Thank you for considering supporting the Temple Mount Sifting Project.
The project is currently undergoing significant changes that aim to advance public awareness of the importance of the Temple Mount heritage and of scientific facts concerning its history.
In recent years, the project has focused on the full scientific publication of the many finds recovered during the years of sifting; in the past few months we have also been working on resuming the sifting operation and re-establishing the sifting site at a new location, which will be more accessible to the general public.
We currently lack the funds necessary to complete our research goals and operate our archaeology lab during 2019. We also need funding for running the renewed sifting site from June 2nd until the end of the year. In addition, the funding for the sifting site infrastructure has been given to us as a loan by our new landlord, and we will have to return it by the end of 2020.
and help Preserve the History of the Temple Mount
All funds our managed by the Israel Archaeology Foundation, which is an Israeli Tax-Exempt Non-profit Organization. We are also capable of receiving donations from US, Canada and UK tax-exempt organization. Check out more information about this here.
For thousands of years, the Temple Mount has been an important and sacred site for three of the world’s monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is the “place where heaven and earth meet, an epicenter of religious and national life” (Isaiah 2: 2-4).
However, despite its prevalence in religious life, much of its past remains a mystery. This is because no archaeological excavation has ever taken place on the site due to political concerns. The absence of archaeological data has resulted in many unresolved and hotly debated historical questions. Although most scholars (including Muslim scholars) assert that the Jewish Temples were located on this site, Palestinian and Muslim leaders have begun denying their existence here. This claim was then supported in the recent UNESCO resolution in October 2016. See our response to this resolution here.
How we came into the picture:
In 1999, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement bulldozed a large pit on the Temple Mount for the construction of an entrance to an ancient underground structure which was converted into a mosque. Israeli antiquities law requires a salvage excavation before construction at archaeological sites, thus these actions were illegal. Making matters worse, approximately 400 truckloads – 9,000 tons – of soil saturated with priceless archaeological artifacts were dumped as garbage in the nearby Kidron Valley.
Archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira understood that this discarded earth represented a rare glimpse at the past, despite the fact that it had been wrenched from its archaeological context. (Context like location, layer, and relation to other artifacts make up the basic parameters for evaluating archaeological significance.)
In 2004, Barkay and Dvira removed truckloads of dirt from the debris dumped in the Kidron Valley and began a large-scale sifting project to recover treasures that were slated for the garbage. In doing so, they established the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP), with the goal of rescuing ancient artifacts and conducting research to enhance our understanding of the archeology and history of the Temple Mount.
The ancient artifacts retrieved by the Sifting Project provide valuable and previously inaccessible information about this important and contested site. In response to the archaeological challenges posed by the endeavor, our team of experts has implemented innovative methodologies and technologies for studying the finds. For example, we employ advance quantitative and statistical methods that reestablish the archaeological context of the finds.
In 14 years, and with over 200,000 volunteers from around the world, the project has become a major global educational and historical endeavor. The public’s help has proven critical for the operation and advancement of the project and attests to the importance of what is being revealed.
This idea is vividly expressed in the Book of Psalms:
“For your servants have cherished her stones, and have redeemed her dust” (Psalms 102:14-15)
Ultimately, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is the closest anyone has come to excavating the Temple Mount itself.
Now we are inviting you to join us and be a part of the next phase of the project. Please help us fund the research required for a full scientific publication. Publishing the results of our work will shed more light on the long history of this sacred site and will contribute to the resolution of debates related to this site.
We plan on having at six volumes of research published by 2023. This will include chapters discussing the history of the Temple Mount, Coins, Pottery, Special Finds and many more.
Every bucket of earth we sift contains ancient artifacts representing the Temple Mount’s rich and diverse 3000 year history. The most common finds are pottery fragments, glass vessel pieces, metal objects, animal bones, worked stones and mosaic tesserae.
In addition to these general categories, there are many fascinating finds, such as fragments of stone vessels, jewelry, beads, terracotta figurines, arrowheads and other weaponry, weights, clothing accessories, gaming pieces and dice, bone and shell inlays, furniture decorations, ornaments, bone and ivory objects, and fragments of inscriptions on stone and pottery.
