About the Project

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, and is funded by private donors through the Israel Archaeology Foundation. The sifting activity operated during the years 2005-2017 at the Emek Tzurim national park with the cooperation and funding of the Ir-David foundation. On June 2019 the sifting facility moved to the Masu’ot Lookout with generous support from American Friends of Beit Orot. We are currently working to try and raise the funds necessary to complete our research and operate the sifting. You can support our work toward this goal at www.half-shekel.org.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ByafwjlsTY&w=560&h=315]

Our Story

The story of the Temple Mount is the story of Jerusalem itself. A holy site to the three largest monotheistic religions, it is one of the most concentrated archaeological sites in the world. Yet, for political reasons, it has never been archaeologically excavated. Lack of access to the Temple Mount breeds ignorance and misinformation about its history and compounds the controversies surrounding it.

Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables

Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables (nov. 1999)

Our project began in 1999 when the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement conducted illegal renovations on the Temple Mount and disposed of over 9,000 tons of dirt mixed with invaluable archaeological artifacts. Though Israeli antiquities law requires a salvage excavation before construction at archaeological sites, this illegal bulldozing destroyed innumerable artifacts: veritable treasures that would have provided a rare glimpse of the region’s rich history. The earth and the artifacts within were dumped as garbage in the nearby Kidron Valley. In a bold move, archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira retrieved the matter from the dump, and in 2004, they started sifting it. Their initiative became the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) with the goal of rescuing ancient artifacts and conducting research to enhance our understanding of the archeology and history of the Temple Mount. Over the years, it has grown into a project of international significance. With the help of nearly 220,000


Volunteers sifting at our site

volunteers, thousands of valuable finds have been discovered. It is perhaps no coincidence that this kind of work could not be done by a small group of archaeologists and students, but rather, a large number of people are taking upon themselves the responsibility, duty and privilege of participating in this effort to unearth the discarded history of the Temple Mount.

This idea is movingly expressed in the Book of Psalms:

Thou wilt arise, and have compassion upon Zion; for it is time to be gracious unto her, for the appointed time is come: For your servants have cherished her stones, and have redeemed her dust (Psalms 102: 14-15).

The Temple Mount Sifting Project’s finds constitute the first-ever archaeological data originating from below the Temple Mount’s surface. Though the artifacts have been wrenched from their archaeological context, with innovative methodology and survey techniques our research has the ability to challenge theories, clarify understanding, and present the factual data about the Temple Mount.

The Finds

Every bucket of earth that is sifted contains fragments of pottery, glass vessels, metal objects, bones, worked stones and mosaic tesserae stones. These are the most frequent finds from the Temple Mount. The finds are dated mainly to the First Temple Period and onwards (10th century BCE till today). There are some finds from earlier periods, but they are scarce. In addition to these general categories, there are numerous finds of many kinds: fragments of stone vessels, approximately 5,000 ancient coins, various pieces of jewelry, a rich assortment of beads, terracotta figurines, arrowheads and other weaponry, weights, items of clothing, game pieces and dice, bone and shell inlays, furniture decorations, ornaments, bone tools, etc. Fragments of elaborate architectural members from buildings, among them pillars, architraves, mosaic floors, opus sectile tiles (see below), colored wall plaster (fresco), and glazed wall tiles.

The finds are carefully sorted and studied in the project’s archaeological laboratory, and once the processing and analysis are finished, this data will help to provide fresh insights into the archaeological and historical research of the Temple Mount.

Occasionally very unique invaluable finds are also recovered, such as inscriptions on fragments of walls or on pottery, and inscribed seals or sealings (bullae). A noteworthy clay sealing that was found, has an impression bearing the letters …LYHW (…ליהו) and…’AMR (…אמר). It may be possible to complete the writing as “Belonging to [..]lyahu son of Immer”. The Immer family  was a well-known priestly family at the end of the First Temple period, around the 7th – 6th Centuries BCE, and the Post Exillic Period. Pashur son of Imer is mentioned as “Chief officer in the house of God”(Jer. 20:1).

The impression on the back of the sealing indicated it was originally attached to a fabric parcel or a sack, and it may be assumed that it sealed some precious goods that were kept in the Temple treasury which was managed by the priests. This sealing is the first ever evidence of ancient Hebrew writing from the Temple Mount and to the administrative activity which took place in the First Temple.

