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So a Congressman, a Senator, and an Archaeologist walk onto the Temple Mount…

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We’ve been hinting at some big stuff happening in our office. Well two weeks ago we had some very special guests. Dr. Barkay gave a tour of the Temple Mount to five members of the US Congress; Mac Thornberry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Henry Cuellar, Tom Graves, Steve Russell, and Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, as well as their families.

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Temple Mount Tour Group

The Temple Mount, especially recently, has been at the center of many disputes and violence. Our guests thought that it was important to include the Temple Mount in their trip so that they could get a much better idea of the realities of the situation, and they weren’t wrong. Actually seeing the Temple Mount and the people who pray there, the guards, the police, the visitors, and the interactions among them all is a useful tool for better understanding the complexities of today’s political situation on the Temple Mount. Additionally, the Temple Mount is beautiful and every building and stone has a rich and fascinating history that makes the site better than some museums for understanding the history of Jerusalem.

We are so grateful to the delegation for choosing to tour with us. They asked really insightful questions and I think that they learned a lot from Dr. Barkay’s immense knowledge of history. Unfortunately, at 1:30 in the afternoon, the Temple Mount is only open to visitors for an hour. After going through security, we only had 40 minutes to spend on the Mount itself. Though as Dr. Barkay said, “I could spend weeks here talking about this place,” he did a very thorough, though brief, tour of all the major monuments and sites upon the Mount, and best of all, I got it on camera. We now have more videos (to be edited) and added to our Temple Mount Tour series on YouTube. At the end of our Temple Mount Tour, Gaby was asked about our project. Check out his answer!


 

Our Job

Part of our job as archaeologists is to make sure that people understand the past. We have a unique ability to share the history of the Temple Mount and will happily share that with anyone who is willing to listen. We are actively working to share our research in order to combat the Temple Denial Movement and make sure that people recognize the Jewish and Christian connection to the Temple Mount and that it isn’t ignored or overlooked. Our research can provide the evidence necessary to help people respond to the Temple Denial movement. It is part of our mission to have our scientific research encourage educated discussion on the history of the Temple Mount. We do this through the blog, our YouTube channel, and we hope to be able to publish our research soon.

If you support our mission, please consider donating to help our project continue doing it’s important research.

To get involved, go to www.half-shekel.org.

We have a winner!

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Hi everyone! Happy Purim! I just wanted to announce the winners of our Purim lottery!

Irit Doron, Kalle Winner, Eitan Cohen, Avi Ofer, and Geula Palchan! Congratulations!

Our winners will receive one of our full color booklets about the project and our finds AND a full set of all three of our new arrowhead reproductions

What a great way to own a piece of history. The set includes our rare 10th century BCE arrowhead from the time of King Solomon, our Babylonian arrowhead possibly from the destruction of the First Temple, and our Hellenistic arrowhead possibly from the Channukkah story.

Don’t miss out on future raffles and prizes! Like our facebook page now!

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It’s All Fun and Games!

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Find of the Month: December

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Alumah, age 10, holding an astragolos

Over Chanukkah, we had 1356 people come and sift with us! Out of the thousands of amazing finds recovered in the last week and the last month, our find of the month is this fantastic astragolos also commonly known as a game piece from the game of Knucklebones (though it isn’t the knuckles but rather the anklebones from the hind legs of sheep and goats that are used to play this game of chance). This artifact was found by the Bar Yosef family from Eli and seems to be the perfect fit for this fun-loving family! See Alumah, age 10, holding the astragolos found by her family.

The origin of Knucklebones is probably a more primitive form of dice. Sophocles ascribed the invention of knucklebones to Palamedes, who taught it to the Greeks during the Trojan War. It became one of the most popular games of chance in antiquity. The knucklebones, or astragaloi, were used like fivestones, dice, or jacks. The game is played with five small objects (10 with jacks) that were thrown in the air and caught in various ways such as on the back of the hand. Many have been found in funerary contexts and may have been intended to help the deceased entertain themselves through eternity.

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Bone astragolos found by the Bar Yosef family in the sifting

Today, variations of this game with specific rules and combinations of throws and catches are still played in different contexts across the world. Here in Israel, children play “Chamesh Avanim,” which is similar in concept but played with small metal dice or cubes. (This archaeologist can admit that her nieces always beat her).

