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Thank you for your consideration in supporting the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Since 2004, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) has been sifting soil destructively and illegally bulldozed from the Temple Mount. This atrocious destruction was committed by the Islamic Movement and the Muslim Waqf, with no archaeological supervision, in order to prevent the revelation of hundreds of thousands of important artifacts. These artifacts which would have otherwise been lost, attest to the First and Second Temple periods, the Byzantine period, and the Crusaders – historical periods that are not accessible for the archaeological research at the site of the Mount itself.

The TMSP was created in order to save as many ancient artifacts as possible from thousands of tons of debris, as well to conduct archaeological research in order to shed more light on the history of the Temple Mount: A place of significance to billions of people throughout the world.

In recent years, the Project has focused on the full scientific publication of the many finds recovered during the years of sifting, and the sifting itself was halted in 2017. Recently we noticed that the remaining unsifted soil is under imminent threat from erosion due to exposure to the elements and mixing with other illegal refuse deposits. For this reason, we resumed the sifting operation and installed a new sifting facility at the Masu’ot Lookout with the generous support of the American Friends of Beit Orot.

We currently lack the funds necessary to complete our research goals and operate our archaeology lab during 2020. We also need funding for the operational costs of the renewed sifting site until the end of the year. In addition, the existing infrastructure of the sifting facility is minimal and we will need to upgrade from its current status, to a permanent sifting facility that will be able to accept large groups.


Special Update Following the Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis

July 5th 2020

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic reaching Israel in early March and leading to the Israeli border closure as well as government orders calling for social distancing, the new sifting site experienced amazing progress. We received many bookings for the coming months including groups from Israel and abroad. However, due to the crisis, the Israeli government closed the country’s borders to tourists and called on its citizens to remain at home and refrain from all inessential social contact. As a result, all reservations from abroad have been cancelled, and the sifting site has been virtually empty for the past months.

How Can You Make a Difference? The present crisis threatens the continued existence of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The abrupt halt of visitors and volunteers coupled with the growing global financial upheaval means that funding is drying up, and we are facing major difficulties in continuing the sifting operation as well as the research and publication of the important finds we have gathered so far.

For this reason we will need all the help and support that we can get, including donations from our supporters, and visitors to our site as soon as Israel border will reopen for tourist.

You Can Help 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.

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Our Story

Out Story – Background:

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.

Out Story – 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 rendering these actions 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.

Heavy machinery used for digging a new entrance to “Solomon’s Stables” (November 1999). This work was done without archaeological supervision, removing 9000 tons of earth, rich with ancient artifacts.

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 such as 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 archaeology 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 advanced quantitative and statistical methods that reestablish the archaeological context of the finds.

Volunteers sifting at our sifting site in Emek Tzurim National Park.

Volunteers sifting the Temple Mount dirt.

In 14 years, and with over 200,000 volunteers from around the world, the project has become a major, international endeavor of educational and historical value. 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)

Out Story – Coming Next:

Ultimately, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is the closest anyone has come to excavating the Temple Mount itself.

IMG_6772Now 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 releasing a six volume publication of our research by 2026. This will include chapters discussing the history of the Temple Mount, Coins, Pottery, Special Finds and many more.

What have you found so far?

Every bucket of earth we sift contains ancient artifacts representing the Temple Mount’s rich and diverse 3,000 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.

Various pieces of jewelry from different periods. Materials include semi-precious stones, glass, bronze, silver and gold.

Various pieces of jewelry from different periods. Materials include semi-precious stones, glass, bronze, silver and gold.

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.

Selected coins from the Second Temple Period

Selected coins from the Second Temple period

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.

Bronze arrowhead dated to the 10th century BCE, the time of King Solomon. Arrowheads from this period are rarely found in Israel.

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 has found a large number of terracotta figurine fragments. Most are zoomorphic quadruped legs (probably horses) and sections of torsos. Others are fragments of pillared female figurines. 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. All of them have been found 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, and thus 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 gemstone.

A 7th century BCE seal impression with ancient Hebrew writing, This seal impression is the first ancient Hebrew inscription ever found on the Temple Mount and is evidence of the administrative activity in the First Temple.

 

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 porticoes that encircled the Temple Mount, or perhaps even remains of the Temple itself!

