The Hunt for the Temple's Treasures
Early in the twentieth century CE there was a Finnish scholar and poet named Valter H. Juvelius (1865-1922), who claimed to know where the Temple's treasures were hidden. He believed that the ancient Jewish texts were decoded with references to the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant and the tombs of the Davidic kings. Based on this idea he drew maps and sketches pointing to the exact place where these treasures rested. Juvelius assumed that there were underground tunnels which led from the area of the Gihon Spring to the Temple Mount, and that is where the Temple's treasures lay.
Juvelius' ideas enchanted the English aristocrat Captain Montegeu Parker (1878-1962), who hurried to raise money for an expedition to Jerusalem in search for the lost treasure.
In 1908 Parker, Juvelius and a third person set out to Jerusaelm to map the sites intended for excavation. The area chosen for this project extended from the southern wall of the Temple Mount to the Gihon Spring; they were especially interested in the ancient water systems: Hezekiah's Tunnel and Warren's Shaft System. These water systems were the basis for searching the underground tunnels that led to the Temple Mount.
As it turned out, receiving an axcavation permit in Jerusalem wasn't that easy, since there were at least 200 people who claimed that the land was owned by them - some weren't willing to sell and some asked for exhurbanent prices. It was only after the interference of the Great Wazir and the Ottoman Minister of the Treasury that a price was set for the land - 2 franks for each 0.55 sq m. Political shakings at Constantinople postponed the beginning of the excavations. In August 1909 the expedition team decided to start digging in the Gihon Spring and Warren's Shaft System. The workers labored day and night in 4-hour shifts under the light of gas lamps which were originally used in the mines. The excavations were conducted under the open-eyes of two Ottoman delegates, who made sure that the workers didn't confiscate any treasures for themselves.
The excavation of the underground water systems was made possible by diverting the water from its course by building dams and pumping out water, which had flown there for thousands of years. Prior to the the cleaning operations of Hezekiah's Tunnel there were parts that were only 18 cm high!
The Parker expedition did not have a renowned archaeologist amongst its staff, hence, their work and finds were not recorded. This angered the citizens of Jerusalem who took interest in the archaeological diggings. The preasure on Parker grew, and he then decided to ask the French archaeologist and clergy man, L. -H. Vincent to join him - luckly he agreed. Vincent, aided by Father Sabiniak, the photographer of the Ecole Biblique, documented the tunnels and channels unearthed by the workers. Vincent drew accurate maps of the ancient water systems, measured the finds and photographed them - his records are still used by scholars. The excavations continued throughout the summer and autum of 1909, and were stopped due to fierceless rain storms.
The excavations were resumed in August 1910, and the cleaning of the water systems continued. It soon turned out that these tunnels do not lead to the Temple Mount. Therefore, Parker decided to dig artificial tunnels in the ground in search for the Temple's treasures. The tunnels were lined with wooden beams to prevent collapse.
Last Aim at Retrieving the Treasure
All along there were rumors concerning the goal of the expedition, and Parker began to feel that the Ottoman government does not trust him any more. His excavation permit was about to expire in November 1911, and so he decided to do something radical. That year the holidays of Passover, the Greek-Orthodox Easter and the Nabi Musa festival were celebrated on the same days in the month of April. During this time there were masses of pilgrims in the city, and the Muslims were out in the Judean Desert. Parker took advantage of the momentum and bribed Sheikh Halil, who was in charge of the mosques on Temple Mount, to let his expedition excavate the mountain. Parker and his men conducted excavations by night in Solomon's Stables, near the Cradle of Jesus, and in the well beneath the Foundation Stone. They were soon discovered by one of the keepers of the mosques, who was not let in on the deal, and so the whole expedition fled to Jaffa. Parker denied the rumors concerning these excavations and stated that the expedition left the country as planned on April 18th, do to heavy rains which did not allow any further excavations.
The rumors did not stop also after the expedition returned to England. It was said that they took with them in their boxes treasures of the Temple, amongst which were supposedly the staff of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant, the menorah, Temple vessels, King Solomon's crown, ring and sword, as well as ancient texts describing the Nocturnal Journey of Muhammad and documents promissing the return of Jesus Christ. Also in his homeland, England, Parker had trouble convincing that his work was purely scientific. That is probably why he hurried to publish a scientific report of his expedition's activities Underground Jerusalem
. The book, published in 1911, was written by Vincent in French and translated to English by Parker.