Archaeological Evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount

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Model of the Second Temple at the Israel Museum

The Need for Proof of the Jewish Temples

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted today a biased and political resolution that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount, casts doubts regarding the Jewish connection to the Western Wall, and protests against the Israel Antiquities Authority’s attempts to supervise construction work on and around the Temple Mount in order to preserve the antiquities and other archaeological data.

This is a purely political resolution that was composed by Palestinian officials and that was accepted by UNESCO as is. It seeks only to preserve the heritage of Islam, and while this is important, UNESCO must not do this at the expense of Jewish and Christian heritage and culture. This resolution does not recognize the daily reality of Jerusalem or the Temple Mount, and its political agenda is in opposition to UNESCO’s own charter and purpose of protecting and promoting science, culture, education and heritage.

The events in the past decades prove that Muslim authorities on the Temple Mount, which are officially controlled by Jordan but controlled by the Palestinian authority and Hamas in practice, have no concern of preserving even their own archaeological heritage, or advancing education, science, and culture at the site.

In 1999, the Muslim authorities excavated a gigantic pit in the south-eastern area of the Temple Mount using bulldozers and removing 400 truckloads of dirt. This was done without any archaeological control or supervision, and, as a result, we have established the Temple Mount Sifting Project in order to save, preserve, and study the vast amount of archaeological artifacts that were buried in this soil and discarded. We retrieved hundreds of thousands of artifacts from this soil dating to the First and Second Jewish Temple periods and onwards, including Christian and Muslim era artifacts that were discarded.

A very interesting Muslim artifact dating to the 18th century that was found is a seal of the prominent Muslim Qadi (Judge), who also served as the Jerusalem deputy Mufti. His name was Sheick ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Tamimi. The current Waqf administrator, Sheick Mohammed Azzam al-khatib al-Tamimi, the current director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, is from the same family, and may be one of his descendants. It is ironic that Jewish archaeologists are the ones who preserve the Islamic Waqf heritage that was neglected and discarded by the Waqf itself.

The existence of the Jewish Temples are beyond any doubt. There is substantial evidence in the numerous historical sources that witnessed them, including Pagan historians that were not affected by the Jewish or Christian tradition, such as Berossus (3rd Century BCE), Menander of Ephesus (2nd Century BCE), Hecataeus of Abdera (c. 300 BCE), Mmaseas of Patara (c. 200 BCE), Diodorus of Sicily (1st century BCE), Strabo (1st century BCE), Tacitus (1st Century CE) and many others.

Although it is not possible in today’s political climate to conduct a proper archaeological excavation on the Temple Mount, there are many archaeological finds that support the almost universally accepted fact: it is the site of the Jewish Temples. Many of the artifacts come from the Temple Mount Sifting Project, and many others can either still be observed at the Temple Mount, were found accidentally during renovations, or were found in archaeological excavations at surrounding sites.

Following is a list of some selected artifacts from among many others:

1Temple Warning Inscription – In 1871, French archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau found a Greek inscription warning gentiles not to enter further into the temple compound. These kind of inscriptions were also witnessed by the 1st century CE historian, Josephus Flavius (War 5, v, 2; War 6, ii, 4; Antiquities 15, xi, 5).

2The Beit Hatekia Inscription – Archaeologist Prof. Benjamin Mazar in 1972 found this Hebrew inscription which had fallen from the south-western corner of the Temple Mount and was found in the rubble being excavated by archaeologists excavating nearby. The stone carries the inscription “lebeit hatekia lehakhriz” which means “to the house of the blowing of the trumpet to announce.” Jewish historians and rabbinical sources described the custom of blowing the trumpets from the Temple Mount in order to announce the time of the sabbath and sacred holy days (Sukka 5: 5; Babylonian Talmud Shabat 35: 2; Tosefta Sukka 4; Wars IV, X, 12).

