Christopher Costigan was a young theology student at a Jesuit college near Dublin on his way to becoming one of the world's better known Dead Sea explorers. On the hot August days of 1835 he sailed along the Dead Sea coast for more than eight days in an effort to measure the depth of the water, but the heavy heat got the better of him and he became ill with malaria. He was evacuated to the Franciscan San Salvador monastery in the Old City of Jerusalem, where he died at the young age of 25.
Costigan was buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion. One of his successors, American explorer William Francis Lynch, who went on to study the Dead Sea for another 13 years, named the sea's northern cape after him, and to this day it is still known as Cape Costigan. Costigan himself, however, was never afforded true peace -- his body disappeared and his gravestone was vandalized and uprooted. It was only rediscovered many years later, after the 1967 Six-Day War, thanks to extensive efforts by one of Israel's best known researchers, Professor Zev Vilnay.
These days, two modern day archeologists -- Gabriel Barkai and Eli Shiller -- have recently published a new study in the periodical Ariel (a magazine geared toward lovers of the history of Israel) detailing the stories of additional characters and heroes from the gallery of 19th century explorers of this land who are buried in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, not far from where Costigan was buried.
Since the second half of the 19th century, 1,040 graves were dug there in what has become a mini-pantheon of well-known explorers who studied the Holy Land during that time. But much like the mystery of Costigan's grave, here, too, the documentation becomes more and more challenging with time due to neglect and vandalism, with the cemetery's gravestones all faded and partially smashed.
There have been nearly no new graves dug in this cemetery since the 1948 War of Independence. Though the war did leave the cemetery within Israeli territory, the burial there ceased because the main Protestant centers were in the eastern part of the city -- under Jordanian sovereignty. Even after the city was reunited in 1967, the cemetery remained abandoned (with very few exceptions).
Officially, the site is among a list of British military cemeteries under the care of the British Commonwealth Council. In practice, it is not particularly cared for, but even in its state of disarray a visit to this special collection of graves can still be enlightening, fascinating and satisfying. Much like a visit to other famous burial sites in Israel, like the Kinneret Cemetery near the banks of the Sea of Galilee, the gravestones speak, telling the story of a generation, an era and the people who populated it. The Protestant section of the cemetery, which was the focus of Barkai and Shiller's paper, serves as a landmark in the history of the individuals who dedicated their lives to study the history of the Land of Israel and the discovery of its most hidden secrets.
The names on the gravestones appear in a plethora of languages: English, German, Arabic and even Hebrew. Most of the people buried there were converts to Christianity, though some were Jews who died at the various missionary hospitals in Jerusalem and subsequently rejected from Jewish cemeteries in their communities. The cemetery also houses the graves of soldiers killed during World War I as well as British soldiers and police officers killed in operations perpetrated by the Jewish underground. One such example is Thomas James Wilkin, who was killed by Lehi men during the rebellion in retribution for ordering the capture and execution of the first Lehi leader, Yair Stern.
The "celebrity" stories
In February 1867, when famous archeologist Charles Warren began excavating in Jerusalem, he was accompanied by three fellow members of the British Royal Engineers. One of them became ill, and was replaced by Corporal James Duncan, who became ill as well shortly after and died of malaria in Aug. 1868. The gravestone marking his burial site in the Protestant section of the Mount Zion cemetery is unique.
The gravestone is made of a cylinder that, according to the research of Barkai, was one of the legs of a stone table from the Second Temple era, which was taken from an underground storage room at the foot of the Temple Mount. The stone leg was too heavy to be shipped back to England, so Warren placed it on Duncan's grave. Over the course of the years, the table leg sustained extensive damage and is now split.
Another "celebrity" buried in the adjacent plot is Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake, who, a year after Duncan's death, tried to recreate the wanderings of the Israelites in the Sinai Desert. He traveled some 600 miles by foot and visited many locations that no one had explored before him.
His writings, in which he documented many additional areas of the Land of Israel that he had explored, are varied and extensive. Drake was the also the first to head the Survey of Western Palestine, which was taken over by the more well-known explorer Claude Reignier Conder only after his death.
Two more interesting personalities to have been buried at the site are James Edward Hanauer (1850-1938) and Dr. Dallas Young (1910-1980). The first was a Christian clergyman, but he was the descendant of Jews. Hanauer wrote a famous book titled "Walks About Jerusalem," but he is remembered mainly for being the first to discover the cardo -- a north-south-oriented street typical in Roman cities -- in Jerusalem, the first Byzantine-era columned avenue in the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, every tourist who visits the area knows this street.
Young was the founder and director of the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (or as it is called today, Jerusalem University College). He paved the way for hundreds of students who studied the history of the Land of Israel. The marker on his grave site is also unusual. He selected his own gravestone while he was still alive: two large hewn Second Temple-era stones from the first wall built in Hasmonean times.
Another interesting story hiding among the stones at this cemetery is the story of English doctor and researcher Ernest William Gurney Masterman (1867-1943), who was the first to explore the changes in the water level of the Dead Sea. His frequent visits to the stone he used to mark the changing water levels raised the suspicion of the area Bedouin, who made sure to destroy his markings. But the stone, which has since become a well-known landmark, can still be seen on the side of the road near Ein Feshkha.
