His search came from serious evidence that the Muslim Waqf (Muslim religious trust), which is in charge of Muslim holy sites, was illegally dumping earth from the Temple Mount into the Kidron Valley.
Barkay’s friend and associate, Zachi Zweig, spoke about these alarming suspicions four years ago. Former Jerusalem mayor and current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ehud Olmert also protested the Waqf activities. There was mounting evidence that a rewrite of history was underway.
The Israel Antiquities Authority held no interest in thoroughly sifting through the rubble discarded by the Waqf. Fortunately, Barkay applied and eventually was awarded a license to sort through the piles of earth thrown into a garbage dump. Barkay, his curiosity and concern aroused, wrote about “illegal constructions and excavation work,” which took place on the Temple Mount and caused “irreparable archaeological destruction.”
Earlier this year, he appealed for financial assistance to keep the investigative work going. He was convinced valuable treasures had been dumped and began sifting through thousands of tons of dirt and rubble, seeking treasures of antiquity. Last January, he predicted his own success. He wrote in a memo distributed worldwide: “There is a high probability of discovering extremely valuable artifacts such as seals, ostraca [pot-sherds with writing on them], coins, and other important architectural remains.”
Barkey’s team has fulfilled those predictions. His search for antiquities has unveiled treasured discoveries. The team has found history-rich pieces, including pottery dating from the Bronze Ages through modern times. They also discovered a marble pillar’s shaft (fig. 1) and more than 100 ancient coins, among them several from the Hasmonean Dynasty.
Then, came the most amazing find to date. On September 27 this year, Barkay and his team discovered a First Temple period seal (below). The 2,600-year-old artifact predates the destruction of the First Jewish Temple (586 BC). There is writing on the seal. Three Hebrew letters, thought to be the name of the owner, are visible on one line. Barkay said that the find was the first of its kind from the time of King David.
Antiquities Authority Confirm Dig
This project started in October 2004. Among the earlier finds were a seal impression from the Second Temple period, a five-pointed star with Hebrew writing (fig. 2). The archaeologists discovered a fragment from a monumental doorjamb of a gate from the Second Temple period, arch stones, and more architectural fragments. In addition, they have found fragments of glass vessels (some from the Second Temple period), fragments of glazed bricks, and coins from the first Jewish revolt against the Romans with the written phrase “For the Freedom of Zion” (fig. 3).
This coin underlines the measure of independence of the Jews, even when oppressed. They often “reminted” Roman coins and restruck them with a message of rebellion, hence “For the Freedom of Zion.” The currency was not just a medium of exchange but also a means for circulating ideas and ideals.
The archaeologists estimate more than 100 trucks were needed to create the large number of dumps they found in the Kidron Valley. They transferred the dumps to an alternative location, where they are now safe from external disturbances. The team explained how they used a portable screener machine to do a preliminary sifting of the dumps. High-resolution heaps were then sifted manually, using water, to identify all the archeological artifacts (fig. 4). When items were uncovered, they were then treated appropriately and documented for publication. The more important finds have to be sent to laboratories for further research in Israel and overseas.
The Kidron Valley is located just outside the walls of Jerusalem. According to the Tanach (Old Testament), David fled through the Kidron Valley during the rebellion of Absalom. Jesus would have passed through the valley when He moved between the Temple and places like the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. All around the Kidron Valley are numerous Jewish tombs and graves, including some of the most famous: the pillar of Absalom, the tomb of Ben Hezir, and the tomb of Zachariah.
Source: By Ron Ross ( Bridges for Peace Host of Israel Mosaic Radio)
Photo Credit: Zachi Zweig
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