According to Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, the tiles are 'marble-like' (actually used several different types of stone), and most probably covered the porticos in the Temple, as well as its courtyards. More than 600 fragments have been found so far, and at least 100 are definitively connected to King Herod's time: the half-Jewish monarch who rebuilt the Temple. Frankie Snyder used math calculations to fit the tiles together -- like a giant jigsaw puzzle with no directions.
Here's one set of restored tiles:
|photos from the Temple Mount Sifting Project|
And here's the cool part, at least to us textile people. Recognize that pattern? (It's Square Within A Square, among other names.)
Remember: This is the second Temple. Solomon's Temple was destroyed hundreds of years before. This version was King Herod's, destroyed shortly after Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus himself predicted that not one stone would stand on top of another -- which may have happened in part because the Roman soldiers, led by Titus, were trying to get at gold which melted down between the stones. I could not find a direct reference to this online, but it was horrendous. The Temple, along with Jerusalem, was looted, set on fire and so thoroughly decimated that for years afterward, it seemed as if it had never stood. Any further efforts to rebuild the Temple were stymied...
|The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts (Wikipedia). What a mess.|
Some Messianic groups are actively exploring the idea of rebuilding Solomon's Temple yet again. The Temple Institute has already built the main altar, and other details are in progress.
The problem: Most scholars would posit that the Dome of the Rock, another sacred site, is built directly on top of where the original Temple stood. And there are strong feelings that the Temple must occupy its original site -- or it isn't 'right.'
But did it?
|Another reconstructed tile -- Octagon Star|
A growing number of people believe that the Temple Mount actually was the site of a Roman hilltop fort...and the real Temple was built in the City of David, at a site hundreds of yards away. A site, incidentally, which the Israeli government has access to today.
If that was true, then the tiles archaeologists are excavating (out of piles of rubble from the Mount itself) are most probably from the Roman fort. And the Romans were very fond of floor mosaics, as we know from other places. Like Pompeii and a number of sites in Great Britain.
Interestingly enough, the tile pieces are geometric, and correspond to the Roman measurement of a foot: 29.6 cm. (In other words, constructed in Roman style.) And:
This style of flooring is consistent with those found in Herod’s palaces at Masada, Herodian, and Jericho among others, as well as in majestic palaces and villas in Italy, also attributed to the time of Herod.
Also from the Temple Mount Sifting Project blogpost on the subject:
The possibility that large expanses of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple were covered with opus sectile flooring was first raised by archaeologist Assaf Avraham in 2007, director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Avraham’s theory was based on a description given by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus (1st Century CE) who wrote, “… the uncovered [Temple Mount courtyard] was completely paved with stones of various types and colors…” (The Jewish War 5:2) Additionally, Talmudic literature records the magnificent construction of the Temple Mount, describing rows of marble in different colors – green, blue and white.
So possibilities could go either way. (I do find it interesting, though, that the tiles excavated so far are NOT "green, blue and white." Maybe they're from the courtyard, instead.)
Full report's here. Check out the video. (Not the photo below -- you'll have to click on the report link at left to access it.) You'll see more tile designs, including stars and compass rose designs. These would make a wonderful sampler quilt with an interesting historical connection.
Hmmm...I'm thinking about it!