We have also recovered elaborate architectural remains, including fragments of columns and their capitals, fragments of mosaic floors, Opus Sectile floor tiles, frescoes (colored wall plaster pieces) and glazed wall tiles.
To date, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) has uncovered more than 7,000 coins, ranging from tiny silver coins from the 4th century BCE to coins minted in modern times. Among them are very rare and exciting coins such as the silver half-shekel discussed in greater detail below.
Although the earth excavated from the Temple Mount was moved from one place to another several times, it was not completely mixed. Consequently, many of the finds remain in context-associated clusters. This will allow us to learn more about the context of the finds through the appropriate application of quantitative analysis.
Once the sorting and analysis process is completed, the data will help provide fresh insights into the archaeology and history of the Temple Mount.
From the First Temple period (1000 to 586 BCE, from King David to the destruction of the First Temple) we have recovered an abundance of pottery fragments originating from bowls, pots, jars, and jugs, as well as chalices, stands, rattles and other unique objects.
Some of the finds date to the 10th-9th centuries BCE, the time of King Solomon, builder of the First Temple, and his successors. These finds are rare in Jerusalem, and they have brought forth critical evidence in the heated debate about the size of Jerusalem in this period. Some scholars doubt that the Temple Mount was annexed to Jerusalem during the 10th century BCE. They suggest that Jerusalem was not a capital city but rather a small village. Our finds contradict this minimalist assertion and confirm the Biblical account regarding Jerusalem during this period.
The TMSP found a large number of terracotta figurine fragments. Most are zoomorphic quadruped legs (probably horses) and torso parts. Others are pillared female figurine fragments. Scholars have widely debated the figurines’ symbolism and function. Some see them as means to evoke a goddess during prayers for fertility, while others have associated them with healing and protection. We found them all fragmented and they appear to have been intentionally broken in antiquity. Some scholars have associated this phenomenon with the reforms of King Josiah at the end of the 7th century BCE, which included the smashing of idols (2 Kings 23: 4-13; 2 Chron. 34: 3-5).
The sifting also yielded a group of stone weights of the shekel series. No coinage system existed at this time, so trade was done using these weights for weighing precious metals. Some of the weights found are less than a shekel unit and represent weight units of gera (20 or 24 gera to a shekel).
Other finds from this period include weaponry items such as sling stones and arrowheads. Among them are several arrowheads commonly found in Judah which date to the mid-late First Temple period. One very rare bronze arrowhead is dated to the 10th century BCE, the time of King Solomon. Arrowheads from this period are rarely found. This one, the first of its type found in Jerusalem, may attest to the existence of an armed force on the Temple Mount. Another distinctive arrowhead found by the project was a bronze Irano-Schythic triple-bladed type used by the Babylonian army that conquered Judah and destroyed the First Temple.
Inscribed artifacts include dozens of ostraca (inscribed pottery) fragments and 25 clay seal impressions (bullae). One seal impression bears the Hebrew names ליהו… and אִמֶר, meaning “(Belonging to) […]lyahu (son of) Immer.” Immer was the name of a priestly family mentioned in the books of Jeremiah and Chronicles.
This seal impression is the first ancient Hebrew inscription ever found from the Temple Mount and is the first piece of evidence attesting to priests’ administrative functions in the First Temple. Other finds include a rare cone-shaped seal from the time of King Solomon depicting two animals, a black stone seal depicting a gazelle, and a seal made of lapis lazuli, a semi-precious gem stone.
During the Second Temple period (515 BCE to 70 CE) the Temple and its esplanade underwent several construction projects, primarily during the reign of King Herod and his descendants. The finds from this period include numerous pottery shards, especially from cooking pots, and many burnt livestock bones. These finds may be linked to the massive pilgrimages to the Temple described in written sources. The sifting also yielded fragments of architectural members that may be the remains of magnificent porticos that encircled the Temple Mount, or perhaps even remains of the Temple itself!