Sealing with ancient Hebrew writing from the 7th centuries BCE, bears the name [to ..]YHW [son of] Immer

The finds from the First Temple Period range from the 10th century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE. They include an abundance of pottery (about 15% of the total), with a relatively high proportion of jugs, juglets, fragmented terracotta figurines (probably smashed on purpose, see: 2 Kings 13:2), pot handles with specific incised markings which may indicate a unique cultic designation for the contents of the pots, stone sling-shots, shekel stone weights, arrowheads, and other finds.

To date, the Sifting Project has uncovered more than five thousand coins, ranging from tiny silver Persian Period coins (4th century BCE) until modern times. The many coins that were found in the rubble testify to the rich past of the Temple Mount.   The first coin recovered in the sifting work was very exciting due to its symbolic nature. It was minted during the First Revolt against the Romans that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple.  It bore the phrase “For the Freedom of Zion” (חרת ציון).  The name “Zion” was the name of the Temple Mount in ancient time. The find was particularly meaningful, inasmuch as it was in rubble from the Temple Mount which was one of the focal points of the fighting.

Silver Half-Shekel coin. Obverse: A chalice from the Temple topped by the letter aleph, which means "First year". Around it is inscribed “Half a Shekel”. Reverse: A stem with three pomegranates surrounded by the words “Jerusalem the Holy”.]

Silver Half-Shekel coin. Obverse: A chalice from the Temple topped by the letter aleph, which means “First year”. Around it is inscribed “Half a Shekel”. Reverse: A stem with three pomegranates surrounded by the words “Jerusalem the Holy”.]

An extremely rare silver coin, which aroused great excitement when it was discovered, was also minted during the Great Revolt against the Romans (66/67 CE). The face of the coin features a branch of three pomegranates and an inscription in ancient Hebrew “holy Jerusalem” (“ירושלם קדשה”). The reverse of the coin features an omer (ancient unit of measure) cup with the writing: “half shekel” (“חצי השקל”). Half-shekel coins were used to pay the Temple tax during the period of the Great Revolt and replaced the Tyrian shekel which was used for this purpose earlier. It appears that these coins were minted on the Temple Mount itself by the Temple authorities. The half-shekel tax for the Temple, mentioned in the Book of Exodus (30:13-15), required every male to pay half a shekel to the Temple every year. The coin was well preserved, although it bears scars from a fire which may have been the conflagration that caused the destruction of the SecondTemple in 70 AD. This is the first time that this type of coin that originates from the Temple Mount itself.

Opus Sectile floor tiles from the Temple Mount courts

Opus Sectile floor tiles from the Temple Mount courts

 Another discovery from the Second Temple period and consists of a large number of floor tiles in a variety of shapes and colors which were assembled together in various ways to form rich geometric patterns. This paving technique is known in the Roman world as opus sectile. Some of the tiles are dated according to parallels found in Herod palaces. Their sizes are based on the Roman foot (c. 29.6 cm) and are associated with the “Golden Ratio.”  The writings of Flavius Josephus testify that this technique was used as ornamentation for the Temple Mount open courts which surrounded the Temple: “Those entire courts that were exposed to the sky were laid with stones of all sorts” (The Jewish War 5.5.2). This description is now finally understood thanks to these finds. Other opus sectile tiles found in the sifting are dated to later periods. The variety of sizes, shapes, colors and materials of tiles and the wide range of comparative dates point to the enduring popularity of opus sectile tiles in structures on the Temple Mount.

Reconstructions of opus sectile floor tiles found in the Temple Mount soil

Reconstructions of opus sectile floor tiles found in the Temple Mount soil

The finds discovered in the Sifting Project include large quantities of fragments of architectural elements, possibly from public buildings from the Byzantine period. Many mosaic fragments and architectural pieces from this period, such as roof tiles, Corinthian capitals and chancel screens have been unearthed. The wealth of finds from this period, which also include numerous coins and other finds, contradict the generally accepted assumption that no activity took place on the Temple Mount during this period and that the area was deserted and devoid of structures. These Byzantine Period structures were probably destroyed and replaced by Muslim structures by Umayyad Caliphs in the seventh and eighth centuries CE. The many finds uncovered from the Early Islamic Period include gilded mosaics, pottery bearing inscriptions, jewelry, gold coins, etc.

The Sifting Project has proven itself to be an inexhaustible source of knowledge for the research and study of the archaeology and history of the Temple mount. To date, about 70% of the debris removed from the Mount have been sifted. We hope to resume the sifting of the remaining 30% as soon as we can raise the funding necessary to complete the research on the artifacts already discovered. To help us reach that goal, consider supporting our project at www.half-shekel.org.

