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Top 10 Topics from 5777

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I can’t believe that another year has passed. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I want to take a minute to look back at the crazy year we have had. To be honest, we have had a lot of ups and downs, but through it all, our biggest strength has been our supporters. Your generosity and messages of encouragement have helped us to continue our important work and have helped us climb those mountains of bad news that have faced us this past year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

So let’s take a look at the past year! I went through our English Facebook Page (follow us if you haven’t already!) and tallied up the posts that made the most impact: most likes, shares, views, and comments. From finds, to videos, to urgent appeals for support, you have stood by us and shared this with us.

10. Early Islamic Artifacts

This post talked about some Early Islamic Period artifacts and linked to our blog post about the possible destruction layer we uncovered.

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Golden Mosaics from the Dome of the Rock

9. Evidence of the Greeks on the Temple Mount

This post celebrated the holiday of Channukkah and talked about Greek finds on the Temple Mount including a coin with the face of Antiochus Epiphanes IV who is the villain of the Channukkah story. Check out the whole story HERE.

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Greek coin with the face of King Antiochus Epiphanes IV

8. Archaeologists Restore Temple Mount Flooring from Waqf’s Trash

This was an article about our reconstructed Second Temple floor patterns published by Haaretz. Our floors have always been a popular topic. 🙂 Here is a link to the whole article: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.740548

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7. Lost and Found: A modern day bracelet

We found a modern day 10K gold bracelet and are (still) trying to find the owner. It has an Israeli 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. Share the story and help us find the owner!

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6. Our video asking you to “Join Us” in our Annual Appeal.

Thank you to everyone who liked, shared, and donated in our Annual Appeal. Knowing that we have consistent supporters really makes us feel like you are part of our Sifting Project Family. Don’t forget, it’s an annual appeal so you will be hearing from me again ;).

5. Six-Day War Artifacts in the Temple Mount Soil.

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. Check out the whole article in the Times of Israel and watch the video we put together in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Jerusalem.

4. Evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount

Last October, UNESCO adopted a biased and political resolution that disregarded Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount, cast doubts regarding the Jewish connection to the Western Wall, and protested 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. In response to this resolution, we wrote a blog post that outlined a lot of the archaeological evidence that we have of the Jewish temples on the Temple Mount. This was widely shared and is one of the most important posts we have written. Please read and share because the Temple Denial Movement is real and we have to know how to respond to it with educated answers. Click here for the full text of the post.

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Artifacts from the First and Second Temples

3. The Most Powerful Video about UNESCO and the Temple Denial Movement

This video was put out by Channel 2 News here in Israel. Seen in Hebrew by more than 1 MILLION people on Facebook alone, we added English subtitles so that it could be shared with people around the world. It is important to respect the narratives of people today, but this needs to be in addition to, and not at the expense of, real history. It is also easier to find common ground when relating to each other through facts and history than solely through hard-won respect for beliefs and narratives. Please watch and share.

2. Our Temple Mount Tour videos

Over the past few weeks, we have posted 11 (so far) videos touring the Temple Mount with Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira and talking about different features on the Temple Mount. All of these videos have been very popular and we promise to keep making them. Here is a link to the whole playlist on YouTube.

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1. Closing the Sifting Project

When we were forced to stop sifting the Temple Mount material this past April, we were all in shock. How were we going to move forward? How were we going to continue our research? We turned to you and let you know about the situation. You shared the video hundreds of times and it reached more than 34,000 people. We were able to raise over 200,000 shekels and because of that we were able to continue our research this year while we try to come up with the funding to resume the sifting. We cannot thank you enough for your support. At our darkest hour, you made such a difference to us and to our project. Government help takes a long time to initiate and we aren’t in the clear yet, but knowing that we can count on you makes all the difference.

Sneak Peak: Christianity on the Temple Mount

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ch Hey Everyone,

We here at the Sifting Project find artifacts from across the rich history of the Temple Mount. We truly are doing our best to research and preserve the history and heritage of everyone associated with the Temple Mount, from Jews to Pagans to Christians and Muslims and all those in between. I know we have recently written a lot about the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, so today, we are going to focus on another important group with a major connection to the Temple Mount: Christians.

St. Joseph’s Day

You may not know this, but March 19th (yesterday) is commonly recognized as St. Joseph’s Day! It is widely celebrated by many sects of Christianity across the world and has particular importance in parts of Italy, Malta, Spain, The Philippines, and in New Orleans. In Christianity, St. Joseph was the husband to Mary and the foster-father to Jesus. He is the patron saint of all manner of working people, and he himself was known as a carpenter. He is also the patron saint of pregnant women and unborn children, fathers, travelers, immigrants, and of the dying.