A very illuminating find is the collection of more than one thousand fragments of floor tiles in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
These are identified as floor tiles used in a paving technique known in the Roman world as opus sectile, in which the tiles were assembled in various ways to form rich geometric patterns. The writings of Flavius Josephus testify that this technique was used as ornamentation for the open courts that surrounded the Temple:
Those entire courts that were exposed to the sky were laid with stones of all sorts (War. 5 5:2)
Josephus’ description is completely consistent with our finds and allows us to suggest a comprehensive reconstruction of the patterns of the Temple Mount floors.
We also recovered Roman period arrowheads that may originate from the Roman siege before the destruction of the Temple. The sifted earth contains large amounts of ash from repeated conflagrations. This, too, may attest to the Roman destruction of the Temple.
The finds from the Late Roman period (70 to 324 CE) reflect the pagan nature of the site under Roman control. These finds include coins, pottery, gaming pieces, and evidence for a bone tools workshop at the site.
The TMSP has uncovered rich archaeological remains from the Byzantine period (324 to 638 CE). These include mosaic tesserae, roof tiles, fragments of Corinthian pillar capitals, church chancel screens and numerous coins. The pottery includes many oil lamps, some bearing misspelled Greek inscriptions, and others emblazoned with a cross or stylized cruciform lamp handles. An important group of crucifixes and cross-shaped pendants of various styles and materials was also found. On some of them the image of Jesus appears in relief or incised.
The abundance of finds from this period challenges the standard assumption that the Temple Mount was deserted and devoid of structures during this period.
A very large percentage of the finds come from the Early Islamic period (638 to 1099 CE). In this period the name of the site was changed to Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). The Dome of the Rock was built by the Umayyad Khalif Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 691 CE as a shrine to commemorate the spot where Solomon’s Temple once stood. Later on, in 705-714 CE, his son al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik built the Al-Aqsa mosque at the southern edge of the Haram al-Sharif above the ruins of a Byzantine structure.
These edifices were renovated in later periods. During the 16th century CE, the magnificent exterior gilded mosaics of the Dome of the Rock were replaced with decorated glazed wall tiles. The floor tiles of the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain were replaced in modern times. These renovations included the removal of earlier architectural elements and the construction debris was dumped on the eastern side of the Temple Mount. Accordingly, the TMSP has recovered tens of thousands of gilded glass tesserae cubes originating from the mosaics on the exterior walls of the Dome of the Rock, as well as many engraved marble architectural elements from other structures. Some of these architectural fragments were used within Umayyad structures, though they originated from the Byzantine or even Second Temple periods.
In addition, we recovered inscribed pottery, mother-of-pearl inlays, jewelry, gaming pieces, glass and metal weights with inscriptions, and many coins (including gold ones) and inscribed stones from this period.
The finds from the TMSP greatly contribute to the archaeological and historical research of the Temple Mount during the Crusader period (1099 to 1187 CE). We discovered the biggest and most varied collection of silver coins ever found in Jerusalem from this period; among them are extremely rare coins and a one-of-a-kind Knights Templar medallion. The Crusader finds include many cruciform pendants, pottery and architectural remains. Many opus sectile floor tiles -that were installed in the Dome of the Rock and dismantled in later periods – were recovered in the sifting, enabling us to replicate the elaborate floor of the Dome of the Rock during the Crusaders’ times.
In scholarly texts, the Temple Mount has been commonly associated with the Knights Templar in this period. The Knights used the Al-Aqsa Mosque as their headquarters and turned the large southeastern substructure into stables for their horses, calling it “Solomon’s Stables.” The earth we are sifting originated in the area of Solomon’s Stables and has yielded many remnants of Crusader activity, including arrowheads, horseshoe nails of typical European medieval cavalry and armor scales. These finds constitute the first archaeological evidence for the Knights Templar’s utilization of Solomon’s Stables.
