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Solomon’s Stables: History and Destruction

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Learn More about Solomon’s Stables!

Hello everyone! We are starting a new video series on YouTube taking you on a tour of the Temple Mount! Check out the first video and see Solomon’s Stables! This structure has a rich history and is now the Al-Marwani Mosque. This is also the area of the Temple Mount from where most of our material originated.

Here are some of the highlights from the video and some more interesting facts about the site!

Fun Facts about Solomon’s Stables on the Temple Mount

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Crusader Horseshoe Nails

The structure housed the horses of the Knights Templar during the Crusades. We have found many horseshoe nails, arrowheads, coins, and bits of armor from the Crusader period.

On the stones in the piers that hold up the vaulted ceiling of the structure, you can see the draft margin from the Herodian period. The other sides imitate this poorly, so we know these stones are in secondary use, originating from the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount platform. The structure was constructed in the Early Islamic Period.

As reconstruction, earthquakes, or other building happened on the Temple Mount over the last millennium, the debris would be removed to the Eastern side of the Temple Mount. Therefore, the material we are sifting is not necessarily specific to this corner of the Mount. Rather it is a sample of many different sites across the Temple Mount and shows us bits and pieces of the whole history of the Temple Mount.

There is possibly another structure beneath Solomon’s Stables because the walls of the Temple Mount platform could not hold so much soil without further support and the bedrock is very low.

The Destruction:

  1. In 1996, renovation began in Solomon’s Stables in order to convert it into a usable mosque (Al-Marwani Mosque). The wall between the Triple Gate and Solomon’s Stables was breached to create an entrance to the new mosque. Dirt heaps were removed from within the structure.
  2. Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables

    Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables (nov. 1999)

    In 1999, a new monumental (huge) entrance way was opened. This was done by bulldozer and without archaeological supervision. This was initiated by the Northern Flank of the Islamic Movement in Israel in coordination with the Waqf. Prime Minister Barak gave oral permission for this new entrance as well on a smaller scale. Legally in Israel, any construction must first complete a salvage excavation to record any archaeology in the proposed construction zone. Especially in a place as sensitive and historic as the Temple Mount, this excavation is not only necessary legally but also ethically. No such excavation took place.

  3. You can still see evidence of different structures from different periods in the last millennium, but these structures were partially removed in the bulldozing without being recorded.
  4. The soil from the initial 1996 cleaning and the subsequent 1999 bulldozing was first dumped along the Eastern wall within the Temple Mount complex.
  5. From these heaps along the Eastern wall, 60 truckloads of soil was then moved to a municipal garbage dump where it got mixed with garbage and we could not sift it.
  6. After protest, the remaining 300 truckloads of earth were dumped in the Kidron Valley. This is area K.
  7. The paved plaza was also lowered and the 34 truckloads of earth was also dumped along the eastern side or in a compound in town. We call this area T.
  8. Some material remains on the Eastern side of the Temple Mount and will not be removed any time in the near future because of politics.
  9. We have completed about 70% of the sifting and hope to finish the remaining 30% when we have the budget to resume the sifting.

Reminder

If you would like to support our research, right now is a GREAT time to do that! Every donation made at www.half-shekel.org will be MATCHED and DOUBLED by a very generous supporter of our project.

The Doric Survivor

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Doric Capital

An intriguing category of finds from our project is building fragments and special stones. For example, our “Find of the Month” for November 2016 was a small piece of a Crusader period column. We have found many small fragments of stone that originated in elaborate buildings and columns. We can identify architraves, bases, capitals and column drums. Some of these may even have originated from the Temple structure itself.

From the Hellenistic period, corresponding to the early Second Temple period, we have recovered a limestone column capital of the Doric order. The capital was fully preserved, and based on its diameter, we assume that it stood upon a column more than 18 feet high. We plan to put this capital on top of a restored pillar and present it grandly at our sifting site when we eventually resume the sifting.

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Doric capital found by the Sifting Project

The Doric capital has concave bands. Among other attributes, this dates it to the second century BCE. It is one of many such capitals that adorned the eastern, earliest portico of the Temple Mount. This makes it pre-Herodian.

image004This rare relic enables us to begin to reconstruct this eastern portico, on the outside of which is a vertical seam separating two different types of masonry. To the south of the seam is Herodian masonry, and to the north is earlier masonry perhaps from the days of the Hasmonian dynasty and the early Second Temple later expanded by Herod.

This capital is unique. It is one of only a few pieces we have of a complete architectural member – and not just a small find. Because of the bulldozing and the way that the earth was removed from the Temple Mount, most of the artifacts recovered by the Sifting Project are small and broken.

image003Our Doric capital was most likely overlooked and forgotten by the Awaqf who kept the large, nicely cut pieces of architecture from the debris removed from the Temple Mount. There is photographic evidence from the illicit bulldozing of another Doric capital that has since been lost. We looked in the “garden of columns” on the Temple Mount but did not see it there. We may never learn where this and the other large pieces are kept, or where they were discarded, making this find even more important as it is the only one to which we have access.

