Temple Institute Building Jerusalem’s Sacrificial Altar

I’m a day late on this article, but some will undoubtedly be interested anyway.  From Arutz-7:

The Temple Institute will begin building the sacrificial altar on Thursday, Tisha B’av, a fast day when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple some 2,000 years ago. The sacrificial altar was located in the center of the Temple, and upon it the Kohanim (priests) offered the numerous voluntary and obligatory sacrifices commanded in the Bible. The Temple Institute, which has already built many of the vessels for the Holy Temple, such as the ark and the menorah, has now embarked on a project to build the altar. Construction begins Thursday in Mitzpe Yericho (east of Jerusalem) at 5:30 p.m. “Unfortunately, we cannot currently build the altar in its proper place, on the Temple Mount,” Temple Institute director Yehudah Glick said. “We are building an altar of the minimum possible size so that we will be able to transport it to the Temple when it is rebuilt." Even a minimum size altar will work out to be approximately 2 meters tall, 3 meters long, and 3 meters wide. Workers have collected around 10 cubic meters of rocks weighing several tons already. The rocks were gathered from the Dead Sea area and wrapped individually to assure they remain whole and are not touched by metal, as the Bible requires. “The Torah says that no iron tools should be used on the altar’s stones,” Glick explained. “The altar represents a connection to life and to the creation of the world. Iron is the opposite – it is used to build tools of war, death, and destruction.”

The story continues here and includes a photo, a video, and an illustration.


The Quran vs. Muslims on the Existence of Jerusalem’s Temple

On the traditional anniversary of destruction of Jerusalem’s two temples, Stephen Rosenberg writes an article in the Jerusalem Post on the evidence for the existence of the temples in light of the Muslim denials.

There is a persistent narrative by the Islamists to deny any past Jewish presence on what they call Haram al-Sharif. Like the cult centers of Mecca and Medina, they call it the Noble Sanctuary rather than the Temple Mount. The propaganda is spreading throughout the Arab world, and would deny any legitimacy to our claim to have experienced the destruction of two Temples on the site. All the evidence, the propaganda goes, is written by Jews and is therefore suspect. The claim for the building of the First Temple comes from the Book of Kings. It is a detailed description, but nothing of the structure has been found. The inscription on a little pomegranate showing it to have been part of a priestly scepter from the First Temple has recently been denounced as a later forgery. The parallels with temples in Syria are fine, but no proof that one existed in Jerusalem. What evidence is there that a Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians? There is a tablet in the British Museum that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem in his seventh year (597 BCE) and captured the city, but he destroyed no temple and only set up a "king of his own heart" (Zedekiah). The tablet goes up to the year 594 and then stops. The following years are missing and the next tablet restarts in 556 BCE. The crucial year 586 is lost.

The article continues here.


Ten-Line Inscription on Mount Zion

A “clear but cryptic” ten-line inscription from the 1st century A.D. found in excavations of Mount Zion is reported in an article in the the Jerusalem Post.  This discovery was mentioned previously on this blog here and by excavation director James Tabor on his blog here

A unique ten-line Aramaic inscription on the side of a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during Second Temple times was recently uncovered during archaeological excavations on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday. Inscriptions of this kind are extremely rare and only a handful have been found in scientific excavations made within the city…. The new Aramaic inscription from the first century CE is currently being deciphered by a team of epigraphic experts in an effort to determine the meaning of the text, which is clear but cryptic. The dig also produced a sequence of building remains dating back to the First and Second Temple periods through to Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. From the Second Temple period, archaeologists uncovered a house complex with an mikve (purification pool) with a remarkably well preserved vaulted ceiling. Inside this house were three bread ovens dating back to the year 70 CE when Titus and the Roman troops stormed the city.

The Jerusalem Post article includes a photo of two lines of the inscription.  I do not recall seeing an image of the inscription in previous reports.


Weekend Roundup

The Israel Antiquities Authority has posted a 9-minute video tour of the City of David led by archaeologists Ronny Reich and Eli Shukrun.  Sites visited include Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, the Siloam Tunnel, the Pool of Siloam, and the recently discovered Herodian street.

The cover story of this month’s Smithsonian magazine is the tomb of Herod the Great at the Herodium.  If you don’t have access to the beautifully illustrated print edition, you can read it online here.

A review of last year’s work at Khirbet Qeiyafa (aka “Elah Fortress, Shaarayaim) is the subject of a two-part radio interview at Arutz-7.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that the government must establish a national park along part of the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in order to protect important antiquities from the

expanding Muslim cemetery.
Five well-preserved Roman shipwrecks dating from the 1st century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. have been found off the western Italian coast.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has just produced a free 45-page e-book entitled, From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West. The four articles are:

  • The Genesis of Genesis, by Victor Hurowitz
  • Backward Glance: Americans at Nippur, by Katharine Eugenia Jones
  • Europe Confronts Assyrian Art, by Mogens Trolle Larsen
  • Firsthand Report: Tracking Down the Looted Treasures of Iraq, by Matthew Bogdanos

Elad has asked the city of Jerusalem for permission to construct in the City of David “several apartment buildings, a 100-car-capacity parking lot, a synagogue, a kindergarten, roads and additional tourism infrastructure.”

