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Information on Valter Henrik Juvelius in Finnish Sources

David Landau

 

While telling the story of the Parker expedition to Mount Temple 1909-1911, Silberman (1982: 180) writes:

"The personal origins of Valter H. Juvelius are shrouded in mystery. A Finn by nationality, apparently wealthy, he seems to have been obsessed by two subjects: spiritualism and Biblical archeology. He was first heard of in 1906, when he presented a paper before a Swedish university audience on the subject of the destruction of Solomon's Temple by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. His unorthodox theories received little attention from the academic world. But he was undaunted. He believed that he had discovered great mystical and symbolic meaning in the destruction of Solomon's Temple, and in 1908, seeking to further his research on the subject in ancient libraries of Constantinople, he accidentally stumbled upon a truly incredible manuscript."

There in not one single correct detail in this description, except the man's name, his nationality and the fact that he was interested in Biblical archeology. There were entries on him in Finnish reference books already during his lifetime and for at least two decades after his death. Barring the difficulty presented by the Finnish language, the biographical data could have been easily retrieved from any Finnish library. Had anyone been looking for material concerning Juvelius in the public library at Viipuri (in Swedish, Vyborg) he might have encountered the man himself; from 1918 until his untimely death in 1922, Juvelius was the director of that library.

Juvelius was born on September 3, 1865 in Pyhäjoki in northern Finland. Later the family moved south and the father, Johan Henrik Juvelius, became the main surveyor of the district of Häme. Young Valter graduated from high school in 1884 and in 1887 was qualified as a surveyor. In the following year he completed his academic studies and received the title Candidate of Philosophy (FK). For the next twenty years he served as a surveyor at Ilmajoki and Lapua.

In 1897 Juvelius published his first collection of poems Kuvia ja säveliä ('Images and Notes'). If Silberman means "spiritualism" as 'the belief that the spirits of people who are dead can communicate with people who are still alive', then none of this can be found in this collection, nor in two others published later: Runoja ('Poems') 1902 and Matkan varrelta ('During the Journey') 1914. The subjects are the land and the villages, local figures, journeys to church or to the market and even love poems "for you". One the of poems he wrote, Karjalan Kunnailla, 'O Hills of Karelia', is still very well known in Finland.

Juvelius was also busy translating works of Swedish-Finnish authors and also foreign literature and poetry into Finnish. He translated works of Topelius, Runeberg, Heine, Goethe, Burns, Byron, Poe and other. Some of his translations are continuously reprinted. In most of the Finnish sources I have read, Juvelius is referred to as a poet and translator. For the poetry books and the translations, Juvelius used the pen name Valter Juva. However, in his participation in the expedition to Temple Mount, he was a man of secrets and mystery.

The paper Juvelius presented in 1906 was actually a doctoral dissertation, written in Swedish. It was presented not before a Swedish university but the Finnish Imperial University "Alexander", nowadays Helsinki University. (At that time Finland was under Russian rule.) The subject was not the destruction of Solomon's temple but Jewish chronology. The dissertation was approved and from 1907 on Valter Juvelius was Dr. Juvelius. He is referred to by that title in articles published in Finnish newspapers in May 1911 which tell about his involvement in the British expedition whose activities caused riots in Jerusalem at that time, and also in obituaries published after his death in 1922.(1)

 

Juvelius' doctoral dissertation

 

Silberman mentions a "truly incredible manuscript" Juvelius supposedly found in the ancient libraries of Constantinople. In his writings Juvelius had never claimed to have found any ancient manuscripts, and to even speculate that he did, would amount to continue playing his games of secrets and mysteries more than sixty years after his death. All Finnish sources agree that the expedition to recover the Temple's treasure had its genesis in Juvelius's doctoral dissertation. This claim is also invalid; I asked Dr. Erkki Ranta to read the thesis and he informed me that their was no connection between the doctoral dissertation and Juvelius' work with the Parker's expedition.

In 1908 Dr. Juvelius became the director of the workers' education center in Viipuri, a position he held until he became the director of the local library in 1918. In one source it is recorded that he held both positions at the same time. As the head of a workers' institute he could not be wealthy. His great grandson, Tom Hilli tells me that by all accounts, Juvelius was not a rich man.

In 1915, under the pen name Heikki Kenttä, Juvelius published a book entitled Maahengen salaisuus ('the Secret of the Terrestrial Spirit') and in 1916 another one Valkoinen kameeli ('the White Camel'). The latter book is a collection of short stories and it contains Juvelius's version of the events which led to the riots in Jerusalems in May 1911. However, the book was written as a fiction and therefore should be read in the same manner Juvelius read his 'manuscripts', that is, one has to read also between the lines and every statement and detail is opened to different interpretations. So all I can do is present my own understanding of the text as simply as possible.

