Home

Jerusalem Day and the Six-Day War

No Comments

 “The Temple Mount is in our Hands!”

Machine gun magazines, bullets, Jordanian coins, and uniform badges were found in sifting the soil from the Temple Mount. The artifacts tell the story of the unification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

Broadcasted on the army radio network, nothing is more symbolic of the unification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War than the immortal words of Colonel Mordechai “Motta” Gur, commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, as they conquered the Old City, “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”

IMG_3560We at the Temple Mount Sifting Project have this revelation daily as we work with soil and artifacts from the Temple Mount found by our project. The Temple Mount is literally in our hands.

As you know, our project is special in part because of the wide range of history it can help explain. Just as we have tangible artifacts from the Temple Mount’s ancient history, from the time of the First Temple’s destruction by the Babylonians, the Hasmonean wars, the Great Jewish Revolt which led to the destruction of the Second Temple, and the Crusader-Muslim battles, we have direct evidence of the Jordanian presence on the Temple Mount, and for the Six-Day War battles 50 years ago.

Yesterday, on Jerusalem Day celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, we had a booth in the Old City and displayed some of our special artifacts including our Opus Sectile floors, arrowheads, and artifacts from the Six-Day War. We had hundreds of people stop and learn about these artifacts as well as donate to our campaign to raise the funding necessary to continue our research. If you would like to support our research, please visit www.half-shekel.org or contact development@tmsifting.org for more information.

Some major news media covered the following artifacts in articles published yesterday. Here is a great one from The Times of Israel. It was also covered by The Jewish Press and on many Hebrew news sites.

Six-Day War – an Incredible Story

Among the artifacts that we have recovered from the Temple Mount are tens of items which may be related to the IDF’s arrival at the Temple Mount during the Six-Day War. Although these are not ancient archaeological artifacts, they have great historic significance and they can teach us about our recent history. It is usually thought that no battle occurred on the Temple Mount during the Six-Day War. The ammunition that we have found caused us to raised doubts regarding this premise and “dig” deeper into the details of the battle of Jerusalem during that time.

The IDF forces entered the Old City and the Temple Mount through the Lion’s Gate on Wednesday, June 7th 1967. The Jordanian forces had fled the city early in the morning, but some resistance pockets and sniper positions remained on the Temple Mount and the Old City. The previous day, the Jordanian military was positioned on the Eastern city wall, of which the Temple Mount’s Eastern wall is a significant part. On the night of June 6th, a special commando unit and some tanks were ordered to capture the Mount of Olives. They mistakenly lost their way, and instead of reaching the road towards the Augusta Victoria building, they reached the Kidron Bridge to the Gethsemane Church. The bridge’s location left them completely open to massive fire from the Jordanian positions on the wall above, killing 5 soldiers. During the rescue attempts, the IDF soldiers on the bridge fired back at the Jordanian positions. The story of this engagement is described well by Moshe Natan in his book, “The War for Jerusalem.”

In order to better understand our artifacts, we spoke with Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun who was a part of the paratroopers force that entered the city through the Lion’s Gate. He said, “Following the Kidron Bridge battle, the commander of the Jordanian battalion in the Old City asked permission to evacuate the Old City since he realized that the IDF was encircling it. The Egyptian General of the Eastern front did not understand the symbolic significance of the Old City and the Holy Sites [for Jordan] and allowed the retreat. The Jordanians fled the city [on June 7th] early in the morning. The IDF did not know that, and at 7am bombarded the city walls with artillery fire in order to make the Jordanian soldiers withdraw from the walls. One artillery shell that missed the target killed three of our soldiers […] From the minaret near the Gate of the Tribes, a Jordanian soldier shot at us, but we managed to take him down before he could hit one of our men. As we entered the gate into the Temple Mount, paratroopers shot bursts of fire into the air to intimidate [the Jordanians], but Motta Gur (the commander of the brigade) immediately gave his famous order, “Cease Fire! All forces cease fire! A holy place, do not shoot. The Temple Mount is in our hands.””

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also recovered a 25 round magazine of an Israeli made Uzi sub-machine gun, which served as the personal weapon of every IDF commander. There are also several 9 mm bullets – the Uzi’s ammunition. A number of 9 mm bullet casings were found as well. One casing, which was produced abroad, has a manufacture date of 1956. Another 9 mm casing was manufactured in 1952 and has the Hebrew letters “MIT,” which is an acronym for the State of Israel, Military Industry. These bullets and casings attest to the fact that during the Six-Day War antiquated ammunition was used. In addition, a 7.62 mm blank cartridge with a headstamp date of 1957 was found. This round was probably used for firing an anti-tank grenade from a Belgian made Fal or “FN” rifle which was commonly in service of the IDF during this period. Among the ammunition that was found were two 50-caliber projectiles probably fired from a Browning heavy machine gun. The bullet tips are warped indicating that they hit a hard surface. It is likely that these bullets originated in the return fire of the IDF soldiers pinned down on the Kidron Bridge shooting at the Jordanians positioned on the Eastern wall of the Temple Mount.

