Reconstructing the Context of Our Frequent Finds


When we began transferring the mounds of Temple Mount material from the Kidron Valley dump to the Tzurim Valley National Park, we divided the dump into various areas.  We suspected that the order of the removal of the earth from the Temple Mount and the location of its dumping may correlate somehow to the way it was excavated.  We also separated the marginal areas of the material from the internal areas that had not been disturbed by the other illicit dumps in the Kidron Valley. The Temple Mount material was eventually divided to 11 areas that were removed separately.

Early in the Sifting Project, we already noticed that there were differences in the frequencies of certain types of finds from different areas. Moreover, similar finds, and sometimes fragments of the same object, were discovered within short periods of time. This suggested that these similar objects were originally next to each other. But the full significance and value of dividing the material at the dump into different areas was discovered only last summer, during the processing of quantitative data for the Third Preliminary Report which we recently published. We found that artifacts which we assume to be from the same context were also distributed in a similar manner. Another example is that we found that artifacts which can be identified with the Horses of the Crusader era Templar Knights were distributed in a similar way among the dump areas.

We concluded from this that we can define a statistical distribution “fingerprint” for each artifact type.  Artifacts that have a similar “fingerprint” may have originated from the same context. The statistical technique for finding such relationships and verifying their statistical significance is called Cluster Analysis.We will not go into a detailed explanation of this technique, but we can foresee that at the completion of the classification and sorting process of all the different types of finds that we have, we will be able to apply this technique on a unified data table of all the finds.  The results of this analysis will show clusters of finds having similar distributions. These clusters may also represent a similar context of the finds within them. Currently, we are still investigating the application and implication of this method.  Only after finishing the classification and sorting process, will we be able to create a full data table that will be adequate for such an analysis, and then we will be capable of fully estimating the value of this method. If we are able to achieve valuable information from this type of analysis, it will be a substantial innovation in archaeological method and theory research which could also be applied by other archaeologists who focus their research on excavations of fillings or site surveys.

We can illustrate this idea using the following example:
Suppose we prepare a salad using four vegetables and two cutting boards. On one board we cut cucumbers and tomatoes, and on the other carrots and onions. The vegetables on each cutting board are thoroughly mixed and placed in a large bowl. They are then lightly tossed in the bowl. Such a mixture will result in the vegetables being scattered unevenly throughout the salad. It can be assumed that the distribution of vegetables that we cut and mixed on each board will show a similar distribution within each of the various areas of the salad. Let’s further illustrate this with the following table:

Board 1: 21 cucumber pieces and 11 tomato pieces (32 total pieces)

Board 2: 6 onion pieces and 12 carrot pieces (18 total pieces)

Mix the cut vegetables well on each cutting board and then combine them together in a large bowl. The vegetables in the large bowl are lightly tossed and then its contents are divided equally into 4 smaller bowls. This procedure may yield the following data table:

Salad Uneven Distribution Table

It can be seen in the table that the distributions of the carrots and the onions within each bowl are similar, but differ from the distributions of the cucumber and the tomatoes in the corresponding bowl and vice versa.

This is the value of “cluster analysis.”  By observing the percentages of various types of finds within each area, we may be able to determine which types of finds originated from the same context.

Some Nice Pictures from the Exhibition

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Highlights from our Exhibition and Presentation at the 13th Annual Studies of Ancient Jerusalem Conference