We have recovered numerous architectural elements from the Later Islamic periods (1187 to 1917 CE). Among the most notable finds are the glazed tiles used by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to replace the original glass mosaics which ornamented the exterior walls of the Dome of the Rock. Moreover, we have found thousands of coins from the Mameluke and Ottoman periods, which contribute significantly to the study of coins from this period. This is also true regarding the abundant pottery from this period. We plan to publish these finds specifically in great detail. This is significant because most excavations tend to neglect later periods or publish the finds hastily. Our report aims to be the most extensive typology study published on pottery from the late antiquity (Medieval – Ottoman) periods.
Other finds from these periods include many jewelry pieces, clothing articles, military badges and insignia, old musket rounds and flint lock stones, an enormous number of Ottoman tobacco pipes, and much more.
The TMSP has proven to be an unprecedented and inexhaustible source of knowledge on the Temple Mount. Archaeological finds that lay hidden within its soil for thousands of years can now be scientifically analyzed and published for the first time. The results of this endeavor will shed much light on the Temple Mount’s past, its builders and rebuilders, its religious and social significance, its defenders and its conquerors. Today, 14 years into this project, about 75% of the debris removed from the Temple Mount has been sifted. The project requires more funds to continue sifting many more tons of removed earth and to find many more unique and important artifacts.
Thanks to the support from all our donors, in the past year (2018) we advanced significantly with the research of our finds; our goal is to complete a full publication report. The funds raised in 2017 allowed us to accelerate the pace of our research in the currently active finds categories, and to expand the research to additional categories. In the past year we employed 15 researchers who clocked in an impressive 7,026 research working hours in total. We added expert archaeological drawings for 320 artifacts and 514 archaeological studio photographs, and 450 hours were invested in the Hebrew University conservation laboratory for hundreds of metal artifacts (arrowheads, coins, etc.) which had to undergo special metal consolidation and cleaning in order to prevent disintegration.
The past year saw serious progress in the research of pottery from the First Temple, Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, and the completion of the catalog and documentation of coins from all periods. We began processing the artifacts bearing remnants of ancient Hebrew inscriptions, weights and more. We refined and extended the database quantifying sorted pottery, in preparation for advanced statistical analysis of the data planned for the coming year. We carried out in-depth research on our famous Immer sealing, and an extensive paper was sent for publication in a prestigious archaeological journal.
Another important undertaking in 2018 was to find a solution and location for resuming the sifting. We initiated an experimental mobile sifting project for visiting communities and schools. The experience was highly successful, but it was not economically viable. We did succeed in establishing a framework for sifting at a new, permanent site, and we will be resuming the sifting there in June. The new sifting facility will be more accessible than the former location and will be able to accommodate more visitors.
We continued to publicize the project and its discoveries to the general public through our websites, videos and news media reports. We received exposure beyond our expectations for a group of tiny silver coins from the Persian period (the days of the Return to Zion), which are both the oldest coins minted in Jerusalem and the oldest Jewish coins ever minted. We were also photographed for several documentary films released this year.
At the start of the year, we renovated the lab in order to host visitors more respectably and to utilize more efficiently the space for which we pay a considerable amount of rent.
Despite our limited budget, our project has progressed, thanks to our dedicated staff who see their work as a mission, to our donors who continue to believe in the importance of what we do and to our volunteers and supporters who help us in so many ways. Much work has been done and much more remains, but we are not deterred by the long road ahead.
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 are protected and shared. Ignorance feeds conflict and dispute, while knowledge helps us better understand our common past.
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 political concerns.
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 three volumes of our research on the Temple Mount’s history, special finds, coins, and pottery in 2021. 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 are protected and shared.
Why the Temple Mount?
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56: 7)
The Temple Mount is sacred to more than half of the world’s population and three major religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. According to the Bible, it is a place where heaven and earth meet, which was designated to be an epicenter for all facets the religious and national life, and an anchor point from which the word of God is spread out to the world. Today it is Judaism’s holiest site, where the First and Second Temples once stood, and remains the focal point of Jewish prayers. For Christians, it is home to the Temple that Jesus knew. It is the third holiest site in Islam, the location of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Anything that happens on the Temple Mount resonates throughout the entire world, and yet no proper excavation has ever been conducted here.