Yaakov Goldfine, a soldier who was a sniper in the Jerusalem Brigade and entered the city from the Dung Gate, gave us a further explanation about the weapons used during the war. “We were using an English Enfield rifle which we upgraded to be used as a sniper rifle. For backup, we had the Belgian FN which was used by the infantry soldiers. […] I entered the gate and ascended the Temple Mount. It was easy to see how the Jordanians used the Temple Mount as a military fortification. In spite of that, our orders were not to shoot at the Old City with heavy weaponry or bomb it from the air. The neutralization of the Jordanian positions was done by the infantry forces, and it cost us losses.”

Among the coins discovered by the Temple Mount Sifting Project are four corrugated aluminum Agora coins. These are Israeli coins minted in 1967 and 1968 and which must have fallen out of the pockets of IDF soldiers or the first Israeli visitors who arrived at the Temple Mount following the Six-Day War.

Pic06- jordanian coins

Furthermore, the sifting yielded nearly forty Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom coins. Almost all the coins were minted prior to the Six-Day War, when the area was under Jordanian control from 1948-1967.

Though Israel is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, and Gur’s famous statement is being remembered and widely shared, the Temple Mount itself has a more complex reality. The first Jordanian coin from the sifting was discovered on June 6, 2005, the 38th anniversary of Jerusalem’s unification. This coin was minted in 1991, and probably arrived at the Temple Mount in the pocket of a Muslim worshipper or a Waqf employee who worked on the Temple Mount. The Jordanian Dinar (and its denomination –piasters) has remained a legal currency in the West Bank, continuing from 1967 until today.

Two small metal badges depicting a Jordanian flag were also discovered in the sifting and may have been pinned to Jordanian army uniforms. The post-war Jordanian artifacts reflect the complex political situation on the Temple Mount. Officially, the State of Israel holds sovereignty over the area, but the state has de facto given some authority to the Jordanian Kingdom via the Islamic Waqf.

It is amazing how our artifacts really express these complex situations and these moments in time. It is research like this that makes me truly love archaeology and the different ways that it can be used to understand our past. This research falls into a somewhat new category of archaeology known as “Modern Conflict Archaeology” which takes an interdisciplinary approach to try and understand the artifacts created during modern conflict. (Definitely check out the above website, because it is a truly fascinating new approach to archaeology.)

To support more research like this, go to www.half-shekel.org or contact development@tmsifting.org for more information.

How Much Does It Weigh?

No Comments

Find of the Month: February!

After a week away in the field, it is so nice to be back at the Sifting Project. It is my pleasure to present February’s “Find of the Month!” Now, this find requires a lot more research because it is pretty rare.

image-1Nicolle Perez from Ma’ale Adumin found this round stone that is likely to be a scale weight. It was her first time volunteering at the Sifting Project and she was really excited to have found something that could potentially be very important to our understanding of the history of the Temple Mount. It is amazing how something so small can provide so much information.

We have found a number of weights in the sifting. Our expert in weights is still looking for parallels that match this stone, because it is unlike most of the other weights we have found in the sifting. By parallels of shape and raw material, this stone is likely from the First Temple period, but more research is necessary to eliminate other possibilities.

In antiquity, before coins were used, weights were used to regulate and measure trade and barter. Most often, these weights would be used to weigh small pieces of silver which were traded as “currency,” although still very different from coinage.

46866

A 4 Gerah Judean scale weight found by the Sifting Project

Weights were used across the ancient world from India to the Aegean and beyond. In the land of Judah, including of course Jerusalem, the system of measurement for weights was based on the Shekel and is also mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament.

The shekel had many sub-units. This meant things could be weighed by half a shekel, or commonly in multiples of 2, 4, and 8 and deviations of Beqa, Pym, and Nesef. We know of Beqa and Pym from the Bible as well as smaller deviations known as Gerah.  The system was centered on a central unit of c. 11.33g.

45810

Judean scale weight

More than 500 inscribed Judean scale weights from the Iron Age have been found and published and they create a very homogenous weight-system. Most of these weights are made of local limestone and shaped as domes with flat bases. Many are inscribed with the names of the various units of measurement such as the Nesef and Pym, while smaller units (Gerah weights) and larger units (multiples of the Shekel) are often inscribed with hieratic numerals. Across Judah, these weights appeared in the 8th century BCE, but they mainly come from the stratigraphic layers dating to the 7th century BCE. Recent research done in Khirbet Qeiyafa by our own expert of scale weights show that the system of the Judean Shekel was used as early as the 10th century BCE.  It seems as though weights went out of use by 586 BCE and did not function by the time of the Persian period where we see the first coins.

