Al-Aqsa mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in 1927 • As it was being rebuilt, the British archaeologist Robert Hamilton documented the excavation of its foundations • He hid away the findings that the waqf found inconvenient • Today, thousands of findings, including a seal with the inscription “From Gibeon to the king” unearthed by Dr. Gabi Barkai and Zachi Dvira, shed light on the Temple Mount’s Jewish period • A peek back into history.
Hamilton took advantage of this unexpected window of opportunity to reach an agreement with the waqf that would allow archaeological investigation on the Temple Mount, for the first time ever, in the area where the mosque had collapsed.
These findings have brought about an important revolution in the way we view the history of that period. They suggest that contrary to everything that has been written in the history books, the Temple Mount contained structures — a church or churches — during the Byzantine period. It was not empty and desolate, as was believed until now.
“We have an enormous amount of findings from the Byzantine era,” says Dr. Barkai. “They are mainly ceramics, rare coins — including a coin of the last Byzantine emperor, Heraclius — and even a Byzantine lamp with an inscription that refers to Jesus. The people writing the history of the Temple Mount definitely have to reassess their work on this particular era.”
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