David Harris, courtesy of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française

A 19th-century archival photograph shows, in the foreground, the excavation that preceded the construction of the St. Étienne (Stephen) basilica church just north of Jerusalem’s Old City; in the background appears the then recently completed Dominican monastery associated with the church. The complex today is home to the École Biblique et Archéologique Française. Author Gabriel Barkay, while researching ancient remains at the adjacent site known as the Garden Tomb, reviewed the scholarly literature related to this early dig and came across a puzzling find: a fragment of an Egyptian stele with hieroglyphic writing (see photograph).

Despite 150 years of intensive digging that have made Jerusalem the most excavated city in the world, very few Egyptian remains have been found there. Could this relic, Barkay speculated, indicate that an Egyptian temple once stood nearby? Although no historical account, including the Bible, refers to an Egyptian temple in Jerusalem, Barkay went in search of further evidence.