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The Sifting Project and the Temple Denial at Megalim Conference

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It’s going to be an interesting week…
On Tuesday we will be holding a press conference about discoveries in our the research.
On Thursday, September 8th, our project is making a splash at this year’s Megalim Conference focusing on Temple Denial. This is followed by a sifting demonstration and the opportunity for conference participants to sift buckets of earth from the Temple Mount. Afterward, Zachi Dvira will lecture about the archaeological evidence from the Temple Mount from the First and Second Temples and Frankie will speak about her research about the Herodian Temple Mount floors.
Pages from a new booklet distributed these days by Muslim organizations denying the existence of the Jewish temple at the site.

Pages from a new booklet distributed these days by Muslim organizations denying the existence of the Jewish temple at the site.

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News from the Sifting Site

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20160703_110459What a beautiful summer!

We have been having a great summer at our sifting site in Emek Tzurim. We have been updating the sifting facility, and every day it seems like we are making the site more fun and beautiful.

This week we got a new curtain for our lecture area. It describes the 6 categories of finds that we collect on site: Glass, Mosaics, Pottery, Bones, Special Stones, and Metal. Fun and useful, this is a great addition to our site.

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20160628_091512We have also been updating our supplies. We have new wheelbarrows (such a fun color!) and we have new sifters on their way.

Right now, we are conducting a special summer campaign on site. We have special hours that people can come without an appointment and help us sift. Come at 10am, 1pm, or 4pm for an awesome sifting experience (Hebrew lecture only). Families are encourages to bring their children and we have been having a great time meeting all of the locals and Israelis that have been coming as a part of this campaign.

As a part of the campaign (and we hope we get to keep it) we also have a fantastic coin minter. For 5 shekel, you can take home a Sifting Project coin with the seal of the City of David on one side and a replica of the half-shekel found on our site on the reverse (see below). The pomegranates with the words “Jerusalem the Holy” is my favorite side of the coin, so I am glad that they chose to duplicate that side.

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Found at the Sifting Project: a silver half-shekel coin. Obverse: A chalice from the Temple topped by the letter aleph, which means “First year.” Around it is inscribed “Half a Shekel.” Reverse: A stem with three pomegranates surrounded by the words “Jerusalem the Holy.”

Watch Hillel make these Sifting Project coins here. You can subscribe to our youtube channel and get notified when we start uploading our new video-blog series on Temple Mount history and finds.

Really, I think we have too much fun at the sifting project. Should someone really enjoy their job this much?

For more information about how to participate, click here!

Isn’t it nice to feel validated?

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New Images from the Dome of the Rock

croppedFrankie Snyder is our expert in floors among other things (my shameless plug of the day). She wanted to let you all know that last week, the renovation work that had been in progress for several years on the interior of the Dome of the Rock was completed! As a result, the construction barrier that encircled the central arcade was finally removed. This then enabled the carpet replacement begun in April of 2015 with the outer and inner ambulatories to be carried out on the central arcade.

As the old carpeting on the floor of the central arcade was removed, beautiful opus sectile floor panels were revealed, and workers inside the Dome of the Rock shared many photographs of these floor panels on social media. In a post on the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s website on December 22, 2015, we reported that portions of these floors could be dated to the Crusader period. We are pretty sure that part of the original Crusader floor was removed in a later period and replaced with new designs.

Last week’s photographs give us some amazing views of these rarely published floors that provide us with information previously unavailable to us.

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We now have a more complete understanding of the extent of the floor panels. Frankie knew that the main floor panel extended farther to the north and south than what our original picture showed, but did not know the pattern sequence.  Also she only knew a fraction of what the small panel to the north of the main panel looked like. Her assumption was that it was like the small panel to the south of the main panel, but was not sure. Well, photographic evidence proves that she was right!

So what’s next?

The floors of the Dome of the Rock have been renovated/reconstructed in the past — more than once.  We need to learn the complete history of what was originally there, what was removed and when, what was replaced and when, and what was renovated and when.  We may never get the full story, especially as to what the original floor panels looked like, but we can surely try. Check out our previous post about these Crusader Floors and an article by Israel HaYom talking about this research. Here is more information about the renovations at the Dome of the Rock.