Sometimes these game pieces were also made out of glass, bronze, stone, and terracotta, or had a hole and were used as a bead. Most astragaloi come from Hellenistic or Roman contexts. In October, while sorting through a collection of bones found the day before, one of our staff noticed that one of the bones looked like it was made of glass. He had found a glass astragolos! Though there have been many glass astragaloi discovered in Greece, its dependents, and the Eastern Mediterranean, they are rare here in Israel. A few have been found in Samaria, Maresha, Dor, and Jaffa. Unless others are unpublished, this was the first glass astragaloi found in Jerusalem. More research will determine the significance of this find and refine its dating, so stay tuned for a future article about this.

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Glass astragolos from the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv that is like the one found by the Sifting Project.

Let’s Play A Game

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Name That Find!

As a part of our Crowdfunding Campaign / Pre-Channukkah Fun / We had a staff meeting and everyone was in the office at the same time so I could take videos of them, we are playing a new game.

Can you identify this object? To me it looks like ancient PAC-MAN or maybe Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas.

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??????

Please leave your answer in the comments and tune in next week to find out if you were right!

Help Find the Owner!

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We don’t usually do this because our artifacts belong to the State of Israel, but we are turning to Social Media to find the owner of this gold bracelet. It was lost on the Temple Mount at some point before 1999 and found in our sifting. Based on the name and style, it is modern and the owner may still be out there! Share this picture and this post so that we can find the owner. (We covered the name on it so that the owner can prove that it is theirs.)

Details: 10K gold. A girl’s name written in English letters. It is very small and may have belonged to a child. It was lost on the Temple Mount before 1999.

The bracelet is worth about $100. Maybe we will find the owner and then they’ll support our research in thanks!

(The shekel is to show scale.)


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Inspiring Supporters

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We love it when we inspire our supporters. We just got an email from Nancy in Washington who is a subscriber to the Biblical Archaeology Review. She said, “We have subscribed to BAR for many years! Imagine my surprise when my husband handed me the latest issue turned to page 58 and said “I have an idea for a quilt for you.” He was reading the article about the Temple Mount Floor tiles. There were three patterns used over and over again. I incorporated the 3 squares plus Herod’s Triangles around the edge. I made it to scale and used the colors found in the floor rubble from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

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Nancy and her beautiful quilt

We are amazed at the detail and beautiful work that went into this quilt. As Frankie put it, Nancy “did an an amazing job of capturing the essence of Herod’s beautiful opus sectile floors.”

What is really interesting is how similar the quilt is to the floor created for the Israel Museum’s exhibit, “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” that was on display in 2013.  The museum display was created from tiles that were found at Herodium, where Herod was buried, and from Cypros, a small Herodian palace on the ridge-line above Jericho.  Plaster replica tiles were then used to fill in the blank spaces.

Though the museum floor was not created from Temple Mount patterns or pieces, Nancy’s quilt is amazingly similar to the museum display! This shows how Herod used similar patterns and materials at these locations. This is how Frankie was able to use what she learned from Herodian, Banias, Cypros, Jericho, Masada and other patterns from the Roman world to reconstruct the patterns of the Temple Mount based on the pieces that were found in the sifting.

We are truly touched when we inspire our supporters. Please let us know if we’ve inspired you! Send us pictures and stories! Also, a special thanks goes out to Nancy for sharing her quilt with us. It is truly a work of art.

Find of the Month: October

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This October, sisters Or and Naya Korshaya found the leg of a figurine, most likely of a horse. Though they are from Jerusalem, it was their first time at the Sifting Project. Finding something so special was a great way to spend the day and it sparked an interest in archaeology!

Most of the figurines found by the Sifting Project are from the Iron II period (8th-6th centuries BCE) and may be related to cultic activities. Our expert, Aaron Greener, is researching these figurines, which provide an important addition to the thousands of similar figurines found in Judahite sites from that time period.

The Sifting Project does not have any completely intact figurines, but rather small broken pieces, most broken in antiquity. We have a number of female pillar figurines and a variety of four legged animals. Most of these are horses and some of them have riders. It would be interesting to know if the leg found by the Korshaya sisters was from a horse with a rider, but because we only have the bottom of the leg, we can’t see the leg of a rider if there were one.