The story in the collection which deals with the aborted expedition is called the Truth about the "Desecration of Omar Mosque." According to Juvelius the expedition had had purely scientific goals and to strengthen this claim he points to participation in the excavation of the distinguished French clergyman whom he calls father Justinus. He goes on to claim that there could not have been 'desecration of Omar Mosque' since they were working in an area half a kilometer south of it. The rumors of the search for Solomon's treasure apparently resulted from one of their findings, a decorated chair from the pre-Davidic era. Juvelius writes that 'there was much talk about ancient manuscripts' but does not elaborate more. We are left to decide ourselves: maybe there were, maybe not. He tells us that their greatest enemies were the press, which spread unsubstantiated rumors, and the Jews who were highly suspicious of their work and used every possible means to find out what they were doing and to obstruct their work.

The story is around one hundred pages long and it gives many details concerning the procedure by which the work was conducted and the relationship among some members of the group. Juvelius, who stayed in Jerusalem during 1910, constantly wrote memoranda in Swedish concerning the next stage of the work. His writings were translated into English and delivered to the head of the expedition, whom he calls 'the honorable George Fairholme.' He tells us very little about the source of his material but on one occasion we get a glimpse of what he actually did.

Since not many people were able to conduct work in the narrow tunnels, he had plenty of time to travel in the vicinity and further away on the back of a mule. One day, accompanied by a Finnish friend of his, whom he calls Oskar Nevankoski, he made a trip to Mount Nebo. While camping near the mountain, Juvelius gives his friend a piece of paper with a Finnish translation of ancient manuscripts, or possibly Juvelius's interpretation of those manuscripts, we cannot tell, and asks him to read it aloud. The text contains the exact measurements of a cave which, according to Juvelius, is the burial place of Moses and must be close to the place where they were camping. In the ensuing discussion Juvelius argues that according to the Bible, Moses died in a normal manner and therefore no doubt was properly buried in a cave hewn into the rock. While the People of Israel were staying in that area during their forty years of wandering in the desert, they already prepared Moses's burial site. During their stay in Egypt the Jews had learnt the art of embalming and, using minerals from the Dead Sea, they employed this knowledge to embalm their beloved leader. The grave was sealed and hidden and remained undisturbed till this very day, so argues Juvelius.

Why would it be so important to find Moses's burial site?

Juvelius gives two reasons. The first is to reject once and for all the claim of certain scholars, including the Frenchman Maurice Vernes, who claim that there was never such a man as Moses and all the details concerning him are myth. The second reason becomes clear later when he discusses the matter with a rabbi he calls Jonathan ben Jochai. His arguments run as follows: the secrets of Moses's burial place were known to a select few of the Jewish sages and were passed on from one generation to another. When the Bible was committed to paper, the secrets were codified and incorporated into the text. Again, only very few knew how to interpret the open text but their knowledge was lost because of the persecutions during the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian. In order to find Moses's resting place all one needs is to find the right key to understand the text.

At that point the rabbi asks him whether he had found the key, and Juvelius, true to style, does not confirm but also does not deny. He keeps on arguing that finding Moses's embalmed body would of enormous importance. According to Jewish mystics, the name of God, the Tetragrammaton, was drawn on the shield Moses carried on his chest and reference to the secrets of the name are mentioned in the Book of the Creation chapter 2 verses 1-3. (The Book of the Creation is the earliest extant Hebrew text of systematic, speculative thought. See Encyclopaedia Judaica, s.v Yezirah, Sefer.) There is uncertainty about the exact number of letters and their nature, and finding Moses's grave would help clarifying and solving this problem.

Juvelius was unwilling to go and see the rabbi in the first place. It seems that the excavations were going nowhere. As a result, the head of the expedition and the distinguished Dominican father urged him to go and see whether the rabbi could help clarifying the secret of the Jews. Juvelius did not tell the rabbi who he really was and what his genuine purpose was. He spoke German with the rabbi and presented himself as a passing traveller. The rabbi, however, became suspicious, and after Juvelius left he noticed that the Rabbi's son was following him to his hotel, and that the son later learned from the hotelkeeper that Juvelius was connected with the group of Englishmen who were conducting mysterious excavations on Mount Temple.

During fall 1910 Juvelius became sick, apparently with malaria, and traveled back to Finland. He was planning to go back to Jerusalem in the spring of 1911 but before he had a chance to set out on the journey, he got a telegram from the head of the expedition ordering him to stay at home because the work was stopped. In fact, Juvelius was aware of the troubles since the newspapers were filled with news concerning the adventurous English expedition and the riots they caused in Jerusalem.