The first dome shaped weights were found in Jerusalem in 1881 by the German excavator Hermann Guthe. Judean scale weights have been found in large numbers in almost every excavation of the Iron Age ever done in Jerusalem, supporting the fact that Jerusalem in the First Temple Period was a center of economic activity. This may possibly also support the idea that the Temple itself was a center of the economy.

Some scholars argue that the Temple might have used a slightly different system of weights from the daily shekel, and it is possible that they were marked in a different way. More research needs to be done on this “Shekel of the Sanctuary” mentioned in the Priestly Code of the Pentateuch (Torah) and in Ezekiel. It is possible that this weight system was a later creation in the history of weights, but still dating before the use of coins. It is also possible that the economic system of the Temple was connected with the royal house, as the Kings of Judah made decisions regarding the property of the Temple in times of emergency and supervised its maintenance (II Kings). Only a few weights have been found that might match the biblical accounts of this separate but connected system of weights and measurements. Perhaps more weights found from the Temple Mount itself would help archaeologists better understand this system of measurement and commerce.

23-weights-black

A selection of various weights (not all of the same system) found by the Sifting Project

Channukkah Miracles at the Sifting Project

No Comments

Hey everyone! I love the holiday of Channukkah. Maybe it’s because I grew up in secular America so it was always an important holiday in my house, but now living here in Jerusalem, I love the way the whole city lights up with candles in the windows and there are donuts literally everywhere. It is one of those things unique to Israel that makes this holiday even more special.

Channukkah is also a holiday of miracles. I know I already wrote one post about Channukkah, but I got Zachi to go on a rant about the miracle finds of the first year of our project and I can’t not share it with all of you.

There were a number of symbolic finds in the first year of the project. For example, the first coin to be found by the project was a coin from the Jewish revolt against the Romans that says, “For the Freedom of Zion.” Zion is the ancient name for the Temple Mount and this coin encouraged the Sifting Project founders to continue with their important work “freeing” the history of Zion from the dirt. On Channukkah, the project found their first Hashmonian oil lamp, dating to the same time period as the Channukkah story, and the project’s first arrowhead was found on the 10th of Tevet which is the day that commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Israel Experience

No Comments

Staff Spotlight: October

20161026_143618_resized

So our new news from the lab is that we have two interns! They will be with us for the next few months, so this month’s Staff Spotlight falls onto Hannah Ripps and Renata Roitman.

They are a part of the MASA program, Top Israel Interns. The five month program provides Hebrew classes for the first month, periodic trips to see the country, and connects the participants with internships in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. This year’s group had 10 people in Jerusalem and 16 interning in Tel Aviv.

According to our interns, the best part of the program is the internship (obviously) as well as the ability to really get to be a part of Israel. They have an incredible amount of independence and are housed in the center of Jerusalem with easy access to everything the city has to offer. They can even wake up in the morning and grab breakfast at the shuk (market). It is a truly immersive experience and is an amazing way to get to know the culture and the people of Israel.

Renata

Renata is from San Paolo, Brazil. She came to Israel because she wanted to experience living here and to live in a country with good quality of life. She chose to intern for the Sifting Project because we do “interesting and important work.” She said that in Brazil, people are not aware that the Jewish people were here in Israel for a long time before the creation of the country Israel. She thinks that our project has the ability to make people see that Jews were here before.

In Brazil, Renata studied journalism in university. In our lab, Renata is helping us work on PR and social media, and is focusing her efforts on our Spanish and Portuguese speaking donors and volunteers. Right now, she is working on a Portuguese translation of the archaeological history of the Temple Mount and Spanish translation of the interview with Zachi from Channel 2. I will post links ASAP. Renata said that she is learning a lot about the behind-the-scenes work of an NGO; the difficult parts of what we are doing like our quest for funding and creating educational content. She also has really enjoyed sifting in the field and seeing where the initial work happens.

Hannah

Hannah is from Pensacola, Florida. She chose to come to Israel because she loves this country, and for academic and career related reasons. It was an opportunity to get experience and see the world. She is interested in archaeology, Jewish history, and Jewish art and wants to become fluent in Hebrew. Clearly, Israel is a great place for all of that.