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Mosaics created by Frankie Snyder BEFORE the above images were available. (Notice how the one on the left is identical to those in the pictures above.) Her designs include fragments found in our sifting which must be from a previous version of the floors, or from broken tiles that were discarded.

Book Week Campaign

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Fundraising, Fun, and Free Stuff

HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Our main goal right now is to raise the money to be able to publish our own series of books about our research on the Temple Mount. So – in honor of Hebrew Book Week we are doing fun things, fundraising, and giving away free stuff.

  1. publication (3) copyFollow us on Facebook and share our Book Week Campaign Video. On June 25th we will choose one person who shared the video this week and give them a FREE 40 page book about the Sifting Project, our finds and research with full color pictures. It is great to show off to your friends.
  1. DONATE to our campaign THIS WEEK. If you donate over $50 or ₪200, in addition to the gifts you automatically receive, we are adding in FREE SIFTING for you and your family. (This promotion is good for one time use, up to 5 people, and is good for one year).
  1. Follow our Facebook page or Twitter feed this week and get a Recommended Book of the Day from our fantastic staff. Books on the Temple Mount, Archaeology, and Israel. Get your library cards out and your amazon account activated because you won’t want to miss this. At the end of the week, I will also make a new blog post with the complete list.

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How Else Can You Help?

If you can’t give to our campaign, help us network and connect with people who might be able to support our goal of publishing our finds. Please share our story and let people know that the work we are doing is unprecedented and has the potential of adding an immense amount of knowledge to our understanding of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Without publication, it will be as if our thousands of finds had never been found and our work over the last 11 years hadn’t happened. The dialogue about the Temple Mount needs our research, and we need YOU to help spread the word.

Thank You

“On the first of the month of Adar a proclamation is made about the [giving of the] shekalim …” (Shekalim 1:1)

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We are still very far from the goal of funding the full publication of the finds from Sifting Project. We still don’t understand the significance of most them. Publishing these artifacts will shed more light on the long history of this sacred site, and hopefully contribute to the resolution of many debates related to this site.

We could reach this goal only with the help of the large crowd who supports this project.
Please help share and distribute this video.

The Half-Shekel Campaign – Summary and Conclusions

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First and foremost, we would like to express our deep gratitude to all those who answered our call and donated to the project and helped disseminate the Campaign. YOUR SUPPORT IS TRULY APPRECIATED. Thank you letters and gifts will be mailed shortly.

Our” Half-Shekel” campaign was launched on September 1st 2015 and lasted for four months. The Temple Mount Sifting Project is all about involving the community, and this campaign was the first time we invited the public to partake in helping fund the project. We chose the crowd funding approach, even though we didn’t know what to expect. This kind of platform, when used by non-profit organizations, is often used to help fund and promote social, medical or political causes, and usually not used for scientific research, let alone for archaeological research although many people find interest and value in it, they still prefer to donate to other causes.

We produced a video with an attempt to tell the story of the sifting project in an interesting and touching way for those who are less-acquainted with the story of the Temple Mount, its history and archaeology, as well as for those who are well acquainted and even for trained archaeologists. We knew that a short video would be essential for it to   become viral, but we weren’t successful   in finding  a way to  consolidate  the story of the project  in addition to explaining our financial needs to the non-aquatint in less than 7 minutes although we managed to have the Hebrew version shorter (5 min).

Eventually the Hebrew video became viral to some extend on Facebook and managed to reach 20 thousand people quite quickly with almost no paid promotion (a total of 27 thousand on both Facebook and YouTube). The English version, which was also available with translation subtitles in many languages, was less successful and eventually reached 50 thousand people (16 thousand people have visited the Half-Shekel Campaign website and more than 270 of them have donated. During the time of this campaign, we eventually managed to raise $35,440.  The donations came mainly from English speaking countries and from Israel, but also from distant parts of the world such as Brazil, Chile, Singapore and other places.