Undeterred, Juvelius planned to continue the excavation; after all they had a permit for ten years. However, soon the Balkan war erupted and while writing his story (1916) a major war was raging all over Europe.

Juvelius died from throat cancer on Christmas Day (Dec. 25) 1922 at the age of 57. His papers remained with his family. As a result of the Finnish Winter War 1939/40 and the Continuation War 1941-44, the city of Viipuri was surrendered to the Soviet Union and the Finnish population was evacuated. Today Viipuri is under Russian rule. Juvelius's papers were carried away from the abandoned city and today they are in the possession of his great grandson Tom Hilli, who is a graduate of the Swedish School of Economics in Helsinki. In late August 1996 sitting in a coffee shop beside the marketplace and the harbour of Helsinki, we examined Juvelius's extremely secret papers.

According to Silberman (1982: 180), Juvelius claimed to have uncovered a "coded" passage in an ancient text of the Book Of Ezekiel that disclosed the hiding place of the Temple treasure in Jerusalem. Silberman writes:

"The precise contents of this ancient depository remained Juvelius's closely guarded secret. By all account, however, it was of spectacular value, far beyond that of any archeological discovery made in Palestine -- and probably anywhere else. By some later reports, based largely on hearsay, Juvelius's treasure was "the gold-encrusted Ark of the Covenant, brought by the Children of Israel out of Egypt." In other versions, it was 'the treasures of the Jewish kings, and ancient tables which will set to rest all doubts concerning the resurrection of Christ.' "

Juvelius's documents are indeed spectacular. However, they are written in Swedish and occasionally in Old Hebrew letters with Juvelius's own handwriting, on regular sheets of paper. The original drawings were lost and those in front of us are from 1918-20. We move aside the cups of coffee and Tom Hilli spreads on the table the paper describing the burial site of King Solomon. Drawn with colors, which have not faded during all those year, Juvelius, with the professional hand of a surveyor, gives the exact measurements of the tunnel which leads to the catacomb, the catacomb itself with the location of Solomon's sarcophagi and in addition the exact location of two sources of radioactive rays intended to kill anybody who venture to disturb the dead king. Around the drawing there are references to Biblical verses upon which Juvelius based his calculations. Hilli, who looked at the paper the evening before to see what they were all about, tells me that the references are a mess. Juvelius wrote, erased rewrote and changed them constantly. Some references point to other references which point to other references, etc.

The documents are stored in envelopes and on each of them there is the name of the Biblical figure whose grave Juvelius drew precisely. Included are the names of the prophets, possibly all of them. Hilli opens another envelope and spreads it contents; here in front of us is the drawing of - Moses's catacomb. Juvelius seriously was planning to go back and continue the excavations.

Looking with disbelieving eyes on the material. Tom Hilli and I agree that what we have in front of us is science fiction and that Juvelius's paper can serve as a manuscript for a new movie by Steven Spielberg.

On their own merits, Juvelius's papers are no doubt worthless. Nevertheless, they should be studied more closely because they are connected to archeological excavations which were conducted in a scientific manner and produced important results.

Notes:

1. Helsingin Sanomat 13.5.1911, 14.5.1911, 27.12.1922; Uusi aura 28.12.1922; Vapaa karjala 28.12.1922; Suomen sosialidemokatti 28.12.1922; Hämeen sanomat 28.12.1922; Turun sanomat 28.12.1922.

 

References:

Juva, Einar. W. 1965. Uuttera tiedemies ja runoilija. ValterJuvan syntymästä 100 vuotta. Uusi Suomi, 31.9.1965

Karila, Tauno. 1957. Israelin aarre. Nuoli, 11-12, 13-14, 16, 17

Silberman, Neil Asher. 1980. In Search of Solomon's Lost Treasures. Biblical Archaeology Review. Vol.VI No. 4 (July/August): 30-41.

Silberman, Neil Asher 1982. Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archeology and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land, 1799 to 1917. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc.

 

I thank pastor Veli-Pekka Järvinen for his assistance in finding the descendants of Valter H. Juvelius.

 

September 1996

Department of Information Technology
Tampere University of Technology

 

Language revision: J.J. Mary Hatakka

 

Links:

Karjalan Kunnailla

'O Hills of Karelia'

Karjalan Kunnailla (Georg Ots)

Karjalan Kunnailla (Idols)

King Solomon's Treasure

Jerusalem Archaeological Park

 

Last updated: February 24, 2012


 

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