25 replies
    • TMSP
      TMSP says:

      Dear Dan,

      Please see:

      or if you can read Hebrew than see our Third Preliminary Report.

      • Dan C. Ryten
        Dan C. Ryten says:

        Thank you very much. I found your articles very enlightening. My own archaeological experience has only involved a few seasons of volunteer work in the lower part of Tell es-Safi, where we had to excavate only 5 centimeters or so before reaching the Iron age level; and therefore most of the finds were preserved within their context.That,needless to say, was a very different experience than the one you’re describing.


    • GFI
      GFI says:

      Dear researchers – I read with great interest that you recently put together small pieces Into complete floor tiles – but what are the dimensions of these full tiles ?

      Thanking you in advance. Karl. Teaneck,NJ

      GFI ADVANCED TECH OFFICE TEL : 201- 833- 8530 Cell : 201 – 406 – 3837


    • GFI
      GFI says:

      Dear  Sirs

      Dimensions  of assembled tiles- I watched the video , but I still want to know the size – dimensions of the tiles – what is the total Sq footage that was covered with tiles ? thanking you in advance      Karl  

      • greenej27
        greenej27 says:

        Because no one has ever excavated the Temple Mount, we don’t know how much of the Temple floor was covered in tiles. We can guess, from the writing of Josephus, that the tiles were featured in the portico and royal stoa, but we do not have dimensions. If excavations are ever made possible on the Temple Mount, perhaps we will get a better idea of the physical layout of the Temples.

  1. Josh Cohen
    Josh Cohen says:

    there is a typo in this paragraph:

    a responsibility, duty and privilege of the large crown of people to participate:

    should be large CROWD of people

    otherwise this is a incredible and inspiring story that i hope to participate in someday

  2. Rob Cuevas
    Rob Cuevas says:

    Is it easy to sign up while we are visiting?
    2 of us my wife and me. Thanks for letting me known what is required to sign up for a day.
    Rob Cuevas
    Pastor North Carolina

  3. Leah
    Leah says:

    I see that you might resume sifting in 2018. We are coming in January to visit our son, and are wondering whether you might be up and running then?

    • jenn
      jenn says:

      Our apologies, the government funding has not yet been secured. There will not be a sifting site in April for our project.

    • jenn
      jenn says:

      Hi Doreen, unfortunately we still don’t have the government funding necessary to restart the sifting. I could tell you about the mountains of paperwork and red tape, but it could fill a book of its own. We’re so sorry to miss you this time around, but enjoy your trip to Israel!

  4. jenn
    jenn says:

    Hi everyone! Though we still don’t have the government funding necessary to restart the sifting, we are offering tours of our research laboratory where you can see all of our special finds and learn about them from one of our expert archaeologists. Check out our crowdfunding page at http://www.half-shekel.org . It’s one of the gifts. We also offer group tours of the Temple Mount with either Dr. Gaby Barkay or Zachi Dvira: experts on the Temple Mount and directors of our project.

  5. Stuart Peck
    Stuart Peck says:


    My name is Stuart Peck and I am a TV producer with the production company Appian Media. We are possibly interested in interviewing someone with the TM Sifting Project for an upcoming documentary series.

    Would someone please contact me at stuart.peck@appianmedia.org.

    Thank you,

  6. Ronald C. Tenney
    Ronald C. Tenney says:

    Hi Jennifer, just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and to let you know
    I was there in 2013 and took part in the sifting and was one of the 25 donors that received one of the images.
    Thank you very much! This image means a lot to me! And it stays in a display box in my bed room along with other stones I picked up while in Israel .Best wishes on
    Your future endeavors!!
    With Love Ron Tenney

  7. Karen Contreras
    Karen Contreras says:

    I think this is the most beautiful things that could happen to Israel to prove who God people are to the world!!!i’m praying for the dig to find what God has left for them to discover!!

  8. Karen Engle
    Karen Engle says:


    I work for Faithlife Corporation/Logos Bible Software, and I’m working on a blog post that talks about recent archaeological discoveries.


    I’d like to include images of the recent 5 rare coins discovered and am requesting permission to use them. They would be cited with attribution to the Temple Mount Sifting Project.
    Thank you!

    Karen Engle,
    Faithlife/Logos Bible Software

Comments are closed.