HT: Joe Lauer and Explorator


Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?) Highlights

Bryant Wood has posted some highlights of this season’s results at Khirbet el-Maqatir. The review includes a map, photos, and summaries of geographical and archaeological correspondences between Maqatir and biblical Ai.  You can read the whole; I’ll just quote here a portion of the introduction and a portion of the conclusion.

From the introduction:

After a hiatus of nine years, ABR has resumed work at Kh. el-Maqatir, a promising candidate for Joshua’s Ai (Joshua 7–8). The site is located approximately 9 mi north of Jerusalem and 0.6 mi west of et-Tell, the site most scholars identify as Joshua’s Ai. There is a major problem identifying et-Tell as Joshua’s Ai, however, as the site was unoccupied at the time of the Israelite Conquest of Canaan. ABR was founded 40 years ago to examine this problem and field work has been conducted both at Kh. Nisya (1979–2000; Livingston 2003) and Kh. el-Maqatir (1995–2000 [Wood 1999b, 1999c, 2000, 2008] and 2009) as part of the investigation. At Kh. el-Maqatir evidence has been found for five major periods of occupation:
Middle Bronze Age, ca. 1800–1500 B.C.—pottery only on the southeast slope of the site
Late Bronze Age I, ca. 1500–1400 B.C.—fortress on the southeast slope, the focus of the ABR expedition
Iron Age I, ca. 1100 B.C.—squatter occupation on the southeast slope
Hasmonean, ca. 167–37 B.C.—fortress on the southeast slope
Byzantine, ca. A.D. 500–600—church and monastery on the summit of the site.

From the conclusion:

Excavations in the gate passageway revealed apparent evidence of severe burning in the form of reddened and fragmented bedrock, and burned and calcined building stones. On the west side, a 5 m length of the fortress wall was exposed and a 4 ft wide trench cut through it to provide a cross-section of its construction. At this point the wall is 12 ft wide at its base and preserved to a height of 4 ft. Several exploratory squares excavated on the south and east sides of the fortress in an effort to locate the fortification wall in these areas proved unsuccessful.


Summer Excavation Blogs

The slow pace of recent blogging here is going to be reduced further in the next few weeks.  This morning I finished a project I’ve been working on for years, and that puts me in a good position ahead of summer travels.  I’ll have more later on the project (whose intended audience is you if you read this blog), but for now I’ll suggest some excavation blogs that might be of interest this summer. 

If something exciting comes up, I may miss it but you won’t.

At the top of the list is the Tell es-Safi/Gath weblog.  Aren Maeir is not only running the show, but he posts very regularly on the latest discoveries and progress at the dig.  For instance, his entry today is entitled “Update for 16/7/09 – another temple????” and he writes:

Cynthia’s team is also on top of the 9th cent. destruction level, but more importantly, they appear to have began to uncover a large building that is situated just below the 9th cent. building in which we found the interesting collection of cultic items two years ago. This building has so far revealed to very large pillar bases and some very nice brick work. Although it is a bit early to say, this might very well be a large public building, and perhaps, who knows, a temple. Time will tell….

Elsewhere, you can read daily updates excavations along the coast of Israel (somebody got smart and figured that you’re going to recruit more volunteers if you’re near the beach!): in the south, the Ashkelon excavations and in the north, the Tel Kabri dig.

A couple of volunteers at the Gezer excavation discuss their travels more than the excavation, especially since they’ve been sworn to secrecy.  Apparently a four-room house was among the discoveries.

A personal account of excavation at Tall Dhiban is coming to a close.

Blogs that may be resurrected in the future include the Elah Fortress (Khirbet Qeiyafa/Shaaraim) blog and the Tel Dan blog.

If I missed an interesting one, let us know in the comments.


Roman Temples on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

The Jerusalem Post has an article which summarizes the conclusions of a new work by Hebrew University Professor Moshe Sharon.  The article’s final section is the most interesting.

In the final section of his work Sharon builds on the research of Tuvia Sagiv, attempting to prove that the foundations and design of Al-Aksa replicated the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which the Roman Emperor Hadrian had built on the Temple Mount.
Noting that all Roman Temples of Jupiter had an almost identical design, Sharon compares the schematic of the ruins of a Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek to that of the Al-Aksa complex.
“Jupiter’s Temple in Baalbek had exactly the three features which we find in the Al-Aksa complex: the polygon building in the front where the worshipers assembled, the open space where the god’s statue stood and the rectangular main temple. The same symmetrical line which goes through the three components of Jupiter’s Temple also goes through the Al-Aksa complex, and both plans fit each other perfectly,” writes Sharon.
Sharon and Sagiv’s theory is potentially incendiary because it suggests the Al-Aksa complex was built on pre-existing foundations and was not designed according to Muhammad’s famous Night Journey to Jerusalem.
Sharon’s research, which questions the Islamic justification for the Dome’s existence and describes similar patterns in Jewish and Muslim worship, has inflamed some figures in Israel’s Islamic community.
“We Muslims believe that Jews have no right to a single inch in front of the Al-Aksa Mosque, the whole complex – everything within the walls of the holy site. Jews have no right to worship there – under the ground, above the ground or in between the skies,” said MK Sheik Ibrahim Sarsur, who heads the Islamic Movement in Israel.