A short while after the inception of the campaign, the political conflict concerning the Temple Mount became a hot topic in the media, and we weren’t sure if it detracted or motivated support of the campaign. We prefer avoiding politics   as much as possible, especially since we are dealing with the most politically sensitive site in Israel, although certain aspects of our research may unavoidably have some political implications. The website has also been translated into Arabic, and attracted a relatively large percentage of visits from Arabic speaking countries, surprisingly, we received only few malicious comments, while hundreds of visitors shared the website and clicked like. Perhaps the scientifically oriented nature of the text helped to some extend to reduce the conflict fed by decisive and ignorant historical claims.

We are still far from reaching the project’s needs, and our funding efforts will proceed. This website will be maintained as a permanent funding website, and we will continue promoting it in various other ways.

You are all invited to continue supporting the project by sending a recurring donation and by sharing the websites of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

With much gratitude,

Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira

We Need Your Support In Order to Go On with the Research

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With only 30 days are left in our crowd funding campaign, we need your full support. Please donate your symbolic half-shekel so we can continue our research. Click Here to Donate.

Later this month we are will be publishing two new discoveries that are related to later periods of Temple Mount history. The first concerns the Crusaders’ activities in the Dome of the Rock, and second involves a object from the 18th century that is personally connected to the current Waqf director.

Stay Tuned!

Update on the Crowd Funding Campaign

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50 days ago we launched a crowd funding campaign to support the research and publication of the Temple Mount finds. We’ve produced a video clip summarizing the story of the Sifting Project and the importance of publishing the finds.

The video has English and Hebrew versions, and the website and English video are translated into 15 more languages. We translated the website to many languages since we believe that the story of the Sifting Project and the story of the Temple Mount – as evidenced by its archaeological finds – will be of much interests all over the world.

When we launched the campaign on Facebook the Hebrew video immediately went viral and reached 10,000 people within three days, while the English video was less successful and reached 3,500 people. Up to date the videos were watched (30 sec views and more) on Facebook and YouTube by 43,797 people. 12,050 people have visited the website and 199 people have donated a total sum of $21,940. We intend to continue the campaign until the end of 2015.

The video has the potential to reach a very wide audience, especially these days when the Temple Mount is in the focus of the news. Since many ignorant comments are being heard in the media and distorted articles are published in major newspapers, this story and archaeological information is essential for establishing an educated debate.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project does not have a political agenda, and as open minded academic researchers we are open minded for any conclusion that can be deducted from the finds. We oppose ignorance. All scientific or academic research eventually serves humanity by helping us make better decisions. If the sifting project finds could help reduce tensions that are rooted by ignorance – we would be happy to serve this goal as well.

It is worthwhile to mention that about 15% of the website visitors are Arab speakers, and there are about 353 shares and hundreds of likes to the Arabic version of the website. It seems like the Arab world is very interested in this story.

If you haven’t visited the website yet, so please do so at: http://half-shekel.org , and if you could donate and encourage your friends to donate to the project, we would be grateful.

A Campaign for Publishing the TMSP to the World

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Dear Friends,

This video is about a story that is relevant to each one of you. It is a story of universal significance. It is the story of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, of antiquities buried in soil, and the unique archaeological project for sifting this soil, once dumped so unceremoniously outside its gated walls.

This story is not about politics or religion. It is a simple and fundamental thing about our ability to understand our heritage and the history of one of the most important sites in the western world. Here, fateful and magnificent events took place, changing forever the Jewish nation and having impact on the very formation of western civilization. Indeed, what happened here can be said to have affected the whole of human history.
We cannot let these priceless archaeological finds be overlooked or forgotten!

Please watch this video, which is available in 17 languages, and visit our website, half-shekel.org. If you think this project is of importance, please help us distribute this message all over the globe by sharing this video and website.

Thank you.

