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Find and Finder of the Month: Alexei Vishnyakov Found a Crusader Opus Sectile Tile

Vishnyakov with tile
Alexei Vishnyakov from Russia uncovered evidence of Crusader tiling in the Temple Mount.

We haven’t had a “Find & Finder of the month” post for a while now. We’re happy to report that we’re slowly coming out of the pandemic slump, and we’ve had lots of visitors, who’ve helped us recover quite a lot of artifacts. Finding and training suitable staff members has proved to be even slower, and we’re still playing catch-up.

Over the coming weeks we will be working on the backlog of these posts, and first of all, here comes the Find & finder of the month for the month of March:

Meet Alexei Vishnyakov from Moscow, who visited us in late March. Unlike most of our foreign visitors, Alexei and his family weren’t in the country as part of any vacation or planned trip, but were here because back home there’s a war going on…

Alexei found a small yellowish stone tile. Upon measurement, we found it to be a perfect square with each side measuring two and a half centimeters – i.e exactly one inch.

Our long-time readers are already familiar with the term Opus Sectile and with the spectacular Herodian designs which we’ve been able to reconstruct (doesn’t ring a bell? Read more here ).

But this particular tile can’t be Herodian – All of the Herodian-era tiles are small multiples or large fractions of the Roman foot. Artisans using the inch as a basic unit of measurement would come to work in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount only eleven centuries later, during the Crusader period.

The Crusaders built very few new structures on the Temple Mount, preferring to use the preexisting structures, while giving them touch-ups here and there. Till this day, whenever the floor carpets of the Dome of the Rock are replaced, we catch glimpses of the Frankish floor tiles. Interestingly, most of the small square tiles in these floors are black, surrounded by bright tiles – this tile, and a few similar ones, seem to indicate a reverse pattern existed as well.

One place where a Crusader-era Opus Sectile floor can still be found is the western arcade of the Dome of the Rock, preserved in pattern found also in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Read more about this discovery and its meaning here.

For further reference see:

Snyder, Frankie, Gabriel Barkay, and Zachi Dvira. “Reconstruction of a Crusader” opus sectile” floor in the dome of the rock based on” picturesque Palestine” illustrations and finds from the Temple Mount sifting project.” In Exploring the Holy Land 150 Years of the Palestine Exploration Fund, pp. 81-98. Equinox Publishing, 2019.

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