A very illuminating find is our collection of more than one thousand fragments of floor tiles in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

A fragment of an elaborately decorated frieze. The design is of an acanthus leaf typical of Herodian architecture. The stone has burn marks and may have originated in the Temple itself!

A fragment of an elaborately decorated frieze. The design is of an acanthus leaf typical of Herodian architecture. The stone has burn marks and may have originated in the Temple itself!.

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 for ornamentation of 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.

Arrowheads from the Second Temple period.

Arrowheads from the Second Temple period.

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.

Bone and ivory dice common to the Roman period. Jewish law from that exact time, per the Mishnah, disqualifies as a legal witness any person who plays with dice (Sanhedrim 24b).

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 were also found. On some of these crosses 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.

Byzantine period marble and limestone architectural fragments.

Byzantine period marble and limestone architectural fragments.

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.

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

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

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.  Though they originated from the Byzantine or even Second Temple periods, many of these architectural fragments were used within Umayyad structures.

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 multitude 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 Templar 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.

Crusader era iron horseshoe nails that attest to horses of the knights Templar in Solomon’s Stables.

Crusader era iron horseshoe nails which belonged to the horses of the knights Templar that resided in 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 Mamluk 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 will significantly impact the archaeological record, because most excavations tend to neglect later periods or publish the finds hastily and with lacking details. 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 flintlock stones, an enormous number of Ottoman tobacco pipes, and more.

Ottoman personal bronze seals. Among them is the seal of Abd al-Fattah al-Tamimi, who served as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the early 18th century.

Ottoman personal bronze seals. Among them is the seal of Abd al-Fattah al-Tamimi, who served as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the early 18th century.

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 re-builders, 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.

What have you managed to accomplish in the past year

Renewing the Sifting

Our focus in 2019 was the resumption of the sifting at its new location, Mitzpeh Hamasu’ot (the Masu’ot Lookout). This bore a financial risk since our average annual income (which is based totally on donations) suffices only to operate the lab and the research; we based our decision on the expectation that in a year’s time income from visitors would fund most of the expenses associated with the sifting operation.

Halfway through 2019, we renewed the sifting, which had been halted since 2017. To facilitate this, we entered into a collaboration with the Friends of Beit Orot, who operate Mitzpeh Hamasu’ot (the Masu’ot Lookout Site). We had to invest in installing facilities for the new sifting site; this was carried out with the help of the Friends of Beit Orot. We have now set up all the components necessary for wet sifting: a raised wooden platform shaded by a canopy, sifting stations and plumbing, including a new and innovative drainage system, as well as a water pressure booster pump to provide adequate pressure for the sifting process. For the winter we erected a state-of-the-art greenhouse that can handle wind speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. We have also installed a heavy-duty water heater so our visitors’ hands will not freeze while sifting.

The renewed sifting operation was inaugurated in June 2019, with a special opening event attended by the Minister of Jerusalem affairs, Mr. Zeev Elkin, and several Members of Knesset. The event received wide media coverage. The event also featured a unique exhibition that presented different aspects of activity on the Temple Mount throughout history. We invested much time and energy in assembling this exhibition and would like to have it on permanent display at the sifting site, but this would require hiring security around the clock. Instead, we are currently working on creating an exhibition of replicas, and in addition we’ve also built a virtual exhibition  on our website, which will be updated from time to time.

New Finds

Since the resumption of the sifting, we have hosted almost 10,000 participants, who have sifted around 130 tons of soil. The sifting finds include several clay seal impressions (mostly from the First Temple period, but also two extremely rare Byzantine and Early Islamic examples), a rare Sasanian seal, more than 200 ancient coins (which have yet to be cleaned and identified), dozens of architectural elements (several are from the late Second Temple period), lavish floor tiles that decorated Herod’s Temple courts, arrowheads, unique pottery objects and many more types of finds. All will have to be carefully studied before we are able to publish more details.

These are in addition to artifacts which are more frequently found, such as fragments of lathe-fashioned stone vessels from the Second Temple Period, “Caliga” hobnails (from Roman legionaries’ sandals), jewelry from different periods, fragments of First Temple period clay figurines, game pieces and more. 

