Sifting Antiquity on the Temple Mount Sifting Project
Temple Mount Sifting Project investigates Temple Mount soil
Sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is today a contested site. Archaeological excavations are not allowed here, though one project—the Temple Mount Sifting Project—has been analyzing soil that came from the Temple Mount since 2004. In “Relics in Rubble: The Temple Mount Sifting Project” in the November/December 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Temple Mount Sifting Project codirectors Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira detail where the soil came from, how their partnership began and what ancient finds have come to light from this holy site.
Preserved as a nearly rectangular man-made platform, the Temple Mount stretches 36 acres—equivalent to about 28 football fields. Located in the current Old City of Jerusalem, the site was where King Solomon built the First Temple in the 10th century B.C.E., where the Second Temple was erected in 516 B.C.E., and where King Herod rebuilt the Temple and expanded the Temple Mount in 19 B.C.E. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism.
The Temple Mount has been a Christian pilgrimage site since at least the fourth century C.E., when the Pilgrim of Bordeaux chronicled his journey through the Holy Land. The Jerusalem Temple is referenced several time in the New Testament—it is where Jesus drove out merchants and overturned the money-changers’ tables to cleanse the Temple (Mark 11:15–19; Matthew 21:12–17; Luke 19:45–48).
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