Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Temple Mount Salvage Operation

Despite the ongoing destruction of irreplaceable archaeological treasures by the Wakf, the dump site for some of the rubble excavated has been found.

The dump site on the northern slopes of the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus in the background.

In order to be of scientific value, archaeological ruins have to be found in situ, their locations carefully recorded, before being removed. Because the rubble removed during construction of the fifth mosque on the Temple Mount is loose, it is of limited value in nailing down times and dates.

Walking towards the archaeological sifting operation.

There was still some snow on the ground (this was taken a few months ago.)

A glance back at the Temple Mount.

For this reason the government decided not to proceed with excavations. One also suspects an ulterior motive, that the Israeli government is not eager to prove Jewish links to the Temple Mount, which might offend Muslim sensibilities and make it more difficult to redivide the city. However, donors from Elad stepped in and funded the excavations privately. Due to Israeli government opposition, the research was conducted without government permit for two years, until it was legalized a year ago.

Some valuable information can still be obtained from the individual relics which were rescued. Coins and seals with inscriptions tell us who occupied Jerusalem when, charred bits of bone can be dated to indicate when the temple sacrifices were still being carried out, and pottery shards tell us during which years the land was occupied.

One of the archaeologists tells us about the finds on the Temple Mount

The operation is largely conducted by volunteers, led by professionals, who come out on Fridays to sift through the rubble.

Sifting through the rubble. Foreground: ancient pottery shards.

The procedure for combing the rubble is showin in photographs below:

Step 1: Dump a bucket of muddy rubble into the screen.

Step 2: Spray clean

Step 3: Sift through the rubble (yours truly.)

Step 4: Pick out items (in this case, my fellow digger Lars has found two coins, likely Roman-era, a piece of the previous mosque which is buried under the current mosque, and a piece of plaster from the Byzantine church which predates the mosques.

Step 5: Sort out the items.

Coming tomorrow: some images and descriptions of items which have been discovered.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of Jerusalem from last December, when there was still some snow on the ground.

Snow on roofs in East Jerusalem. These sheep seem to have Greek letters spray painted on them. Perhaps it's a fraternity prank?

The view from Pisgat Ze'ev. It's cloudy in Israel but the sun is shining on Jordan.

A thin coat of snow on the slopes of Mount Scopus.

No comments: