The Temple Mount — From Then till Now
A Virtual Exhibition Based on the Exhibition Displayed at the New Sifting Site’s Grand Opening
Mitzpeh HaMasu‘ot, Jerusalem Day, June 2nd 2019
The Temple Mount is an historical jewel of innumerable facets, offering each person their individual perspective of the Mount. Whether religious or secular, layman or scholar, the significance of the Temple Mount in the past, as well as the present, is clear to all. While the brilliance and magnitude of the Temple Mount may overwhelm the onlooker, it is exactly this unique and deeply personal narrative which our exhibition aims to illuminate. The heart of our exhibition’s mission is to uncover a finely detailed story into which the identity of every artifact is woven.
Two decades ago, a great travesty occurred when nine thousand tons of earth, laden with countless archaeological artifacts, were removed from the south-east area of the Temple Mount and dumped in the Kidron Valley. The Temple Mount Sifting Project was founded in an effort to rescue these priceless artifacts, and eventually to become the world’s largest communal antiquities salvage effort, attracting hundreds of thousands of volunteers from across the globe and unearthing over half a million finds.
Among the many facets of the jewel that is the Temple Mount, this exhibition focuses on the personal and human story behind the artifacts. These relics of bygone eras, spanning the millennia between prehistoric times and the present, tell not only the turbulent story of the Temple Mount itself, but of the wide variety of people from all faiths that lived upon it, built atop it, came in hopes of completing a religious pilgrimage, conducted business, waged war, or simply came to visit and marvel at the beauty and awe of the site long regarded as the center of the world.
This marvelous tapestry of human activity has been continuously woven throughout history, its strands reaching as far back and forward as the eye can see.
The digitized catalogue below is but a small portion of our numerous finds, which were displayed in a special exhibition during our inaugural event in June 2019. While a number of impressive and unique artifacts can be viewed at this point in time, it is imperative to remember that this is but a glimpse of the endless, priceless artifacts which have yet to be digitized. As time moves forward, and we continue researching the many thousands of artifacts and objects we’ve discovered, we hope to progressively expand our Virtual Museum to include the bulwark of treasures we’ve unearthed from the Temple Mount’s soil.
Exhibition Curators: Haggai Cohen Klonymus, Dorit Gutreich, Daniel Shani.
Text assistance: Peretz Reuven, Nili Ahipaz, Hillel Richman, Zachi Dvira, Gabriel Barkay, Yuval Marcus, Robert Kool.
Photos: Zachi Dvira, Zeev Radovan, Tal Rogovski.
English site: Zachi Dvira, Daniel Shani, Hillel Richman.
Commerce and governance have been intermingled for millennia. Coins could only be minted by a sovereign power or at its indulgence, and indeed, Jerusalem was home to the mint in which the first currency indicative of Judean autonomy was struck. Many centuries before the advent of coins, a vast array of seals, bullae and weights were already in place, reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of central governments throughout the centuries.
Throughout history, the Temple Mount was home to a mixture of cultic and spiritual activities aimed at the heavens, alongside down-to-earth everyday activities. Ritual objects reflecting various periods and faiths have been found in the sifting, some accidentally dropped by a hapless owner, while others were purposely shattered and discarded under religious reformations or changes of government. Amulets and figurines as well as beads, rings, bracelets, game pieces and many other personal objects all help tell the story of the many individuals who frequented the Mount.
Architectural remains and pottery sherds comprise the bread and butter of any archaeological endeavor. Our finds which number in the hundreds of thousands, span all periods of human activity on the Temple Mount. Large architectural fragments were kept on the Mount by the Islamic Waqf prior to the removal of the debris. Thus, most of our architectural finds consist of small fragments, although in some rare cases, large unnoticed fragments were removed as well and eventually discovered by the Sifting Project. As with other artifacts discovered in the sifting, the ceramic finds are rather small in size, preventing the restoration of complete pottery vessels. However, since pottery is datable, it provides invaluable information, allowing us to conduct comprehensive statistical analysis which in-turn could broaden our knowledge regarding the various periods.
Occasionally we encounter artifacts which challenge our ability to understand or properly identify. Some artefacts were identified to a degree, yet their exact use remains puzzling. Although we have several possible propositions regarding most of these finds, they are nevertheless tentative and therefore not necessarily better than your suggestions.