Foundation Stone has a fascinating interview with Zachi Zweig, who co-leads the Temple Mount Sifting Project with Gabriel Barkay. It was Zweig who brought public attention to the Muslim dumping of the Temple Mount material many years ago, and his initiative led Barkay to secure a permit for the project. Barkay was interviewed recently about the project, and now Zweig provides more detail about some of the latest discoveries.
You can listen to the 45-minute interview (here, select part 2), but here are a few of the highlights:
- They have been working 6 days a week for about 5 years now, but they have sifted only 20% of the material. They estimate 15 more years of work!
- Their interest is in knowledge, in understanding the ancient world. This is sharply contrasted with the Arabs who removed this ancient material from the Temple Mount and dumped it in the Kidron Valley.
- There are some tunnels and hollow spaces under the Temple Mount that have not been previously known, including one with an Aramaic inscription.
- There is a mikveh on the Temple Mount, found in the 1930s but not accurately identified until recently.
- Recently the Franciscans were digging on their property on eastern slope of Temple Mount in the Kidron Valley and they found the dump from the Temple Mount in use during the periods of the First and Second Temples. They found restorable vessels from the First Temple period, maybe as early as the 10th century (time of Solomon). They discovered lots of bones from sacrifices eaten on Temple Mount. They also found cultic figurines, which the Bible says were destroyed by King Josiah and dumped in the Kidron Valley (2 Kings 23:12).
- Why does no one else care? Why is there so little interest in Israel for the only archaeological work possible on the Temple Mount?
- Politics hurts archaeology and our understanding of the past.
- The Temple Mount is a house of prayer for
all nationsthe Muslims only.
- A Byzantine mosaic was discovered under the Al Aqsa Mosque during the British Mandate but never publicized. Zweig published an article about it last year.
- A massive wall uprooted by the Muslim authorities in 1970 may date to First Temple period.
In all, this is quite interesting, particularly the longest bullet point above.