(Times of Israel / Worthy News)-- For three of the world's faiths, the Temple Mount bears special sanctity and significance. For archaeologists, the 3,000-year-old holy site is both an El Dorado and a Holy Grail, for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict precludes a scientist's pick and shovel ever breaking its ground. But an improbable turn of events has allowed historians a glimpse into the monument's mighty bowels.
On the slopes below the Hebrew University's campus on Mount Scopus, archaeologists and volunteers sieve through heaps of earth that were removed from the Temple Mount in the 1990s, and seek to extract bits and pieces of Jerusalem’s long history. The soil they sift through is fill from the Temple Mount -- truckloads of earth and detritus that, until the late 1990s, was packed into the gigantic 35-acre box on which the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque stand and Herod’s Temple once stood.
The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the institution overseeing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, carried out excavations on the Temple Mount between 1996 and 1999 as part of the construction of a subterranean mosque in an area known as Solomon’s Stables. Tens of thousands of tons of dirt -- roughly 400 truckloads -- were excavated by heavy machinery, without the supervision of archaeologists, and were dumped outside the Old City.