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Staff Spotlight: September

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It’s Awkward to Talk About Myself

It has been requested that I make the Staff Spotlight for September about myself so that you lovely people who follow our blog can learn more about the voice behind the most recent posts.

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Jenn 2010 at Khirbet Qeiyafa

So, hi everyone! My name is Jenn Greene. I am originally from Connecticut in the USA. I got my BA in Archaeology from Boston University and my MA from University College London in Managing Archaeological Sites. My dissertation was about the creation of heritage walking trails in historic cities.

I got interested in archaeology when I was in high school. I took a summer course at Cornell University and had a project translating ancient Mayan door lintels. My roommate came in at one point and asked me if I wanted to get some food. I responded, “Sure! I’m starving! Let’s get some lunch.” She said, “Jenn, it’s dinner time.” I had been working nonstop for 9 hours without even realizing it. That is when I decided that I should probably do this for a living.

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Poster from vocabulary wall made for the Billingsgate Bathhouse. There were tons of mosaics on the Temple Mount and we find tesserae daily.

I also love creating educational materials for archaeological sites. I think that too many sites rely too heavily on having a good tour guide. I think that it is imperative for sites to have information available to visitors that can explain what they are looking at and why it is important. I trained in the education department at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and I have worked at Khirbet Qeiyafa in Israel and the Billingsgate Roman Bathhouse in London. I made aliyah last September and was actually really nervous about finding a job here in Israel. Though there is a lot of archaeology here, the network of archaeologists is rather small. Yet the Sifting Project took a chance on me and I couldn’t be happier.

I spend my time here in the research lab writing to all of you people and working to secure grants and donations so that we can publish all of our research. If you’re interested in donating, you can click here or check out our crowdfunding page here. Follow us on Facebook! Twitter! (Seriously, I had to learn how twitter worked. Apparently I am bad at being a millennial). Sick of my desk chair, I am on site at Emek Tzurim sifting with our volunteers twice a week. I love hearing everyone’s stories and introducing them to the project.

I love writing the Staff Spotlight segments because I get to share with you the wonderful people I get to work with every day. The staff of the Sifting Project is what makes this job so wonderful. Welcoming, patient with my lack of Hebrew, friendly, knowledgeable, and genuinely interested in the welfare of our visitors, staff, and artifacts, the staff of the Sifting Project is a family and I am blessed to be one of them.

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Jenn with a friend who came with an NCSY group to sift

My favorite memories from the past few months of work are either those where I ran into people I knew randomly on site while I was working, or our special staff tiyul (trip) where I got to learn about the archaeology of Jerusalem from the experts (see some pictures below). It was incredible. We saw excavations in progress, had special access to areas not open to the public, and spoke with the site directors. Zachi and Gaby also taught us about different sites and it was really interesting to see some of the top archaeologists debating methodology and interpretation. I felt like I was right in the middle of these debates that are so hot in archaeology right now.

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Of course, there is also the archaeology. Daily on site I find bits of pottery, glass, and other special items. I still feel a thrill every time I find a mosaic tesserae (tile) even though there is at least one in most buckets. In the lab I get to handle our special finds, search our shelves of boxed artifacts and comb through our photo galleries of amazing pieces of our past.

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Die I found

My favorite thing I’ve found is a Roman die. It is TINY! About the size of my pinky nail and absolutely perfect, it is one of maybe 15 we’ve found in the past 12 years. Bone and ivory dice were very common in the Roman period. It is really interesting that Jewish law from that time actually disqualifies as a legal witness any person who plays with dice (Mishnah Sanhedrin 24b). The Sifting Project actually found a cheater’s die in 2010.

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Both Sides of the Cheater’s Die

It has 6 sides but only the numbers 2, 4, or 6. Any way you look at it, you see a 2, 4, or 6 so that it looks normal if you don’t inspect it carefully. It is perhaps because of things like this within the vice of gambling that the Mishnah makes such a strong statement about those who gamble.

My tip to sifters is this: when you pick a bucket, twist the handle back and forth so that the water and earth swirls along the bottom of the bucket. This loosens the earth and makes the material come out much more easily. It is then easier to clean the bucket and make sure that we’re not losing any artifacts stuck to the bottom. This took me 2 months to figure out. You’re welcome.

Have a great day, and make sure to subscribe to our blog so that you can get all the updates about what we’re doing and what we’re finding. It also makes me look good in front of my boss😉.

What a week!

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What a week! What a week! In case you missed it, or have only been seeing bits and pieces of what we have been doing lately, this blog post will give you a summary of our activities last week. Also check out the video and abstract on Frankie’s research here!

