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A Brief Report about Carpets Replacements and the Floors in the Dome of the Rock

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Among the finds from the Sifting Project are hundreds of opus sectile (Latin: “cut work”) paving tiles that can be traced to various time periods on the Temple Mount – Herodian/Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Crusader, Later Islamic and Modern. Frankie Snyder, who is the opus sectile specialist for the Sifting Project, is researching various patterns used during this 2,000-year span of time in order to determine precisely which tiles are from which time period and which floor or wall patterns. Her findings will be published in the future. Because of her research, it was extremely disappointing last week that we, and other archaeologists, were denied access to the Dome of the Rock when opus sectile floors in that building were temporarily exposed between the time old carpeting in the building was removed and new carpeting was laid. Being able to document the patterns, materials and quality of workmanship would have been extremely useful in this research. Eventually, some archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) were allowed in, but by then, many of the floors were again hidden from view under the new carpeting.

During the brief time that the opus sectile floors were uncovered the shrine was closed to Muslim worshipers and visitors, but some who were present at the work took photographs of certain floors and posted them on several Facebook pages. From these photographs, we have been able to learn some information, but ultimately they create more questions than answers.

This opus sectile floor, just inside the south door on the outer ambulatory, was documented in 1924 by Ernest Richmond in his book The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem: A Description of its Structure and Decoration, though without a date of origin.

This opus sectile floor, just inside the south door on the outer ambulatory, was documented in 1924 by Ernest Richmond in his book The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem: A Description of its Structure and Decoration, though without a date of origin.

This floor on the inner ambulatory by the south door appears to be a rather recent addition to the Dome of the Rock.  Note that both opus sectile floors by the south door feature eight-pointed stars at the center of the patterns.

This floor on the inner ambulatory by the south door appears to be a rather recent addition to the Dome of the Rock. Note that both opus sectile floors by the south door feature eight-pointed stars at the center of the patterns.

These two floors are on either side of the north door into the Dome of the Rock.  Each of these floors has a 16-pointed star at the center.

These two floors are on either side of the north door into the Dome of the Rock. Each of these floors has a 16-pointed star at the center.

This is the southwest inner ambulatory, looking toward the south door.  The floors by the south door are visible in the background.

This is the southwest inner ambulatory, looking toward the south door. The floors by the south door are visible in the background.

This opus sectile floor is one of two that are in the cave under the Dome of the Rock.  Note that it again features an eight-pointed star at the center.

This opus sectile floor is one of two that are in the cave under the Dome of the Rock. Note that it again features an eight-pointed star at the center.

This is the second opus sectile floor in the cave and has an octagon in the center of the pattern, reminiscent of the shape of the Dome of the Rock itself.

This is the second opus sectile floor in the cave and has an octagon in the center of the pattern, reminiscent of the shape of the Dome of the Rock itself.

This photograph was taken outside of the Dome of the Rock by the east door at the same time as the above photographs. It raises the question of why a small tractor and piles of sand were needed to “replace the carpet.”  Visitors to the Temple Mount also reported seeing paving tiles being carried into the building.  This kind of work should have been done under close supervision of preservation experts from the IAA.

This photograph was taken outside of the Dome of the Rock by the east door at the same time as the above photographs. It raises the question of why a small tractor and piles of sand were needed to “replace the carpet.” Visitors to the Temple Mount also reported seeing paving tiles being carried into the building. This kind of work should have been done under close supervision of preservation experts from the IAA.

 

 

An Exciting Find Just Before Passover

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IMG_4009Just a day before Passover, we would like to wish everyone a happy Pesach and share a nice object that was recovered in the sifting last week. It is a fragment of a finger that according to its material and style seems to be from an Egyptian statue from the Late Bronze period (or earlier), the time of the Exodus.

In the story of the Exodus we read about how the Egyptian magicians were not able to overcome the “Finger of God”. So here we see a finger, possibly of an Egyptian god, that was torn apart by the “Finger of God” who is also the God of history.

What’s an Egyptian statue doing on the Temple Mount? This is something we’ll have to dig into it.

 

What’s a Dreidel doing on the Temple Mount?

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The Temple Mount dirt contains not only ancient finds but also modern ones since it was deliberately mixed with modern garbage. Occasionally we find in the sifting some amusing objects which illustrate the wide variety of activities that took place on the mount in ancient as well as modern times.

Many objects, among them modern Jewish ones, are often very interesting and surprising. On the occasion of Hanukkah we present here a plastic dreidel (Svivon) with the words “… Festival of Lights”, and a base of the Menorah. Many dreidels which are used in Israel have four Hebrew letters which form the acronym “Nes Gadol Haya Po” (a great miracle happened here). We were surprised to find the Hebrew letters “Hey” and “Shin” on our dreidel, which represent a similar but different phrase which are common on dreidels used in the Diaspora – “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” (a great miracle happened there).

 

Plastic Dreidel

Plastic Dreidel

We also occasionally find lead seals indicating kosher food, singed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Since Jewish visitors are not allowed to eat on the Mount or conduct cultic activities, these objects could only be the remains of Muslim pilgrim refuse.

Israel Chief Rabbinate Kosher Seals

Israel Chief Rabbinate Kosher Seals

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