Photo Credit: Courtesy the Temple Mount Sifting Project
Pinky finger of an Egyptian statue discovered by the Temple Mount Sifting Project

A finger of a statue has been discovered by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, and it is currently being examined by the leading archaeologists who have determined that the statue probably originated in Egypt, although there is a need for further in-depth research in order to accurately date it.

The finger fragment will be handed over to additional experts for dating.

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The statue fragment was discovered in the soil dumped in the Kidron Valley by the Muslim Waqf in 1999. The soil originated from an illegal excavation on the Temple Mount. The 400 truckloads of soil was collected by the archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Mr. Zachi Dvira, and about 70% of it has been sifted since 2004. The soil contains an abundance of finds that 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. The Ir-David Foundation has, until recently, funded the sifting site.

“This is a fragment of a life-size statue, which was made in Egypt and imported to Canaan,” reports Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “We clearly notice that this is part of a pinky finger measuring 3.5 cm, from a man’s hand, which includes a fingernail. The statue is made of a hard black stone originating in Egypt. The statue most likely represented a figure of a god or a king. The black stone from which the statue was 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, according to Dr. Barkay the statue fragment was probably made in the Egyptian art style common during the Late Bronze Age (about 3500 years ago). We cannot exclude the possibility that the statue is from a later period.

Statue of Egyptian Pharaoh, Thutmose III from the British Museum / Photo credit: copyright-free Google Image
Statue of Egyptian Pharaoh, Thutmose III from the British Museum / Photo credit: copyright-free Google Image

The Temple Mount Sifting Project has 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 near Damascus Gate, dated to the 13th century BCE (before to the date traditionally attributed to the Exodus of Israelites 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-autonomous city-state, located in the Egyptian province of Canaan.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project, which is struggling to remain open in the face of depleted funds, has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign calling on the public to support the research and publication of the many finds discovered over the years, and secure the project’s future.

Last week’s media reports about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intervention for resuming the sifting were not accurate, according to a press release issued by the sifting project. The sifting has not been resumed, but a meeting will be scheduled for after the Passover holiday to resolve the crisis in order to resume the sifting.

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