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A Fascinating Recent Discovery on Temple Mount
Offers a Mysterious Link to the Birth of Modern Israel
by Sol Aris (Shaul Volkov)

In August of 2005, a highly interesting find was made by the archeologist Gabriel Barkai, who has been a stalwart and long-standing authority in the Jerusalem archeological world. In recent years Barkai has been involved in a controversial project - together with his assistant Zachi Zweig he has been sifting through the rubble which the Islamic Waqf ("Keepers of the Holy Places") authorities have been removing from caverns and structures being renovated underneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and dumping in the Kidron Valley under the old city walls.

Scholars usually question the archeological value of finds from such an exploration, due to the difficulty of accurately dating objects, which are not embedded in the surrounding strata. Yet the excavated rubble has already yielded a large amount of fascinating artifacts. The particular find which concerns us was a tiny cross pendant bearing a wealth of curious symbolism, which was originally taken by the two archeologists to be Masonic or "Templar".

The current article is primarily a short compilation of what has been discovered about this pendant so far, with possible avenues for further research in this regard.

The recent popularity of these topics had sparked a certain amount of interest in the find, and it was reported on September 2 in an article by the Israeli daily Haaretz newspaper. The Hebrew version of that article is still available online at the time of the current writing (May 2006), at haaretz.co.il.

The English version was taken offline about a month after it appeared, but has been reprinted in other places, and is available today on Philip Gardiner's site at http://www.phil.fah-designs.com/gardinerosborn/articles/article_17.html, and on Dirk Vander Ploeg's UFODigest at http://www.ufodigest.com/templemount.html.

Below are photographs of the found pendant, as photographed by Barkai and Zweig, which also show its tiny size, no larger than a thumbnail.

The two archeologists did not relegate much importance to this find beyond curiosity, as they are much more interested in recovering First and Second Temple artifacts, to try and settle the controversy regarding the historical existence of Solomon's temple. But Zweig was captivated by the tiny intricate symbolism, and, as mentioned in the Haaretz article, had written to Prof. Andrew Prescott of the Freemasonry Research Center at the University of Sheffield, to inquire about a possible Masonic connection.

Prescott did not comment himself on the symbols, but referred Zweig to Mark Dennis, the curator of the Masonic Museum in London. Dennis supplied the following identification of the visible images on the pendant:

On one side in the center is the Cup of Jesus (one accepted name for which is the "Holy Grail"), superimposed on the two Lances bearing the Poisoned Sponges, and surrounded by the Crown of Thorns. On the three surrounding panels are the tools of the Carpenter trade - a hammer, pliers, and three nails (with which Jesus was nailed to the cross.)

On the other side, the letters IHS are seen inside the central sunburst. The bottom panel shows the Lamb reposing on the Book of Revelations sealed by the Seven Seals. Dennis identifies the right panel facing the viewer as showing "wheat stalks", but Zweig says it looks like an inclined bowl or pot. I feel, however, that it is also reminiscent of some depictions of "the Horn of Plenty". The image on the left panel was not identified by either of the two, but from magnification of the photograph appears to me as being a dove perched on a branch.

Dennis wrote back to Zweig that the symbols are very obviously strictly "Christian and not Masonic". Each one of the symbols is very well-known throughout the various Christian denominations, and none of them can be associated with specific Freemason symbolism of any lodge he knows. Zweig also failed to find the symbols in any Masonic catalogue, and lost further interest in this cross as being anything more than another unimportant and comparatively modern curio.

As noted, the dating of any artifact originating in the excavated rubble poses a great problem. It's unknown when this material was dumped in the caverns beneath Solomon's Stables, or where it came from. Removed from the strata within which it was originally buried, an object's age can be usually determined only by its state of preservation and comparison with similar pieces or art forms, both highly unreliable methods.

This particular pendant was tentatively dated by the two archeologists to roughly the second half of the 19th Century, primarily because they originally assumed the symbols to have been Masonic, and some well-known Freemason archeologists are known to have been digging around the Temple Mount around that time. Also the style and the condition of the pendant were not indicative of a Medieval artifact. Lastly, although admittedly no expert in iconography, Zweig had told me that as far as they know the various symbols such as the letters IHS were not used in Christian art until 16th or 17th Centuries.

Once again, the two researchers were not greatly interested in this find, and their reasoning can easily be argued against. Because obviously if we accept that the symbols are in fact not "Masonic", this removes the basis for the entire original assumption. And although some of the symbols were admittedly popularized in much later Christian iconography, the trigram IHS itself (which is the Latin rendering of the Greek letters Iota, Heta, and Sigma, and spells IES - short for "Iesus", Jesus) were used in the early Christian communities in the first four centuries CE.

This cross is obviously a Christian artifact, and is thus likely to have found its way to the caverns underneath the Temple Mount either before the late Middle Ages or after mid- 19th Century. Although some Christian presence in Jerusalem continued, Christians were barred from entering the Temple Mount for 600 years, from the Mameluk reconquest of that city in 1250 and until new permissive policies were instituted by the Ottoman Turks in 1839.

So the cross could either be many centuries old or only a hundred and some years, and the difference should be easy to judge by its state of preservation. Therefore, despite the inadequate reasoning, the tendency would be to accept the archeologists' judgement and view this cross as coming from relatively modern times - not least because the intricate symbolism does accord better with Christian jewelry of later than Medieval periods.

Story continues at Page 2 (Copyright 2006, Sol Aris)




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