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In Search of King Solomon’s Treasures

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Shahar Shilo

Our story takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century in the land of Israel. In the year 1909, a young British captain arrived in Israel shortly after being released...

Our story takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century in the land of Israel. In the year 1909, a young British captain arrived in Israel shortly after being released from his army service. The son of a British noble family, Montague Brownlow Parker arrived on a grandiose quest to find King Solomon’s treasures in Jerusalem. This became one of the strangest digs in the history of archaeological research in Jerusalem, and may have been one of the sources of inspiration for the film “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

The company began its excavations in the City of David in August of 1909, equipped with valuable archaeological information that had been collected by a number of serious research expeditions that preceded them beginning in 1867. The catalyst for the quest was research conducted by a Finnish scholar, Henrik Valter Juvelius, who decoded codes of ancient Jewish texts that describe where the Ark of the Covenant and King Solomon’s Temple treasures were hidden.  Based on previous research, Juvelius determined that beneath the City of David was a network of underground tunnels connected to the Temple Mount, and inside of them, King Solomon’s Temple treasures were hidden.

The excavations were carefully coordinated with the Ottoman authorities, who miraculously gave the affluent delegation permission to excavate these sensitive sites. As the bribe money steadily flowed into the pockets of the Turkish officials in Jerusalem, they looked the other way.
Parker’s team hired hundreds of local workers and began to work energetically in shifts. In the course of their excavations, they cleaned Warren’s Shaft and Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which had been filled with large amounts of sediment. The rumors began to spread throughout the city, and despite the cover story that was spread, the locals believed that the delegation had arrived to search for the legendary treasures. Archaeology enthusiasts in Jerusalem also joined the protesters against the delegation’s activities, because there were no professionals or archaeologists on the team. Thus, Parker was forced to enlist the French scholar, Father Vincent.

The second season of excavations yielded long-stretching underground tunnels, and many ancient items and ceramics, but no significant treasures were found. The Turkish authorities began to show signs of annoyance and concern, and Parker’s support base began to wane. Parker’s license to excavate was also set to expire, a fact that motivated them to speed up operations. In April of 1911, Parker decided to dig under the Temple Mount itself, while at the very same time, the Jewish Passover festival, the Greek Orthodox Easter holiday and the Muslim Nabi Musa celebrations were all taking place in the city.  This tense period was not the best timing for such a sensitive excavation, and resulted in the outbreak of religious riots throughout Jerusalem. Due to this unfortunate turn of events, Parker and his delegation were forced to flee for their life. In his journal, Parker notes that because of their quick escape, he had unwillingly left behind his beloved pipe, excavation buckets and other items.
When excavations were renewed in the City of David by Dr. Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron in 1997, evidence of Parker’s excavations were found.  Still today, one can see Parker’s pipe and the excavation buckets, on a tour of the City of David National Park. 
 

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