Archaeology Tuesday, January 28, 2003. Post by Ricky James
The reportedly splendorous Jewish monument of Solomon’s Temple no longer exists, not even as ruins. Built by King Solomon on the spot where Abraham is said to have almost sacrificed his son on direct orders from God, the structure stood for 400 years before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. According to legend, The Ark of the Covenant sought by ficticious archeologist Indiana Jones is still buried today in the rubble of Solomon’s Temple, wherever that was/is. Some writings from long after the Babylonian invasion indicate the Temple was located in present-day Jerusalem at a location where today an Islamic mosque stands. The Arabs call this place Haram as-Sharif; the Jews call it the Temple Mount. Whatever the name, it is one of the most bitterly contested pieces of real estate on Earth. The last thing the Arabs want is for something to strengthen Jewish interest in this site.
So naturally, something did. A blackened sandstone unearthed during renovations by Muslim authorities has been authenticated by Jewish experts as an ancient stone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon. The fragment is said to date from the period of the Jewish King Joash, who ruled the area 2,800 years ago. The tablet contains an inscription in ancient Phoenician where a king tells priests to take “holy money… to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labour to carry out the duty with the faith”. If the work is completed well, it adds, “the Lord will protect his people with blessing”. The words closely resemble descriptions in the biblical Book of Kings II that refers to King Joash. Carbon dating shows the tablet was inscribed around the 9th Century BC and was also said to have been found to contain microscopic gold flecks which mean it may have existed in the Temple itself. Controversy is erupting and the discovery is rapidly moving from scientific to political. A top Israeli archaeologist said that if the tablet was definitively authenticated, it would be a “sensational” discovery; however, the director of the Islamic Trust that administers the mosque compound is now denying that the tablet had in fact been discovered there. Unbiased and dispassionate research on the find continues.
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