WINNIPEG — Yuval Baruch, left, made archeological history in October 2007 when he uncovered pottery artifacts on the site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. They are considered to be the first physical evidence of human activity during the time of King Solomon’s Temple (the First Jewish Temple).
Baruch, who is Jerusalem’s district archeologist at the Israel
Antiquities Authority, speaking at the Berney Theatre here, outlined
his world-famous discovery as part of a lecture series put on by the
Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University.
The Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, is where Jews believe Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac at God’s behest. It is now covered by Islam’s Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Baruch says the artifacts he found have shed new light on what is hidden beneath the Muslim mosques.
Pottery shards that Yuval Baruch uncovered on the site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount were taken by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“The Muslim Waqf [the Muslim religious authority that controls the internal administration of the Temple Mount] does not allow Israeli archeologists to conduct any excavations on the site. But I got access to a small tunnel where electrical cables run under the site when there was an electrical shortage and the Waqf had to get the electricity fixed…
“I was not supposed to be left there alone, as the Waqf always has someone present when Israeli archeologists are on the site. It was in the evening after 8 p.m., and by chance the Arab electrical workers left me and a member of my staff for about 15 minutes while they went to pray. When I was alone in that brief time, I found the pottery shards among dust near the bedrock level,” he says.
The tunnel to which Baruch got access, was a sealed archeological level – “about 400 metres long,” he says – that was exposed during the inspection in the area close to the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.
Baruch’s findings include animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases and body shards; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar. In addition, a piece of a whitewashed, handmade object was found. It may have been used to decorate a larger object or may have been the leg of an animal figurine. The finds are dated from eight-to six-century BCE.
Baruch said that the artifacts have been dated to the First Temple Period because of their “shape, materials, colours, and the technique for making the pottery.” In particular, the bowl shards were decorated with wheel burnishing lines characteristic of the First Temple Period.
Baruch and Sy Gitin, director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem; Ronny Reich of Haifa University; and Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University have concluded that the finds might help reconstruct the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.
Baruch says the archeological finds indicate the presence of people on the site of the Temple Mount during late eighth-century and seventh-century B.C., which is consistent with Jewish biblical claims.
This is the first time that archeologists have found artifacts that have not been disturbed in later periods.
“The reaction of the Muslim authority [the Waqf] was to ignore the finds,” he adds, which he says was not surprising since over the years the Waqf has tried to undermine Jewish historical ties to the site.
“The Waqf’s official position is that there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, he says.”
He notes that Muslims believe the Temple Mount is where Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael, not Isaac, at God’s behest.
Since 1967, Israel has left internal administration of the compound to the Waqf, while Israeli police have taken responsibility for overall security.
Baruch also says that the reports circulated by the Waqf last month that the Temple Mount was damaged when an earthquake shook Israel are not true. “There was an earthquake [measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale] but it’s not true that there was any damage from it on the site,” he says.