"At least it enables us to look at the soil, though everything comes from a very disturbed context," Barkay says. "But we know it comes from the Temple Mount. And we have tens of thousands of finds."Read it all.
These finds, that cover approximately 15,000 years, have altered the historic understanding of the area's history. Sponsored by the Ir David Foundation, volunteers working with Barkay have been sifting through the debris, and have found Stone Age flint implements. They have discovered pre-Israelite material, Bronze Age pottery, two Egyptian scarabs and several seals and seal impressions.
One very significant find, confirming the recorded history of the Temple's existence, is the fragment of a bulla, a clay lump with a seal impression upon it, which is about 2,600 years old and dates from the First Temple period. Its inscription bears part of official's name, Gealyahu son of Immer. The Immer family is recorded in the Bible. "In Jeremiah 20:1," Barkay says, "probably the brother of Gealyahu is mentioned, a priestly man named Pashur son of Immer. He is introduced as the man in charge of the Temple."
Findings from the time of Solomon's Temple up to the 20th century illuminate the raging conflicts of passing civilizations. "We have enormous quantities of war artifacts: We have lead slingshots of the Seleucid armies in the battles of Judah Maccabee. We have arrowheads of the army of Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the First Temple. We have arrowheads of the Hellenistic period. We have one arrowhead bearing distinguishing markings of having been shot by a catapult. Those machines were only used by the armies of Titus in 70 CE in the destruction of the Second Temple. We have stone slingshots; we have spearheads; and we have medieval arrowheads from the Crusader conquest of the Temple Mount. There are even bullets from both the Turkish army and the British army in World War I."
Other findings on the Temple Mount - jewelry, coins, pottery shards and architectural fragments - provide specific details of human life spanning several millennia. "We have material dating back to the 10th century BCE, the time of David and Solomon. We have material from the time of the kings of Judah. We have material in abundance from the early Christian period. This is very significant, because it is written in most history books that the churches moved to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher after it was built (it dates back to at least the fourth century), and that thereafter the Temple Mount was neglected and was a garbage heap. But now we have to build a new history, based on archeological evidence.
"We have fragments of capitals from church buildings. We have remnants of chancel screens that separated the presbytery from the nave of the church. We have several bronze weights for weighing gold coins from the Christian era. We have to rethink the role of the Temple Mount in the time of early Christianity. Was it a garbage heap? Or is that biased history? I think that history was ideological."
Barkay says that large quantities of animal bones have been found on the Mount. "Bones are very important. We have pig bones which had to have come from pagan or Christian times. We also have bones of foxes. And that is interesting, because in the Talmud we have a story about foxes which until recently I thought was a legend."