The Temple Mount Sifting Project is one of the most important archeological projects in the Land of Israel of our times. In 1999 the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement illegally plowed with heavy machinery into the ground below Al-Aqsa to turn “Solomon’s Stables” into a vast underground mosque. Without any scientific supervision whatsoever, they bulldozed 9,000 tons of the most sensitive and valuable dirt on the globe and unceremoniously dumped close to 400 truckloads of it all as “garbage” in the Kidron Valley. Over the past 12 years, it has grown into a project of international significance. With the help of nearly 200,000 volunteers, half a million valuable finds have been discovered from the First and Second Temple periods, late Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Islamic periods, and the Middle Ages.
The Innovative Wet-Sifting Technique
In 2004 the precious dirt was transferred to the camp which was set up at Tzurim Valley National Park, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Both stones and artifacts were coated with mud, dust and ash, making it difficult to differentiate the two, the results were disappointing. After numerous failures, an innovative wet sifting methodology was finally developed. For this, a special greenhouse with dozens of sifting stands with hoses was constructed. The material was first dry-sifted into buckets. Then the debris were brought into a special greenhouse, soaked in water and wet-sifted by volunteers using spray taps. The volunteers scrutinized the washed material and the artifacts which were then sorted into categories. Every sifting screen was checked by a staff member before the leftovers were discarded. In a short time, the wet sifting technique was adopted by others at excavations in Jerusalem.
The Finds From The Temple Mount Sifting Project
Every bucket of earth sifted contained fragments of ancient artifacts which can be sorted into six main categories: pottery, glass, bones, stone tesserae (mosaic cubes), metal and special stones. The objects date primarily from the First Temple period onwards (10th century BCE until the present), with some sporadic finds from earlier periods. Turning to the Second Temple period (538 B.C.E.–70 C.E.), the ﬁnds from the Sifting Project come from all phases of the Second Temple’s history—from the Persian period until the Roman period. The soil contains large amounts of ash, and many of the ﬁnds have signs of burning, probably from the vast conﬂagration that ended the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. Hundreds of thousands of artifacts were identiﬁed, sorted, dated, cataloged and documented for the publication in a comprehensive archaeological report.
The Most Influential People Of The Sifting Project
The Temple Mount Sifting project has operated under the direction of co-founders and archeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay (a professor at Bar-Ilan University and an Israel Prize laureate, he has participated in numerous digs, including his large-scale excavation of Jerusalem’s Ketef Hinnom) and Zachi Dvira.
One of the main founding contributors to this project is Mr. Avi Tavisal, a famous Israeli jeweler and 7th generation Jerusalemite. During the Temple Mount Sifting project activities, he recognized the Heavenly Spirit embedded in these ancient stones and had a strong desire to reconnect people from around the world to the inner beauty and moral values. By combining ancient stones which were salvaged by the Temple Mount sifting project, and placing them in a special jewel, today anyone can take a piece of Jerusalem’s glorious history with them together with this Moriah collection.
Mr. Tavisal says, “The stones in Jerusalem can speak, as they tell the story of who we are, who was here before us and how they relate to us today. The stones of Jerusalem are not ordinary stones – every stone has a historical meaning and background. They might have been used in the Temple, in the streets of ancient Jerusalem, the same stones that probably our forefathers, Kings and prophets had walked on.”