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An Important Letter from the Temple Mount Sifting Project

The story of the Temple Mount Sifting Project is your story just as much as it is ours. Ever since its founding, the project has continuously relied upon people just like you. It is our many followers, supporters and volunteers who play a vital role, and if not for them, we couldn’t have reached the many significant achievements we have. Now, as the project celebrates its 18th year, more than ever, we need your help. As we wait for the final approval of partial governmental support, our financial situation has become dire and does not allow us to continue the momentum which we have gained. If the future of the project is important to you, including its education aspects and other values, please follow the link at the bottom and donate to our project, and call on your friends to do the same.


Dear friends of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, participants and steadfast supporters!

Conventional sifting rubble from the Temple Mount during the early stages of the project (prior to our having developed the wet sifting method).

It’s hard to believe but the Temple Mount Sifting Project has just celebrated its 18th year! When we first began our work back in 2004, our goals were short term and aimed at only examining small samples of the earth that had been removed from the Temple Mount, a process we believed would unfold over the course of several months.

Back then we couldn’t have imagined that our work would span years, and that it would include the participation of more than 230,000 volunteers! Nor did we imagine that the volume of finds we’d recover would number hundreds of thousands of artifacts, holding tremendous research potential for better understanding the history of the Temple Mount.

Israeli Police officer inspecting the small cave under the Dome of the Rock.

And even more so, we couldn’t have imagined that our project would create a strengthened sense of connection felt by vast segments of the Israeli society and visitors to the history of this most significant and holy site. In addition, it has generated an increase in the awareness of the importance of preserving the antiquities on the Temple Mount, which influenced state authorities to begin enforcing the antiquities laws on the Mount, and prevent actions which could lead to further destruction of antiquities. 

Our finds represent the first ever archaeological data originating from within the Temple Mount soil. However, we have always maintained that our most significant discoveries include not only archeological artifacts, but also the people who partake in the sifting. In fact, participants in the sifting project who enjoy a significant and rewarding experience help spread the word to such an extent that we hardly need to promote and market the activity. Tour agencies often report that their clients find the sifting of the Temple Mount earth to be the highlight of their trip. School teachers attending with their students often convey the tremendous educational value they find in the sifting experience. Our many volunteers can now enjoy an enhanced experience resulting from improvements and upgrades applied to our training procedures and sifting methodology over the years.

Our finds include not only archeological artifacts but also people.  

About a decade ago we embarked upon the monumental project of scientifically publishing the finds. These include about 20,000 special finds (such as ancient coins, arrowheads, jewelry, etc.). They also include hundreds of thousands of more common finds such as pottery sherds, animal bones, as well as other finds collected mostly for conducting statistical analysis. The finds can be divided into about 120 separate categories, each one of which is researched by an expert in the field. The experts perform initial sorting, identifying, dating and cataloging the artifacts, followed by a comprehensive statistical analysis. These final reports are set to be published in six thick volumes.

The funds which we have managed to raise thus have enabled us to complete 15% of the research. Around ten of the chapters from the first three volumes are near completion, and some will lead to additional publications in scientific journals. In addition, around ten preliminary reports have been published, and three more are set to be published within a year.

In the last few days we’ve reached an additional breakthrough in our research. During the first years of the project we sampled earth from several sites along the Old City slopes in order to establish statistical control groups. We now compared the distributions of the First Temple Period pottery sherds discovered in the Temple Mount Sifting Project to those found in the control groups. The comparison revealed several distinct types of pottery vessels common to the Temple Mount, and virtually non-existent in the other samples. Such pottery vessels have been previously interpreted and connected to cultic or pilgrimage activities. This new discovery is very exciting, and we will continue to study it and publish further information about in the near future.

In other words, in addition to the special finds which we continue to discover at the sifting site, such as clay sealings bearing Hebrew names, rare coins, floor tiles which adorned the Temple Mount courtyards, jewelry, weapons, inscription and additional items, the tedious processing of the enormous volume of finds is beginning to produce highly meaningful results.

There are about 120 various categories of finds, each one of which requires a specialist for its sorting, identifying, cataloging, documenting and analyzing it for final scientific publication (a process that may take as much as several years). Our particular case involves a tremendous volume of artifacts that had been removed from their original context, making this research a far greater challenge than in an ordinary excavation.

Unfortunately, the important work we are undertaking at the sifting site and research lab may end abruptly. Recurring donations and research grants which have sustained the project for several years have been significantly reduced due to the slowing economy. Our resources are dwindling, and if we are unsuccessful in raising a substantial sum in the next month, we will be forced to significantly reduce our activities. We may even have to let go of highly trained professional personnel who have acquired a deep understanding of our professional work. Although we are currently in the process of securing governmental funding (one track is in its final stages), the process will take several months to come to fruition.

We are currently in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish festival which best signifies our ability to spread light even in the darkest of hours. Not unlike the Maccabees of old, we find ourselves left with only a small juglet of pure oil. We now turn to you and request your help in keeping it full, so that we may endure during this difficult period.

Thank you, 
The Temple Mount Sifting Project staff

The first Hasmonean era oil lamp found in the sifting. It was discovered during the project’s early days, on the first day of Hanukah, December 2004.
3 replies
  1. Karl I Ransome
    Karl I Ransome says:

    I have just tried to contribute by MC 50 dollars for the Temple Mount Soil jar and after filling in my current credit card details correctly message “We cannot charge this card, please replace”. I don’t have another card to use. Does your system have different details from previous gift?

    Reply

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