Zachi Dvira,
Co-Director Archaeologist,
Temple Mount Sifting Project

Update on Recent Developments at the Sifting Project

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The number of visitors/volunteers at the Sifting Project has been increasing year by year and also the volume of the material that has been sifted. To date we have sifted about half of the debris that is on hand. This means that we have at least ten more years of sifting. This is without taking into account the large amount of dirt that is lying in heaps in the eastern olive grove on the Temple Mount and has not yet been removed due to a Supreme Court ruling from 2004.

The sifting site continues to develop, and recently we have installed new permanent restrooms, another office for staff use, and a newly upgraded green house. Also we have expanded the seating in the introduction hall.

Gal Zagdon, the archaeologist who managed the daily work at the sifting site for the past six years, announced last week that he is retiring from archaeology and will be leaving us soon. Gal will leave a large vacant space that will be difficult to fill in, and we wish him good luck in his future occupation. We will give more details about his retirement in the future.

Currently, our research efforts are dedicated to sorting and analyzing the prevalent finds. We are about to complete the basic chronological and typological sorting of the one hundred thousand pottery rims we gathered so far! Soon, we will begin an in-depth high resolution typological sorting and statistical analysis of the pottery, which quite certainly will yield very interesting information and knowledge. Already now, we are gathering valuable information from the basic sorting of the pottery. It appears that we have evidence of the presence of activity on the Temple Mount during the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze ages. Although the number of pieces of pottery from these periods is small, they should not be neglected. There is also clear presence of activity during the Iron IIA period (the time of Kings Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat and Joash), during the time between the two Jewish Revolts against the Roman (70-132 CE). The Byzantine period pottery appears in abundance, and from the Early Moslem period we have evidence of pottery production.

The analysis of the coins is in its final phase, and it appears that we are have recovered some very rare coins, including a – Crusader gold coin, ours being only the second of its type found in the world. In addition, the study of the following subjects are close to being completed : opus sectile floor tiles, arrowheads, horseshoe nails, construction nails, roof tiles, bone objects, glass bracelets and rings, beads, stone vessels, and glazed wall tiles. We are beginning to see the light in the end of the tunnel.

Recently, several unique and interesting finds were discovered, but it is difficult to give more details about them at this stage, since they require further in-depth study. But among these are bullae with Greek inscriptions (one from the Hellenistic period and the second is probably Byzantine), Late Bronze scarabs and scarabs impressions, unique anepigraphic bullae, a rare bronze arrowhead that seems to date to the Iron Age I-IIA (the Jebusite period until the time of King Solomon), stone weights from the First Temple Period (which may give us new information regarding the standard weight of the “holy shekel” that was used in the Temple), fragments of architectural elements from the time of the Hasmonean and the Herodian dynasties, many Christian crosses and crucifixes made of iron, bronze and mother-of-pearl, evidence of a bone objects industry during the Late Roman period, a rare Ottoman seal of the grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the 18th century (‘Abd al-Fatah al Tamimi), and British military insignia.

The things mentioned above are just a small glimpse of the great abundance of finds we managed to gather during the sifting so far, and the research work is long and tedious. This is the reason we do not publish more frequently and with more details, so we apologize for that. As the research has advanced, the time necessary and the number of tasks to be completed have significantly increased, so we are now working on further fund raising for the research and publication tasks.

In addition, we continue to give sifting services to other excavations, and recently some very exciting finds were discovered during our sifting of the material from the IAA excavations in the City of David, which will be published by the IAA excavators in the future. Only last week we received a large amount of dirt from the renewed excavations in Lachish directed by Prof. Yossi Garfinkel. From the finds already recovered at the field itself, it seems that the sifting of this soil will be worthwhile and promising.

To date, the Sifting Project has proven to be very important for the elaboration of the history of the Temple Mount. Even now we have new information that may well change the written history of some of the periods of the Temple Mount.

Stone Weights from the First Temple Period

Stone Weights from the First Temple Period

Opus Sectile floor tiles from Temple Mount courts during the Herodian Period

Opus Sectile floor tiles from Temple Mount courts during the Herodian Period

Roman Arrowheads from the Late Second Temple Period

Roman Arrowheads from the Late Second Temple Period

An assortment of jewelry from various periods.

An assortment of jewelry from various periods.

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