We hope that you have learned something about the construction of the Second Temple. We are now in the three weeks of Jewish mourning that culminates in the fast day on the 9th of Av to commemorate the destruction of the Temple and many other terrible events in Jewish history. It is a common practice to learn about the Temple construction and laws during this time. We will continue to do our part by providing videos and information from our research about these topics.

Do your part by helping us complete our research on First and Second Temple Period architectural fragments and other artifacts.

Give now at www.half-shekel.org and your donation will be DOUBLED in our current matching campaign.

Treasures in the British Mandate Archives

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Happy International Archives Day!

Archaeologists spend a lot of time working with the fresh material coming out of excavations, but equally important is an archaeologist’s understanding of what came before. We must know about previous excavations, historical records, and the history of work at the site we are researching. Archives are a hugely important and often underutilized tool to help us do our job.

As we’ve said on numerous occasions, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is studying the first archaeological evidence from a large scale excavation of the Temple Mount.

This means that we have very little to work with. Not only is the material we are researching out of context because it was improperly excavated by bulldozer and without archaeological supervision, but we also have very little information from previous archaeological work on the Temple Mount. This means that every tiny scrap of information that we can gather is very precious to us.

In 2008, Zachi published published a paper in the annual New Studies on Jerusalem conference of Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies in Bar-Ilan University about his research in the British Mandate Archives. He discovered a whole list of remnants and features on the Temple Mount that he was surprised had not been published. They help fill in the picture of the history of the Temple Mount and how it has been used over time.

byzantine church mosaics

Byzantine mosaic floor beneath the Aksa Mosque. (photo credit:Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority.)

One of the most important archives was a series of photographs in a file from the 1930s by R.W. Hamilton, the director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department. Due to severe earthquakes, major construction work was done in the Al-Aqsa mosque during the years 1938-1942. The work included excavations of pits under the mosque piers, and Hamilton published reports about the mosque, but ignored the substantial finds found under the earliest phase of the mosque. Among other things, Zachi discovered photographic evidence of a Byzantine mosaic floor under the Umayyad level of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and a Second Temple period ritual bath (mikvah).

The Byzantine floor was huge news and was even written up in the Jerusalem Post asking the question “Was the Aksa Mosque built over the remains of a Byzantine church?” Most historic records from the Byzantine period, including letters by Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem, make no mention of a building on the Temple Mount. This discovery of the Byzantine floors, as well as the numerous Byzantine period artifacts discovered by the Sifting Project, are evidence of a public building: possibly a church. Dr. Barkay has said, “It is hard to establish with certainty that this was indeed the site of a church, but without a doubt it served as a public building and was likely either a church or a monastery…This changes the whole history of the Temple Mount during the Byzantine period as we knew it.”

This is a fantastic example of the types of knowledge we can gain from research in archives and a reason that we are happy to share our research with you on International Archives Day. There are truly amazing things to be discovered in the dusty records forgotten by time.

HERE is a link to the full Hebrew article on academia.edu. Below is the abstract in English.

ABSTRACT

In the last century several digs were conducted on Temple Mount as part of renovations and new constructions at the site. These digs encountered ancient remains, and in some cases were documented by inspectors or random visitors. Most of these documentations were never published, although new archaeological information was revealed. Information and photos of the digs and the finds was gathered from the archives of Antiquities Debarment of the British Mandate, the Israeli Antiquities Authority and from private visitor’s documentation.

Due to severe earthquakes major construction work was done in the Al-Aqsa mosque during the years 1938-1942. The work included excavations of pits under the mosque piers, which in some cases reached the depths of about 7m. Substantial information regarding finds revealed in these digs was documented by R.W. Hamilton, director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department. Hamilton even conducted a small scale excavation consisted of seven trenches in order to study the structural history of the mosque. He published his results regarding the mosque, but ignored the substantial finds found under the earliest phase of the mosque. Information regarding these finds can be retrieved from photographs in the Department’s archive.

Among the finds retrieved from these photographs there are: A Byzantine mosaic floor under the Umayyad level of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, A Second Temple period ritual bath (Miqveh) at the eastern most entrance to the present mosque, two large cisterns under the Double Passage, a rock-cut passage with a descending staircase under the Double Passage, a lintel with a (Hebrew\Aramic?) inscription at the entrance of the rock-cut passage, and various architectural remains seen in the depth of the pits excavated under the mosque piers.

Under the Israeli control upon the Temple Mount a few large scale digs took place which revealed substantial finds. Among them are: A pre-Herodian massive wall near the northeastern corner of the raised platform (1970), ancient floor levels under the dome of the chain (1975), small walls located at the edge of the banks of the fosse north-west to the raised platform (1979), a huge substructure that connects the double passage with the passage of the triple gate (1977-2001), An Early Islamic – Medieval vaulted structure north of the eastern most vault of the Solomon’s Stables (1999), remnants of an ancient wall near the north edge of the raised platform (2007), ancient fills (probably from the Second Temple period) north and east to the raised platform (2007), remnants of a wall located east of the raised platform and south of the eastern staircase (2007), a cluster of First Temple period finds near the south eastern corner of the raised platform (2007), fragments of Umayyad pavement east to the Al-Aqsa mosque (2007), and many finds found out of context and could help to better understand the history of the Temple Mount.

 

 

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