From the outset, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) was a risky endeavor. We didn’t know what would emerge from the truckloads of dirt or how to undertake this unique research. Despite the initial concerns, our efforts – and those of our dedicated volunteers – have proven to be amazingly worthwhile.
The discovery of seals and seal impressions has shed new light on the administrative activities that took place in the First Temple, contradicting minimalist claims that the site was a mere village in the 10th century BCE, and confirming the biblical account that the Temple Mount was part of the city during that time. Opus sectile paving stones match Josephus’ descriptions of the elegant architectural style of the Herodian renovations to the Second Temple. Hundreds of thousands of mosaic tesserae and other architectural elements prove that the Temple Mount was occupied – not deserted as was previously believed – during the Byzantine period. In recent years, Palestinian political leaders have invented new claims completely denying the existence of the First and Second Temples at the site, and these claims have now been supported by UNESCO. Our finds, and most scholars, prove otherwise.
The TMSP is focusing its efforts on the enormous tasks of processing and studying the finds and preparing them for scientific publication. Unpublished finds have little value for archaeological research. It is as though they had never been found. Presently, more than half a million finds are still waiting to be processed and analyzed in our laboratory. We cannot allow this to be the fate of the finds from such an important site as the Temple Mount.
You have the responsibility to support our efforts and bring to light the history of the Temple Mount. Help us prevent these antiquities and their history from being lost to illegal construction. Help us resolve scholarly and political debates about the long history of this important site by publishing the truth found in the archaeological record.
The publication of TMSP’s finds represent an opportunity for meaningful and educated dialogue that has the potential to reduce political conflicts. Ignorance feeds conflict and dispute, while knowledge helps us better understand our common past.
As mentioned previously, the focus of our attention in the last year has been the advancement of research and the publication of our artifacts. We plan to publish a full six-volume report, containing 186 chapters of reports, discussions and summaries for all categories of artifact. In the first stage we are advancing with the first three volumes, where the first volume will contain introductory chapters concerning the history of the Temple Mount, the history of the sifting project, our sifting methodology and statistical method, and reports on some of our most interesting finds. The second volume will discuss pottery, with a separate chapter dedicated to each period. The third volume will concentrate on coins and weights and will similarly be divided into chapters devoted to each period.
In the meantime, articles we published previously continue to be cited in scientific publications. We believe that the number of citations in scientific peer-reviewed journals will increase significantly over time as we publish further articles in peer-reviewed archaeological journals. Scientific publication is at the core of archaeological knowledge, but, in contrast to popular works, is absorbed slowly in the scientific community, and thenceforth to teaching staff, the media and general knowledge.
With your help, we may be able to answer questions like:
Your support means that we can continue our research – make sure that the true history of the Temple Mount is shared with the world. Unless we can publish our research, it will be as if the HALF A MILLION significant artifacts found by our project didn’t exist.
This tragedy is avoidable with YOUR help.
Donate NOW and make a huge difference for the heritage of the world .
Our plan is to renew the sifting within an economical, self-sustaining framework. The old sifting site in the Emek Zurim national park was in a picturesque and meaningful site, but its accessibility, the security risks involved in getting there, and transportation limitations imposed by the Ministry of Education, deterred many visitors from arriving at the site. We estimate that we lost in this way around half of our potential clients who otherwise would have been interested in taking part in the sifting.
Thankfully we located a new site for setting up the sifting – the HaMasu’ot Lookout, which is next to the Hebrew University on Mt Scopus. This location is more accessible by public transport, is free of the previous security problems, and has an abundance of parking space. This will enable us to double the number of visitors. In financial terms, the new conditions will facilitate the running of the new site economically. Nonetheless, we do still need funds for the initial establishment of the site’s infrastructure and for running the site in its first year of operation.