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Other fragments of figurines found by the Sifting Project

Because of their fragmented condition, some scholars have related the broken figurines of the Iron Age Judahite sites to the biblical account of Hezekiah’s or Josiah’s religious reforms. According to the Bible, symbols of idol worship were systematically destroyed and abolished.

Aaron will be presenting his research at the Annual Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies Conference in January and will be published in the first volume of our planned publication.

Thank you so much to the Korshaya family for volunteering with us and finding something so valuable to Israeli archaeology and our understanding of the Temple Mount.

Find of the Month!

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No grit no pearl

This month’s find of the month is actually two finds! With a bit of hard work, determination, and a little luck, two brothers found pearl artifacts on the same day while sifting with us at Emek Tzurim. What a lucky family.

IMG-20160811-WA0010Eitan and Amichai Strik from Israel came to the sifting project with their family over the school summer holiday and really enjoyed their time with us. People often ask us how to pick a “good” bucket. I personally don’t have an answer to this question, but clearly we should all be asking the Strick family for bucket picking tips.

Amichai found a mother of pearl bead while his younger brother Eitan found a beautiful mother of pearl inlay. We have not yet dated either item as dating pearl is very hard to do when the item is out of context. Jewelry trends cycle, so trying to date these items by comparing them to similar items found in other excavations is also complicated.

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Mother of pearl inlay and bead found by the Strick brothers.

Mother of pearl is the common name for iridescent nacre, which is a combination of minerals that is secreted by oysters and other mollusks and deposited inside their shells, coating and protecting them. Nacre is the same material that is deposited around a tiny particle lodged in a mollusk that builds and eventually becomes a pearl.

Most of the mother of pearl found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project was imported from the Nile River. We have a lot of pieces that are considered industrial waste from inlay projects, but also a lot of natural pieces left over from the food consumption of Byzantine monks who had a love of clams. Finding mother of pearl beads or actual pearl inlay is rare in our sifting. We have some inlay that are from the Dome of the Rock and were removed with the gilded glass mosaic tesserae that were installed there during the shrine’s construction in the late 7th century CE. Here are some of the other pieces we have found.

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Pearl inlay artifacts found by the Sifting Project

Picturesque Palestine pg. 133  m-o-p beads 1Mother of pearl has been used for centuries. In Israel, mother of pearl inlays became common after the Late Second Temple period. The Book of Esther (1:6) describes the floors of Achashverosh as made of precious stones, marble, and mother of pearl. The book, Picturesque Palestine (1881), in describing and illustrating the tours of Harry Fenn and J.D. Woodward, show the mother of pearl workers of Bethlehem (right). This was part of the bustling trade with pilgrims in Bethlehem, especially around the holidays of Christmas and Easter. The most popular items for sale were rosaries, some of which included mother of pearl beads, as well as pearly scoops made from the shells of the giant oysters of the Red Sea and brought to Bethlehem from Suez, which were loved by English visitors. Other items for sale to pilgrims in Bethlehem included relics, palm-boughs, scallop shells, crosses, and little images.

Today, wood inlay with mother of pearl is popular on guitars and other stringed instruments. In jewelry, pearls and mother of pearl are in two different categories. Pearls are more rare, and are rounded gems that can only grow to a certain size. Alternatively, mother of pearl is much more common (though not found coating all mollusks). Because the nacre coats the entire inside of a shell, it also provides much more material to work with.

Today, due to awareness of unsustainable pearl-farming techniques, pearls and mother of pearl are not as widely used and much of the jewelry and inlay on the market is antique or vintage. Some companies are working on initiating more ecologically sustainable ways of collecting their material, so perhaps this beautiful substance will gain again in popularity in the near future.

For more information on pearls today, click here.

Finally, a little pearl wisdom:

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A Letter from Dr. Ron Beals Sharing his Experience in the Sifting Project

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Temple Mount Sifting Project

By Dr. Ron Beals, Volunteer

January 6, 2009 Jerusalem Israel


  While many people consider Monday a “blue day” this past one (yesterday) was utterly tremendous. It was a very cool (30° F) morning as I set out for the Temple Mount Sifting Project.  This project is located in Emek Tzurim.  This area is better known to many by the New Testament Name of the Valley of Jehosephat.  It is located between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. 

  Since we were expecting guests at the site I decided to walk to the local supermarket to get some bourekas to have with our “morning tea.” The aroma in the market bakery was totally overwhelming but I restrained myself and finally boarded bus 19 to the Hebrew University where I would begin the mile long walk down the hill to the work site. 

