Charles Warren: Excavator of Jerusalem
Charles Warren’s world was one where British colonial power stretched across the hemispheres, and the globetrotting Warren himself seemed the paragon of the imperial British officer: part soldier, part adventurer, part archaeologist, part detective and part diplomat, a Victorian Indiana Jones with a touch of Sherlock Holmes and Lawrence of Arabia.
In a career spanning five decades, Warren excavated Biblical ruins in Palestine, battled Boers and Tswana in southern Africa, solved the high-profile murder of a British archaeological team in the Sinai Desert, served as the commissioner of the London police during the Jack the Ripper killings, fortified Singapore and helped found the Boy Scouts - as the sun never set on the British empire, so must it have never set on the restless Charles Warren.
Warren's association with Jerusalem, though, stems from the nearly the very beginning of his storied career. The Palestine Exploration Fund, a private British society dedicated to archaeological and ethnographic research in what was then Ottoman Palestine, launched an expedition to the region in 1867. The British government, not one to miss an opportunity for empire-building, attached the Royal Engineers to the PEF, reasoning that in addition to offering their technical expertise the Engineers could file intelligence reports on Ottoman infrastructure. Warren, then a Second Lieutenant in the Engineers, headed the expedition.
The PEF force conducted the first-ever dedicated, long-term excavation of Jerusalem, and it didn't take long for Warren to make the discovery that still bears his name today: an underground shaft, clearly at least partially man-made, leading from within the city to the Gihon Spring, which has served as Jerusalem's water source from Canaanite times to the present day.
Warren's team, well-versed in their Bible, immediately made the connection between the shaft and the story of David's seizure of Jerusalem from the Jebusites in the Book of Samuel. According to the canon, under the command of their young general-king, the Israelite armies had been unable to dent the Jebusite fortress city until the soldier Yoav discovered a shaft leading from the Gihon into the heart of the city, which the Israelites used to conquer Jerusalem from within. The PEF team declared that they had found the very shaft from Samuel, lending exciting credence to the Biblical account (much more recently, archaeologists have determined that both ends of Warren's shaft were heavily fortified during the Canaanite era, casting some doubt on the traditional story).
Warren also discovered part of the network of tunnels beneath the Western Wall, in which the true size of the Western Wall could for the first time be appreciated (the modern above-ground wall is only a fragment of Herod's entire monumental structure). Even now, nearly 150 years after their discovery, and with dozens of other sites of similar antiquity competing for attention, Warren's Shaft and the Western Wall tunnels remain two of the most popular attractions for visitors to the Old City. And even if Warren is still more remembered worldwide primarily as the man who botched the Jack the Ripper investigation, in Jerusalem, he remains a legend.