Archaeologists find link to First Temple
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 21, 2007
Israeli archaeologists overseeing contested Islamic infrastructure work on
Jerusalem's Temple Mount have stumbled upon a sealed archaeological level
dating back to the First Temple Period, the Israel Antiquities Authority
The find marks the first time that archaeological remains dating back to the
First Temple period have been found on the bitterly contested Jerusalem holy
site, the state-run archaeological body said.
No archaeological excavations have ever been carried out on the Temple
Mount, which is Judaism's holiest and Islam's third holiest site, due to
opposition from religious leaders.
The sealed archaeological level, which is dated from the eighth to the sixth
centuries BCE, was exposed at the end of August in the area close to the
south-eastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the
Rock, and includes fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bone.
"The layer is a closed, sealed archaeological layer that has been untouched
since as early as the 8th century B.C.E," said Yuval Baruch, the Jerusalem
District Archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority.
But independent Israeli archaeologists from the nonpartisan Committee
Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount which has
repeatedly lambasted the Antiquities Authority for allowing Islamic
officials to carry out the infrastructure work this summer downplayed the
The archeologists said that the maintenance work, which was carried out with
a tractor, left a 100-meter-long and roughly 1-1.5 meter deep trench, and
had badly damaged antiquities at the site.
"The Antiquities Authority is standing behind the barbaric Islamic
destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount, and then presents the
results of the destruction to show just how important the finds are," said
Hebrew University archeologist Dr Eilat Mazar, a leading Temple Mount
"This is a smoke screen for the destruction of antiquities," she said.
According to decades-old regulations in place at the Temple Mount, Israel
maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf, or Islamic
Trust, is charged with day- to-day administration of the ancient compound.
The Antiquities Authority, which by law is charged with supervising Israel's
archeological sites, has in the past been criticized by the nonpartisan
archeologists and public officials for overlooking large-scale Islamic
construction on the site which has resulted in archeological damage because
of the political sensitivities involved.
The ancient compound is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over
control of Jerusalem.