From the Temple Mount

One of the special finds we have uncovered from the Temple Mount is a bronze Catholic medal in Spanish from the 1800’s depicting St. Joseph. On one side, it depicts St. Joseph holding an infant Jesus in his right hand and a lily in his left. In Spanish it reads,  “S. Jose R.P.N.” (Rogad Por Nosotros) meaning St. Joseph pray for us. On the other side, it shows the Holy Spirit as a dove with rays descending to two hearts. In Spanish it reads, “Corazones de Jesu y Maria” meaning Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It also says “Roma” or Rome along the bottom edge. The suspension loop on ours is broken, and unfortunately I cannot show pictures to you all today because it has not been officially published. However, it is almost identical to this one (below) that our researcher discovered on eBay.

St. Joseph holds a special place in Christianity and many places and churches all over the world are named after St. Joseph, including the Spanish form, San Jose, which is the most commonly named place in the world. In popular religious iconography he is associated with lilies (as in our medal) or a spikenard (muskroot). He is typically portrayed as an older man, usually as a marginal figure next to Mary and Jesus. Some statues of Joseph show his staff topped with lily blossoms, and he is often accompanied by carpentry tools.

So from our office to yours, and all the workers out there, have a wonderful day!

Give Me Beads!

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Happy Mardi Gras!

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Beads found by the TMSP

In honor of Mardi Gras, we thought we would share with you some information about… beads! Beads, the world’s first form of adornment, come in an astonishingly wide range of decorative and polychromatic materials. Shell beads discovered at Skhul Cave on Mount Carmel in northwestern Israel have been dated to about 100,000 B.C.E. Besides being used for personal adornment, beads were also used as talismans, status symbols, religious articles and a medium of barter.

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Carnelian Bead

Approximately 700 beads have been sorted and catalogued at the Sifting Project, and while about 60% of them are glass, others are made from bone, ivory, clay, metal, mother-of-pearl, seashells, wood and stone. The natural stone beads include ones of red-orange carnelian, green aventurine and amazonite, blue sodalite and chalcedony, purple amethyst, yellow amber, silvery-gray hematite, clear quartz, and striped agates. We are currently researching these beads in order to date them and find any of importance.

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Our researcher, Frankie Snyder, artistically strung assorted beads from various periods into two necklaces (below) so that we could easily show these artifacts at exhibits. It is much easier to picture how these beads might have been used seeing them in a necklace, rather than separated in small boxes on a table. The reddish one has most of our carnelian beads, and the multicolored necklace has an assortment of other beads made of glass, bone, stone, and other materials. I would definitely wear the red one.

Want more beads? Well, obviously, it’s Mardi Gras! So check out this post about one of our mother of pearl rosary beads!!

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.

Crusader Columns

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Crusader Column Fragment

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John and the column fragment

Find of the Month: November!

This month’s Find of the Month is this fantastic fragment of a column from the Crusader Period. It was found by volunteers, John Walker and Timothy Ressler, who were visiting from America. Though we have found many fragments of architectural elements over the years, finding a piece as intact and clearly identifiable as this one, is rare. We really appreciate Tim and John’s help and the help of all of our volunteers who help us uncover archaeological gems like this one.

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Crusader column with curls like the one found at the Sifting Project

Crusader period columns are usually very simple in design, and there are actually columns and pieces of columns from the Crusader period still on the Temple Mount that match this fragment found in our soil. My first question about the artifact was, “Is it from Solomon’s Stables?” The answer is that it probably is not from inside the stables, which uses mostly stones from the Herodian period. More likely, the column fragment comes from the Crusader Church or Monastery that was destroyed at the end of the Crusader period when the Muslims retook control over the Temple Mount. It is possible that this fragment is from that initial destruction, but it is also possible that the column it came from was put in secondary use during the Ayyubid or Mamluk period and was broken later on. Either way it is a really interesting look at a time period on the Temple Mount not often discussed.

When I started asking about this fragment, Frankie, our expert in Opus Sectile, but also really knowledgeable about the Temple Mount and the Crusader Period, began describing the layout of the Temple Mount during the Crusader period and what happened afterward. I managed to get it on film, so here is a quick video. I hope you enjoy!

Follow us on YouTube for more videos like this one and for archaeology related playlists!

