“Give My Best Love to dear Mother…”
By sheer coincidence, here comes another blog entry pertaining to PEQ. Last time the focus was on the Q; this time the focus is on the “Palestine Exploration” by a member of the original expedition! Instead of waiting till its 145th anniversary in a couple of weeks, I decided to post this today, Mother’s Day, in light of the quotation above.
For $1,750 you can own a letter written by Corporal J.A. Hanson on May 31st, 1
9868 to his “Dear and Affectionate Parents” (as described below by Eric Peter Waschke in his May 2013 catalog for The Wayfarer’s Bookshop in Canada):
“Jerusalem, Palestine, 31 May 1868. Quarto (ca. 26,5×21 cm). 4 pp. Brown ink on paper. 105 lines of text, clear and complete. Paper aged and sometimes mildly worn on folds, otherwise a very good letter.”
“Important eye witness account of the first major excavation of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount undertaken in 1867-1870 by Captain Charles Warren (1840-1927) on assignment of the Palestine Exploration Fund. This is a private letter by a member of the excavation party Lance Corporal J. Hanson who was mentioned in Warren’s account of the mission “The recovery of Jerusalem: a narrative of exploration and discovery in the city and the Holy Land” (New York, 1871). The letter is semi-literate, and all quotations are given according to the original.”
“First of all, Hanson witnesses the troubles caused to the Warren’s party by the Muslim Governor of Jerusalem who often stopped the excavations. The permission letter from Constantinople authorized Warren ‘to excavate anywhere, except in the Haram Area, and sites sacred to Christians and Moslems’ (See: “Our work in Palestine: an account of the different expeditions sent out to the Holy land by the committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund”; London, 1873, p. 97), which in fact didn’t allow any works on the Temple Mount (Haram Ash-Sharif). Hanson reports that Warren had embarked for England ‘also to make a complant against the Governor, the Pasha of this City who is interfering with our Excavations without us Giveing Him Any couse whatsowever. He couse us a very great del of trouble in trying to stop our works […] I trust he [Warren] will gain us permit, that is the Palestine Exploration Fun is atplieing to Constantinoble for permission from the Sulton to proceed further in our Excavation within the Walls of this Holy City.’ Hanson gives very interesting notes about the progress of the excavation: ‘I am now excavatin to the west of mount Sion and also out Side of the east Walles of the City. I have found a great number of peaces of Pottery also carved Stones Marble Glass of all colors also a number of ancient Monny &c. Those ar found at the depth of 60 feet and apward and at this depth from the Surface it is very dangerious Work.’ Hanson reports that he is excavating ‘the ancion wall of the city of Jerusalem […] with 40 [or 70?] Laborers’, many of whom he has lost to ‘the fe
rver’. He also notes that he has ‘dellings with a great Number of Criston Jews’ and has them employed ‘as overseers on the works’.”
“Hanson vividly describes the new harvest in Jerusalem: ‘Ere this Avineyard is looking most Magnificence also the apricots Trees this Fruit is very plentifull in Palestine you can by apricots 14lb. For one penny very fine the Figs also is very fine. Vegtable-Marrow and cucumbers come into this City in cartlodes from Jaffa, and the surrounding Villigis.’ He mentions a ‘Great fested with the Jewes of all nacsions in this City on the 27th. Of this Month’, complains about the heat, and bright sun in Jerusalem, so strong that there are ‘a very great number of people of all nactions totally Blind in this city’; as well as about ‘confounded Miscakco’ [moscitos?] who ‘bit very hard’. Overall a very interesting historical document adding nice details to the history of the first major excavation in Jerusalem.”
If this had been priced at $750, I probably would’ve bought it since there’s an extremely slim chance that Corp. Hanson might have been the person who found the first LMLK handle, which probably occurred later in the year at a lower depth. Then again, he might have unwittingly found an otherwise-undocumented one among his “great number of peaces of Pottery“.
Note that the 2nd PEQ (April 1 to June 30, 1869; p. 49, 4th May 1869 committee report) mentions that Hanson had been sent home by Lieutenant Warren, & another corporal (Duncan) had died in August, 1868. Maybe Hanson also became sick from the hard mosquito bites. Then again, maybe Warren saw some of Hanson’s horrendous English misspellings & dismissed him for embarrassing the British.