Charles Warren

Explorers of Israel

Sir. Charles Warren was one of the very first archaeologists in the Holy Land. General Sir Charles Warren (7 February 1840 – 21 January 1927) was an officer in the British Royal Engineers. And He was one of the earliest European archaeologists of the Biblical Holy Land. Particularly of Jerusalem and Temple Mt. In February 1867  Warren was sent by the P.E.F to conduct excavations in the Holy Land.

Obstacles Never Stopped Him

The objective of Charles Warren and the Palestine Exploration Fund was the illustration of the Bible. Captain (afterward Sir) Charles Wilson and Lieut. Anderson, R.E., had already been at work on the survey of Palestine. And, in 1867, it was decided to undertake excavations at Jerusalem to elucidate, if possible, many doubtful questions of Biblical archaeology. Such as the site of the Holy Sepulchre, the true direction of the Second Wall, and the course of the First, Second, and Third walls; involving the sites of the towers of Hippicus, Phaseolus, and Mariamne. As well as many other points of great interest to the Biblical student.

The task was entrusted to Lieut. Charles Warren that his skills in climbing and cartography when mapping Gibraltar won him his next post with The Palestine Exploration Fund as the mapping officer. The difficulties in the way of carrying it out were great. First, obstruction on the part of the Pashas. When they reached Jaffa port, the Ottoman custom refused to release his baggage; since the digging and measuring equipment seemed suspicious to them as “tools of warfare”.

Charles Warren Excavations in the Holy City

Finally, Charles Warren armed with eight mules full of equipment, and a small team, he left for Jerusalem. When Warren finally got to Jerusalem he met with the British Consul, Noel Temple Moore; after Moore understood the focus of the excavations was Temple Mt, he told Warren there is no chance in the world the Ottomans would allow it. And indeed the Firman did not permit excavations there. However, the Muslim Turks were in control of Palestine and had forbidden any digging within 40 feet of the Temple Mount. Warren knew God had saved him for a particular purpose, though, and he would not be swayed.

But Charles Warren was resourceful and found ways to bypass these restrictions. He “complied” and sunk several vertical shafts 40 feet from the Temple Mount’s southern area, which went down as much as 125 feet. He then dug several secret horizontal tunnels up to 600 feet, back toward the Temple Mount. These vertical shafts went down to the bedrock and proved to be very dangerous, with collapses from the removal of rock and debris. This kind of effort got him his nickname, “the Mole,” from the locals. His persistence paid off with what he found.

Perils and Life-Threatening Situations

The second was physical danger. With that regard, Dean Stanley wrote:

“In the plain and unadorned narrative of Captain Warren, the difficulties and dangers of the undertaking might almost escape notice. Yet the perils will appear sufficiently great to anyone who draws out from the good-humored story the fact that these excavations were carried on at the constant risk of life and limb to the bold explorers. The whole series of their progress was a succession of “lucky escapes.” Huge stones were day after day ready to fall and sometimes did fall on their heads.

One of the explorers was:

“Injured so severely that he could barely crawl out into the open air “; another extricated himself with difficulty, torn and bleeding, while another was buried under the ruins. Sometimes they were almost suffocated by the oppressive heat; at other times, they were plunged for hours up to their necks in the freezing waters of some subterranean torrent; sometimes blocked up by a falling mass without light or escape.”

Charles Warren: The Fund Was Always Lacking Funds!

The third difficulty was the want of money; for when Charles Warren left London, he carried off all the capital of the Fund (300l.) for the expenses of the party, the Committee hopes that, as the excavations proceeded, the public interest would be shown by a flow of subscriptions. The Committee said: ` Give us results, and you can have money.’ Warren replied: ` No money, no results.’

However, he had advanced no less than 1,000l. Out of his resources. The work went on for some three years with occasional interruptions. Warren returned home in 1870 and spent the following year preparing the results of his work for the Committee of the Fund and for the Press.

Sir Walter Besant, in his Twenty-one Years’ Work in the Holy Land, writes:

“It is impossible here to do more than to recapitulate the principal results of the excavations, which are without parallel for the difficulties presented and the courage displayed in overcoming them […]  Certainly, nothing will ever be done in the future to compare with what was done by Warren.”

Charles Warren: A Great Man and An Even Greater Archaeologist!

It was Warren who restored the ancient city to the world.  It was he who stripped the rubbish from the rocks and showed the glorious temple standing within its walls 1,000 feet long, and 200 feet high, of mighty masonry. And it was he who laid open the valleys now covered up and hidden; he who opened the secret passages, the ancient aqueducts, the bridge connecting the temple and the town. One of his many great finds was LMLK seals. He found 8 of them on his excavations around Temple Mt.

Whatever else may be done in the future, his name will always be associated with the Holy City which he first recovered.’ In addition to Underground Jerusalem, he wrote The Temple or the Tomb.

What high value was placed upon Captain Warren’s services by the Administration of the Fund may be gathered from the following quotation from Our Work in Palestine, published by Bentley & Son in 1875, a book which had then reached its eighth thousand:

“Let us finally bear witness to the untiring perseverance, courage; and ability of Captain Warren. Those of us who know best under what difficulties he had to work can tell with what courage and patience they were met and overcome. Physical suffering and long endurance of heat; cold; and danger were nothing. Besides anxieties of digging in the dark; anxieties as to local prejudice, anxieties for the lives of brave men-Sergeant Birtles and the rest of his Staff–anxieties which we may not speak of here. He has his reward, it is true. So long as an interest in the modern history of Jerusalem remains, so long as people are concerned to know how sacred sites have been found out, so long will the name of Captain Warren survive.”


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history.

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