Biblical Archaeology Review 38:5, September/October 2012

Strata: “Bethlehem” from IAA Dig Found by Archaeologist IAA Arrested

Life’s little ironies department: After the Muslim Waqf (the religious authority responsible for the Temple Mount) illegally excavated a huge hole on the Temple Mount with a bulldozer to widen access to an underground mosque and then dumped the excavated material into the adjacent Kidron Valley, a young archaeology student named Zachi Zweig began rummaging around to see if there were any ancient artifacts in the dump.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) had Zweig arrested for digging without a license.

Zweig’s teacher, prominent Jerusalem archaeologist Gaby Barkay, teamed up with him and obtained a permit to take the dumped dirt and sift it for ancient artifacts. Thus, in November 2004 began what is known as the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The dirt is not simply dry sifted but wet sifted, which removes any dirt encrusted on the ancient artifacts. Barkay and Zweig have been wildly successful.a The number of finds is in the thousands and the number of volunteers who have participated in the sifting is in the tens of thousands. And it is still going on.

As its fame spread, other archaeologists began to send their excavated dirt to Barkay and Zweig to have it wet sifted. Even dirt that had been professionally excavated was found to contain stunning, sometimes tiny objects, such as seals and seal impressions, that had been missed in the excavation.

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