Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Is this the floor Jesus walked on?

Archaeologists have completed the restoration of ornate floor tiles which experts believe likely decorated the courtyard of the Second Jewish Temple.

In total, archaeological teams have uncovered approximately 600 colored stone floor tile segments, with more than 100 of them positively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period. The restored tiles came from the Temple Mount Sifting Project, salvaging artifacts from a Muslim construction site at the Temple complex.

The project provides visible and incontrovertible proof, backed up by ancient texts and historical context, of a Jewish Temple on the Mount.

Why would proof be needed?

Denial of a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount began at the 2000 Camp David Summit, when the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat insisted - with no proof - that “the Temple” existed near Shechem (Nablus), and not on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The claim has since been taken up in the international narrative as UNESCO passed an initiative claiming the Temple Mount as an exclusively Muslim holy site. This claim went mainstream last October when the New York Times published an article questioning whether the two Jewish Temples ever existed at all.

The restoration is proof of a theory that large expanses of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple were covered with a special type of ornate flooring called opus sectile, Latin for “cut work.” The idea was first put forward in 2007 by archaeologist Assaf Avraham, director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park. The new discovery confirms it.

“So far, we have succeeded in restoring seven potential designs of the majestic flooring that decorated the buildings of the Temple Mount,” said Frankie Snyder, a member of the Temple Mount Sifting Project and an expert in the study of ancient Herodian style flooring, explaining that there were no opus sectile floors in Israel prior to the time of King Herod. “The tile segments were perfectly inlaid such that one could not even insert a sharp blade between them.” 
The tile design is consistent with floors found in contemporary works built by Herod. Similar flooring has been found at Herod’s palaces in Masada, Herodium, and Jericho, among others. A key characteristic of the Herodian tiles is their size, which corresponds to the Roman foot (11.6 inches).
The find also agrees with Talmudic literature about the construction of the Temple Mount which describes rows of green, blue and white marble. The tile segments, mostly imported from Rome, Asia Minor, Tunisia and Egypt, were made from polished multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes. [Read more here…]

Since the modern archaeological age began, the Temple Mount has been off-limits, as it has been the site of the Muslim Dome of the Rock for over a thousand years. However, Muslim construction projects occurred during the years 1999-2000 that involved large scale earthworks using heavy machinery; the purpose being to create an entrance to an area Jews refer to as Solomon’s Stables (an ancient subterranean structure) which they were converting into a new mosque. In addition, in an open area on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, ground level was lowered with bulldozers in order to lay new pavement slabs. About 400 truckloads of rubble were removed and dumped in various locations, mainly in the nearby Kidron Valley.

The earth-moving was done without building permits, and without archaeological supervision. While mainstream archaeologists were enraged at the destruction, Zachi Dvira, an archaeology student, came up with the idea of collecting and sifting through all the rubble to see what was there. Despite the lack of “context,” (being able to assign a time period to an artifact based on the strata in which it was found) his thinking was that ‘something is better than nothing.’ The Sifting Project began in the Tzurim Valley National Park in 2004.  

Since then, it has been responsible for some of the most outstanding finds in Jerusalem archaeology, including:
  • A bulla (a lump of clay impressed with a seal) reading “…son of Immer.” (See Jeremiah 20:1)
  • Over 5,000 coins, including coins minted by the Jews during the revolt against Rome in 66 C.E..
  • Terracotta figurines that appear to have been smashed on purpose. (2 Kings 23:24)
  • Babylonian arrowheads.
  •  A small bronze harp that looks so much like the City of David logo that Israel now uses it in place of their own logo in some of their publicity.
  • An amulet bearing the name of Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III

[Read more about the Temple Mount Sifting Project here…]

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, available in e-book or paperback at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

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