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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Uses for Archaeological Sites II

Previously we mentioned that one suggested use for Tel Aphek was a gas depot. During World War I, there were some other interesting military uses for the site. Eye witness Antony Bluett describes one use in With Our Army in Palestine:
Ras el Ain, which had been a part of our front line, presented an extraordinary spectacle, for most of the prisoners passed through here on their way south to Wilhelma and beyond. For thirty-six hours there was hardy a break in the procession shambling towards the great hill on which stand the ruins of Herod's Castle, where Salome danced for the head of John the Baptist, and where now the prisoners were caged. There was a marked difference between the condition of the Turkish prisoners and that of the Germans: the former were ragged, half-starved, and yellow with privation and fatigue, but all the Germans I saw were sleek, well-clad, and bearing every sign of good living. It was impossible to cage them together, for they fought like cats with each other on every possible occasion, and caused endless trouble to the guards, who had to go amongst them with the bayonet in order to separate them. (p. 194)
Another source, from the British National Archives, shows a petition from British medical officers interned at Ras el Ain, protesting conditions in the camp. (FO 383/228)

While the Ottomans apparently used the site as a jail, the British chose to let them soldiers camp within the fortress. I have to confirm it, but I think the British captured the site on March 12, 1918. In the British Medical Journal from Dec 20, 1919, Dr. F.D. Nicholson writes an article titled "Tick Fever in Palestine."
"On March 20th, 1918, eight men of the - Suffolks were admitted to hospital suffering from relapsing fever; as it was very unusual to get so many patients from one source at a time, inquiries were made, and it was found that they all belonged to one company of about 250 men, stationed for several days at Ras-el-Ain Castle (mentioned in Acts xxiii, 32 as Antipatris), which was then one of our advanced posts." 
 The men claimed to have been bitten by ticks. They had been fumigated on March 10, 1918, but
"went to Ras-el-Ain Castle on March 12th, where they remained four days and three nights...Four of the patients had shared the same bivouac, the pegs of which were fastened to the outer wall of the castle; a ditch or drain ran under the wall and traversed the foor of the tent. One man occupied the tent next door, and the remaining three slept in an outhouse within the castle walls." 
 After the problem was identified, the tents were moved 30 yards away from the wall and the problems ceased, "though troops continuously occupied this spot for the next five months."

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