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Amazing News from the TMSP!

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Dear Friends,

We are overwhelmed by the positive response to our Annual Appeal and we want to say “Thank You.” We will still be able to receive donations on our site at half-shekel.org. You can always donate for the cool gifts, in honor of a friend, or just because you have too much change burning a hole in your pocket, but this marks the end of the emails. Everyone rejoice!

staff-join-usSo here’s the breakdown. We had 67 donors give us over $18,000. Over 45 of those were people who had never before given to the project and were newly joining our TMSP family.

Our goal was to raise enough funds to cover the costs of the core research needed to keep our publication on track for 2018. We raised 36% of that goal which is a great way to start the new year.

Because of the Annual Appeal, we can now cover the costs of:

52 weeks of pottery analysis,

the analysis of 100 ancient coins,

30 weeks of drawing of special finds,

                           AND

30 weeks of the analysis of stone vessels and tools!

We cannot express what this means to us. As the world media increases their focus on Israel, Jerusalem, and Temple Denial, your support of our research lets us know that you stand with us. Just during the campaign, claims of Temple Denial went viral and Dr. Barkay was almost evicted from the Temple Mount for using the term “Temple Mount.” Yet equally, we received scores of emails and messages from people showing their support for our project and telling us that we should be proud of our accomplishments.

We sincerely thank all of you who have supported us over the years and who have given to support our research in this year’s Annual Appeal. We are more dedicated than ever to publishing our research on the archaeological history of the Temple Mount and sharing those truths with the scientific community and the public. Thank you for being part of our TMSP family and helping us reach our goals.

May 2017 bring the true history of the Temple Mount to light.

Thank you,

The Staff of the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Making Seal Impressions

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As you know, the first 25 donors from our Annual Appeal are going to receive a clay seal impression (Bulla in Hebrew) that we made from one of our 10th century BCE stamps found in the sifting. Those lucky few will get a bulla and a whole explanation, but we thought we would share the process with all of you as well!

The 10th century BCE falls within the Iron Age and is the time period of the Jebusites, from whom David conquered Jerusalem—as well as the construction of the Temple by his son, King Solomon. Other similar seals found in Israel dating from the late 11th to the beginning of 9th centuries BCE allow us to date our seal to this time period as well. The stamp seal that we used is conical in shape and made of brown limestone. Two animals, one above the other, are carved on its circular base, maybe representing predator and prey. The seal is perforated which enables it to be hung on a string and worn.

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Imer Bulla. Notice it is broken and there is an impression of the sack on the back

In antiquity, legal or administrative documents, or other objects or goods that needed to be authenticated and approved were “signed” using a stamp seal. (Personal items could also be stamped. We have a number of stamped handles from clay vessels that have been found in the sifting.) But how do we get bullae? A document was rolled and tied, or a package of goods was tied with a string. On the knot of the string was a piece of clay that was then stamped with a seal. These seals could either be worn on a string, like the one that we used, or set into a piece of jewelry such as a ring. The bulla is the clay seal impression left behind. In order to open the document or package, the bulla would be broken. This was a great form of protection, but could also be the reason than all of the bullae we have found are broken.

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Bulla made in our lab

How We Made the Bullae

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First, we mixed regular store bought clay with some of the ashy Temple Mount soil left over from the sifting. This is called tempering the clay. Untempered clay will shrink and crack during drying or firing. In ancient times, as today, different forms of temper are added to wet clay in order to provide greater strength. Sand, crushed rock, or even crushed broken pottery can be used as temper, and each material, and the percentage of temper used, affects the finished product. Haggai added about 5% Temple Mount soil to the clay. (Right)

Next, a marble sized piece of clay was then folded around a string. We then used the stamp seal to impress the clay onto a sack. (The seal is stone, and was therefore unaffected by the clay. Don’t worry! We take care of our artifacts!) The impressions are real, but they are modern and not an antiquity. We therefore wrote “copy” on the back so that none of these bullae will be mistaken for antiquities or sold on the black market.

Finally, the impressions were burned in a fire. Because fires, unlike ovens, do not have a consistent temperature, some of the bullae blackened while others maintained their brownish color. Some also fell into the ashes. All of this actually made these bullae look much like the seal impressions that we have found at the Sifting Project.

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20170105_135709We then boxed them up in the cardboard finds boxes that archaeologists know so well and gave them their own artifact tag. Archaeologists need to label where their important finds were found, so tags always include the site, the area, the locus, and the basket number designating the place that the artifact was found. They also include the date and a short description. Our seal impressions don’t have a real provenance, so the numbers on our tags are the actual numbers from the seal itself!

Watch the whole process!!

I don’t know about you, but this whole process has made me want my own stamp seal. I could send letters sealed in wax! I wonder what the post office would think… I have vivid memories of doing that with my dad and sealing letters with old coins and green wax.

Staff Open Up: Why the TMSP is Important

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Hello there! We’ve had quite a response to our new crowdfunding campaign! I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our supporters and want to thank each and every one of you.

I also want to get serious for a moment. A number of people have asked me, “why should I contribute to the Sifting Project? Aren’t there more important charities? Can’t I just share your videos and posts? Then other people will surely give!”

Look. There are a number of worthy causes out there. Even within archaeology, there is important research that needs to be funded all over the world. I talk a lot about the gifts on our website, but here is the truth. The Sifting Project has a special place in my heart because it has arisen against adversity for the sole purpose of trying to share the unknown, unexcavated history of the Temple Mount, one of the holiest places on earth to more than half the world’s population, with those exact people. So, in short, here is my answer.

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You should support our project because through us, you can ensure that facts, reality, and the heritage of all people who connect with the Temple Mount; Jews, Christians, and Muslims, is protected and shared. Ignorance feeds conflict and dispute, while knowledge helps us better understand our common past. I truly believe that having a better, more scientific understanding of the Temple Mount can only aid us in our path toward understanding and eventually peace.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project’s finds represent the first-ever archaeological data originating from within the Temple Mount because no proper excavation has ever been done there due to religious and political concerns. These concerns are valid. This is why the Sifting Project offers an amazing opportunity to archaeologically understand the history beneath the surface of the Temple Mount.

Our research has the ability to challenge theories, clarify understandings, and present the factual data about the history of the Temple Mount. We can undermine the Temple Denial movement; but only if our facts and research are shared with the scientific community and the public.

Our mission is to publish at least 3 volumes of our research on the Temple Mount’s history, special finds, coins, and pottery in 2018. We want our scientific research to encourage educated discussion on the history of the Temple Mount.

As a member of the global community, it is your responsibility to preserve this heritage. This is your chance to take part in revealing Jerusalem’s ancient past. You can ensure that facts, reality, and the heritage of all people who feel connected to the Temple Mount is protected and shared. This is why you should support the Sifting Project, but also why you should give toward our research.

For more information, see our crowdfunding website at half-shekel.org.

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