|TEMPLE MOUNT ANTIQUITIES
LAND IN CITY DUMP
By Nadav Shragai - Ha'aretz 3 January 2000
Digging work along the northern wall of Solomon's Stables on Jerusalem's Temple Mount is continuing without any archaeological supervision by the Antiquities Authority, and truckloads of dirt containing ancient artifacts are landing in the city dump.
The Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount, initially received approval for opening an emergency exit for a basement area, but the digging has continued on a much larger scale.
A trench 20 meters wide and 50 meters long has now been dug, exposing five ancient arches.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak approved the opening of two of these arches, which will become a main entrance to the mosque instead of an emergency exit. A third arch was also breached, but police ordered it to be refilled. Last week, the Waqf dismantled an ancient structure, possibly an aqueduct, located opposite the fifth arch.
Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami has not followed through on the promise he made several weeks ago to ensure that the digging would be supervised by archaeological experts. In fact, an archaeologist from the Antiquities Authority was only allowed a short visit by the Waqf and prevented from filming the work being done.
Local police have also failed to enforce a restriction allowing only four trucks on the Temple Mount for this excavation work. In fact, more than 30 trucks have entered the area and have carted away hundreds of tons of dirt.
A group of students from Bar-Ilan University, aided by several prominent archaeologists, have studied samples of artifacts found in this discarded soil and found that 19 percent of these date back to the Second Temple period, 15 percent belong to the early Islamic era and 14 percent date from the Byzantine period.
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