Hannah graduated with a degree in archaeology from Barnard University and Jewish Art History from the Jewish Theological Seminary as a part of a dual degree program. She wanted to intern at the Sifting Project as a way of getting her foot in the door to the archaeological community in Jerusalem and in Israel.

flask

tiny flask with faces

In the lab, Hannah is cataloguing and recording information about objects found in the sifting that have not yet been identified. The lab cannot continue the research process and statistical analysis of the site without the completion of the cataloguing of finds, and we are extremely grateful to Hannah for helping us tackle this huge task. Specifically, she is researching a tiny flask in a neoclassical style. It might be from Germany based on the facial hair and helmet of the man, but we are not yet sure what it was used for.

gdi

Example of gadi material

She is also studying what we are calling the “gadi” material (based on one find with an ancient inscription of a ג and ד). It is thought that these artifacts might be fossils, though there is an internal debate about whether they were used as amulets or writing implements. Further research will hopefully clear that up. If you have information on either object, please let us know on our unidentified finds website: http://www.echad.info/uifinds/ .

img-20161026-wa0000For Hannah, the best part of being involved with the Sifting Project has been finding a Hasmonean coin while sifting. Though it isn’t cleaned yet and we can’t see what is on it (we are waiting for funding to clean the thousands of coins found in the sifting that have yet to be cleaned), we think that it is from the Hasmonean period because it is cut on one side like many from that period. She has also been getting a better understanding of archaeology in general, how research is conducted, and especially how the archaeological system in Israel is organized. She said, “if this is where I want to be for my career, I’m getting a good introduction to that.”

Thanks!

The girls agree that this program has been an amazing opportunity and that everyone they are meeting is friendly and welcoming. (I promise I didn’t force them to say that. Our staff really is just that amazing.) They are both also considering the possibility of making Aliyah and would like everyone to know that they are looking if you are hiring  😉 .

We at the Sifting Project are really grateful to our wonderful interns for all of their help and we hope that you have a fantastic rest of your program. Once part of the TMSP family, always a part of the TMSP family, so know that you will always have a place in Israel.

Archaeological Evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount

No Comments

img_0347

Model of the Second Temple at the Israel Museum

The Need for Proof of the Jewish Temples

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted today a biased and political resolution that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount, casts doubts regarding the Jewish connection to the Western Wall, and protests against the Israel Antiquities Authority’s attempts to supervise construction work on and around the Temple Mount in order to preserve the antiquities and other archaeological data.

This is a purely political resolution that was composed by Palestinian officials and that was accepted by UNESCO as is. It seeks only to preserve the heritage of Islam, and while this is important, UNESCO must not do this at the expense of Jewish and Christian heritage and culture. This resolution does not recognize the daily reality of Jerusalem or the Temple Mount, and its political agenda is in opposition to UNESCO’s own charter and purpose of protecting and promoting science, culture, education and heritage.

The events in the past decades prove that Muslim authorities on the Temple Mount, which are officially controlled by Jordan but controlled by the Palestinian authority and Hamas in practice, have no concern of preserving even their own archaeological heritage, or advancing education, science, and culture at the site.

In 1999, the Muslim authorities excavated a gigantic pit in the south-eastern area of the Temple Mount using bulldozers and removing 400 truckloads of dirt. This was done without any archaeological control or supervision, and, as a result, we have established the Temple Mount Sifting Project in order to save, preserve, and study the vast amount of archaeological artifacts that were buried in this soil and discarded. We retrieved hundreds of thousands of artifacts from this soil dating to the First and Second Jewish Temple periods and onwards, including Christian and Muslim era artifacts that were discarded.

A very interesting Muslim artifact dating to the 18th century that was found is a seal of the prominent Muslim Qadi (Judge), who also served as the Jerusalem deputy Mufti. His name was Sheick ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Tamimi. The current Waqf administrator, Sheick Mohammed Azzam al-khatib al-Tamimi, the current director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, is from the same family, and may be one of his descendants. It is ironic that Jewish archaeologists are the ones who preserve the Islamic Waqf heritage that was neglected and discarded by the Waqf itself.

The existence of the Jewish Temples are beyond any doubt. There is substantial evidence in the numerous historical sources that witnessed them, including Pagan historians that were not affected by the Jewish or Christian tradition, such as Berossus (3rd Century BCE), Menander of Ephesus (2nd Century BCE), Hecataeus of Abdera (c. 300 BCE), Mmaseas of Patara (c. 200 BCE), Diodorus of Sicily (1st century BCE), Strabo (1st century BCE), Tacitus (1st Century CE) and many others.

Although it is not possible in today’s political climate to conduct a proper archaeological excavation on the Temple Mount, there are many archaeological finds that support the almost universally accepted fact: it is the site of the Jewish Temples. Many of the artifacts come from the Temple Mount Sifting Project, and many others can either still be observed at the Temple Mount, were found accidentally during renovations, or were found in archaeological excavations at surrounding sites.

