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Our (Virtual) Cabinet of Curiosities

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Hi everyone,

       We are hard at work in the lab continuing our research on the thousands of artifacts we’ve recovered from the Temple Mount. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last few months and we have catalogued most of our pottery and started working on drafts of the various chapters we hope to publish.

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Imported Mycenaean pottery

With so much going on and so many new discoveries every day, “Oh look! We have a gorgeous piece of imported Mycenaean pottery” and so forth, it’s always interesting when we find something in the storeroom that no one is able to identify. We have an amazing team of researchers who specialize in all different kinds of materials and all different time periods, so it takes a lot to stump us, but it does happen. To help us with our research on these “stumpers,” we created a website and a forum for people to see our unidentified finds and help us out.

Do you collect teacups? Are you an expert in Japanese imports from the last 200 years? Well this might be the day you can really help us out.

Do you hail from the great city of New Orleans or have a secret (or not so secret) collection of Fleur de Lis belt buckles? If you do, can you tell us when this style became popular, where these might have been sold, or have an idea about how this ended up on the Temple Mount? We think it might be Crusader.

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Example of gadi material

It’s amazing, but you really can help. Our intern last year, Hannah, decided to tackle what we were calling “gadi material,” since one of the examples had two incised symbols that resembled the ancient Hebrew letters ג and ד. We’d found a number of small fragments and had no idea what to make of them. We had some great suggestions on our website: “The object is probably an internal skeleton of a cephalopod like a squid known as a belemnite. It received mystical powers and was used as amulets for luck and success. A specimen found in Tiberas (751 AD) with the inscription of an Arabic name was analyzed by me (in press) based on the origin of this belemnite species form northwestern Europe. The present object is corroded and needs to be observed from all sides for possible identification and additional inscriptions. -Z. Lewy.” Based on the picture, this was a really insightful comment, but in the end, after we tested the material, Hannah found that it was not organic, but slate. These were fragments of “pencils” used for writing on slate writing boards and can be dated to the last couple hundred years. More on this in future posts 😉 .

See? Students! If you need a project, let us know!

I just uploaded a few more unidentified finds to our growing database. Definitely take a minute to check it out HERE and see if you can help us identify those artifacts that have us scratching our heads. Or, see if there is a project you want to tackle using our material. Either way, it’s a cool website to learn about the strange things found on the Temple Mount.

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Like what you see? Support research like this at www.half-shekel.org!

 

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The Israel Experience

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Staff Spotlight: October

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So our new news from the lab is that we have two interns! They will be with us for the next few months, so this month’s Staff Spotlight falls onto Hannah Ripps and Renata Roitman.

They are a part of the MASA program, Top Israel Interns. The five month program provides Hebrew classes for the first month, periodic trips to see the country, and connects the participants with internships in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. This year’s group had 10 people in Jerusalem and 16 interning in Tel Aviv.

According to our interns, the best part of the program is the internship (obviously) as well as the ability to really get to be a part of Israel. They have an incredible amount of independence and are housed in the center of Jerusalem with easy access to everything the city has to offer. They can even wake up in the morning and grab breakfast at the shuk (market). It is a truly immersive experience and is an amazing way to get to know the culture and the people of Israel.

Renata

Renata is from San Paolo, Brazil. She came to Israel because she wanted to experience living here and to live in a country with good quality of life. She chose to intern for the Sifting Project because we do “interesting and important work.” She said that in Brazil, people are not aware that the Jewish people were here in Israel for a long time before the creation of the country Israel. She thinks that our project has the ability to make people see that Jews were here before.

In Brazil, Renata studied journalism in university. In our lab, Renata is helping us work on PR and social media, and is focusing her efforts on our Spanish and Portuguese speaking donors and volunteers. Right now, she is working on a Portuguese translation of the archaeological history of the Temple Mount and Spanish translation of the interview with Zachi from Channel 2. I will post links ASAP. Renata said that she is learning a lot about the behind-the-scenes work of an NGO; the difficult parts of what we are doing like our quest for funding and creating educational content. She also has really enjoyed sifting in the field and seeing where the initial work happens.

Hannah

Hannah is from Pensacola, Florida. She chose to come to Israel because she loves this country, and for academic and career related reasons. It was an opportunity to get experience and see the world. She is interested in archaeology, Jewish history, and Jewish art and wants to become fluent in Hebrew. Clearly, Israel is a great place for all of that.

Hannah graduated with a degree in archaeology from Barnard University and Jewish Art History from the Jewish Theological Seminary as a part of a dual degree program. She wanted to intern at the Sifting Project as a way of getting her foot in the door to the archaeological community in Jerusalem and in Israel.

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tiny flask with faces

In the lab, Hannah is cataloguing and recording information about objects found in the sifting that have not yet been identified. The lab cannot continue the research process and statistical analysis of the site without the completion of the cataloguing of finds, and we are extremely grateful to Hannah for helping us tackle this huge task. Specifically, she is researching a tiny flask in a neoclassical style. It might be from Germany based on the facial hair and helmet of the man, but we are not yet sure what it was used for.

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Example of gadi material

She is also studying what we are calling the “gadi” material (based on one find with an ancient inscription of a ג and ד). It is thought that these artifacts might be fossils, though there is an internal debate about whether they were used as amulets or writing implements. Further research will hopefully clear that up. If you have information on either object, please let us know on our unidentified finds website: http://www.echad.info/uifinds/ .

img-20161026-wa0000For Hannah, the best part of being involved with the Sifting Project has been finding a Hasmonean coin while sifting. Though it isn’t cleaned yet and we can’t see what is on it (we are waiting for funding to clean the thousands of coins found in the sifting that have yet to be cleaned), we think that it is from the Hasmonean period because it is cut on one side like many from that period. She has also been getting a better understanding of archaeology in general, how research is conducted, and especially how the archaeological system in Israel is organized. She said, “if this is where I want to be for my career, I’m getting a good introduction to that.”

Thanks!

The girls agree that this program has been an amazing opportunity and that everyone they are meeting is friendly and welcoming. (I promise I didn’t force them to say that. Our staff really is just that amazing.) They are both also considering the possibility of making Aliyah and would like everyone to know that they are looking if you are hiring  😉 .

We at the Sifting Project are really grateful to our wonderful interns for all of their help and we hope that you have a fantastic rest of your program. Once part of the TMSP family, always a part of the TMSP family, so know that you will always have a place in Israel.

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Unidentified Finds

Hello everyone!

This is just a quick update. We are trying to expand our unidentified finds website.

What? You didn’t know that we had an unidentified finds website? Well, let’s rectify that.

Go to http://www.tmsifting.org/uifinds/ and you will find a website dedicated to crowdsourcing information about finds we are having trouble identifying. Register, and you can see our unidentified finds. Please leave comments if you have seen anything similar. Link us to articles or other people who might have expertise on one of our unidentified finds. Spread the word and get more people involved.

Here is one artifact we are working on now. Can you identify this item?

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If you can identify this item, or suggest a time period or a function for it, please join us on our website and let us know what you think! Here is the link to this artifact: http://www.tmsifting.org/uifinds/?to=viewfind&find_id=32429

How about this one?

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http://www.tmsifting.org/uifinds/?to=viewfind&find_id=27786

We are currently in the process of photographing a large number of special finds from the sifting. Very soon we will try to add a few new finds to the site every couple of weeks. Keep tabs on our site to see what you can contribute and how you can help us further our research.

Even if you aren’t an expert or an archaeologist, the site is pretty interesting. The discussions taking place about different finds are really interesting.

Thanks for helping!