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Warning: This is a post about jewelry. Be wary when sharing it on social media before the holidays.

On This Day

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Hilda and Flinders Petrie 1903

Did you know that on this day (November 26th) in 1896 Sir Flinders Petrie married his wife Hilda, who excavated with him throughout their marriage? Perhaps best known for his excavations in Egypt, Sir Flinders Petrie also spent time excavating and doing research here in Israel. We would like to wish the Petries a happy 120th anniversary.

Research

Well, this is a great excuse to talk about some of our research here at the Sifting Project, and weddings always make me think of rings. Though we have many rings of different styles and types, today we are going to focus on glass rings and bracelets.

During the first nine years of the Sifting Project approximately 1800 glass bracelet fragments and about 150 glass finger ring fragments were recovered and catalogued (we have since found many more but they are waiting to be officially counted and added to the database.) Circular glass “bangle” bracelets were common in Israel from late Roman times to the present, and these inexpensive bracelets were the most prevalent type of glass jewelry in the Levant and the Near East. Although the majority of these bracelet fragments are the brightly colored ones popular during the Islamic periods, especially Mamluk and Ottoman, the collection includes some that are consistent with the dark monochrome bracelets dated to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods. The range of bracelet diameters indicates that these inexpensive ornaments were popular among children as well as adults. Glass finger rings, some matching the glass bracelet styles (such as the bracelet third from the right), were not as varied or as popular as the bracelets.

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Assorted Glass Bracelet Fragments Found by the Sifting Project

Glass Bracelets

Glass bracelets first appeared in Egypt in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. They became more popular in Europe during the last centuries of the first millennium BCE, but did not become common in the Levant until the 3rd century C.E. They were very popular during the Islamic periods when brightly colored bracelets replaced the earlier mostly dark-colored ones. During the later Islamic periods Tyrus, Hebron, Aleppo, Acre, Sidon, Raqqa, Cairo, Alexandria and Damascus were famous glass production centers, and Hebron was especially famous for its glass bracelets from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Bracelets from Hebron were still made there and sold in Jerusalem into the 20th century.

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Assorted Glass Ring Fragments Found by the Sifting Project

Glass Finger Rings

Glass rings began to appear in Israel in the late Roman period, about the same time as glass bracelets. Their types were not as varied as the bracelets, nor were they as popular, but the sizes indicate that many were worn by children. The rings are often monochrome, but the rings of the Islamic era are multicolored, with added colored patches and trails creating rings that matched bracelet types. One popular type found on the Temple Mount was a simple monochrome band decorated with an added contrasting glass “gem” at the seam. Another was monochrome with a flattened rhomboidal or oval bezel. Glass rings were produced in Hebron during most periods and continuing into the 19th century.

Very few glass rings have been published from sites in Israel, and Maud Spaer (see below) only wrote a typology for glass bracelets, not glass rings.  Consequently, the dating of many of our rings is based on finding matching types of bracelets, and giving the rings the same date as the bracelets.  For example, the ring on the far right matches the bracelet 3rd from the right — turquoise base with white-yellow-orange-black-striped patches.

Further Reading
Maud Spaer, “The Pre-Islamic Glass Bracelets of Palestine,” Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 30 (1988), pp. 51‒61; “The Islamic Glass Bracelets of Palestine: Preliminary Findings,” JGS, Vol. 34 (1992), pp. 44‒62.
Margreet L. Steiner, “An Analysis of the Islamic Glass Bracelets Found at Tell Abu Sarbut,” in M. Steiner and E. van der Steen, Sacred and Sweet: Studies in the Material Culture of Tell Deir ’Alla and Tell Abu Sarbut (Leuven: Peeters, 2008), pp. 231-239.
Maud Spaer, “Bracelets and Other Jewelry,” Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum: Beads and Other Small Objects (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 2001), pp. 193‒210, Pls. 33‒37.

 

lady-layard-necklaceCan I write a post script on a blog? Now I know that this has nothing to do with our project or the Petries, but speaking about archaeology and weddings, how amazing is this jewelry made out of cylinder seals? It was given by Archaeologist Henry Layard as a wedding gift to his wife Enid in 1869. It is currently in the British Museum. Now you all know what to get me for the holidays.