Following is a list of some selected artifacts from among many others:

1Temple Warning Inscription – In 1871, French archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau found a Greek inscription warning gentiles not to enter further into the temple compound. These kind of inscriptions were also witnessed by the 1st century CE historian, Josephus Flavius (War 5, v, 2; War 6, ii, 4; Antiquities 15, xi, 5).

2The Beit Hatekia Inscription – Archaeologist Prof. Benjamin Mazar in 1972 found this Hebrew inscription which had fallen from the south-western corner of the Temple Mount and was found in the rubble being excavated by archaeologists excavating nearby. The stone carries the inscription “lebeit hatekia lehakhriz” which means “to the house of the blowing of the trumpet to announce.” Jewish historians and rabbinical sources described the custom of blowing the trumpets from the Temple Mount in order to announce the time of the sabbath and sacred holy days (Sukka 5: 5; Babylonian Talmud Shabat 35: 2; Tosefta Sukka 4; Wars IV, X, 12).

sealDKA LYH seal – In 2011, Archaeologist Eli Shukrun found a tiny fired clay object stamped with an inscription consisting of the Hebrew letters דכא ליה (“DKA LYH” or ”Deka Leyah”) in a drainage tunnel at the foot of the southern end of the Western Wall. Talmudic scholar, Prof. Shlomo Naeh, convincingly showed that this is a unique object that was used as a token / voucher that enabled the Temple administrator priests to keep track of commerce related to sacrificial offerings. This practice is documented in the Mishna, the first written redaction of Jewish Oral Law dating to around 200 CE (Shekalim 5: 3-5). The inscription upon the seal marks the type of sacrifice: “Dekhar” (ram), “Aleph” (first day of the week) and “Yehoyariv” (one of the twenty-four priestly families who worked shifts in the Temple).

4High Priest Golden Bell – In the same excavation at the drainage tunnel by Eli Shukrun, a golden bell was found dating to the Second Temple period. There is no precedent for this artifact from any excavation in Israel. Our only knowledge of such an object is from the biblical description of the bells sewn to the garment worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:33-34).

5Miqvaot – Numerous Miqvaot (Jewish ritual immersing purification baths) were found in the areas surrounding the Temple Mount. There are also documented underground cavities upon the Temple Mount that were surveyed by explorers in the 19th century. One less known cistern which is located directly under the Al-Aqsa mosque was found by the British Mandate Antiquities Department in the 1940’s, but was never published. We found the documentation of this Miqveh in the British Antiquities Department archives and published it in 2008.

6Herodian Architecture – Several locations upon the Temple Mount, especially the Double Gate entry halls under the Al-Aqsa mosque, preserve until today one of the finest examples of Herodian art engraved on stone. Several gates of today’s Temple Mount still preserve remnants of gates from the Late Second Temple Period.

7Eastern Wall’s section from the First Temple Period – The lower courses north and south of the Golden Gate in the eastern wall are dated by Temple Mount scholars to the First Temple Period (see Leen Ritmeyer, The Quest 2006). The drafting of these stones resembles masonry stones from walls in other sites dated to the First Temple period.

8First Temple Period refuse pit at the eastern slopes of the Temple Mount – In 2009, we uncovered an ancient refuse pit on the slopes of the Temple Mount, which yielded rich archaeological material dating from the 10th century BCE (the time of King Solomon) to the 7th century BCE. The finds included a unique seal impression with an inscription that describes a tax that were given to the King from the city of Gibeo’n. According to the biblical descriptions, the house of the king was also situated on the Temple Mount.

9First Temple Period assemblage found in Waqf electrical wire trench – During the Waqf’s excavation of a trench in 2007 supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, a rich First Temple period assemblage was found just southeast of the raised platform of the Temple Mount. It included pottery, bones and fragments of figurines dating to the 6th century BCE, the later days of the First Temple period.

10A Water cistern at the southeast corner of the Raised Platform – A large underground water cistern documented by the researchers of the 19th century was recently dated by archaeologist Tzvika Tzuk to the First Temple period according to similarly shaped water cisterns recovered in other sites.

Artifacts from the Soil Discarded from the Temple Mount

The following were all found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

11Imer Seal Impression – The most direct evidence ever found of the First Temple comes from a tiny seal impression made of clay that was originally attached to a fabric sack, possibly containing silver or gold. The seal bears the inscription: “(Belonging to) […]lyahu (son of) Immer”. The Immer family was a well-known priestly family at the end of the First Temple period, around the 7th – 6th Centuries BCE. Pashhur son of Imer is mentioned in the Bible as “Chief officer in the house of God” (Jer. 20:1). It may be assumed that this object sealed some precious goods that were kept in the Temple treasury which was managed by the priests. This sealing is the first ever evidence of ancient Hebrew writing from the Temple Mount and of the administrative activity which took place in the First Temple.

