for National Geographic News
Muslim workers have unearthed artifacts on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, says an Israeli agency.
The artifacts, which date to the First Jewish Temple period—the eighth to sixth centuries B.C.—were found by employees of the Waqf Muslim religious trust doing maintenance work, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) reported.
The artifacts may be the first physical evidence of human activity at the Temple Mount—also known as Solomon's Temple—in that time.
Religious leaders do not allow archaeological excavations on Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites for Judaism and Islam. The site, known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is now covered by Islam's Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.
The human-made plateau covers the hill where Jews and Christians believe Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac at God's behest. Islam teaches that Abraham almost sacrificed his son Ishmael, rather than Issac, at God's behest on this site.
Muslims also believe Muhammad ascended to heaven there to receive prayers from God before returning to Earth.
Jerusalem's district archaeologist Yuval Baruch is supervising the Muslim maintenance project.
Baruch and Sy Gitin, director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, Ronny Reich of Haifa University, and Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, concluded that the finds might help reconstruct the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.
The findings include animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases, and body sherds; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar, according to the IAA.
The bowl sherds were decorated with wheel burnishing lines characteristic of the First Temple Period.
In addition, a piece of a whitewashed, handmade object was found. It may have been used to decorate a larger object or may have been the leg of an animal figurine.
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