On 5 July 2022, a friend in Israel (Yoel Halevi) notified me of a call for papers issued by Dr. David Gurevich (University of Haifa) for a two-day conference on Conrad Schick and His World scheduled to take place in the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and in Paulus-Haus (DVHL), Jerusalem, 6-7 February 2023.
My interest was piqued since my current writing project fully explores the details surrounding the early efforts to read and interpret the famed Siloam Inscription. In the course of my research and writing, I have assembled as many contemporary newspaper and journal articles as I can find, and combed the archives of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins [Journal of the German Palestine Association]. My review of these contemporary sources revealed Conrad Schick’s constellation of contributions to the discovery and decipherment of the Siloam Inscription.
On 20 July 2022, I submitted the following 300 word paper proposal to the academic committee for the conference.
Conrad Schick’s Constellation of Contributions to the Discovery and Decipherment of the Siloam Inscription
It is an established, well-known fact that a young student of Conrad Schick accidentally discovered an ancient Hebrew inscription in the Siloam tunnel in June of 1880. Still, few know the whole story of Conrad Schick’s many contributions to secure “an exact copy, a perfect squeeze” of what became known as the Siloam Inscription.
Conrad Schick recognized the potential significance of his student’s discovery in the Siloam tunnel and promptly reported the discovery to the academic communities in Germany and England through timely correspondence. He developed and communicated his preliminary assessment of the necessary work required to fully expose the partially submerged inscription. He then convinced members of the Deutschen Palästina-Vereins and the Palestine Exploration Fund to contribute the necessary funds to accomplish the work. Schick also sought and secured permission from local Ottoman authorities to perform his plan and then hired the laborers, directed them, and executed the work. German and English scholars alike applauded Schick’s results. Archibald Sayce, Claude Conder, Hermann Guthe, and others mentioned and lauded his contributions. Schick’s efforts to improve the working conditions facilitated Hermann Guthe’s work to clean the inscription, which led to more accurate copies of the writing on the wall of Siloam’s tunnel.
It is also a little-known fact that one of Schick’s former apprentices in the House of Industry was the first to interpret the meaning of the Siloam Inscription correctly. The same former apprentice read line five as “1,200 cubits” when all other scholars initially proposed a reading of “1,000 cubits.” To this day, Schick’s former apprentice has never been credited with these facts. His name was Moses Wilhelm Shapira. This paper reveals Schick’s constellation of contributions to the discovery and decipherment of the Siloam Inscription by documenting the untold, behind-the-scenes story, as told in contemporary German and English reports.
I am pleased to report that on 18 September 2022 I received a letter from David Gurevich on behalf of the Academic Committee informing me that my paper proposal was accepted.
For more information on the conference – Conrad Schick and His World, read the Call for Papers here.