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Rare Temple Mount Lintel Neglected by Antiquities Authority

January 5, 2001
from the Jerusalem Post

By Arieh O'Sullivan

JERUSALEM (January 5) - A carved marble lintel dug out of the Temple Mount rubbish last year and identified as part of a gate to the Temple itself has been tossed carelessly in the back yard of the Antiquities Authority.

Archaeologist Zachi Zweig claimed the Antiquities Authority knows of its importance, but that the archaeologist charged with reviewing the reclaimed artifact is dragging his feet over releasing a report.

"This stone is the most important artifact ever recovered from the Temple Mount. It is part of a stately gate and it very well could have been from one of the entrances into the Temple itself or to another sanctuary," Zweig told The Jerusalem Post.

According to Zweig, who is affiliated with the apolitical Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, the stone is the first archaeological evidence of monumental architecture in the Temple Mount that can be positively dated to the Second Temple period.

The stone is about 75 cm. long and 50 cm. wide and has been resting in the back yard of the Antiquities Authority headquarters in Jerusalem's Rockefeller Museum for the past eight months.

Zweig blasted the Antiquities Authority yesterday for taking so long to publish a report of the stone so that it may be used by scholars and students when referring to the ancient Jewish temple. Without its authentic publication, they will have to rely on hearsay.

Zweig said that there was no valid reason for the delay in publication of a report, since it did not involve extensive identification, as is common with an artifact found on site.

The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE during the great Jewish revolt.

The Antiquities Authority recovered the stone, along with a number of other artifacts, last January after the Wakf dug under the Temple Mount to create a new entrance to an underground mosque. The debris was dumped in the nearby Kidron Valley.

Since no official archaeological dig has ever taken place at the Temple Mount, these few items are the only remnants positively known to have come from there.

Prof. Ronnie Reich, a former Jerusalem district chief archaeologist, has compared the lintel's style to a similar style from the Second Temple era, found in the Triple Gate at the southern wall of the Temple Mount by the late Prof. B. Mazar, Zweig said.

Antiquities Authority Spokeswoman Osnat Gaoz said in reaction that the preliminary report of the find would be published "soon" in Hadashot Archaeology (Archaeology News).

Gaoz said that a final report would be published in Atiqot at the end of the research, according to procedures of the Antiquities Authority. This would take an extended period of time, she said, since the research is still going on.

Gaoz dismissed calls for the artifacts from the Temple Mount to be given priority over other finds in and that it had to come in its own turn.

"With all due respect, these finds are important, but I can't say it is of primary importance. This dig is like all other digs... [it is] more important than any other," Gaoz said.

Archaeologists have said that the finds had lost much of their archaeological value, since they were not found in situ but after they had been removed, sifted, and dumped. Their only true value is their origin inside the Temple Mount.

Gaoz said the Antiquities Authority never hid the fact that the marble stone was found and actually announced back in February that it appears to be from the Second Temple period. But, she said, even if it was, no one could say where it actually stood or what it was used for.

(End of Article)

The Temple Institute adds: To view this artifact, please visit:



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