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Yuval Baruch
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Pottery chards found by archeologist Yuval Baruch dating to the time of King Solomon’s Temple.

Jerusalem with Al Aksa mosque in the centre.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Rhonda Spivak, November 1, 2009

 Yuval Baruch  made archeological history in October  2007 when  he uncovered pottery  artifacts  on  the site of  Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which 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, spoke at the Berney Theatre here outlining 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 Moslem mosques.  

“The Moslem Wakf  [ Moslem Religious Authority which 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 called in to  oversee the electrical work to make sure nothing would be damaged. I was not supposed to be left there alone, as the Waqf always has some one 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 fifteen minutes while they went to pray. When I was alone in that brief time, I found the pottery shards amongst dust near the bedrock level,” says Baruch.

The tunnel to which Baruch got access, was a sealed archaeological level “ about 400 meters long”   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 included 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 to the eighth to sixth centuries 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 "certainly" indicate the presence of people in the site of the Temple Mount  during the late eighth century and seventh century B.C.,  which is consistent with Jewish biblical claims. 

His discovery was the first time that archeologists have found artifacts that have not been disturbed by later periods.

 “The reaction of the Moslem Authority [ the Wakf]  was to ignore the finds,” he adds, which he says was not surprising since over the years the Wakf has tried to undermine Jewish historical ties to the site. 

“The Wakf’s  official position is that there was never a Jewish Temple on theTemple Mount, he says.”

 Moslems believe that 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.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.