The non-profit organization that runs the HaMasu’ot Lookout decided to grant us a loan towards setting up the basic infrastructure needed for running the sifting as a pilot program for three months this coming summer, with the intention of agreeing on a framework for the activity thereafter. This loan should be returned in 2020.
During the coming weeks we will start marketing the sifting activity and will set up the site’s initial infrastructure. We still need to raise funds for the sifting operation until it will hopefully become economically self-sustained. We also need to raise funds to pay for permanent infrastructure for the site and to guarantee its running during its first year.
As announced in the past, the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, promised both publicly and in a meeting with us in December 2016, to help fund the project. The promise was apparently forgotten, and therefore we embarked on a crowd-funding campaign with wide media coverage in the middle of 2017. In the wake of the campaign the Prime Minister appointed the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to investigate the project’s financial needs. Over a period of almost a year, the IAA studied the project’s research plan and budget, and at the end passed them on to a committee of senior archaeologists from several universities. We put together a plan based on the committee’s guidelines, at their request. In April 2018 the IAA director sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s office with the recommendation to fund a five-year research plan for the publication of the Sifting Project finds to a total of 2.4 million dollars.
All in all, things moved very slowly, and more than once we sensed that someone was trying to prevent the funding. Eventually, we were told that the government had settled on a plan, whereby we would receive altogether five million NIS (1.4 million USD) from the budgets of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, and the Office of the Prime Minister. However, before the decision could be ratified, the chief counsel to the Ministry of Culture halted the process, citing a pre-election moratorium, despite other legal experts’ claims that no such problem exists for a process that began over two years ago.
Sadly, our case is being handled at a very sluggish pace, the 2019 elections stopped the process, and it is doubtful that we will be able to get it back on track. This puts us in a difficult position, but we hope that we will be able to keep afloat with donations from supporters in Israel and abroad, as we have done until now, until we have finished all research on the project’s finds.
Take part in the sifting and recommend it to other people and institutions. Support us by sharing this website and video via social media – on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. Raising awareness about the Temple Mount Sifting Project in your community, and even around your own dinner table, will help us give voice to the muted history of one of the world’s most sacred sites.
The absence of archaeological data has resulted in many unresolved and hotly debated historical questions. Although all scholars (including Muslim scholars) assert that the Jewish Temples were located on the Temple Mount, For the past few decades, Palestinian and Muslim leaders have begun denying their existence here. This claim was then supported in the recent UNESCO resolution in October 2016. See our response to this resolution here. We outline the archaeological evidence, from our sifting and other excavations in Jerusalem, supporting the existence of the First and Second Temple on the Temple Mount.
Below are links to a sample of the many reports about the Sifting Project that have appeared in past years in the media and are accessible online.
YOUR contribution will help reveal the story of the Temple Mount. Your assistance is of vital importance.
14 years since the start of the sifting, 200,000 volunteers and over half a million precious artifacts…. but in the world of archaeology these don’t exist until they’ve been published! In the archaeology lab we’re working hard on the classification, study, photography, preservation and statistical analysis of the artifacts, getting them ready for publication in the planned massive 6-volume work, to be published over the next 5 years and distributed to academic centers and made available to the public throughout the world.
And this is where we need your help.
Would you like to be more involved in our project? Consider sponsoring a chapter in our publication. You will get your name published in the publication as well as the opportunity to be in direct contact with the researchers working on your chapter. The list below is our chapter outline for the first three volumes of our research and other chapters in future volumes. All of these chapters need funding. We have provided the cost for completing the research and writing the chapter for each topic in order to give you an idea of our needs. If a topic interests you, please be in touch and let us know. We would love to speak with you regarding your donation and ensure that your gift is used according to your wishes. Chapters can be sponsored by individuals or groups and can also be divided into smaller needs, so please let us know what your interests are. You can contact us at email@example.com or call our office at +972-2-5667067
If a topic interests you, please be in touch and let us know. We would love to speak with you regarding your donation and ensure that your gift is used according to your wishes. Chapters can be sponsored by individuals or groups and can also be divided into smaller needs, so please let us know what your interests are. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at +972-2-5667067