sealDKA LYH seal – In 2011, Archaeologist Eli Shukrun found a tiny fired clay object stamped with an inscription consisting of the Hebrew letters דכא ליה (“DKA LYH” or ”Deka Leyah”) in a drainage tunnel at the foot of the southern end of the Western Wall. Talmudic scholar, Prof. Shlomo Naeh, convincingly showed that this is a unique object that was used as a token / voucher that enabled the Temple administrator priests to keep track of commerce related to sacrificial offerings. This practice is documented in the Mishna, the first written redaction of Jewish Oral Law dating to around 200 CE (Shekalim 5: 3-5). The inscription upon the seal marks the type of sacrifice: “Dekhar” (ram), “Aleph” (first day of the week) and “Yehoyariv” (one of the twenty-four priestly families who worked shifts in the Temple).

4High Priest Golden Bell – In the same excavation at the drainage tunnel by Eli Shukrun, a golden bell was found dating to the Second Temple period. There is no precedent for this artifact from any excavation in Israel. Our only knowledge of such an object is from the biblical description of the bells sewn to the garment worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:33-34).

5Miqvaot – Numerous Miqvaot (Jewish ritual immersing purification baths) were found in the areas surrounding the Temple Mount. There are also documented underground cavities upon the Temple Mount that were surveyed by explorers in the 19th century. One less known cistern which is located directly under the Al-Aqsa mosque was found by the British Mandate Antiquities Department in the 1940’s, but was never published. We found the documentation of this Miqveh in the British Antiquities Department archives and published it in 2008.

6Herodian Architecture – Several locations upon the Temple Mount, especially the Double Gate entry halls under the Al-Aqsa mosque, preserve until today one of the finest examples of Herodian art engraved on stone. Several gates of today’s Temple Mount still preserve remnants of gates from the Late Second Temple Period.

7Eastern Wall’s section from the First Temple Period – The lower courses north and south of the Golden Gate in the eastern wall are dated by Temple Mount scholars to the First Temple Period (see Leen Riymeyer, The Quest 2006). The drafting of these stones resembles masonry stones from walls in other sites dated to the First Temple period.

8First Temple Period refuse pit at the eastern slopes of the Temple Mount – In 2009, we uncovered an ancient refuse pit on the slopes of the Temple Mount, which yielded rich archaeological material dating from the 10th century BCE (the time of King Solomon) to the 7th century BCE. The finds included a unique seal impression with an inscription that describes a tax that were given to the King from the city of Gibeo’n. According to the biblical descriptions, the house of the king was also situated on the Temple Mount.

9First Temple Period assemblage found in Waqf electrical wire trench – During the Waqf’s excavation of a trench in 2007 supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, a rich First Temple period assemblage was found just southeast of the raised platform of the Temple Mount. It included pottery, bones and fragments of figurines dating to the 6th century BCE, the later days of the First Temple period.

10A Water cistern at the southeast corner of the Raised Platform – A large underground water cistern documented by the researchers of the 19th century was recently dated by archaeologist Tzvika Tzuk to the First Temple period according to similarly shaped water cisterns recovered in other sites.

Artifacts from the Soil Discarded from the Temple Mount

The following were all found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

11Imer Seal Impression – The most direct evidence ever found of the First Temple comes from a tiny seal impression made of clay that was originally attached to a fabric sack, possibly containing silver or gold. The seal bears the inscription: “(Belonging to) […]lyahu (son of) Immer”. The Immer family was a well-known priestly family at the end of the First Temple period, around the 7th – 6th Centuries BCE. Pashhur son of Imer is mentioned in the Bible as “Chief officer in the house of God” (Jer. 20:1). It may be assumed that this object sealed some precious goods that were kept in the Temple treasury which was managed by the priests. This sealing is the first ever evidence of ancient Hebrew writing from the Temple Mount and of the administrative activity which took place in the First Temple.

