Last Sunday Waqf officials used a tractor to dig an 80m long ditch on the Temple Mount platform, in order to install new electricity lines. The trench depth varies from 50 – 100 cm deep. During the excavation, grey earth, which indicates archaeological significance was removed from the dig,. In addition, signs of ancient architecture were exposed beneath the current platform slabs!! It should be mentioned that the bedrock level at this location is very close to the current platform.
The earth from this dig was dumped upon the piles of debris stored on the eastern side of the Temple Mount. In the future, we may also have the opportunity to sift these piles, but, in the meantime, there is a court ruling banning the Waqf from removing these heaps without archaeological supervision.
While examining the earth that was dug out of the ditch, we managed to notice First Temple, Second Temple and Byzantine Period pottery shards. We also noticed opus sectile tiles, that resembled those found in the sifting project. Assaf Avraham, site manager, has managed to prove that these tiles date to the Second Temple Period (see third Progress Update and second Preliminary Report). This means that during the Second Temple Period, there were courts on the mount that were paved with this technique. We also managed to notice a certain type of clay glazed-frame tiles, similar to those found in the sifting project. We are still unsure if these tiles match the Izmit Ottoman glazed wall tiles that have been a very common find in the sifting. If so, then they date to the 16th century, and were probably removed during the Jordanian renovations of the Dome of the Rock. Therefore, at least some of the earth that was dug out of the ditch also dates to Modern times. This is also a reasonable conclusion, since the work replaced an old electric line that was installed on 1959, but the current ditch was deeper that the previous line.
The most depressing part of this event is that it was done under the authorization and even supervision of the Antiquities Authority. More information and pictures can be seen at the Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction website (www.har-habayt.org)