Sir Charles Warren [1840-1927] -- By: Milton C. Fisher

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 02:3 (Summer 1989)
Article: Sir Charles Warren [1840-1927]
Author: Milton C. Fisher

Sir Charles Warren [1840-1927]

Milton C. Fisher

Sir Charles Warren, from a carton in Punch commending
his effectiveness as London’s Commissioner of Police.

Outfoxing the Ottoman bureaucracy of Palestine was then ‘Lieutenant’ Charles Warren’s constant preoccupation during his explorations of 1867–70. He had been sent there by the Palestine Exploration Fund to carry on where his fellow officer of the Royal Engineers, Charles Wilson, had left off the year before. Every time the local Turkish officials halted his digging at one point {mostly along the Temple Mount wall}, he began again at another. He thus accomplished a good deal more actual digging than had Wilson, While the more topographically-oriented Wilson went down in history for his discovery of “Wilson’s Arch,” Warren, the persistent excavator, is immortalized by “Warren’s Shaft,” ancient Jerusalem’s “water works,’ only recently opened to public inspection.

No surprise that the Turkish government was hesitant about Englishmen snooping about in their bailiwick. Conversely, the British Army was quite willing to lend Wilson and Warren to the Palestine Exploration Fund, and later Conder and Kitchener, being anxious to have detailed topography of land along strategic routes to Britain’s eastern empire. Most of these men went on to high military and diplomatic achievement and were knighted “Sir” and “Lord.” Archaeological excavation can indeed call up the best in a person; the fame of discovery tends to enhancement of reputation and


As for Warren, in the fall of 1882 he led an expedition into the Sinai peninsula to determine the fate of British orientalist Edward H. Palmer. The worst fears were confirmed, but Warren’s investigation led to the arrest, trial, and execution of Palmer’s five murderers. After establishing Britain’s claim to Bechuanaland, South Africa, he served for a time as Governor of the Red Sea Littoral. From there he was recalled to re-energize a demoralized police force, as Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police of London. Further military duty found him in Singapore for five years; ultimately commander of a division in the South African Boer War, 1899–1902.

For all the variety and color of his career, it could be said of Sir Charles Warren upon death (in 1927), at the age of eighty-seven, “the interest he acquired in Pales-fine and its Biblical archaeological problems during the early days when he worked there remained with him throughout his life.” (from the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly, 1927)


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