February 12, 2007

Temple's location found, says Israeli archaeologist (2 articles)

(Pictures, maps, diagrams at the website of the second article)

From Jerusalem Post:

Archeologist: Ancient cistern proves location of Second Temple

An Israeli archeologist said Wednesday that he has pinpointed the exact location of the Second Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.

The site identified by Hebrew University archeologist Prof. Joseph Patrich, based on the study of a large underground cistern on the Temple Mount and passages from the Mishna, places the Temple and its corresponding courtyards, chambers and gates in a more southeasterly and diagonal frame of reference compared to previous studies.

Patrich based his research, which is about to be published, on a study of a large underground cistern on the Temple Mount that was mapped by British engineer Sir Charles Wilson in 1866 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund, along with passages from the Mishna.

The giant cistern, 4.5 meters wide and 54 meters long, lay near the southeastern corner of the upper platform of the Temple Mount. Examining the location and configuration of the cistern together with descriptions of the daily rite in the Temple and its surroundings found in the Mishna, Patrich said that this cistern is the only one found on the Temple Mount that can tie in with the ancient rabbinic text describing elements involved in the daily purification and sacrificial duties carried out by the priests on the altar in the Temple courtyard.

On this basis, he says, one can reconstruct the placement of a large basin that was used by the priests for their ritual washing, with the water being drawn by a waterwheel mechanism from the cistern.

After this purification, the priests ascended the nearby ramp to the sacrificial altar.

By thus locating the laver, the water wheel, the ramp and the altar, one can then finally map, again in coordination with the Mishna, the alignment of the Temple itself and its gates and chambers, he said.

These considerations led Patrich to place the Second Temple further to the east and south than earlier thought, and at a southeasterly angle relative to the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, and not perpendicular to it, as earlier assumed.

Patrich said that his research indicates that the rock over which the Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th century CE is actually outside the confines of the Temple.

The rock is believed to be the place at which the binding of Isaac took place, while Muslims consider it to be the spot from which Muhammad ascended to heaven.

The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site as the ancient compound where the two Jewish Temples stood, and is Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.

From WND:
Using maps created in 1866 by a British explorer and passages from the Jewish Mishnah, an Israeli archaeologist and professor at Hebrew University says he has pinpointed the location of the sacred Jewish Temple, twice built and twice destroyed in ancient times.

While popular consensus places the Temple, built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. and rebuilt by Jews who returned from Babylon in the 5th century B.C., on the site of the present Muslim Dome of the Rock, Prof. Joseph Patrich says archaeological remains show its exact location - and the consensus is wrong.

According to Patrich, the Temple, its corresponding courtyards, chambers and gates were oriented in a more southeasterly direction, sitting diagonally on what is the modern Temple Mount. The difference in orientation and the placement further eastward varies from the east-facing orientation of other scholars who believe the Temple was closer to today's Western Wall.

However, that difference is why, Patrich says, the Temple did not sit over the rock believed by Jews to be the site where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into heaven.

Patrich's siting of the Temple is derived from information collected by British engineer Sir Charles Wilson in 1866 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Wilson mapped a series of ancient cisterns below the present Temple Mount platform. One of those, Patrich says, preserves a vestige of the Temple that stood until it was destroyed by Rome in A.D. 70.

The cistern mapped by Wilson, approximately 15 feet wide, 170 feet long and 45 feet deep, was located near the Temple Mount's southeast corner. It was oriented in a southeasterly direction with branches extending north and south.

"Until now no one has ever thought that the location of the cistern on the Temple Mount and its unique shape were derived from the shape and location of the altar and sanctuary," Patrich told YNetNews.

According to the archaeologist, this cistern is the only one found on the Temple Mount that corresponds to descriptions in the Jewish Mishnah - the rabbinic oral tradition compiled in the 3rd century A.D. - of daily purification and sacrificial duties carried out by the priests on the altar in the Temple courtyard.

The Mishnah says water was drawn by a waterwheel mechanism from a cistern and held in a large basin, or laver, for daily purification by the Temple's priests before they ascended the nearby ramp to the altar to offer sacrifices.

Patrich believes the placement of the waterwheel and laver can be reconstructed from Wilson's map of the giant southeast-trending cistern and from that, the location of the altar and the Temple itself.

Patrich's siting has the Temple further east and south of locations proposed by other scholars and diagonal, rather than perpendicular to the Temple Mount's eastern and western walls. It also leaves the rock in the Dome of the Rock outside of the confines of the Temple itself.

Patrich said his research on the Temple's location is strictly academic, and political connotations should not be attributed to it.