Biblical Archaeology Review 31:4, July/August 2005

Sifting the Temple Mount Dump

Finds from First Temple Period to Modern Times

By Hershel Shanks

When archaeology student Zachi Zweig started to sift through the mountains of dirt that had been dumped into the Kidron Valley by Muslim authorities in charge of the unsupervised excavation of a new entrance to an underground mosque on the Temple Mount, he was detained by the police. He did not have a permit to look through the dumped dirt, said the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Undeterred, Zweig enlisted the help of his former teacher, veteran Jerusalem archaeologist Gabriel Barkay.

Whether they would find anything significant in this dump was uncertain. But for many, this was holy soil. Not since the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock in the seventh century C.E. had such a large-scale excavation been conducted on the Temple Mount. To modern Israeli archaeologists, it was forbidden territory.

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