Israeli girl finds rare Egyptian amulet in Temple Mount soil

Egyptian amulet found in Temple Mount soil April 19, 2016 (Zachi Dvira)

Jerusalem (TPS) –  Neshama Spielman, a 12-year-old Israeli girl, made a rare archaeological discovery while sifting earth illegally discarded from the Temple Mount. She found an ancient amulet, more than 3,200 years old, bearing the name of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III, Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty who reigned from 1479-1425 BCE.

Neshama Spielman with Egyptian amulet she found in discarded Temple Mount soil, April 19, 2016. (Adina Graham)
Neshama Spielman with Egyptian amulet she found in discarded Temple Mount soil, April 19, 2016. (Adina Graham)

Spielman, who lives in Jerusalem, came with her family to participate in the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which searches through the topsoil carted off in 1999 when the Jordanian Islamic authorities conducted secret renovations on the holy site without proper archeological oversight.

“While I was sifting, I came across a piece of pottery that was different from others I had seen, and I immediately thought that maybe I had found something special,” she said. “It’s amazing to find something thousands of years old from ancient Egypt all the way here in Jerusalem. Celebrating Passover this year is going to be extra meaningful to me.”

The Jewish festival of Passover, commemorating the Biblical account of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, will be celebrated later this week. “A discovery such as this is particularly symbolic at this time of year, with the Passover festival just a few days away, and represents greetings from the ancient past,” said Assaf Avraham, archaeologist and director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

While Egyptian scarabs bearing the name of Thutmose III have previously been discovered in Jerusalem, this represents the first time his name has been found in Jerusalem adorning an amulet. The small pendant measures 21mm wide, 4mm thick and its preserved length is 16mm. It was only recently deciphered by archaeologists.

“Thutmose III was one of the most important pharaohs in Egypt’s New Kingdom,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “He referred to himself as ‘the one who has subdued a thousand cities,’ and it is known that Canaan and Jerusalem were under Egyptian dominion for more than 300 years during the Late Bronze Age, likely explaining the presence of this amulet in Jerusalem.”

“Objects bearing the name of Thutmose III continued to be produced in Egypt long after the time of his reign, reflecting the significance and lasting impression of this king,” added Barkay.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was initiated in 2004 to rescue potentially priceless artifacts scattered among the tons of earth haphazardly hauled from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf, the Jordanian body that controls the holy site. It is located in Jerusalem’s Tzurim Valley National Park, where more than 170,000 volunteers from Israel and around the world have since taken part in the sifting. This represents an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.

“Since the Temple Mount has never been excavated, the ancient artifacts retrieved in the sifting project provide valuable and previously inaccessible information,” said Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “The many categories of finds are among the largest and most varied ever found in Jerusalem.”

In addition to the ongoing earth sifting, the project has focused its efforts on processing and studying the finds and preparing them for scientific publication. Over half a million finds are still waiting to be processed and analyzed in its laboratory.