Archeologists from the Jerusalem-based Temple Mount Sifting Project unveiled Tuesday a restored floor of painted tiles that experts believe dates to the Herodian era (37 to 4 BCE). Experts believe the floor may have been part of the courtyard of the Second Temple.
"This represents the first time that archeologists have been able to successfully restore an element from the Herodian Second Temple complex," stated Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.
Frankie Snyder, a member of the Temple Mount Sifting Project's team of researchers and an expert in the study of ancient Herodian-style flooring, stated that she had used geometric principles and similarities in tile design found at other Herodian sites to identify the ornate tile patterns.
"This type of flooring is called 'opus sectile,' Latin for 'cut work.' It was very expensive and was considered more prestigious than mosaic floors," said Snyder. "So far, we have succeeded in restoring seven potential designs of the majestic flooring that decorated the buildings of the Temple Mount, explaining that there was no opus sectile in Israel prior to Herodian rule."
"The tile segments were mostly imported from Rome, Asia Minor, Tunisia and Egypt, were created from polished multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes. A key characteristic of the Herodian tiles is their size, which corresponds to the Roman foot, of approximately 29.6 cm," she explained.
The Temple Mount Sifting Project was founded in 2004 by archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, in response to the illegal removal of tons of antiquities-rich earth from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf in 1999. Since then, volunteer and professional sifters have unearthed thousands of artifacts, including more than 600 colored stone floor tile segments, more than 100 of which have been conclusively dated to the Second Temple period.
The project is conducted under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and The Israel Nature and Parks Protection Authority,
"It enables us to get an idea of the Temple's incredible splendor," said Dr. Barkay.
Barkly told reporters that the style of the tiles is consistent with similar Herodian discoveries in Masada, Jericho and a variety of locations in Italy.
The restored tiles will be presented to the general public on September 8th, at the 17th Annual City of David Archaeological Conference in Jerusalem.