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Archaeological Discoveries: Artifacts from Temple Mount Saved from Garbage

(October 2005)

In April 2005, a small team of Israeli archaeologists and volunteers discovered a series of relics dating back to the periods of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The most startling aspect of this rare archaeological find was that it did not occur on the Temple Mount, but in piles of rubble at a garbage dump in the Kidron Valley thrown out by Islamic Waqf authorities. Under the direction of Bar Ilan University professor Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the team's discoveries are touted as the first of its kind because excavation has never been possible on the Temple Mount site.

The disrespect of the Temple Mount structure itself, as well as the removal of ancient Jewish artifacts, is hardly a new trend. In 1996, Islamic clerics converted two underground buildings from the Second Temple period into mosques, although they had never been mosques in the past. In 1999, the Waqf opened another exit to the mosque, at the expense of thousands of tons of artifact-rich dirt that was carried away by large trucks and dumped into the Kidron Valley. The Waqf authorities claim that the Temple Mount was an ancient mosque dating from the time of Adam and Eve, and reject any and all claims by Jews that the site is the place of both ancient Jewish temples.

This area of the Temple Mount, known as Solomon's Stables, has been under constant reconstruction supervised by Islamic religious authorities in an effort to erase any Jewish archaeological claims to the site. The former head of the Israeli Antiquities Authority called the removal and dumping of these artifacts "an unprecedented archaeological crime." The Bar Ilan archaeologists transfered nearly 70 truckloads of rubble from the garbage dump to the Emek Zurim National Park, and with a full view of the Temple Mount, conducted the first excavations of its kind by sifting through individual heaps of dirt.

The archaeologists discovered some very compelling relics from the rubble, including some pottery dating back to the Bronze Age and First Temple periods. Over 100 ancient coins were also recovered, including some from the Hasmonean dynasty. One coin from the period of the First Revolt against the Romans reads "For the Freedom of Zion," and was coined before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Other finds include a Hasmonean lamp (ca. 165 BCE-70 CE), arrowheads, an ivory comb, and figurines.

Sources: Mark Ami El, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, (August 1, 2002); Etgar Lefkovits, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, (April 15, 2005).