Ancient Golden Treasure Discovered by Jerusalem's Temple Mount

Ancient Golden Treasure Discovered by Jerusalem's Temple Mount

The gold rush has begun at the foot of Jerusalem's Temple Mount. During summer excavations conducted by Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, two bundles of treasures were found. The treasure trove contained 36 gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a gold medallion with the menorah (Temple candelabrum) symbol etched into it. Also etched into the 10-cm medallion are a shofar (ram's horn) and a Torah scroll. The extraordinary find is known as the "Ophel Treasure."

The ancient menorah medallion, shown below, is most likely an ornament for a Torah scroll making it the earliest Torah scroll ornament found to date in archaeological excavations. Several other Torah scroll ornaments, including a smaller gold medallion, two pendants, a gold coil and a silver clasp, were found buried with the medallion.

Dr. Mazar is a third-generation archaeologist and she currently directs the excavations on the City of David's summit and at the Temple Mount's southern wall. According to Dr. Mazar, "We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem's history, so discovering a golden seven-branched Menorah from the seventh century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise." She described the find as "a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery."

The discovery, known as the "Ophel Treasure," lies within the current Ophel Archaeological Park and is situated about 50 meters from the southern wall of the Temple Mount area. The find is dated to the late Byzantine period (early seventh century CE) and was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure.

The 2013 excavation season at the Ophel ran from the middle of April to the end of July, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University. The Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out the preservation works, and is preparing the site for the public. The excavation site is situated within the Jerusalem National Park around the walls of Jerusalem of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and is administered by the East Jerusalem Development Company.

The Ophel project has been generously underwritten, since 2009, by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman from New York. The entire project includes the archaeological excavations, the processing of the finds towards publication, as well as the preservation and the preparations of the site for its opening to the public.

Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma, supports Mazar's project by sending students to participate in the excavations.

About the Institute of Archaeology

The Institute of Archaeology was founded in 1934 as the Department of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1967 it became the Institute of Archaeology. Today the Institute is an independent research and teaching unit within the Faculty of Humanities, with a staff that provides administrative and scientific assistance as well as the technical facilities necessary to carry out its research projects. Academic programs include studies for B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in prehistoric, biblical and classical archaeology.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ranked among the top academic and research institutions worldwide, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel's leading university and premier research institution. Serving 23,000 students from 70 countries, the Hebrew University produces a third of Israel's civilian research and is ranked 12th worldwide in biotechnology patent filings and commercial development. Faculty and alumni of the Hebrew University have won seven Nobel Prizes and a Fields Medal in the last decade. The Hebrew University was founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann. It is located on three campuses in Jerusalem and a fourth in Rehovot.

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Publication date: September 10, 2013

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