Press Conference

Tuesday we had a press conference to discuss the remarkable work of Frankie Snyder who has reconstructed possible floor tile patterns from Herod’s Temple Mount. The Press conference was about an hour and included speeches by Frankie, Dr. Gaby Barkay, Zachi Dvira and answers to many frequently asked questions on this subject. Check out one of the many articles written about it!

Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.740548

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37288925

Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Archeologists-restore-tiles-from-Second-Temple-in-Jerusalem-467021

Forward: http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/349345/tiles-from-king-herods-second-temple-restored-by-archaeologists/

Ynet: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4851227,00.html

Times of Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/floor-tiles-found-in-holy-site-rubble-said-to-be-from-second-temple/

And even Architectural Digest: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/temple-mount-jerusalem-floor-restoration

Conference

Thursday was even more fun for us. We took part in the annual Megalim Conference in the City of David. We had an exhibition showcasing the 7 different designs that Frankie has reconstructed from the Opus Sectile floor tiles found in the sifting that originated in Herod’s Temple Mount. She spoke personally to over 300 people and there was a lot of excitement over her discoveries. A lot of people have been mentioning how seeing these tiles help them visualize the Temple and make them feel closer to their past. It is amazing to me what a few pieces of stone can do.

We also had volunteers sift buckets of earth from the Temple Mount as a demonstration of our methodology. This was the first time we have sifted outside of our facility to Emek Tzurim. One of the more interesting things to come out of that sifting was a bone tool. More research is needed to be more precise about dating and use, but it shows how every bucket holds something special and unique that can give us details about what life was like on the Temple Mount in the past. We plan to set up a portable sifting facility like the one used at the conference so that we can bring it to different Israeli towns in order to provide more access to this project and help more people from all different parts of Israeli society connect to their history.

The conference itself was a complete success. It was overcrowded with over 1000 people attending. Frankie received many compliments on her clear, concise, and truly interesting lecture on her work. You can read the article (English) about it in the upcoming edition of the Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December volume). We have put a video of Frankie’s lecture (about 10 minutes) with the slides she used on our website as well as an abstract of her upcoming English article on the subject.

Please spread the word about our project. Like our facebook page, follow our blog and twitter feed. Share our posts. Reblog. We have so much information to share and we need your help to reach as many people as possible with the historical truth of the Temple Mount.

Holy Cross Day

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One of the amazing things about the Temple Mount is the depth of history that can be found on one site in such a small amount of space. Daily, we uncover artifacts from every time period that the site was in use: from Late Bronze Age (ok that might be weekly) through the First and Second Temple Periods, the Crusades, and the Islamic Periods through to today. The Temple Mount is a holy place for over half the world’s population and we consistently find things that connect to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Today is Holy Cross Day/Feast of the Holy Cross/Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and so we thought we would share some of the crosses found by the Sifting Project that originated from the Temple Mount. I will let our guest blogger, Frankie Snyder, take over from here.

Feast of the Holy Cross/Exaltation of the Holy Cross/Holy Cross Day. September 14th. According to legends, the cross on which Jesus died was discovered in 326 CE by Queen Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. By the order of Helena and Constantine, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site of her discovery. Nine years later the church was dedicated on September 14, 335 CE, so September 14 has been chosen by many Christian denominations as the Feast of the Holy Cross. The cross as a symbol of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world came into use only after the time of Constantine.

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This small Crusader-era floor panel in the Holy Sepulchre marks the place where legends say Queen Helena found Jesus’ cross.

Like Queen Helena, Christians throughout the ages have made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Before the era of “blogs” and “tweets,” these pilgrims recorded the events of their sacred travels in journals. For Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, these journals give us insights into geographical and topographical information, as well as the manners and customs of the Holy Land, especially from the “Christian periods”, i.e., Byzantine period (324-638) and the Crusader period (1099-1187). We learn where churches were located, how the Crusaders decorated buildings on the Temple Mount for Christian use, how church festivals were celebrated, and local sites pilgrims visited.

Local Christians and pilgrims alike have come to the Temple Mount and have left behind a few things – “artifacts”, to archaeologists. At the Temple Mount Sifting Project, we have a whole collection of crosses and cross-stamped artifacts – religious articles, jewelry, oil lamp shards, coins, etc. – that tell us about the Christians who lived on, and visited, the Temple Mount.

We have found crosses and crucifixes that were worn as jewelry or used on rosaries (Catholic prayer beads). Some are made of bronze (Figs. 1-2)

while others were carved from bone (Fig. 3) or soapstone (Fig. 4). One was even molded from lead (Fig. 5). The ones carved from mother-of-pearl include simple crosses (Fig. 6), but one was carved as a crucifix (Fig. 7).

Byzantine oil lamps had crosses molded into the clay (Figs. 8-9).

Each Crusader coin had a cross minted onto one of its sides (Figs. 10-13).

Happy Holy Cross Day to those who celebrate!

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