Artifacts from the time of King Solomon – Some of the artifacts found by the Sifting Project date to the 10th-9th centuries BCE, the time of King Solomon, builder of the First Temple, and his successors. These artifacts are rare in Jerusalem and they have brought forth critical evidence in the heated debate about the size of Jerusalem in this period. Some scholars in the past doubted that the Temple Mount was annexed to Jerusalem during the 10th century BCE. They suggest that Jerusalem was not a capital city but rather a small village. These artifacts contradict this minimalist assertion and confirm the biblical account regarding Jerusalem during this period. The finds include pottery sherds, a rare stone seal that is conical in shape, and a rare arrowhead.

13Half-Shekel Silver Coin – From the Second Temple period the Sifting Project has recovered over 800 Jewish coins. Many of the coins from the late Second Temple period seem to be burnt, probably as a result of the fire that led to the destruction of the Temple. A particularly exciting find is a rare silver coin minted during the first year of the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66/67 C.E.). The coin features a branch with three pomegranates and an inscription in ancient Hebrew script reading “holy Jerusalem” (ירושלמ קדשה). The reverse side of the coin features temple vessels and is inscribed “half shekel” (חצי השקל).

These half-shekel coins were used to pay the Temple tax during the Great Revolt, replacing the Tyrian shekel used previously. It appears that these half-shekel coins were minted by the Temple authorities on the Temple Mount itself. This half-shekel tax for the sanctuary, mentioned in the Book of Exodus (30:13–15), required every male to pay half a shekel to the Holy Temple once a year. Our half-shekel coin is well preserved but bears scars of the conflagration that destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

showimage-ashxMenorah Potsherd- A potsherd bearing a symbol resembling the Temple’s menorah was found in the sifting. Based on its clay type and texture, the potsherd dates to the period of Byzantine rule over Jerusalem , from 324 to 640 CE or the beginning of Early Islamic Period (7th-8th Century CE) showing that even then, there was a connection to the Jewish Temple that had been destroyed.

14Herodian Temple Courts Lavish Paving – Hundreds of opus sectile stone tiles were found in the sifting. Opus sectile (Latin: “cut work”) is a technique of paving floors in lavish geometric patterns using meticulously cut and polished polychrome tiles. Many of the tiles have been dated to the Late Second Temple period based on parallels found in Herodian palaces. Their dimensions are based on fractions of the Roman foot (c. 29.6 cm). Flavius Josephus, writing about the open courts surrounding the Temple, says, “Those entire courts that were exposed to the sky were laid with stones of all sorts” (Jewish War 5:2) Lately we have managed to reconstruct some of the patterns of these special floors using geometrical principles and through similarities found in floor designs used by Herod at other sites.

For more information about the Temple Mount Sifting Project, check out the Nov/Dec 2016 issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review.

Jewish Linkage to the Temple Mount after the Temple Destruction

The Jewish rabbinical sources during all centuries after the Second Temple’s destruction in year 70 CE indicate that the site was the focus of Jewish prayers and thoughts. In addition, several Jewish graffiti inscriptions were found within the Temple Mount done by Jewish pilgrims during the medieval periods. This is in spite of the difficulties and bans put upon Jews dwelling and visiting in Jerusalem. These inscriptions indicate a continuous linkage of the Jewish people to their holiest site.

Documents that were found in the Cairo Geniza tell us about the Jewish residents of Jerusalem during the Early Islamic period who had a custom to encircle the Temple Mount and pray in front of the Temple Mount gate. One of the most prominent Jewish rabbis in the Medieval Era, the Rambam, wrote that he entered the Temple Mount and set upon himself a private annual feast day for that occasion.


As mentioned above, due to the comprehensive historical sources and Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions about the Temple Mount, there is no need for archaeological evidence to prove the existence of the Jewish Temple upon the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, the Temple Denial agenda that was created 20 years ago and promoted by Palestinian politicians and religious leaders managed to expand to some Arab scholars and apparently has also now been adopted by UNESCO. Since they claim that no archaeological artifact proving the existence of the Jewish Temples upon the Temple Mount was ever found, it is important to bring this proof and research regarding these very real artifacts to the general publish.

