Jere Bacharach (our second E-Sylum email subscriber) forwarded this blog article about the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Thanks.
About the Project
The Temple Mount Sifting Project is under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University. The sifting is funded and operated by the Ir-David
Foundation with the cooperation of the Israel National Parks Authority and the research and publication of the finds is funded by private
donors through the Israel Archaeology Foundation.
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 excavated. Lack of access to the Temple
Mount breeds ignorance and misinformation about its history and compounds the controversies surrounding it.
Our project began in 1999 when the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement conducted illegal renovations on the Temple Mount and
disposed 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 past 12 years, it has grown into a project of international significance. With the help of nearly
200,000 volunteers, thousands of valuable finds have been discovered.
Here are a couple of the numismatic finds mentioned. -Editor
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.
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.
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”
(“ירושלים הקדושה”). 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.
To read the complete article, see:
The Temple Mount Sifting Project
Wayne Homren, Editor
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