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Early Islamic Destruction Layer?

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Preserving the Heritage of Everyone

Amidst all the stress of trying to find the funding to keep our research lab open, we cannot forget our purpose: to share our research with you. We truly believe that our research is important to the heritage of the all who connect to the Temple Mount: billions of people across the world in all three of the world’s major monotheistic religions. We are finding artifacts that are part of the heritage of Jews, Pagans, Christians, Muslims, and all those in between. We’ve written recently about the Christian connection to the Temple and the Jewish connection to the Temple, so today we are going to share some Islamic history of the Temple Mount.

Lailat al Miraj

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Buraq as seen on a reproduction of a 17th century Indian Mughal miniature

Last night marked the beginning of the holiday of Lailat al Miraj, which falls on the 27th day of Rajab and like the Jewish calendar, begins at nightfall the day before. This is the Muslim holiday that commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s nighttime journey from Mecca to the “Farthest Mosque” where he then ascended to heaven, met G-d and earlier prophets, and was told of the duty of Muslims to recite Salat (ritual prayer) five times a day. Muslims believe that the “Farthest Mosque” refers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount here in Jerusalem. They believe that two angels provided the Prophet Muhammad with the mythical winged steed called Buraq, and they named the Buraq Wall (also known as the Western Wall or Kotel) as the place where Muhammad tied this winged steed. In some traditions, Buraq has the head of a women and the tail of a peacock. The full story of Lailat al Miraj are described in chapter 17 of the Quran and also in hadith, supplemental writings about the life of Muhammad.

dome_of_the_rock13235570190061Finds

The Temple Mount’s history is not only rich during the First and Second periods, though those have been in the news a lot recently. We have recovered a huge amount of material from the Early Islamic period and the Ottoman empire including the golden glass mosaics from the original Dome of the Rock and many ottoman smoking pipes. In September we also recovered this beautiful mother of pearl decoration with the Dome of the Rock on it. You may also have heard about the many Ottoman seals that have been recovered by our project including one with the name of the Deputy Mufti of Jerusalem, a possible ancestor of the current leader of the Waqf.

Last summer, we recovered an intact oil lamp from the Early Islamic period. While that may seem like an obvious find in most excavations, because the material that we are sifting was excavated by bulldozer, everything we find is broken. To find something intact is quite special for our project. Even more interesting than that, the cluster of earth in which the oil lamp was found included many other artifacts (including many large pieces) from the earliest stages of Islamic occupation on the Temple Mount itself. The finds seem to come from a violent destruction of the site, possibly the earthquake of 658 CE. Usually, large or unbroken finds like this are only found in sealed layers of excavations. These finds from the Temple Mount indicate the possibility that at some time in the last millennium, someone dug a hole somewhere on the Temple Mount and hit an Early Islamic layer with lots of pottery. The debris from this dig was dumped in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount and was subsequently removed by the Waqf in 1999, reaching our hands.

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Early Islamic Period (Abbasid) oil lamp Credit: FARLI.org

Unfortunately I can’t show you ours until more research has been done. Here is a similar Early Islamic Period (Abbasid) oil lamp which will give you some idea of what we are talking about. Credit: FARLI.org.

Finding the remains of the destruction caused by the earthquake of 658 CE is one of the more interesting things we have discovered in our research, and is greatly dependent on the statistical analysis of our artifacts. Click here for more information about our methodology and our use of statistics to understand archaeological data.

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Bejeweled

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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.