Islamic History Recorded

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Staff Spotlight: November

With the Nuba Inscription still fresh in our minds, this month’s Staff Spotlight lands on Peretz Reuven!

peretz_1Originally from Haifa, Peretz is our expert in the Islamic period pottery and artifacts. He originally got interested in the Islamic period while at Hebrew University. He began with Arabic and Islamic history, added in a bit of archaeology, and the rest is history. He has studied under some of the most widely published scholars, including Myriam Rosen-Ayalon, Rachel Milstein, and Hava Lazarus-Yafe. Now he works on many excavations and research projects across Jerusalem and Israel.

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Large Ophel Medallion

Peretz was working on a project with Dr. Eilat Mazar documenting all the walls of the Temple Mount, and researching and publishing the large ophel medallion when he met our director, Zachi Dvira. Zachi invited him to join our project, and now Peretz is researching all of the Early Islamic period pottery found by the Sifting Project. He is also planning to use his experience in researching architectural elements from the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods to research the architectural elements found in our sifting.

The Early Islamic period assemblage from the Sifting Project is very rich in materials. We have a lot of ceramic vessels, many of which are glazed and elaborated. Though most of them are locally made, some were imported from Persia, Egypt, or parts of Europe. We can see that there was a lot of activity on the Temple Mount during that time period, but what is interesting is that many of the vessels are ordinary. For example, we have many cooking vessels and fragments of pipes. Peretz would not say that these vessels represent daily life, for example people coming and eating in an ordinary way, since the Temple Mount is a holy place. Rather, we are familiar with people coming to make celebrations on the Temple Mount as a part of Muslim fests and holidays. There were also people, such as guards, who stayed on the Temple Mount overnight, and our assemblage could represent their daily lives.

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Cut mother-of-pearl inlays which may be from the Dome of the Rock

Peretz does not have a favorite artifact among those that he is researching for the Sifting project because there are too many to choose from that are really interesting. Some artifacts are connected to the building of the Dome of the Rock or to the artists who made the mosaics adorning the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. For example, Peretz is excited by the large amount of mother of pearl inlay found by the project. Many of these inlays might come from the dismantling and discarding of the mosaics over the years.

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Gilded glass mosaic tesserae from the Early Islamic Period removed from the Dome of the Rock exterior walls during later renovations.

The buildings of the Temple Mount have mosaics inside and out. Some were dismantled during renovations while others were replaced because they were disintegrating or suffering from the elements. For example, all the outer surface of the Dome of the Rock was covered with delicate mosaics unlike the ceramic mosaics that we have today. In the 1500s, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, all the outer paneling of mosaics were taken off the Dome of the Rock and thrown away. Most likely, some of what we are finding today is from that period. Between dumping and the stories of people cutting off the mosaics and selling or collecting them, it is really nice that some of these artifacts have survived.

In addition to working with the Sifting Project, Peretz has just finished publishing his research on the Islamic period ceramics found in the Givati Parking Lot in Jerusalem and is now working on publishing his research on the Islamic material from the Western Wall tunnels and the Kotel. With Assaf Avraham, he just published his research on the Nuba Inscription. Peretz said that he has always been interested in the connection between Islam and Judaism. He and Assaf decided to do some research on the topic, and during that research Assaf found out about the interesting inscription in Nuba. They decided to do some additional research on the inscription and the results were definitely interesting. Check out the video they published on their finds.

Nuba Inscription Identifies Dome of the Rock with Jewish Temple

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Our researchers are privileged to work on many projects throughout the year in addition to their work with us at the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Assaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven have been working on understanding the 9th/10th century Arabic inscription at Nuba and have finally shared their work with the public.

The inscription bears witness to the fact that the Dome of the Rock structure was originally named “Bayt al Maqdis” referring to “The Holy Temple.” Link is to video and press release. This is big news because it is proof from within the Islamic faith that early Muslims knew that the Temple Mount was the site of the Jewish Temple and that they perceived the Dome of the Rock as a reestablishment of the earlier Temple.

Here is the press release about the discovery.

Press Release: The Writing on the Wall

Ancient Arabic inscription bears witness to the fact that the Dome of the Rock structure was originally named ‘Bayt al Maqdis’ referring to “The Holy Temple.”

