by Aileen Baron
on Tour Feb 1 - 28, 2014
Book Details:Genre: Mystery Published by: Aileen Baron Publication Date: September, 2013
Number of Pages: 217 ISBN: Mobi: 978-0-578-12887-0 epub: 978-0-578-12888-7
GUEST POST: DIGGING FOR GOD AND COUNTRY
By the nineteenth century, Europeans became increasingly aware of the political and economic importance of the Middle East, Explorers, theologians, historians, geographers, consular officials, and army personnel initiated archaeological expeditions, digging for God and country, seeking the well-springs of the Bible and Christianity.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, official envoys of the European governments were committed to tracing the steps of Jesus and finding the exact spot where the Temple stood, just as St. Helena and the Crusaders had done before them. Fourteen Stations of the Cross, marking the agonizing route of the crucifixion and death of Jesus were located, the last five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Edward Robinson, an American theologian, geographer and professor of Biblical literature identified the spring of an arch along the western wall of the Temple Mount that was part of one of the bridges that led to the Herodian temple. Captain Charles Wilson of the British Royal Engineers Ordinance Survey was sent to Jerusalem to improve the sanitary conditions and water supply of the city. Wilson and his team produced detailed maps of Jerusalem, and tunneling under the Temple Mount, found a subterranean pool covered by a huge arch, still called Wilson’s Arch. Another officer of the Royal Engineers, Charles Warren, excavated a maze of shafts and tunnels under the Temple Mount, seeking vestiges of Solomon’s temple and finding another arch, known today as Warren’s arch.
The new pilgrims explored the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, researching its long and varied history. First built by Constantine over the tomb of Jesus identified by St. Helena, it was reconstructed on a grander scale by Justinian, destroyed by the mad caliph, El-Haqim, rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus in 1042, rededicated by the Crusaders after their conquest of the city in 1099, destroyed by fire in 108, and rebuilt once again.
In the twentieth century the government of Jerusalem changed three times in the midst of war and political upheaval. During World War I it was ceded to the dancing British army by the moribund Ottoman Empire. On December 11, 1917, General Allenby entered the city on foot as a pilgrim at the head of his troops, who marched behind him like Crusaders returning to the Holy Land.
The period between the two World Wars was the apogee of the British Empire. Under the British Mandate, Jerusalem was the capital of the district of Palestine, and continuing the process that began in the nineteenth century, the population spilled out beyond Suleiman’s walls of the Old City, settling in districts north and west of the city.
This is the period that I wrote about in A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES.
The Old City became an exotic, redolent bazaar with narrow streets, filled with churches and antiquities dealers, peddlers and porters, nuns and shopkeepers, pilgrims and soldiers, pubs and pastry shops, beggars and priests, while the New City filled with government offices, villas, apartments, shops and first class hotels, all built according to the new architectural code with ashlar blocks and tile roofs. Refugees—Armenians fleeing Turkish oppression, Jews escaping from Russia and Nazi Germany, Ethiopians seeking refuge from Italian invaders—all converged on Jerusalem.
The British School, now known as the Kenyon Institute, was founded in 1919, shortly after the beginning of the British Mandate. Unlike other foreign archaeological missions, the British encouraged women archaeologists, supporting Dorothy Garrod’s excavations in the caves of Mount Carmel, and Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in Jerusalem and Samaria, and, after WW II, her excavations at Jericho, where she introduced refinements of stratigraphical interpretation that transformed the archaeology of the region.
The Ecole Biblique on Nablus road was founded in 1896 by Marie-Joseph La Grange, a Dominican priest. The extensive the grounds of the Ecole contain the remains of the Byzantine church of Saint Stephen, and an extensive Iron Age cemetery. Some of the tombs have been reused for burials in modern times—those of Pere Vincent, and Pere De Vaux, former directors of the Ecole, and that of a mysterious Madame X, who was drowned in a flash flood in the Siq at Petra, and was never identified. But the most remarkable thing about the Ecole is the library, the greatest complete collection of books related to Biblical archeology to be found anywhere, with an annotated catalogue and Dominican friars who float through the library and float in their white robes.
The American School of Archaeological Research, now known as the Albright Institute, down the street from King’s Tomb and the American Colony Hotel, is where I stayed in Jerusalem when I was getting ready for excavations; or on weekends during a dig, when I did some serious bathing and sleeping; or for a month or so after excavations closed to do research and write up the report.
Founded in 1900, the present quarters were built in 1925 under the aegis of William Foxwell Albright, who trained a generation of archaeologists. Past directors of the Institute include Albright, Nelson Glueck, who worked for the OSS during WW II, and William Dever, a grey eminence of Biblical Archeology. The Albright has sponsored numerous excavations including Megiddo, Albright’s site of Tel Beit Mirsim, and Gezer, where another generation of American archaeologists were trained. The hostel has hosts archaeologists who eat together, share news of research and benefit from the advice of their colleagues.
Every day at four o’clock, archaeologists from all over the city converge on the Albright for tea in the garden, and exchange ideas and gossip. If you are ever in Jerusalem, stop by for tea. Everyone is welcome.
Aileen G. Baron