The Dome of the Rock, in the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s old city. Picture: AFP
TEMPLE Mount: It’s the hill at the heart of much of the Middle East’s turmoil. Now, for the first time, archaeologists say they have found evidence of King Solomon’s temple.
The veracity of the Old Testament’s accounts of King Solomon building the First Temple have long been questioned. While remnants of the Second Temple abound, only uncertain hints of an earlier structure have previously been found.
The Bible states Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. This has been dated to about 587BC.
The Second Temple, remnants of which include the Jerusalem’s famous Wailing Wall, was razed by the Romans about AD70.
But the Times of Israel is today reporting a secret archaeological excavation on Temple Mount has unearthed the first ever artefacts conclusively dated to the First Temple — some 2600 years ago.
The paper says the dig was done with the permission of the Islamic organisation that administers the 7th Century Dome of the Rock, from which the prophet Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven.
At its heart is the Foundation Stone — the holy site where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, Isacc according to Bibilcal traditions and Ishmael in Islamic texts.
The new finds constitute little more than a few fragments of pottery, pips and bone. But Israeli archaeologists are excited at its religious and political significance.
The handful of fragments, found on Temple Mount, which have been dated to the era of the First Temple, or the Temple of Solomon, in Jerusalem. Picture: Israel Antiquities AuthoritySource:Supplied
“It’s the first time that we’ve found artefacts from this period in situ on the Temple Mount,” the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem, Yuval Baruch, said.
The dig exposed Roman arrowheads and a coin, as well as traces of a previously unknown structure dating from the early Crusader period.
But the most significant finds were some 120m to the southeast of the Dome of the Rock.
“This layer included pottery fragments characterised in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, as well as animal bones and charred olive pits,” a paper detailing the discoveries reads. “Carbon 14 dating of the olives yielded dates from the 6th to 8th centuries BCE. This date is confirmed by the dates of the pottery.”
The secretive and heavily guarded dig was done first in 2007 and again in 2016 as part of maintenance work on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock including the laying of an underground power cable.
It was the first such organised archaeological dig there since the 1930s.
Previously, the only indications that the sacred hill had even been occupied before the Second Temple were found among rubble removed from Temple Mount during the construction of a new mosque in the 1990s.
The announcement of the discovery comes just weeks after Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on the occupied Palestinian territories including annexed east Jerusalem. The resolutions refered to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City – Islam’s third holiest site – without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.