Processing and Researching the Artifacts in Preparation for Final Publication

As mentioned above, our main goal in recent years was to move forward with the research and publication of our artifacts. Although during the past year we focused on the resumption of the sifting, we nevertheless managed to progress in several aspects of the research:

Pottery of the First Temple period (Iron Age IIB-C) – The text of this chapter of the report has undergone scientific editing and is now finalized. We have likewise completed all associated technical drawings.

Pottery of the early days of the First Temple period (Iron Age IIA) – We have progressed in the typology study and the chapter’s first draft and finalized all technical drawings.

Pottery of the Later Roman, Byzantine, and Early Islamic periods – We have finalized the typology study and have started writing up the chapter’s text. We have also completed most of the technical drawings.

Coins of the Second Temple period – The text of this chapter has undergone scientific editing and is now finalized.

Roman Gems (decorated semi-precious stone ring inlays) – This chapter’s first draft is now complete.

Ancient bead technologies – We conducted some innovative research into technologies involved in the manufacture of ancient beads. We have now completed the first draft.

Fragments of inscribed pottery from the First Temple period – We have completed the cataloging process and the technical drawings.

A scientific article about the Immer clay seal impression and the Temple Treasury – We have completed the Hebrew version, which will be sent soon for publication.

Fourth preliminary report – We have drafted our Fourth Preliminary Report, which focuses on summarized data of the pottery artifacts and coins.

Exhibitions

Apart from the current exhibition of replicas at the sifting site, the Israel Museum opened an exhibition last year at its Rockefeller Museum branch, entitled “A Glimpse of Paradise’’, which pays tribute to 100 years of Armenian Jerusalem ceramics. We were proud and delighted to contribute some of our artifacts to this exhibit. These include multi-kiln, Ottoman-era glazed ceramic tiles which once decorated the exterior walls of the Dome of the Rock, as well as glass tesserae from the 8th century wall mosaic which preceded the glazed tiles. These relics, some of which have never been made public and are presented for the very first time, shed light on the history of Armenian artisans in Jerusalem and suggest that some of the glazed tiles covering the Dome of the Rock were manufactured on the Temple Mount itself.

Lectures

Joining the pandemic-era trend of organizing online events, we conducted our very first online symposium which included lectures on our research and related studies, delivered by some of our most interesting researchers. More than 700 people registered for the event, and some were so captivated by the lectures that they participated for the whole day (more than six hours). We’ve uploaded a few of the talks to our YouTube Channel, but since some of the lectures included exclusive information that has not yet been officially published, we have not yet made all the recordings available online at this time.

We prepared papers for presentation at four prestigious conferences planned for 2020 (including the Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research that was due to take place this November in Boston) but unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these were cancelled.

Why should I support this research?

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 both challenge and affirm leading 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. The goal in mind being that our scientific research encourages and enables 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.

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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 of 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.

Map of the Old City of Jerusalem with the major excavated areas in the last 150 years. Note the large blank rectangle of the Temple Mount where no systematic excavation has ever taken place.

Map of the Old City of Jerusalem with the major excavated areas in the last 150 years. Note the large blank rectangle of the Temple Mount where no systematic excavation has ever taken place.

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 a unique opportunity of taking part in 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 extensive 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.

Our Funding Goals

The contribution form allows you to choose the target of your contribution. The various options include:

General Contributions – This type of contribution will be evenly distributed among the various Temple Mount Sifting Project activities.

Infrastructure for the New Sifting Facility – The infrastructure of the new sifting facility was constructed by our hosts at the Mitzpe HaMassuot site and is considered a loan that we must repay by the end of 2020. In addition, we have further plans to develop the facility, such as adding a permanent exhibit of finds which will include a recreation of the colored floor patterns which adorned the courtyards of the Second Temple. Also, we must pave a new access path and entrance from the parking lot side to the sifting site, add a reception office, a storage and staff room, a visitors’ cafeteria and a gate to allow trucks to transport and remove the soil, as well as produce an updated demonstration video adapted to the new site.  Progress of the site’s development is dependent upon our success in raising the funds, which we hope to do in the coming year.

