Wednesday, June 09, 2021

The PA PM and the archaeology of the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Palestinian PM: No proof Jewish Temple ever existed on Temple Mount. Speaking to Al Jazeera while on a visit to Qatar, Mohammad Shtayyeh says any escalation in Jerusalem is in the interest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that the world is showing "unprecedented support for the Palestinians" (Shahar Klaiman, Israel HaYom).
The years of archaeological excavations Israel has conducted at the Temple Mount have yielded no proof that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday evening in an interview to Al Jazeera.

When asked about current tensions in Jerusalem, Shtayyeh said that Jerusalem was at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

"Since 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank, Israel has carried out a series of excavations underneath Al-Aqsa Mosque which haven't proved any connection whatsoever to the hall [Temple] or anything similar," Shtayyeh claimed.


As always, I would like to see the quotation in full context, but it does not sound helpful. The assertion seems to be that the Jerusalem tunnel excavations, which the PM claims go under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, provide no evidence for the existence of the Jewish Temple. That's a paraphrase, but I think that is what he means to say. In the context of the report of the full interview, the implication is that this lack of proof is damaging to the claim that there were Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount.

The Jerusalem tunnel excavations are not, as far as I can tell, in areas that would produce evidence for the existence of the Temples. So, not surprisingly, it is true that they display no connection to the Temple. I know of no excavation actually going under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and I doubt there is any such thing. If someone knows of one, please send me a report. For many PaleoJudaica posts on the tunnel excavations see here, here, and here and follow the links.

The only "excavations" on the Temple Mount that could be relevant for the question of the existence of the Jewish Temples are the illicit ones conducted by the Waqf many years ago. The excavated dirt was dumped in the Kidron Valley. Fortunately, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has been sifting this dirt for many years and has found many priceless archaeological artifacts. For countless PaleoJudaica posts on the Project, start here and follow the links.

The renovation of the Herodian Temple seems to have demolished most of the Second Temple and whatever remains there may have been of the First Temple. The Herodian Temple was then thorougly demolished by the Romans in 70 CE. So there is little hope of finding significant architectural remains of any of the Temples on the Temple Mount.

That said, there is some significant archaeological evidence for the existence of the later Temples. There is the first-century CE Greek Temple warning inscription. Also in 2016 the Sifting Project published tiles that they concluded came from floor of the Temple courtyard. See here and here.

There is considerable additional evidence for the existence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount, but most of it is more inferential. For the First Temple see here and for the Second and Herodian Temples, see here.

For the unfortunate 2015 New York Times article on the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount which offered crediblity to Temple denial and had to be corrected, see here and links.

A couple of other recent posts on the subject of Jewish Temple denial are here and here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.