The entire article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Jerusalem 17th Top City for Tourists

From Arutz-7:

An annual poll by the Travel and Leisure Magazine has named Jerusalem its 17th top city for tourists throughout the world – ahead of Los Angeles, Paris, and more. In its 14th annual survey of the best cities around the world to visit, the magazine ranked Jerusalem number 17, ahead of London and most American cities. In the United States, only New York and San Francisco place ahead of Judaism’s holiest city…. In first place on the list was the relatively unfamiliar city of Udaipur, India. This year’s survey marked the first time that results were included from readers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey and Mexico. Behind Udaipur on the list are Capetown, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai (Thailand),  Florence (Italy), Luang Prabang (Laos), New York, Rome and San Francisco.

The complete list is posted at travelandleisure.com.


Mount Zion Excavations, 2009

Dr. James Tabor gives an illustrated report of the first three weeks of the current excavation on Mount Zion.  Here is an extract:

The results have been simply astounding, the finds quite spectacular, and the whole area has been transformed….
Our major goals this season have been to remove much of the garden fill and rubble that has accumulated over the past decades so as to get down to the archaeological layers that lie below, with particular emphasis on the 2nd Temple period levels that are preserved to an extraordinary height of 10-12 meters….
We will, of course, publish full reports on our Web site later this year but in terms of an overview here are some of our more spectacular finds so far:
1. A stone vessel with an ancient inscription of ten lines written in an archaic Jewish script…. We have found a dozen or more on our site over the past three years. However, to have ten lines of text is unprecedented.
2. Murex snail shells with holes drilled through them….
3. A fire pit that can be precisely dated to just after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE and the rebuilding of the city by Hadrian following the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 CE….
4. The threshold of a magnificent Fatimid period double gate….
5. An arched doorway with mosaic floor and plastered wall….
6. Exposure of several well preserved 2nd Temple period vaulted chambers likely containing mikvot (ritual baths) and storage areas….

The report concludes with an urgent appeal for funds:

Funding has been extraordinarily tight this season with North Carolina state funds frozen entirely and many donors feeling the pinch of the recession. In order to complete our season, plus a minimum of conservation and post-excavation work, we have inaugurated a Web fund drive (http://digmountzion.com/information/Donations.html) to raise $50,000 by July 15th and we are about 1/3 there. Gifts have ranged from $25 to $3000, with the average around $100. I hope you will join this fund drive and pass on the word to others. I think by pulling together a few hundred of us can easily meet our goal.

You can read the whole report here (also in pdf format).

HT: Jim West via Joe Lauer


Quarry of Herod Discovered in Jerusalem

From the Jerusalem Post:

An ancient quarry covering approximately one dunam and dating back to the end of the Second Temple period was uncovered during excavations on Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem ahead of the construction of residential buildings, Israel Antiquities Authority said on Monday.
According to Dr. Ofer Sion of the Authority, who directed the dig along with Yehuda Rapuano, the 2,300 year-old site was probably the source of the stones used to build the Second Temple walls.
“The immense size of the stones indicates it was highly likely that the large stones that were quarried at the site were destined for use in the construction of [legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem King] Herod’s magnificent projects in Jerusalem, including the Temple walls,” Sion said.

The article continues here.

The article gives conflicting dates for the quarry.  It is dated to the “end of the Second Temple period,” which is the years before A.D. 70.  But it was used for Herod’s projects, and he ruled in Jerusalem from 37-4 B.C.  But the site is 2,300 years old.  Given the monumental construction of Herod’s rule, I would guess that it dates from this period.

The location of the site is Shmuel Hanavi Street, which is a major thoroughfare about one mile north-northwest of Damascus Gate, running between Sanhedria and Mea Shearim.

Other major quarries from roughly the same time period have been discovered in Ramat Shlomo (location, photos), Sanhedria, and “Solomon’s Quarries” near Damascus Gate.  The quarry at Ketef Hinnom (now covered by the Menahem Begin Heritage Center) may date to the same period.

Ketef Hinnom new excavations, tb090299803

Ketef Hinnom quarry, September 1999

UPDATE: Joe Lauer notes that a couple of high-resolution images are available from the Israel Antiquities Authority here (zip).  The press release is posted here, and Arutz-7 also has an article.