Danish missionary Hans Nicolajsen, also known as John Nicolayson, who died in 1856, is also buried on Mount Zion. Nicolajsen founded the British mission hospital in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, which was the first hospital in the city.
Despite being buried in Jerusalem, British archeologist James Leslie Starkey, meanwhile, worked far from the city, in the Judean plains. He was the chief excavator of the first archaeological expedition to the important site of Lachish in the 1930s.
Starkey is considered to have discovered the Lachish letters. These were discovered during his third excavation of the site, in which he discovered the clay ostraca. These ostraca featured ancient Hebrew writing, apparently sent by the commander of Lachish on the eve of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of the city. The Lachish letters are considered to be a momentous discovery that has shed a lot of light on the history of the Babylonian siege. Four years after he discovered them, on Jan. 10, 1938, Starkey was murdered by Arabs.
Additional celebrities buried in this pantheon of explorers are: Paul Palmer, who drew the Madaba Map after the discovery of the floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan. Palmer's drawing from 1906 still serves every beginning researcher who approaches the famous mosaic, even though it is over a hundred years old by now. Johannes Rudolph Roth, whose expedition first discovered in 1837 that the Dead Sea and the Jordan Rift Valley were situated below sea level. And Carl Sandreczki, a Polish doctor who came to Israel in 1849 and became famous for the in-depth research he conducted on street names in the Old City.
There is also one particularly sad story in the history of the Mount Zion cemetery, Shiller and Barkai recount. It involves dozens of residents of the American Colony whose bones were brought to the cemetery in the middle of the night, after having been packed in boxes. The bones were transferred from the nearby American cemetery, which no longer exists. "It was done under the directive of American Consul Selah Merrill who bore a grudge against the residents of the American Colony."
The residents of the colony were buried in improvised graves, to the right of the entrance gate, without any gravestones save one, shared by all. "And that is after some of the bones were scattered during the move to Mount Zion."
The residents of the American Colony weren't archeologists or explorers, but their photography endeavor, which documented thousands of sites across the Middle East including Israel, contributed immensely to the knowledge we have of the history of the region. Some of the photographs have become symbols of an era, documenting important historical events like the visit to the Land of Israel by German Emperor Wilhelm II in 1898. The American Colony photography department also documented British General Edmund Allenby's entry into Jerusalem via the Jaffa Gate in 1917.
They made their mark
The story of this unusual cemetery would not be complete without at least a brief mention of the two most famous people buried there: Conrad Schick, one of the 19th century's greatest explorers of Jerusalem, and Flinders Petrie, the father of archeology of the Land of Israel. In July 2012, a memorial service was held to mark 70 years since Petrie's death. The service -- an Antiquities Authority initiative -- included a tour of the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion.
Petrie was born in Kent, England in 1853. He excavated extensively in Egypt and the Land of Israel and he was the first to show that, based on data recovered from the field, one could derive an objective chronological system using scientific-logical methods. Before Petrie, the dating of artifacts was based solely on assessments, historical speculation or biblical texts.
Petrie was also a very unusual and colorful individual. It has been said that he built the camera he used in his excavations with his own two hands out of a cookie tin. It was also said that when he worked at the ancient Giza pyramids he was habitually naked.
At the end of his days, he left instructions to submit his head to scientific study at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, and indeed, his body was buried headless at the Mount Zion cemetery.
Conrad Schick (1822-1901), was a German architect, cartographer, archeologist, explorer and Protestant missionary who operated in Jerusalem during the second half of the 19th century. Schick was one of the most prominent figures in Jerusalem during his time -- the end of the Ottoman Empire -- and is considered to be among the most important explorers of the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
He worked for many years for the British Palestine Exploration Fund and the German Society for the Exploration of Palestine, and published hundreds of articles on the physical state of the city and the archeological work being done there. As an architect, he is considered one of the prominent builders of the city in the period after the expansion beyond the walls of the Old City. He planned community buildings, health facilities and housing serving the Jewish and Christian communities.
Barkai and Shiller note that Schick planned some half a dozen buildings in Jerusalem, and that some of the more intricate ones have certainly left their mark on the landscape of the city. He planned the Tabor House (Beit Tavor), the neighborhood of Mea Shearim, the Deutsche Diakonissen-Krankenhaus, today a part of Bikur Cholim Hospital, and more.
Schick lived in Jerusalem for 55 years, and when he died, his friend Abraham Moses Luncz gave a eulogy in which he described the death as "the greatest loss" for the literature on the Land of Israel, because "ever since he came to Jerusalem as a young man, Schick invested himself entirely in the exploration of the land, served for many years as the chief engineer of Jerusalem, and, in his youth, built models of the Temple Mount and the Temple."
The gravestones on the tombs of Schick and his wife are among the most prominent in the entire Mount Zion cemetery. Schick's gravestone bears a quote, in German, from Numbers 32:12: "Because they have wholly followed the Lord."