One of the more unusual and rewarding things that you can do in Jerusalem is to be an archaeologist for (part of) the day in Emek Zurim near Mount Scopus.
It is a really unusual activity that connects you with the real history of Jerusalem. It is suitable for all ages – even a three year old can have fun here – all you need is a healthy sense of curiosity about the past and a willingness to get a little dirty.
In 1996 a major building project was carried out (36m x 120m) on the Temple Mount to provide improved access. The work was done in the space of a few days and without the required archaeological supervision. (By law, archaeologists inspect building sites and have the legal right (that is exercised) to stop construction until proper excavations are carried out.)
The debris, containing important material from the Second Temple period and from later Muslim and Christian presence on the Temple Mount, was dumped at various locations. A large amount of the debris was saved and is now being painstakingly sorted. Of course, all the layers of history are mixed up, but by careful study and cross reference the team manages to date the material. They have made several fascinating finds including relics belonging to all three of the faiths, Roman gaming dice (from the garrison), Greek arrow heads, ancient seals, and over 6000 coins.
The visit starts with a short class about the Temple and the 1996 work and then proceeds with detailed instructions on the job that you are about to do. After that you split up into groups of 2 or more, grab a bucket of stuff, throw it into the filter, give it a wash, and start to sort the dirt and stones from interesting stuff. The team members mingle, cheerfully providing assistance and, of course, double checking your work. They will let you work for as long as you want. The session is wrapped up with a short summary, explanations about previous findings, and everybody gets a certificate to take home.
You are pretty much guaranteed to find something – if not the find of the century. We found animal bones and teeth, mosaic, metal relics, stucco plaster, a huge chunk of marble and a relatively rare circular part of a column. See our findings at Emek Zurim
Finish the visit by standing and appreciating the phenomenal views of Temple Mount, and both the Old and New City of Jerusalem. Most definitely a place for a camera – both for the incredible views and for the activity itself.
It is important to book in advance on phone *6033 or see Emek Zurim NP
In The Area
Enjoy the views from Mount Scopus. It is worth going to the Judean Desert lookout point near the Hebrew University – the contrast between more than 3000 years of urban development with the pristine desert is very impressive.
Getting To Emek Zurim
Can be reached on foot from Mount Scopus – but quite a long walk (especially in the heat).
If arriving by car then you need to be quite careful as the maps can be misleading due to the divided road. The best access is to take the new road to the tunnels leading to Maale Adumim. Take the first exit (less than 1Km) which has sign posts pointing towards the Mount of Olives. As the road climbs you will see a brown sign “Emek Zurim.” Make the right and find somewhere to park. Take the path and follow it down into the valley. The dig is at the bottom in the structure that looks like a plastic greenhouse.
You can take a taxi from Mount Scopus. The driver will go down the road from the Mount of Olives. Ask the cab to stop opposite the brown sign and cross over. It is only 100m or so along this road after the junction.