The Temple Mount Sifting Project Between the Straits

Special finds from the TMSP

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the sifting site at the Masu’ot Lookout has been perhaps the only archaeological site in the country that did not halt operations in response to the situation. With limited staff and local volunteers, we have uncovered several significant finds, including clay seal impressions, coins and gems and we have made significant progress in the research and publication process of the finds (see details of the finds at the end of this message).

Last year we made the decision to resume the sifting, which had been suspended for over two years. Although this increased our budget, we believed that with the help of visitors’ admission fees, the operation would eventually become economically self-sustaining. Indeed, by the beginning of March were receiving a substantial number of reservations, such that we reached the point where the income was covering most of the expenses. But then came the pandemic and the stream of overseas visitors and reservations immediately stopped.

We believe that there is deep historical significance in continuing the sifting of the Temple Mount soil and the remarkable finds we have found since March certainly justify this commitment.

Along with the sifting operation, our research activity has also progressed. Although this part of the project does not depend on income from visitors, we are aiming nevertheless to keep tightly to our budget and to focus solely on topics of open research that are in an advanced stage. This is out of concern that an economic crisis following the pandemic will make it more difficult to raise funds for research.

When life started to return to normality in the early summer, we invested in advertising and marketing channels in optimistic preparation for a stream of sifting participants during the summer and the school vacation. Then came the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak. Without your generous response to this appeal, we will have to reconsider the scope of our activities, including the possibility of ceasing the sifting and this may also cause us to lose some our best trained staff.

The issue of fundraising is something that is very difficult for us to do. We are mainly archaeologists and researchers, and asking for donations does not come naturally to us. It is even more difficult for us to reach out again to the same people who support us every year. But we have no choice, and if we wouldn’t have done this in the past, the project would have ceased to exist.

So here it is again, the time of year that we must ask for your support – please do click on the donate button below and make your contribution now. To supplement our income, we are also asking for your help in encouraging groups to make reservations. At this point we are still allowed to host small groups of visitors and we are operating according to the government guidelines that are updated almost daily.

You can also contribute to the project by simply making reservations to the sifting. Even if you are not sure you will arrive at the time of the reservation, you can always contact us and postpone the order to another date.

Thanks in advance!
Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira, co-directors
Haggai Cohen-Klonimus, research coordinator
Yoseph Lellouche, sifting site manager
Hava Elboim, office and financial manager
And all rest of the The Temple Mount Sifting Project Staff
Among the remarkable finds of the past five months are three clay seal impressions from the First Temple Period, a rare clay seal impression from the Byzantine period, an extremely rare clay seal impression from the Early Islamic period, marked pot handles from the First Temple Period, fragments of inscriptions incised upon pottery, evidence for a mother-of-pearl jewellery and inlay industry, additional opus sectile floor tiles from the courts of Herod’s Temple, shards of decorated pottery from the Persian period (the days of the returnees to Zion), a fragment of an inscription (probably Latin) on a marble slab, an ivory hair pin decorated by a naked woman (perhaps Venus), evidence of imported pottery during the Late Bronze Age, and much more.
These are in addition to artifacts which are more frequently found, such as fragments of lathe-created stone vessels from the Second Temple Period, Hasmonaean coins, Roman procurator coins from the later days of the Second Temple, Crusader coins, Caliga nails (used in Roman legionaries’ sandals), jewellery from different periods, fragments of First Temple period clay figurines, arrowheads, game pieces, and many more.

During the last few months, we have made significant progress on our research report publication in the following topics:

  • Pottery of the First Temple Period (Iron Age IIB-C) – The text of this chapter of the report has undergone scientific editing and is now finalized. We have likewise completed all associated technical drawings.
  • Pottery of the early days of the First Temple Period (Iron Age IIA) – We have progressed in the typology study and the chapter’s first draft and finalized all technical drawings.
  • Pottery of the Later Roman, Byzantine, and Early Islamic periods – We have finalized the typology study and have started writing the chapter’s text. We have also completed most of the technical drawings.
  • Coins of the Second Temple Period – The text of this chapter has undergone scientific editing and is now finalized.
  • Roman Gems (decorated semi-precious stone ring inlays) – This chapter’s first draft Is now ready.
  • Ancient Bead Technologies – We have completed the first draft.
  • Fragments of Inscribed pottery from the First Temple period – We have completed the cataloging process and the technical drawings.
  • Scientific Article about the Immer Clay Seal Impression and the Temple Treasury – We have completed the Hebrew version, which will be sent to publication soon.
  • 4th Preliminary Report – We have drafted our 4th preliminary report, which focuses on summarized data of the pottery artifacts and coins.
Thanks to all our supporters, we will continue to bring the history of the Temple Mount to light. Thank you for being a part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

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