Artifacts from the time of King Solomon – Some of the artifacts found by the Sifting Project date to the 10th-9th centuries BCE, the time of King Solomon, builder of the First Temple, and his successors. These artifacts are rare in Jerusalem and they have brought forth critical evidence in the heated debate about the size of Jerusalem in this period. Some scholars in the past doubted that the Temple Mount was annexed to Jerusalem during the 10th century BCE. They suggest that Jerusalem was not a capital city but rather a small village. These artifacts contradict this minimalist assertion and confirm the biblical account regarding Jerusalem during this period. The finds include pottery sherds, a rare stone seal that is conical in shape, and a rare arrowhead.

13Half-Shekel Silver Coin – From the Second Temple period the Sifting Project has recovered over 800 Jewish coins. Many of the coins from the late Second Temple period seem to be burnt, probably as a result of the fire that led to the destruction of the Temple. A particularly exciting find is a rare silver coin minted during the first year of the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66/67 C.E.). The coin features a branch with three pomegranates and an inscription in ancient Hebrew script reading “holy Jerusalem” (ירושלמ קדשה). The reverse side of the coin features temple vessels and is inscribed “half shekel” (חצי השקל).

These half-shekel coins were used to pay the Temple tax during the Great Revolt, replacing the Tyrian shekel used previously. It appears that these half-shekel coins were minted by the Temple authorities on the Temple Mount itself. This half-shekel tax for the sanctuary, mentioned in the Book of Exodus (30:13–15), required every male to pay half a shekel to the Holy Temple once a year. Our half-shekel coin is well preserved but bears scars of the conflagration that destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

 

14Herodian Temple Courts Lavish Paving – Hundreds of opus sectile stone tiles were found in the sifting. Opus sectile (Latin: “cut work”) is a technique of paving floors in lavish geometric patterns using meticulously cut and polished polychrome tiles. Many of the tiles have been dated to the Late Second Temple period based on parallels found in Herodian palaces. Their dimensions are based on fractions of the Roman foot (c. 29.6 cm). Flavius Josephus, writing about the open courts surrounding the Temple, says, “Those entire courts that were exposed to the sky were laid with stones of all sorts” (Jewish War 5:2) Lately we have managed to reconstruct some of the patterns of these special floors using geometrical principles and through similarities found in floor designs used by Herod at other sites.

For more information about the Temple Mount Sifting Project, check out the Nov/Dec 2016 issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review.

Jewish Linkage to the Temple Mount after the Temple Destruction

The Jewish rabbinical sources during all centuries after the Second Temple’s destruction in year 70 CE indicate that the site was the focus of Jewish prayers and thoughts. In addition, several Jewish graffiti inscriptions were found within the Temple Mount done by Jewish pilgrims during the medieval periods. This is in spite of the difficulties and bans put upon Jews dwelling and visiting in Jerusalem. These inscriptions indicate a continuous linkage of the Jewish people to their holiest site.

showimage-ashx

A potsherd bearing a symbol resembling the Temple’s menorah was found in the sifting. Based on its clay type and texture, the potsherd dates to the period of Byzantine rule over Jerusalem , from 324 to 640 CE or the beginning of Early Islamic Period (7th-8th Century CE) showing that even then, there was a connection to the Jewish Temple that had been destroyed.

Documents that were found in the Cairo Geniza tell us about the Jewish residents of Jerusalem during the Early Islamic period who had a custom to encircle the Temple Mount and pray in front of the Temple Mount gate. One of the most prominent Jewish rabbis in the Medieval Era, the Rambam, wrote that he entered the Temple Mount and set upon himself a private annual feast day for that occasion.

Summary

As mentioned above, due to the comprehensive historical sources and Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions about the Temple Mount, there is no need for archaeological evidence to prove the existence of the Jewish Temple upon the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, the Temple Denial agenda that was created 20 years ago and promoted by Palestinian politicians and religious leaders managed to expand to some Arab scholars and apparently has also now been adopted by UNESCO. Since they claim that no archaeological artifact proving the existence of the Jewish Temples upon the Temple Mount was ever found, it is important to bring this proof and research regarding these very real artifacts to the general publish.

If you would like to donate and help us continue our research on this important subject,

please click here.

Symbols of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

No Comments

sukkot-2015

Sukkot and the Temple

Sukkot, known as the Feast of Tabernacles in Christian writings, was one of the three holidays where Jews would gather in the Temple in Jerusalem (the others being Passover and Shavuot). Sukkot was the easiest time of year to make the pilgrimage to the Temple, and hundreds of thousands of people would come and live in sukkot (booths) in Jerusalem. Sukkot was the most important Jewish festival before the destruction of the Second Temple. In the Mishna, the oldest codification of Jewish law, Sukkot is not even named but rather referred to as HaChag (The Holiday).

