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Sneak Peak: Christianity on the Temple Mount

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ch Hey Everyone,

We here at the Sifting Project find artifacts from across the rich history of the Temple Mount. We truly are doing our best to research and preserve the history and heritage of everyone associated with the Temple Mount, from Jews to Pagans to Christians and Muslims and all those in between. I know we have recently written a lot about the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, so today, we are going to focus on another important group with a major connection to the Temple Mount: Christians.

St. Joseph’s Day

You may not know this, but March 19th (yesterday) is commonly recognized as St. Joseph’s Day! It is widely celebrated by many sects of Christianity across the world and has particular importance in parts of Italy, Malta, Spain, The Philippines, and in New Orleans. In Christianity, St. Joseph was the husband to Mary and the foster-father to Jesus. He is the patron saint of all manner of working people, and he himself was known as a carpenter. He is also the patron saint of pregnant women and unborn children, fathers, travelers, immigrants, and of the dying.

From the Temple Mount

One of the special finds we have uncovered from the Temple Mount is a bronze Catholic medal in Spanish from the 1800’s depicting St. Joseph. On one side, it depicts St. Joseph holding an infant Jesus in his right hand and a lily in his left. In Spanish it reads,  “S. Jose R.P.N.” (Rogad Por Nosotros) meaning St. Joseph pray for us. On the other side, it shows the Holy Spirit as a dove with rays descending to two hearts. In Spanish it reads, “Corazones de Jesu y Maria” meaning Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It also says “Roma” or Rome along the bottom edge. The suspension loop on ours is broken, and unfortunately I cannot show pictures to you all today because it has not been officially published. However, it is almost identical to this one (below) that our researcher discovered on eBay.

St. Joseph holds a special place in Christianity and many places and churches all over the world are named after St. Joseph, including the Spanish form, San Jose, which is the most commonly named place in the world. In popular religious iconography he is associated with lilies (as in our medal) or a spikenard (muskroot). He is typically portrayed as an older man, usually as a marginal figure next to Mary and Jesus. Some statues of Joseph show his staff topped with lily blossoms, and he is often accompanied by carpentry tools.

So from our office to yours, and all the workers out there, have a wonderful day!

How Much Does It Weigh?

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Find of the Month: February!

After a week away in the field, it is so nice to be back at the Sifting Project. It is my pleasure to present February’s “Find of the Month!” Now, this find requires a lot more research because it is pretty rare.

image-1Nicolle Perez from Ma’ale Adumin found this round stone that is likely to be a scale weight. It was her first time volunteering at the Sifting Project and she was really excited to have found something that could potentially be very important to our understanding of the history of the Temple Mount. It is amazing how something so small can provide so much information.

We have found a number of weights in the sifting. Our expert in weights is still looking for parallels that match this stone, because it is unlike most of the other weights we have found in the sifting. By parallels of shape and raw material, this stone is likely from the First Temple period, but more research is necessary to eliminate other possibilities.

In antiquity, before coins were used, weights were used to regulate and measure trade and barter. Most often, these weights would be used to weigh small pieces of silver which were traded as “currency,” although still very different from coinage.

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A 4 Gerah Judean scale weight found by the Sifting Project

Weights were used across the ancient world from India to the Aegean and beyond. In the land of Judah, including of course Jerusalem, the system of measurement for weights was based on the Shekel and is also mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament.

The shekel had many sub-units. This meant things could be weighed by half a shekel, or commonly in multiples of 2, 4, and 8 and deviations of Beqa, Pym, and Nesef. We know of Beqa and Pym from the Bible as well as smaller deviations known as Gerah.  The system was centered on a central unit of c. 11.33g.

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Judean scale weight

More than 500 inscribed Judean scale weights from the Iron Age have been found and published and they create a very homogenous weight-system. Most of these weights are made of local limestone and shaped as domes with flat bases. Many are inscribed with the names of the various units of measurement such as the Nesef and Pym, while smaller units (Gerah weights) and larger units (multiples of the Shekel) are often inscribed with hieratic numerals. Across Judah, these weights appeared in the 8th century BCE, but they mainly come from the stratigraphic layers dating to the 7th century BCE. Recent research done in Khirbet Qeiyafa by our own expert of scale weights show that the system of the Judean Shekel was used as early as the 10th century BCE.  It seems as though weights went out of use by 586 BCE and did not function by the time of the Persian period where we see the first coins.

The first dome shaped weights were found in Jerusalem in 1881 by the German excavator Hermann Guthe. Judean scale weights have been found in large numbers in almost every excavation of the Iron Age ever done in Jerusalem, supporting the fact that Jerusalem in the First Temple Period was a center of economic activity. This may possibly also support the idea that the Temple itself was a center of the economy.

Some scholars argue that the Temple might have used a slightly different system of weights from the daily shekel, and it is possible that they were marked in a different way. More research needs to be done on this “Shekel of the Sanctuary” mentioned in the Priestly Code of the Pentateuch (Torah) and in Ezekiel. It is possible that this weight system was a later creation in the history of weights, but still dating before the use of coins. It is also possible that the economic system of the Temple was connected with the royal house, as the Kings of Judah made decisions regarding the property of the Temple in times of emergency and supervised its maintenance (II Kings). Only a few weights have been found that might match the biblical accounts of this separate but connected system of weights and measurements. Perhaps more weights found from the Temple Mount itself would help archaeologists better understand this system of measurement and commerce.

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A selection of various weights (not all of the same system) found by the Sifting Project

Give Me Beads!

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Happy Mardi Gras!

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Beads found by the TMSP

In honor of Mardi Gras, we thought we would share with you some information about… beads! Beads, the world’s first form of adornment, come in an astonishingly wide range of decorative and polychromatic materials. Shell beads discovered at Skhul Cave on Mount Carmel in northwestern Israel have been dated to about 100,000 B.C.E. Besides being used for personal adornment, beads were also used as talismans, status symbols, religious articles and a medium of barter.

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Carnelian Bead

Approximately 700 beads have been sorted and catalogued at the Sifting Project, and while about 60% of them are glass, others are made from bone, ivory, clay, metal, mother-of-pearl, seashells, wood and stone. The natural stone beads include ones of red-orange carnelian, green aventurine and amazonite, blue sodalite and chalcedony, purple amethyst, yellow amber, silvery-gray hematite, clear quartz, and striped agates. We are currently researching these beads in order to date them and find any of importance.

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Our researcher, Frankie Snyder, artistically strung assorted beads from various periods into two necklaces (below) so that we could easily show these artifacts at exhibits. It is much easier to picture how these beads might have been used seeing them in a necklace, rather than separated in small boxes on a table. The reddish one has most of our carnelian beads, and the multicolored necklace has an assortment of other beads made of glass, bone, stone, and other materials. I would definitely wear the red one.

Want more beads? Well, obviously, it’s Mardi Gras! So check out this post about one of our mother of pearl rosary beads!!

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