Yesterday, at Haifa University in a conference commemorating 150 years for the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), Frankie Snyder, a senior member of the Sifting Project who also in charge on the research and publication of the opus sectile floor tiles, gave a presentation on her fascinating discovery of the elaborate Crusader floors that were installed in the Dome of the Rock by the Crusaders in the 12th century. She managed to reconstruct the pattern of the Crusader from tiles found in the sifting of the soil from the Temple Mount. A detailed article about this will be published in the future in the proceeding book of the conference. Here is the abstract of the presentation:
Reconstruction of Crusader Floors in the Dome of the Rock Based on Picturesque Palestine Illustrations and Finds from the Temple Mount Sifting Project
Long before the convenience of cell-phone cameras, before Nikon, Canon and Kodak, talented artists meticulously sketched pictures of late 19th century Palestine. The lavishly illustrated Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt edited by Sir Charles W. Wilson features 600 sketches by artists John Douglas Woodward and Harry Fenn reproduced in 40 steel and 560 wood engravings depicting ancient sites and native customs. The detailed accuracy of their sketches provides information pertinent to archaeological research even today.
The precise location of in-situ remains of a Crusader-era opus sectile floor in the Dome of the Rock was identified by studying a detailed engraving published in Picturesque Palestine. Opus sectile tiles recovered at the Temple Mount Sifting Project indicated floors similar to 11th-12th century floors in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre had been constructed by the Crusaders in Temple Mount buildings, but their original locations were unknown. With extremely limited access to the Dome of the Rock by archaeologists, combined with the fact that the stone floors are covered by carpets and scatter rugs, the engraving provided extremely valuable information otherwise unavailable to researchers.
This paper will discuss the connections between the earliest image of the opus sectile floors in Wilson’s book, early 20th century reports by Ernest Richmond, recent photographs published in a dissertation written at the University of Amman about the Dome of the Rock, similar Crusader-era floors in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and opus sectile tiles found at the Sifting Project.