The Temple Mount was the heart of the celebrations of Sukkot. The best example of this is described in Maccabees 10 6-8. It describes how after the Maccabees cleaned the Temple, they celebrated what would be Channukkah in the manner of Sukkot because they had not been able to celebrate Sukkot properly in the Temple due to the restrictions of the oppressive Hellenistic regime. The 8 days of Channukkah were based on the 8 days of Sukkot, and Channukkah was celebrated with the four species of Sukkot.

sukkot-4species6And they kept eight days with joy, after the manner of the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long before they had kept the feast of the tabernacles when they were in the mountains, and in dens like wild beasts.
Therefore they now, carried boughs, and green branches, and palms for Him that had given them good success in cleansing his place.
And they ordained by a common statute, and decree, that all the nation of the Jews should keep those days every year.
(Maccabees 10 6-8. Translation from the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible).

Coins and Symbolism

The four species of Sukkot, the lulav (palm branch), hadas (myrtle), aravah (willow), and etrog (citron), are probably to the most recognizable symbols of the festival. During the First and Second Jewish Revolts against the Romans (66-70 CE and 132-136 CE), Jews minted their own coins with Jewish symbols and messages like, “for the redemption of Zion.” This was an important way of spreading their message amidst illiteracy and difficulties in disseminating information.

49283c

1/4 shekel coin found by the Sifting Project. From First Revolt 69/70 CE.

This is a ¼ shekel coin found in 2010 by Yesnia Barcia, a volunteer at the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Made of bronze, the obverse shows a goblet and reads, “Redemption of Zion.” The reverse shows a lulav and reads, “4th year.” It is a coin from the first Jewish revolt, meaning that this coin dates to the year 69/70 and is from the last year that a Jewish Temple stood on the Temple Mount.

The goblet pictured may have been a pitcher for libations on the altar in the Temple. The Ramban thought it might represent the vessel that held the manna that escaped with the ark from the Holy of Holies before the Temple’s destruction. It also resembles a goblet featured on the arch of Titus, and is clearly an important vessel from the Temple even if we don’t know what it represents exactly.

Palm branches are symbolic of victory in the Hellenistic and Roman world as well as in Jewish iconography. The lulav can be depicted as the symbol of victory and vindication on the Judgement Day. Vayikra Rabba 30 describes how when a man emerges from before a judge holding palm branches, we know that the verdict was in his favor. The midrash relates that when the nation of Israel comes before the Almighty on Rosh Hashana in judgement, when Israel comes out with lulav in hand, celebrating Sukkot, the verdict was in its favor.

49283c-just-lulav

Close up of 1/4 shekel

On this coin, the lulav is closed and includes the arava and etrog like we have today. One of the ways that you can identify the hadas branches on this coin is the dots which are the fruits of the hadas. Interestingly, the Mishna says that one can’t use hadas branches with fruit, but it is possible that at the time of the First Revolt, this practice was acceptable. By the Second Revolt 70 years later, the coins no longer depict fruit on the hadas branches.

We do not have coins from the Second Revolt on the Temple Mount because Bar Kochba (the leader) and his forces never reached Jerusalem. Though the coins from the Second Revolt are very similar to those of the First Revolt, the differences are quite telling. In addition to the subtraction of the fruit of the hadas branches, the lulavs on the coins of the Second Revolt show only one hadas and one arava versus the many branches of hadas and arava on the coins of the First Revolt. This is according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, who was the spiritual leader of Bar Kochba and the revolt. Today, Jews follow the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael and the Rambam, and use multiple branches of hadas in order to beautify the mitzvah of shaking the lulav.

bar-kochba

Coin dating to Second Revolt 132/133 CE. Photo Source from: www.amuseum.org

This is a coin from the Second Revolt. It is a silver sela dating to 132/133 CE. On the reverse, you can clearly see the lulav and etrog as described above with one branch of each type of tree and lacking fruit. In the 1950s, a letter was discovered from Bar Kochba ordering Judah Ben Manasseh to supply him with lulavs for his army so that they could celebrate the festival even in the midst of major battles. The importance of Sukkot was such that it has inspired celebration amidst the battles of Bar Kochba and the Maccabees, and has been a symbol of Jewish victory and identity on coins of the Jewish Revolts against the Romans. Yet one cannot separate the importance of Sukkot from the importance of the Temple and the Temple Mount. The obverse of this coin shows the Temple on the Temple Mount and was probably a stark reminder of what the Jews had been missing since the Temple’s destruction 72 years earlier. These coins, used as money, were also a calculated reminder of what being Jewish was about and what the Jews were fighting for.

