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Better Than A Museum

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Visit Us!

Child looking at ancient beads in the lab

Come visit us in our research lab! We miss you! For our supporters, we are offering tours of our research laboratory where you can see all of our special finds and learn about them from one of our expert archaeologists. It is one of the gifts on our crowdfunding page at  www.half-shekel.org .

These tours are our way of saying thank you to our supporters. For these gifts, the donation collected goes to support our project’s research and the process of resuming the sifting itself. Not only is it a great experience for you and your family, but it is an enormous help to our project. You help us to preserve the heritage of Jerusalem’s past. You help to ensure that facts, reality, and the heritage of all people who are connected to the Temple Mount is protected and published. You help us uncover facts that will hopefully lead to educated discussion about this most important heritage site: The Temple Mount

Also…we miss you!

Without the sifting of new material, we are focusing more than ever on our research in the research lab. While we have been getting a lot done, I must say that we do miss showing off our amazing material to visitors. There is something amazing about seeing a child’s face light up when he holds a piece of pottery from 3000 years ago. It is a reminder of how simple joy can be sometimes and how we should always look at the world with awe and wonder.

Recently, we’ve had a number of visitors come to our research lab and it has been an absolute pleasure to show these people the exciting things we have been doing and the amazing artifacts that we now know more about than ever before.

Artifacts you can touch at the lab

On site, it was special to do a summary at the end of the sifting to show everyone what they had found. Sometimes though, depending on what was found that day, it could be challenging. It’s great to say “look! You found a piece of pottery!” but it is equally if not more important to be able to show why we care about that piece of pottery. Here at the lab, we can really tell the whole story of the Temple Mount. We can show you what the Temple would have looked at from the floor tiles to the decorated column tops. We can show you the daily life of people from the weapons they fought with, to the cooking pots they cooked with, to the dice they played with and really paint a picture of what a person’s life was like, and how that changed from period to period. We can show you how materials changed over time and how we can really see the differences in style or material as one period moved into the next. We can show you the symbolism on coins that have been professionally cleaned so that you can actually read the words “For the Freedom of Zion” and not just wonder what is underneath that lump of green metal. Here at the lab, we have almost an interactive museum of amazing artifacts that we can show you, and many of which you can touch and feel for yourself.

Dr. Aaron Greener discusses the project with visitors in the lab

Not only that, but we have the experts here who are working on their research as we speak. I was here the other day as Frankie figured out how one of her triangles was made using only a compass and a string. It was a literal Eureka moment, and here at the lab she can tell our visitors her research up to the minute. We can share with you theories that aren’t quite ready for print, and we can show you the things we’ve only just discovered as meaningful in our storage boxes, such as two rare pieces of pottery that we discovered actually fit together and are from the same vessel. The lab is an exciting place to be, and we are so lucky to be able to share that with our visitors.

We actually have a renovated space now where we can comfortably fit groups, and we are having more and more groups come to us and learn first hand about the amazing history of the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, it is still a place of work, so groups have to be specially organized to ensure that a tour doesn’t disrupt an entire day’s work. This also means that these tours are a bit more exclusive than the sifting site was. Tours of our research lab are guided by one of our senior staff members to donors on our crowd-funding site at www.half-shekel.org. Tours are 1.5-2 hours and we can now accommodate up to fifteen adults. We would love to have You come and visit us. Be in touch and email development@tmsifting.org for more information or to schedule your visit.

 

International Women’s Day 2018

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Lab staff of the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Girl Power at the Sifting Project!

Today is International Women’s Day and I want to gloat about the amazing women working for the Temple Mount Sifting Project. We really have a special workplace because we have such a high percentage of women working here. With a lot of talk recently about women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), archaeology can sometimes be overlooked because many people associate it with the humanities. However, as someone who was required to take statistics for my archaeology major at Boston University, I can tell you that archaeologists regularly use the left side of the brain. What makes archaeologists so special is their ability to integrate the hard science and logic aspect of the field with the understanding of people, social structures, and the humanity side of the field.

Women working as archaeologists are power houses and I am honored to call some of them my colleagues. Though many doubt us, we women can handle the rough days of field work getting dirty and processing finds, and the long days of research and analysis, the complex statistics and categorization of finds. My coworkers are creative and precise and manage to be some of the most genuine and kind people I’ve met.

Frankie Snyder with an example of a floor pattern from the Second Temple

People who know our project know that our researcher Frankie Snyder is amazing. She is a mathematician and actually taught math in America. When she moved to Israel, she started volunteering at our project. Almost 10 years later, and she has come out with some groundbreaking research on our opus sectile tiles. Using geometry, material analysis, and comparisons with other Herodian sites, she was able to recreate the possible patterns of the floors of the Second Temple complex. She discovered what we call “Herod’s triangle” whose base is equal to its height, like a triangle constructed inside a square. This triangle with the unusual corner angles of 52°-64°-64° was very common in Herodian patterns but was rarely seen in floors elsewhere in the Roman world. When used in a pattern, the “Herod’s triangles” cause adjacent tiles to also have unusual, but mathematically recognizable corner angles. With math, ingenuity, and creativity, Frankie made one of the most amazing discoveries in Jerusalem archaeology in a decade.

Razia Richman making a scale drawing of an artifact

Dorit Gutreich sorting pottery

Frankie is just one of our many amazing women at the Temple Mount Sifting Project. We have had many female managers at the sifting site and we have a lot of female researchers and staff as well. Razia Richman does all of our detailed to-scale drawings of special finds. Nili Ahipaz is researching all of our coins dating from the Persian period (4th century BCE) to the time of the Arab Conquest in the 7th century CE. She is interested in how the symbols and inscriptions on coins can teach us about the beliefs and aspirations of the people who minted and used them. She is an inspiration to us, reminding us why we are studying these things, and not just identifying what they are.

Dorit Gutreich took over the study of Crusader and Medieval period pottery from another fantastic female: Giulia Roccabella. Dorit is also researching all of our ancient glass. I was talking to her about International Women’s Day, and she said that the best advice she could ever give is to, “believe in yourself and your abilities. Always follow your heart. I studied archaeology just because it interests me. I never thought I would be able to find work in it afterward, but you know what? I have been practicing archaeology for more than 12 years now.”

Me, Jenn Greene showing off some mosaic tesserae at the sifting site.

Working with all of these amazing people, I feel like you can’t ever let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something just because you are a woman. There are so many opportunities now for further education and experience and the biggest, hardest step is always the first step. I moved to London for my MA program at University College London and then moved to Israel and got my citizenship.  Even though it has been difficult and completely foreign to everything I’ve done before, I have not regretted that first step for an instant.

So women: Be brave. Be strong. Be yourself.

*Note: We are currently looking for researchers in a number of different categories. Both women and men are welcome to apply and join our amazing team. Contact me at development@tmsifting.org.

 

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.”

herods-quilt

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.

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.

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

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