  O arrival, I deposited my treasures in the office and saw Dr. Gabby Barkay, Dr. Kay Prag (an English archeologist with special experience in Israeli and Jerusalem exploration) and Dr. Scott Stripling a volunteer at the site who teaches archeology at a Sugarland, TX school. Dr. Barkay is the Professor of Archeology at both the Bar Ilan and Hebrew Universities.  He is well known in international circles for his archeological work as well as for being the director of this reclamation project. 

  Dr. Prag was here to investigate the work that is being done. They were soon joined by Zachi Zweig, one of the primary investigators and the major instigator of this project.  He has done extensive investigation on Temple Mount archeology. 

  Ater their tour through the project we all took a break for tea and were treated to a two hour discussion and commentary on the archeological endeavors in Israel, in Jerusalem and specifically what had been done near the Temple Mount. The names of notables like Robinson, Robert Hamilton, Kathleen Kenyon and others were flying around like “old friends.” 

  As the discussion continued Dr. Prag was extolling the great work that Dr. Barkay and Zachi Zweig were doing.  Then Dr. Barkay made a comment that was absolutely astonishing. 

It seems that all the extensive work that has been done has been in the vicinity of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.  But there have never been any real archeological digs on the Temple Mount itself or dealing with artifacts from the Temple Mount. 

  There are many academic flaws with this project since the materials have been removed by the Islamic Wakf and are not located at the original site.  Yet, the work of this project is the first evaluation of materials and artifacts directly from the Temple Mount and therefore of extraordinary importance. 

  For centuries after the destruction of the Temple, either foreign rulers or the Islamic Wakf have forbidden any work on the mount itself. In addition they have never allowed access to the site or to anything underground. 

  Now, for the very first time, this project is sifting, finding and evaluating artifacts that were excavated from the Temple Mount by the Moslem Wakf and deposited in a Jerusalem valley.  There were no archeologists to oversee these activities nor was there any assessment of the damage that this destruction was doing to the Temple Mount and it’s history.

  To me this was a stunning revelation. I have read Biblical Archeology Review and other information about the Temple and the Temple Mount. But I had never realized or thought about the fact that at no time had anyone been allowed the opportunity to actually explore the site itself or look at the artifacts that were there. It seems ironic that the most significant place for Judaism and Christianity has never had the opportunity to be scientifically and archeologically scrutinized by experts. 

  What is perhaps even more ironic is that this project has and is being funded almost exclusively by private donations.  However because of the current state of economics and the world political situation, the funding has almost “dried up.” 

  During the past few months the funding for this has been dramatically reduced and they have had to terminate a large number of the staff.  They have continued this project mainly with volunteers and a skeleton staff. Last year at this time there were usually about six or more staff members working diligently daily. Now there are usually two to three members. 

  One of the truly wonderful aspects of this project has been the educational component. There is a small area designated for groups to come to visit. Frequently both school and tour groups come to where they can experience the artifacts that have been removed from the very “House of God” from Solomon’s and Herod’s times.  

  School groups are actually being taught the validity of the Biblical account and that this land and particularly this Temple Mount was existent and is their heritage. They also have the opportunity to experience the project by helping sift through buckets of dirt and rocks and find real artifacts. The response is dramatic. 

 It is my hope that some may find this work important enough to help support these efforts. For those who would like to see more about what they have done go to: http://tmsifting.org/en/ .

 

Ronald D. Beals, MD

 

IN ISRAEL: 12A Mendele, Jerusalem, 050-881-4136

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IN US: East Texas Biblical Prophecy Forum

9030 Old Hickory Rd.Tyler, TX 75703, 903-561-6274

First Knesset Member to Sift the Earth of the Temple Mount

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Last Wednesday, we had a very surprising visit from Labor party secretary, MK Eitan Kabel, who came with his family  to see our site and participate in the sifting project. MK Kabel is the first MK to partake in the sifting. He said that he saw an Ir-David publication about the sifting site, and decided to take a day off and visit with his family.

Hopefully MK Kabel’s example will encourage more public officials to be aware and take responsibility on the ongoing archaeological destruction of the Temple Mount.

 

MK Eitan Kabel and his family participating in the Sifting Project