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On the evening of Thursday, September 6, 2012, the City of David hosted the 13th Annual Studies of Ancient Jerusalem Conference presented by the Megalim Institute. The program began with an open house including free tours throughout the City of David, followed by presentations by noted archaeologists and tourism professionals.
During the open house, the Temple Mount Sifting Project hosted an exhibit of archaeological finds recovered during the project’s first seven years of work. Five exhibit display cases, each manned by one of the site’s tour guides, presented a fascinating array of artifacts covering the 3,000 years of the Temple Mount’s history. This is the first time these artifacts have been on public display, and more than 1,000 visitors took advantage of this rare opportunity to see – and in some cases, even touch – these amazing finds. The tour guides gave brief explanations of the objects before them and answered hundreds of questions posed by the inquisitive visitors.
The first display case featured clay figurines, idols worshiped during the First Temple Period, and clay pot handles, each with an incised mark designating the pot for a special purpose. Yuval Marcus explained the difference between the arrowheads from the Babylonian, Hasmonean and Crusader periods, and displayed a horseshoe surrounded by horseshoe nails recovered from Solomon’s Stables. The highlight of this showcase was a small stone incised with a tiny gazelle that was used to seal important documents.
The second table showcased opus sectile paving stones, intricately cut stones tiles that once created beautiful floors in Temple Mount buildings. Frankie Snyder displayed tiles from the Herod’s expansion and repaving of the Second Temple courtyards, and visitors marveled at these still-handsomely-polished tiles. Also displayed were reconstructed floor samples featuring beautifully cut and polished tiles, one floor from the Byzantine period and another from the time of the Crusaders.
Jewelry was focus of the third display case, hosted by Rachel Nachum. Colorful glass bracelets and matching rings, some almost 2,000 years old, quickly attracted the visitors’ attention. Silver and bronze rings, some with amber and onyx settings, were on display along with an array of pendants – carved mother-of pearl and Eilat stone to Christian crosses and Muslim amulets. The highlight here was a necklace, restrung with about 40 semi-precious carnelian beads from the Sifting Project’s collection, featuring 3 heart-shaped beads believed to be from the Late Bronze period.
The fourth exhibit focused on the First and Second Temple Periods. Moran Hagbi treated the crowds to a fascinating display of Second Temple Period coins, highlighted by a rare silver half-shekel coin used to pay the annual Temple tax. He also explained how the assortment of stone, glass and bronze weights were used in monetary transactions before coins were invented. A stone tile engraved with an ancient game board provided the background for a variety of carved bone and ivory dice and bone, stone, and glass game board pieces. More carved bone and ivory were on display in the form of ancient hair combs. Also on this table was an assortment of Herodian architectural elements, including pieces of intricately carved Corinthian column tops that probably graced the Royal Stoa and the porticoes that surrounded the Temple Mount courts.
The fifth showcase featured items recovered from a special comparative project, the sifting of material from First and Second Temple Period refuse dumps discovered in the Franciscan Garden in the Kidron Valley on the eastern slopes of the Temple Mount. Shaked Alboher presented partially restored pottery along with more clay pot handles with special incised marks on them. Especially important were the broken terra-cotta figurines recovered and on display here, correlating to the biblical sources that tell that this area was used for refuse and that King Josiah commanded the priests to break down and burn all the idols, and cast them in the Kidron Valley (2 Kings 23:12). Also on display in this showcase was an assortment of about 20 “small finds”, various miscellaneous items found at the Sifting Project that show the variety of artifacts recovered – a tiny stone with an incised glyph, maybe even prehistoric – a carved bone animal head, possibly a dolphin – a lead caltrop used in Medieval warfare to injure a horse’s foot – a piece of flint, wrapped in an extraordinarily decorated lead covering, used for firing an 18th century flintlock musket – and a small bronze harp that looks so much like the City of David logo that they now use it in place of their “plain” logo in some of their publicity!
This exhibit truly demonstrated that the work being done at the Temple Mount Sifting Project to recover the “treasures” from the “trash” is vitally important for understanding the history of the Temple Mount.

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During the formal part of the conference, Dr. Gabriel Barkay spoke about recent finds at the Sifting Project. His presentation was a summary of our new article in the conference publication, City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem: 13th Annual Conference (see link on Project Updates list). Also, Dr. Barkay’s presentation will soon be uploaded onto the City of David YouTube channel. This article constitutes the project’s third preliminary report. Currently the article is only available in Hebrew, but an extensive article in English will hopefully be published in the near future. This report focuses on the prevalent finds and the different characteristics of each area from the Temple Mount where material was taken and dumped in the Kidron Valley, and later transferred to Emek Tzurim for sifting. Included are an extensive discussion of the analysis methodologies used by our research team and the scientific value of the archaeological information retrieved from these finds.

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