem Archaeological Park
Excavations in the City of David Under Ottoman Rule

The first scholars to reach Jerusalem did not realize that on the southeastern hill, near the spring, lay the earliest remains, dating back to the Chalcolithic period (the late 4th millennium BCE). These archaeologists were attracted by the spring and by the long and sinuous tunnel cutting through that hill, an astonishing accomplishment identified with Hezekiah king of Judah (8th century BCE). Robinson (1838), Tobler (1845/6), Pierotti (1864), De Saulcy (1863/4) and Wilson (1865) had just described what met their eyes.

Charles Warren (1867)
Hermann Guthe (1881)
Conrad Schick (1886, 1890)
F.J. Bliss and A. Dickie (1894-1897)
M. Parker and L.-H.Vincent (1909-1911)
R. Weill (first campaign, 1913-1914)

Charles Warren and the First Dig on the Site (1867)
The newly founded British scholarly society, the so-called Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), had sent a young British officer, Charles Warren, to Jerusalem with a list of tasks, especially related to the Temple Mount. Warren, however, diverted his interests to varied localities in the city. Obviously, the meandering water tunnel intrigued him: entering it through the spring, he noticed an opening rising vertically in the rock of the hill above him. A scaffold enabled him to climb the vertical shaft, where he then discovered another horizontal rock-cut tunnel. It was here that he conducted excavations - the very first excavations on that extramural hill of Jerusalem.

Hermann Guthe (1881)
The Deutsche Palaestina Verein was founded in 1877. Similarly to the British model of the PEF, the DPV sent Guthe to Jerusalem to excavate. Guthe was guided by historical sources of the Byzantine period, as well as by the biblical narrative of the Book of Nehemiah and chose to uncover the eastern city wall of those periods. The discovery of the Siloam Inscription belonging to Hezekiah's Tunnel supported his choice of location. Guthe excavated pits and short tunnels on the upper edge of the eastern slope of the southeastern hill and exposed various segments of walls. Rather naively he summarized that his work had revealed all the available information concerning the eastern city wall. In truth, the first fortification segments were discovered here only a generation later. Warren and Guthe's discoveries triggered the discussion on whether it was this very hill, on the southern outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem, which was taken by King David and turned into his capital.

Conrad Schick (1886, 1890)
By 1880 the German Conrad Schick was a veteran in Jerusalem. In addition to his missionary work, he had been recording ancient remains discovered during construction work in the city.

In 1880 two boys brought to Schick's attention the discovery of an ancient inscription in Hezekiah's Tunnel. As his knowledge of ancient Hebrew epigraphy was limited, other scholars deciphered the inscription, which turned out to be the most important palaeo-Hebrew inscription found in Jerusalem. Since its discovery it has been the subject of nearly 120 scholarly studies.

Following some discoveries of Guthe and of himself at the Pool of Siloam - at the south of the southeastern hill - Schick surmised the existence of another water carrier, termed "the second" (relative to Hezekiah's Tunnel, being the "first"), leading water from the spring along the Kidron Valley. In 1886 and 1890, commissioned by the PEF, he cut several shafts along the Kidron Valley bed, thanks to which he indeed discovered it himself.

F.J. Bliss and A. Dickie (1894-1897)
F.J.Bliss was M.W. Flinders-Petrie's assistant in the methodological groundbreaking excavation at Tell el-Hesi in the south of the country, but failed to apply new excavation methods in Jerusalem and continued to dig in the old style of tunneling.

The main objective of the expedition was to expose the southern walls of Jerusalem through the ages. This involved mainly work on the southwestern hill of the city (Mt. Zion). However, they followed other clues and excavated in other parts of the city as well, including the 'City of David'. Important discoveries here were the Byzantine church adjacent to the Pool of Siloam and the dam and wall at the southern edge of the valley. The French scholar and diplomat Charles Clermont-Ganneau raised a clue they tried to follow to identify the location of the tombs of the Kings of Judah, which according to the bible (1 Kings 2: 10) are located in the 'City of David'.

Clermont-Ganneau had suggested that the large loop in the southern part of the course of Hezekiah's Tunnel was actually a detour to avoid hitting, inadvertently, the sepulchers of the kings of Judah, which he suspected to be cut in the rock in close vicinity. Bliss and Dickie excavated an area south of the 'loop'. They found rock-cut chambers, probably dating to the 1st century BCE, but no royal tombs.

M. Parker and L.-H.Vincent (1909-1911)
A most bizarre "archaeological" episode was carried out in Jerusalem beteen 1909 and 1911 by the British ex-army officer and adventurer Montague Parker. The operation was a treasure hunt in search of relics of the destroyed Temple.

The mystery around the operation, and the critical attitude of the Muslim and Jewish communities, led Parker to recruit Pere L.-H. Vincent, a renown French scholar and clergyman from the French Ecole biblique et archeologique in Jerusalem. Vincent had not participated in the planning of the dig, which was being carried out in long and winding underground tunnels, but luckily, he was given a free hand to follow the diggers and record the ancient remains as they were being discovered.

Failure to recover the expected treasures led to a further attempt, this time at the Temple Mount. Lacking permits, Parker was discovered working clandestinely. Following uproar in the city Parker barely made it to his Yacht, which anchored at Jaffa port.

Vincent's report appeared in print in London a year later, in 1912, unsigned. Parker is not mentioned explicitly, the author only in initials: H.V.! Notwithstanding, it is a remarkable volume. The plans and sections of the subterranean waterworks as prepared by Vincent show a high level of skill and precision, not surpassed by modern work, and in use to this day.

One of the peculiar outcomes of this "dig" was that the ancient graves discovered on the upper part of the slope and correctly dated by Vincent to the Early Bronze period, are still the most ancient remains known, not only on the southeastern hill but in all of Jerusalem. This discovery has actually provided the decisive proof that the southeastern hill is the site of the earliest human occupation of Jerusalem and confirms its identification as the biblical City of David.

R. Weill (first campaign, 1913-1914)
The excitement created by the scandalous Parker affair had initiated an archaeological response. This came from Jewish circles. Shortly later, Baron Edmond Rothschild of France purchased a considerable parcel of land at the center and the eastern side of the southeastern hill of Jerusalem (It is possible that behind this initiative stands information provided by the French Charles Clermont-Ganneau.) and persuaded the French Egyptologist and archaeologist R.Weill to excavate the suggested location of the Tombs of the Kings. It is noteworthy that Weill was the first Jewish archaeologist to excavate in the land of Israel. He carried out two excavation seasons (1913-1914 and 1923-24) but in both cases was reluctant to working here, as his interest and expertise were in Egypt.

Though Weill's findings were relatively meager, two discoveries are noteworthy. Surprisingly, at the spot that the tunnel takes a detour, he noticed two large spaces cut horizontally into the rock, and quite different from any of the many typical cisterns known in Jerusalem. Weill was indeed convinced that these were the royal tombs, albeit void of any treasure or inscription. This view is not accepted today, as these rock-cut cavities do not resemble any of the known tombs of the Iron Age or of any other period.

Weill's other discovery is of utmost importance: By mere coincidence, though of symbolic value, the first Jewish archaeologist to excavate in the country made a find that greatly enhanced our knowledge of the Jewish community of the late Second Temple period: He recovered a Greek inscription mentioning the existence of a synagogue in Jerusalem at the time that the Temple was still in full operation.

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