Check out some of our other recent Finds of the Month!

What a week!

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What a week! What a week! In case you missed it, or have only been seeing bits and pieces of what we have been doing lately, this blog post will give you a summary of our activities last week. Also check out the video and abstract on Frankie’s research here!

Press Conference

Tuesday we had a press conference to discuss the remarkable work of Frankie Snyder who has reconstructed possible floor tile patterns from Herod’s Temple Mount. The Press conference was about an hour and included speeches by Frankie, Dr. Gaby Barkay, Zachi Dvira and answers to many frequently asked questions on this subject. Check out one of the many articles written about it!

Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.740548

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37288925

Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Archeologists-restore-tiles-from-Second-Temple-in-Jerusalem-467021

Forward: http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/349345/tiles-from-king-herods-second-temple-restored-by-archaeologists/

Ynet: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4851227,00.html

Times of Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/floor-tiles-found-in-holy-site-rubble-said-to-be-from-second-temple/

Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/archeologists-restore-flooring-that-adorned-the-second-temple-of-jerusalem/

And even Architectural Digest: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/temple-mount-jerusalem-floor-restoration

Conference

Thursday was even more fun for us. We took part in the annual Megalim Conference in the City of David. We had an exhibition showcasing the 7 different designs that Frankie has reconstructed from the Opus Sectile floor tiles found in the sifting that originated in Herod’s Temple Mount. She spoke personally to over 300 people and there was a lot of excitement over her discoveries. A lot of people have been mentioning how seeing these tiles help them visualize the Temple and make them feel closer to their past. It is amazing to me what a few pieces of stone can do.

We also had volunteers sift buckets of earth from the Temple Mount as a demonstration of our methodology. This was the first time we have sifted outside of our facility to Emek Tzurim. One of the more interesting things to come out of that sifting was a bone tool. More research is needed to be more precise about dating and use, but it shows how every bucket holds something special and unique that can give us details about what life was like on the Temple Mount in the past. We plan to set up a portable sifting facility like the one used at the conference so that we can bring it to different Israeli towns in order to provide more access to this project and help more people from all different parts of Israeli society connect to their history.

The conference itself was a complete success. It was overcrowded with over 1000 people attending. Frankie received many compliments on her clear, concise, and truly interesting lecture on her work. You can read the article (English) about it in the upcoming edition of the Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December volume). We have put a video of Frankie’s lecture (about 10 minutes) with the slides she used on our website as well as an abstract of her upcoming English article on the subject.

Please spread the word about our project. Like our facebook page, follow our blog and twitter feed. Share our posts. Reblog. We have so much information to share and we need your help to reach as many people as possible with the historical truth of the Temple Mount.

Holy Cross Day

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One of the amazing things about the Temple Mount is the depth of history that can be found on one site in such a small amount of space. Daily, we uncover artifacts from every time period that the site was in use: from Late Bronze Age (ok that might be weekly) through the First and Second Temple Periods, the Crusades, and the Islamic Periods through to today. The Temple Mount is a holy place for over half the world’s population and we consistently find things that connect to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Today is Holy Cross Day/Feast of the Holy Cross/Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and so we thought we would share some of the crosses found by the Sifting Project that originated from the Temple Mount. I will let our guest blogger, Frankie Snyder, take over from here.

Feast of the Holy Cross/Exaltation of the Holy Cross/Holy Cross Day. September 14th. According to legends, the cross on which Jesus died was discovered in 326 CE by Queen Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. By the order of Helena and Constantine, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site of her discovery. Nine years later the church was dedicated on September 14, 335 CE, so September 14 has been chosen by many Christian denominations as the Feast of the Holy Cross. The cross as a symbol of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world came into use only after the time of Constantine.

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This small Crusader-era floor panel in the Holy Sepulchre marks the place where legends say Queen Helena found Jesus’ cross.

Like Queen Helena, Christians throughout the ages have made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Before the era of “blogs” and “tweets,” these pilgrims recorded the events of their sacred travels in journals. For Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, these journals give us insights into geographical and topographical information, as well as the manners and customs of the Holy Land, especially from the “Christian periods”, i.e., Byzantine period (324-638) and the Crusader period (1099-1187). We learn where churches were located, how the Crusaders decorated buildings on the Temple Mount for Christian use, how church festivals were celebrated, and local sites pilgrims visited.

