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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.

Inspiring Supporters

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We love it when we inspire our supporters. We just got an email from Nancy in Washington who is a subscriber to the Biblical Archaeology Review. She said, “We have subscribed to BAR for many years! Imagine my surprise when my husband handed me the latest issue turned to page 58 and said “I have an idea for a quilt for you.” He was reading the article about the Temple Mount Floor tiles. There were three patterns used over and over again. I incorporated the 3 squares plus Herod’s Triangles around the edge. I made it to scale and used the colors found in the floor rubble from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

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Nancy and her beautiful quilt

We are amazed at the detail and beautiful work that went into this quilt. As Frankie put it, Nancy “did an an amazing job of capturing the essence of Herod’s beautiful opus sectile floors.”

What is really interesting is how similar the quilt is to the floor created for the Israel Museum’s exhibit, “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” that was on display in 2013.  The museum display was created from tiles that were found at Herodium, where Herod was buried, and from Cypros, a small Herodian palace on the ridge-line above Jericho.  Plaster replica tiles were then used to fill in the blank spaces.

Though the museum floor was not created from Temple Mount patterns or pieces, Nancy’s quilt is amazingly similar to the museum display! This shows how Herod used similar patterns and materials at these locations. This is how Frankie was able to use what she learned from Herodian, Banias, Cypros, Jericho, Masada and other patterns from the Roman world to reconstruct the patterns of the Temple Mount based on the pieces that were found in the sifting.

We are truly touched when we inspire our supporters. Please let us know if we’ve inspired you! Send us pictures and stories! Also, a special thanks goes out to Nancy for sharing her quilt with us. It is truly a work of art.

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

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PRESS RELEASE

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

zeev@cod.org.il

Photo Credit: Temple Mount Sifting Project