2020 Sifting Site Operation Costs – The main expenditure for operating the sifting site is the cost of salaries from the employees, among them: the site manager, the archaeologist, the staff (3-6 workers depending upon the number of expected visitors), the receptionist/reservation manager and the guide. In addition, there are many costs incurred in maintaining the site, marketing and publicizing the site’s activities and operating the site’s computerized reservation system. We envision that a significant share of the operating costs will be covered by the site’s visitors fee, and if we are able to achieve 30,000 visitors a year, the sifting site operation can be financially self-sufficient. We are, however, still far from this number (especially considering the coronavirus crisis), and we must keep our employees on staff working even on days were there aren’t many visitors.

(Note: The figures shown regarding the funding of this goal also include the income received from visitors’ fees, so they accurately reflect the funds collected for this goal from all funding sources.)

Publication of the First Three Volumes – More than half a million artifacts from all periods – beginning with the First Temple (950-586 BCE) until modern times – have been discovered by the sifting project so far. Their documentation and study in preparation for publication is an enormous task, requiring the involvement of the most qualified experts on the various types of artifacts.

Your contribution will help us complete the research of the artifacts, and their publication in a multi-volume organized scientific report, as well as produce articles in scientific journals and the popular media for the benefit of the public at large. In order to maximize the knowledge gained about the artifacts, and in order to present the most information to the public, many laboratory tests are performed on the finds, and every item is documented and described in detail. In addition, the entire assemblage of artifacts is examined through data analysis with the assistance of complex computerized tools and statistical programs.

We are pursuing a research and publication program, which includes the production of a comprehensive six-volume scientific report. This program was approved by a special committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority composed of senior archaeologists from Archaeological Institutes throughout the country. The total cost of the program is about NIS 9 million ($2.5 million). The Israeli Antiquities Authority recommended to the Prime Minister that this program be funded, and the Government unanimously approved a grant of NIS 4 million for this purpose. Unfortunately, the Knesset adjourned shortly before the Government decision was to be officially adopted and implemented. We hope that after a new Government is formed, the process will be completed. In any case, our plan is to progress, first with the publication of the first three volumes, which will contain the introductions, statistical computations, seals, seal impressions, inscriptions, pottery and coins.

Your contributions in this realm will finance:

  • Operation of the laboratory (rent, utilities, computer equipment, etc.)
  • Salaries for the researchers (dozens of experts in their respective fields such as Roman Pottery, Ottoman Pottery, Animal Bones, Shells, Game-pieces, Weapons, Glass Vessels and many other fields)
  • Lab tests and restoration (Carbon-14 dating, materials testing and identification, geological testing and identification, metals cleaning, treatment and restoration of fragile finds, etc.)
  • Editing and publishing of final reports

Your support means that we can continue our research – and 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 .

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.

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Our New Sifting Site

Compound at HaMasu’ot Lookout

Since June 2019 the sifting operation is taking place at the HaMasu’ot Lookout, which is next to the Hebrew University on Mt Scopus. This location is more accessible by public transport and has an abundance of parking space. The American Friends of Beit Orot who run the HaMasu’ot Lookout decided to grant us a loan towards setting up the basic infrastructure needed for running the sifting (This loan should be returned in 2020).

The new sifting site includes a greenhouse, which can handle wind speeds of 150 km per hour (nearly 100 miles an hour), an electric system which powers automatic water pressure throughout the site and the sifting stations, a hand-crafted and raised deck, professionally engineered sifting stations, heaters for the visitors and for the water, and an original invention which helps to dry sift buckets of archaeological material at remarkable speeds.

We are currently in need of funds for returning the load for this initial establishment, for upgrading the infrastructure with more features such as a reception desk, a permanent exhibition in the reception hall, a proper entrance and pathway from the parking area to the site, etc.

Hopefully the sifting, over the time, will become economically self-sustained, by the participation fee of the visitors, but at this stage it covers only about 20% of our expenses. Thus, we still need funding for the operation itself.

What about the Government funding promised by PM Netanyahu?

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.

In what other ways can I support the project?

Take part in the sifting and recommend it to other people, travel agents and institutions.  Rate us on TripAdvisor and share our sifting ad. 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.

What is your response to Temple Denial?

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.

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YOUR contribution will help reveal the story of the Temple Mount. Your assistance is of vital importance.