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  • Writer's pictureAnnemeet Hasidi-van Der Leij

Fragment of ancient Egyptian statue finger found in the rubble of the City of David Sifting Project

The Temple Mount Sifting Project recently discovered a finger of a statue near the Temple Mount. The finger is currently being examined by the leading experts in the field who have determined the statue probably originated in Egypt. Further in-depth research is needed in order to accurately date it, and the finger has been handed over to experts in the field.

Finger from an Egyptian Statue (Photo: Temple Mount Sifting Project)

The statue fragment was discovered within the soil dumped in the Kidron Valley by the Muslim Waqf in 1999, in soil which originated from an illegal excavation on the Temple Mount. 400 truckloads of soil were collected by archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira. Since 2004, about 70% of it has been sifted. The soil contains an abundance of finds which shed much light on the history of the Temple Mount through the ages.

The research is done under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, and is funded by the Israel Archaeology Foundation.

“This is a fragment of a life-size statue, which was designed in Egypt and imported to Canaan,” reports Temple Mount Sifting Project Co-director Dr. Gabriel Barkay said. “We clearly notice that this is part of a pinky finger measuring 3.5 cm, from a man’s hand, which includes also a fingernail.

“The statue is made of a durable black stone originating in Egypt. The statue most likely represented a figure of a god or king. The black stone from which the statue is manufactured testifies to its Egyptian origin.”

The finger has been examined by archaeologists who specialize in early art from the Land of Israel. Though the identification and dating are not yet certain, Barklay said the statue fragment was probably made in the Egyptian art style common during the Late Bronze Age (about 3500 years ago). However, there is still a possibility the statue is from a later period such as the Iron Age II (First Temple period) or even later.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project has also yielded additional artifacts which were imported from Egypt or manufactured under Egyptian influence.

Among them is an additional statue fragment of a man’s shoulder, scarabs (amulets shaped like dung beetles), seal impressions, and Egyptian-style jewelry all dating to the Late Bronze Age.

These artifacts join others from this period which were discovered in recent years in the City of David, as well as artifacts which may testify to the existence of an Egyptian Temple in Jerusalem in the area of the St. Etienne Monastery adjacent to the Damascus Gate, and dated to the 13th century BCE (prior to the date traditionally attributed to the Jewish Exodus from Egypt).

Ancient Egypt ruled over the Land of Israel during the second half of the 2nd Millennium BCE, the days of the Egyptian New Kingdom and of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. Jerusalem is known to have been a semi-independent city-state, located in the Egyptian Canaanite province.

Until recently, the Ir-David Foundation funded the sifting site. Since it ceased funding the Temple Mount Sifting Project, the project has had difficulties remaining solvent.

Temple Mount Sifting Project Founder and Co-director Zachi Dvira said the public has demonstrated how much the historical heritage is dear to them. Half of the full sum needed for funding the annual research was raised within the first three days of the project's campaign.

“We hope that the public - recognizing the great significance of the project - will continue to support us in the future,” Dvira said.

Last week, media reports about Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s intervention for resuming the sifting were not accurate. The sifting was not resumed, but a meeting will be scheduled for after the Passover holiday to resolve the crisis in order to resume the sifting.

Sifting cannot be resumed until this is solved.

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