A Few Ideas

I would like to share with you all a few ideas before we go into our celebration of the holiday of Sukkot. At our New Year party just now, our director Zachi Dvira gave a beautiful speech. In it, he talked about the idea that Sukkot is a holiday where we go back to basics and realize how grateful we are for the things that we have. This is a lot like the Sifting Project. We are grateful for the pieces of the Temple Mount that we have been able to recover, and our job now is to focus on what we have and do the research that will enrich our understanding of the Temple Mount. We are at the point now, where our work in the lab is enabling us to “find” understanding exponentially and is paramount even to some of the finds now being uncovered at the sifting site. May we have a productive year and be able to share our successes with you.

Archaeology – A Lifetime of Love

No Comments

Staff Spotlight: July

“This is a perfectly wonderful, normal, regular stone. Well done!”

Have you seen one of our green-shirted staff members patiently teaching one of our youngest volunteers? This was probably Beverly. As one of our older volunteers, Beverly shows us that a love of archaeology is a lifetime pursuit. Her excitement and energy are a huge asset to our staff and we are lucky to have her.

20160713_114148

The joy of every staff member comes when they receive their green shirt at the end of their training

Beverly came to Israel from England 48 years ago and is now living in the town of Tekoa outside of Jerusalem. She retired from work as a Public Health Nurse and is now serving her community by volunteering with the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Beverly first got involved with our project when she retired and took part in Megalim (Hebrew acronym for The City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies) – a course with Ir David about the First and Second Temple Periods in light of new archaeological discoveries. She found it to be riveting. Each class had a classroom component but went out into the field as well.

As a long time financial supporter of Ir David, she wanted to continue her association with the organization. She took steps to become a volunteer for one of their projects and ended up here with us at the Sifting Project. This was three years ago. Beverly has been volunteering with us once a week ever since and considers it one of the highlights of her week.

024

Volunteers getting their hands dirty and engaging with materials taken from the Temple Mount

Working at the Sifting Project, Beverly has learned a lot about the Temple Mount. Listening to various introductions and wrap up sessions, one gets a feel for the history of the Temple Mount with all its layers and stories. Yet, the most exciting part of learning here is the hands on immersion into the history and the direct contact with the materials that make up the history of the Temple Mount.

Beverly advises sifters not to expect every piece of stone they are looking at to have significance, but to wait for those nuggets of important history that come along and to really learn from the experience. A couple of weeks ago Beverly had a really great day on site. She found two coins and a ring all in one day, but she still considers her most exciting finds to be ones from a couple months back.

20160713_114224

Two uncleaned coins found by volunteers at the Sifting Project. Notice the green tinge.

On a particularly gray and miserable afternoon, Beverly found a really tiny Byzantine coin. When looking for coins, you have to look out for the greenish tinge that comes from the bronze in the coin, so on a day with very little light this task becomes much more difficult. To find such a tiny and important piece of history under those circumstances was extremely exciting.

IMG_3799

Cleaned coins found by the Sifting Project

Beverly’s other favorite find is a stone tool. Made of pinkish stone, the tool has a small shaft and three tiny teeth. When washed it looked as though it could have been modern. Yet when she brought it to the archaeologist, she was surprised to learn that this tiny tool was probably 8 or 9 thousand years old. Not bad for a day’s work. (Sorry no pictures for this one!)

I asked Beverly what her favorite memory was from her time with the Sifting Project. She responded that she loves to work with people. She loves hearing their stories and learning about their backgrounds and enjoys going home and telling her family and friends about the things that we’ve found and the people she’s met. Yet it is when she began to talk about her grandchildren that her face really lit up.

Sharing a Passion with Family

fig23

Special stones collected by the Sifting Project

Beverly’s grandchildren have been to the sifting site twice with their grandmother but numerous other times with their parents, and are really getting a feel for the materials in the buckets. Her 3-year-old granddaughter last year was totally uninterested, but this year was very much engaged in the sifting. She had to stand on two stools in order to see into the sifter and was very cocky about being up so high. Beverly relates that her granddaughter kept lifting up stones and saying, “what is this grandma?” and that she would look at it and respond, “this is a perfectly wonderful, normal, regular stone. Well done!” Her grandson (age 5) was very good at finding pottery and her older granddaughter (age 8) was the family’s flint-finding expert. At one point her grandson became a little bored and said very diplomatically, “grandma, don’t you think we should leave some of the stones for other people to have a look at?” Beverly laughs when she recalls that it was fortunately a very hot day when her family came because at the very end, her 3-year-old granddaughter said happily, “look at me! I’m soaking wet!”

It is with humility, patience, and a spark of excitement that Beverly volunteers with our project and we are very lucky to have her. She is living proof that archaeology is a passion that can be explored and engaged with throughout life.

sift-on(1)