A team of archaeologists revealed the existence of a 1000-year-old text, dated to the beginning of the Islamic era, which indicates that the Muslims perceived the Dome of the Rock as a reestablishment of the earlier Jewish Temple. They referred to it as “Bayt al-maqdis” in the inscription, which derives from the biblical Hebrew terminology as ‘Beit Hamikdash’, known as the Hebrew reference to the Holy Temple.

This unique find is located in the central mosque at the village of Nuba, next to the city of Hebron. Its significance lies in the fact that it is dated to the early Islamic Period, and it sheds light on the sanctification process of Jerusalem and especially of the Temple Mount to the Muslims.

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The Nuba Inscription

The text on the rock quotes;

“In the name of Allah, the merciful God

This territory, Nuba, and all its boundaries

and its entire area, is an endowment to the Rock

of Bayt al-Maqdis and the al-Aqsa Mosque,

as it was dedicated by the Commander of the Faithful, ̒Umar iben al-Khattab

for the sake of Allah the Almighty”

The village of Nuba is mentioned in the inscription text as an endowment to the Rock of Bayt al-Maqdis [The Holy Temple] and the al-Aqsa Mosque. The text also notes that the one who did the dedication was ̒Umar iben al-Khattab, the Arab ruler who conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantines in 638 AD.

Assaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven, the archeologists who presented the existence of the inscription last week in the Conference on ‘New studies in the archaeology of Jerusalem and its region’ that was held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, pointed out that this text is, in fact, testimony that at least one of the names of the Dome of the Rock in the first centuries of Islam was “Bayt al-Maqdis” which preserves the Hebrew name “Beyt ha-Miqdash” (literally the “House of Sanctuary”). “The choice to use the name ‘Bayt al-Maqdis’ was not original,” says Assaf Avraham. “Using this name derived from the deep influence of Jewish tradition on the development of Islam in its earliest days.” In an article that was published in the Conference pamphlet, early evidence was presented in the form of quotes by Moslem believers who, it appears, entered and prayed within a place of worship at the Temple Mount, which was named “Bayt al-Maqdis” For example:

“I would regularly pray with Ibn-Dahar in Bayt al-Maqdis, when he entered, he used to remove his shoes.”

“Anyone who comes to Bayt al-Maqdiss only for the sake of praying inside it – is cleansed of all his sins.”

“I entered Bayt al-Maqdis and saw a man taking longer than usual for his bows.”

“The rock that is in Bayt al-Maqdis is the center of the entire universe.”

“Early Islamic literature shows that religious rituals were conducted within the Dome of the Rock at the beginning of the Islamic era” says Assaf; “These rituals were inspired by ancient traditions which took place within The Biblical Temple as is documented in the bible and in ancient Jewish literature.” An ancient Muslim source describes and stresses this point:

“Every Monday and Thursday morning the attendants enter the bath house to wash and purify themselves. They take off their clothes and put on a garment made of silk brocade embroidered with figures, and fasten tightly the girdle embellished with gold around their waists. And they rub the Rock over with perfume. Then the incense is put in censers of gold and silver. The gate-keepers lower the curtains so that the incense encircles the Rock entirely and the scent clings to it.”

These well documented and detailed procedures bear similarities to rituals that were practiced in the Jewish Temple, and were probably derived from them.

dome_of_the_rock13235570190061The Nuba inscription implies that the building of the Dome of the Rock marks the re-construction of the biblical Holy Temple, in essence, one of the most significant acts in the early history of Islam, a new world view that asked to glorify Jerusalem’s position as the world’s religious center for Islam.

When cross-referenced with other Muslim traditional literature of the time, it becomes clear that the Dome of the Rock’s structure was named Bayt Al-Maqdis in which prayers were conducted traditionally. It was the holiest structure within the Temple Mount and it was perceived as a renewed temple.

This unique revelation bears importance and relevance today considering UNESCO’s latest resolution which ignores the Jewish affinity to the Temple Mount.

Here is a link to the official article about the Nuba Inscription in Hebrew. Assaf and Peretz are working to create an English translation that will be published in the near future.