Some proposals would have put the altar on es-Sakhra, but then es-Sakhra would have disappeared completely below it, as es-Sakhra is smaller than the altar. According to Middot 3.1, the altar was 32 cubits (55 feet, or 16.8 meters) square. Another problem with placing the altar over es-Sakhra is that the well-known cave that lies below es-Sakhra, which was supposed to have drained off the blood to the Kidron Valley, would be in the wrong place, as, according to Middot 3.2, this original drain was located at the southwest corner of the altar, while the cave is on the southeast corner.


See Leen Ritmeyer, “Locating the Original Temple Mount,” BAR 18:02.


The steps cut into the western side of es-Sakhra, above the western scarp, appear to be the remains of a broad staircase that the Crusaders cut into the Rock to lead up to their high altar.



Leen Ritmeyer, “Locating the Original Temple Mount,” BAR 18:02.


Ephraim Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), vol. 2, p. 718.


The details of the research and a comprehensive overview of how the Temple Mount developed is due to be published soon in book form by the Biblical Archaeology Society.


Josephus, The Jewish War 5.184, and Antiquities of the Jews 15.398.


Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches in Palestine During the Years 1873–1874 (London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1899), vol. 1, pp. 216–217.


I would like to thank Joseph G. Hurley, Esq., and his wife Davia Solomon, Esq., for their continued support in the form of a second generous grant through the Biblical Archaeology Society for this work. A travel grant from the Rothschild Foundation made it possible for my family and me to spend considerable time in Jerusalem during the spring and summer of 1994 while I did the post-doctoral research on which this article is based, under the supervision of Professor Gideon Foerster of the Hebrew University.


Gustaf Dalman, Neue Petra-Forschungen und der heilige Felsen von Jerusalem, chap. 4, “Der heilige Felsen von Jerusalem,” J.C. Hinrich (Leipzig, 1912). See also Hans Schmidt, Der heilige Fels in Jerusalem (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1933).


Josephus, Antiquities 15.391.


Fulcher of Chartres, A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095–1127, trans. F.R. Ryan (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1969) I, xxxi, 5–10.


F. Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1969), pp. 168–171.


Gabrieli, Arab Historians, p. 171.


Guy Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems (Beirut: Khayats, 1890; reprint 1965), p. 132.


Dalman, Neue Petra-Forschungen, p. 125.


Ritmeyer, “Locating the Original Temple Mount.”


Retired Hebrew University physics professor Asher Kaufman shows two different orientations for the First and Second Temples, although there is no historical proof that this was so.

His orientation of the Second Temple is based on the assumption that the Temple was trapezoidal in shape. As evidence, he relies on a glass fragment of the Byzantine period that shows a painting of the Temple with surrounding walls. These walls are drawn in perspective, a normal artistic procedure, and the resulting tapering shape cannot therefore be used as archaeological evidence that the Temple was trapezoidal. He then tries to match this idea up with some very small bedrock cuts and the directions of water cisterns to prove his point.

His orientation of the First Temple is derived from another small bedrock cut to the north of the platform of the Dome of the Rock (see “Where the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem Stood,” BAR 09:02). It is true that these bedrock cuts were probably part of the foundation trenches of a building, but they are insufficient in themselves to prove that they were part of the Temple. (I believe that they may have had something to do with the foundations of the Towers of Hananeel and Mea, which were later replaced by the Baris Fortress.) He also claims that his “Find 14” was a “crypt supporting the northeastern angle of the Court of Priests and part of the Outer Court” (p. 56). Warren, who discovered this vault in Cistern 29, wrote, “The vault itself seems clearly to be Arab work not earlier than the 13th century” (with Claude R. Conder, The Survey of Western Palestine, Jerusalem [London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1884], p. 224). To incorporate a medieval structure into the First Temple is archaeologically impossible, to say the least.

Kaufman’s interpretation of these remains hinges, of course, on a partially broken paving slab below the so-called Dome of the Spirits, which he claims was the Foundation Stone. However, the shape of this stone, with a rectangular projection on its eastern side, makes it abundantly clear that it is indeed a paving slab. The purpose of this rectangular projection is to enable a smaller paving slab to be laid next to it. Kaufman’s theory also contradicts Josephus’s historical record that the Temple stood on the summit of the mountain. The bedrock below Kaufman’s paving slab, which, incidentally, is smaller than other paving slabs found in front of the Double and Triple Gates, is about 16 feet lower than es-Sakhra according to Warren’s plans! The slab is also far too small for a foundation of the Temple, as the Holy of Holies alone was about 10 times larger than this stone.

Additionally, it is archaeologically unsound to use the orientation of cisterns to prove the direction of a building above. Cisterns are usually round or cut at right angles to the bedrock formation, which is not necessarily the direction of the building above.

The opinion of the archaeological community as to Kaufman’s theory is summed up in Stern, New Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 743: “An attempt by A. Kaufman to ‘shift’ the location of the Temple slightly to the north of this traditional site [of the Dome of the Rock], relying on unclear archaeological remains he ascribes to the Second Temple period and on other evidence, lacks concrete proof.”


This is confirmed by Clermont-Ganneau’s other observations in the northern part of the Dome of the Rock, where he found bedrock in general a meter below the floor of the Dome of the Rock. In 1959 Bellarmino Bagatti (Recherches sur le site du Temple de Jerusalem (Ier–VIIe siecle) [Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1979], pp. 28–29) noticed bedrock at several places below the floor during repair operations conducted at that time.


Josephus, Jewish War 5.219.