If you would like to donate and help us continue our research on this important subject,

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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/

Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/archeologists-restore-flooring-that-adorned-the-second-temple-of-jerusalem/

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


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.

For the First Time, Archeologists Restore Flooring from Second Temple Courtyard in Jerusalem



For the First Time, Archeologists Restore Flooring from Second Temple Courtyard in Jerusalem

Tiles uncovered during sifting of earth originating on Temple Mount


JERUSALEM, September 6th, 2016 — Archeologists from the Jerusalem-based Temple Mount Sifting Project are confident that they have successfully restored a unique architectural element of the Second Temple. Namely, a series of regally decorated floor tiles that adorned the porticos atop the Temple Mount, and which likely featured prominently in the courtyards of the Second Temple during the period that King Herod ruled (37 to 4 BCE) in Jerusalem.

“It enables us to get an idea of the Temple’s incredible splendor,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The restored tiles will be presented to the general public on September 8th, at the 17th Annual City of David Archaeological Conference. “This represents the first time that archeologists have been able to successfully restore an element from the Herodian Second Temple complex,” stated Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was established in response to the illegal removal of tons of antiquities-rich earth from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf in 1999. It is located in the Tzurim Valley National Park, and is supported by the City of David Foundation and the Israel Archaeology Foundation. The initiative is run under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and the Israel Parks & Nature Authority.

Frankie Snyder, a member of the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s team of researchers and an expert in the study of ancient Herodian style flooring, succeeded in restoring the ornate tile patterns “using geometric principles, and through similarities found in tile design used by Herod at other sites,” said Snyder, who has an academic background in mathematics and Judaic Studies. “This type of flooring, called ‘opus sectile,’ Latin for ‘cut work,’ is very expensive and was considered to be far more prestigious than mosaic tiled floors.”

“So far, we have succeeded in restoring seven potential designs of the majestic flooring that decorated the buildings of the Temple Mount,” said Snyder, explaining that there were no opus sectile floors in Israel prior to the time of King Herod. “The tile segments were perfectly inlaid such that one could not even insert a sharp blade between them.”

To date, approximately 600 colored stone floor tile segments have been uncovered, with more than 100 of them definitively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period. This style of flooring is consistent with those found in Herod’s palaces at Masada, Herodian, and Jericho among others, as well as in majestic palaces and villas in Italy, also attributed to the time of Herod. The tile segments, mostly imported from  Asia Minor, Greece, Tunisia and Egypt, were created from polished multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes. A key characteristic of the Herodian tiles is their size, which corresponds to the Roman foot, approximately 29.6 cm.

The possibility that large expanses of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple were covered with opus sectile flooring was first raised by archaeologist Assaf Avraham in 2007, director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Avraham’s theory was based on a description given by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus (1st Century CE) who wrote, “… the uncovered [Temple Mount courtyard] was completely paved with stones of various types and colors…” (The Jewish War 5:2) Additionally, Talmudic literature records the magnificent construction of the Temple Mount, describing rows of marble in different colors – green, blue and white.

“Now, as a result of Frankie Snyder’s mathematical skills, we have succeeded in recreating the actual tile patterns. This represents the first time that we can see with our own eyes the splendor of the flooring that decorated the Second Temple and its annexes 2,000 years ago,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.  “Referring to the Temple that Herod built, the Talmud says that ‘Whoever has not seen Herod’s building has not seen a beautiful building in his life’. Though we have not merited seeing the Temple in its glory, with the discovery and restoration of these unique floor tiles, we are now able to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Second Temple, even through this one distinctive characteristic.”

Since the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s inception in 2004, more than 200,000 volunteers from around the world have taken part in the sifting, representing an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.

For more information:

Ze’ev Orenstein – Director of International Affairs, City of David Foundation


Photo Credit: Temple Mount Sifting Project

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