Local Christians and pilgrims alike have come to the Temple Mount and have left behind a few things – “artifacts”, to archaeologists. At the Temple Mount Sifting Project, we have a whole collection of crosses and cross-stamped artifacts – religious articles, jewelry, oil lamp shards, coins, etc. – that tell us about the Christians who lived on, and visited, the Temple Mount.

We have found crosses and crucifixes that were worn as jewelry or used on rosaries (Catholic prayer beads). Some are made of bronze (Figs. 1-2)

while others were carved from bone (Fig. 3) or soapstone (Fig. 4). One was even molded from lead (Fig. 5). The ones carved from mother-of-pearl include simple crosses (Fig. 6), but one was carved as a crucifix (Fig. 7).

Byzantine oil lamps had crosses molded into the clay (Figs. 8-9).

Each Crusader coin had a cross minted onto one of its sides (Figs. 10-13).

Happy Holy Cross Day to those who celebrate!

For the First Time, Archeologists Restore Flooring from Second Temple Courtyard in Jerusalem

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PRESS RELEASE

For the First Time, Archeologists Restore Flooring from Second Temple Courtyard in Jerusalem

Tiles uncovered during sifting of earth originating on Temple Mount

JERUSALEM, September 6th, 2016 — Archeologists from the Jerusalem-based Temple Mount Sifting Project are confident that they have successfully restored a unique architectural element of the Second Temple. Namely, a series of regally decorated floor tiles that adorned the porticos atop the Temple Mount, and which likely featured prominently in the courtyards of the Second Temple during the period that King Herod ruled (37 to 4 BCE) in Jerusalem.

“It enables us to get an idea of the Temple’s incredible splendor,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The restored tiles will be presented to the general public on September 8th, at the 17th Annual City of David Archaeological Conference. “This represents the first time that archeologists have been able to successfully restore an element from the Herodian Second Temple complex,” stated Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was established in response to the illegal removal of tons of antiquities-rich earth from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf in 1999. It is located in the Tzurim Valley National Park, and is supported by the City of David Foundation and the Israel Archaeology Foundation. The initiative is run under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and the Israel Parks & Nature Authority.

Frankie Snyder, a member of the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s team of researchers and an expert in the study of ancient Herodian style flooring, succeeded in restoring the ornate tile patterns “using geometric principles, and through similarities found in tile design used by Herod at other sites,” said Snyder, who has an academic background in mathematics and Judaic Studies. “This type of flooring, called ‘opus sectile,’ Latin for ‘cut work,’ is very expensive and was considered to be far more prestigious than mosaic tiled floors.”

“So far, we have succeeded in restoring seven potential designs of the majestic flooring that decorated the buildings of the Temple Mount,” said Snyder, explaining that there were no opus sectile floors in Israel prior to the time of King Herod. “The tile segments were perfectly inlaid such that one could not even insert a sharp blade between them.”

To date, approximately 600 colored stone floor tile segments have been uncovered, with more than 100 of them definitively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period. This style of flooring is consistent with those found in Herod’s palaces at Masada, Herodian, and Jericho among others, as well as in majestic palaces and villas in Italy, also attributed to the time of Herod. The tile segments, mostly imported from  Asia Minor, Greece, Tunisia and Egypt, were created from polished multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes. A key characteristic of the Herodian tiles is their size, which corresponds to the Roman foot, approximately 29.6 cm.

The possibility that large expanses of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple were covered with opus sectile flooring was first raised by archaeologist Assaf Avraham in 2007, director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Avraham’s theory was based on a description given by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus (1st Century CE) who wrote, “… the uncovered [Temple Mount courtyard] was completely paved with stones of various types and colors…” (The Jewish War 5:2) Additionally, Talmudic literature records the magnificent construction of the Temple Mount, describing rows of marble in different colors – green, blue and white.

“Now, as a result of Frankie Snyder’s mathematical skills, we have succeeded in recreating the actual tile patterns. This represents the first time that we can see with our own eyes the splendor of the flooring that decorated the Second Temple and its annexes 2,000 years ago,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.  “Referring to the Temple that Herod built, the Talmud says that ‘Whoever has not seen Herod’s building has not seen a beautiful building in his life’. Though we have not merited seeing the Temple in its glory, with the discovery and restoration of these unique floor tiles, we are now able to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Second Temple, even through this one distinctive characteristic.”

Since the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s inception in 2004, more than 200,000 volunteers from around the world have taken part in the sifting, representing an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.

For more information:

Ze’ev Orenstein – Director of International Affairs, City of David Foundation

zeev@cod.org.il

Photo Credit: Temple Mount Sifting Project

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.