The Temple Mount is a theological pivot for three world religions.  There Judaism established its ancient political hub and enduring spiritual core; there Christianity centered various metaphysical and chronological schemata; there Islam located crucial events in its own religious narrative, culminating in Mohammed’s ascent to heaven.  Perhaps inevitably, the Temple Mount has frequently erupted in religious bloodshed throughout the course of its history.  With the reestablishment of Israel in 1948 – and certainly with its capture of all Jerusalem in 1967 – Judaism reemerged as a viable contender for sovereignty over the site, which had been under Muslim rule for most of that millennium.  The main fault line in the dispute over the possession of the Temple Mount therefore emerged between those two faiths, with Arab Christians generally supporting Islam’s stance, and Evangelical Christians favoring Judaic ownership.


The ensuing debate has been based largely upon religious claims and assertions of historical primacy.  Although the latter are more empirically verifiable, their significance is ultimately subjective.  It is the aim of this paper, however, to present a wholly objective division of the Temple Mount between the two parties which today compete for control over that site. 




For the historical period from 1000 BCE to 1187 CE – the entire period of time in which humans artificially modified the Temple Mount – the physical and temporal locations of all major structures on the site are noted.  First, each is attributed to one of six main areas on the site and, if necessary, to a sub-area within it (a map may be found in Appendix A).  Second, the religion or group whose member or members constructed each edifice is awarded an ownership percentage over that area or sub-area, based on the percentage of the time that edifice survived out of the total time period under consideration.  Finally, these percentage figures are totaled for each religion.  Within this analytical framework, three caveats must be issued:


First, because distinguishing the creation of buildings from their decimation involves a subjective value judgment, the activity of “construction” here applies to any artificial improvement of a site.  Second, it is here possible to divide the Temple Mount into relatively large areas, because most conquerors imposed comprehensive new architectural plans on established sites, rather than erecting isolated buildings in previously vacant locations.  Still, it is difficult to distinguish among different temporal stages of such construction projects – although when such differentiations are possible, the main areas are divided into sub-areas.  Third, fewer and more nebulous archaeological traces and literary sources exist for the more ancient historical periods; therefore the pace of this investigation increases nearly exponentially as its sources grow ever more lucid – in other words, as it nears its end.


The Jebusite Threshingfloor and Davidic Altar


The reign of King David over a united Israelite and Judean state oversaw both the conquest of, and the relocation of the Ark of the Covenant to, Jerusalem – “thus establishing [the city] as the religious center for all the Israelites.”  The archaeological evidence cited below, relating to the Temple Mount in this period, derives mainly from literary (particularly biblical, and thus non-contemporaneous) sources, which recount the following narrative: although the prophet Nathan originally supported his king’s proposal to construct a temple to house the ark, he later “reversed himself,” claiming that David’s political and military careers “had been marked by much bloodshed, making [him] an unsuitable candidate for building the Lord’s house,” because the Temple was to be “a symbol of peace” (Ben-Dov 31-33).  Yet, besides “amassing supplies” so as to expedite his son Solomon’s construction of the Temple (Kotker 35), the king still played a significant part in selecting the Temple’s site:


Toward the end of David’s reign, his kingdom suffered “a lethal plague.”  Seeking to alleviate his citizenry’s plight through supernatural means, the monarch “consulted with the prophet Gad, who told him to build an altar to the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.”  David purchased this site, which was located at the peak of Mount Moriah, “for 50 shekels of silver.”  After erecting his altar, “the plague duly subsided and passed” (Ben-Dov 33) – and, of greater historical significance, this Davidic edifice “[marked out] the site of the future temple,” most likely upon the natural stone formation which was later enclosed within the Dome of the Rock (Parrot 17): Jewish folklore identifies “the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac” as both es-Sakhra (Ritmeyer 93) and Araunah’s threshingfloor (Ben-Dov 33) – suggesting that the latter was built upon the former.


The biblical word translated as “threshingfloor” can also indicate “a circular place of pagan worship,” and therefore it may refer to “a Jebusite shrine” (Shalem 2).  In any event, the replacement of this edifice by King David’s altar marks a transition from Jebusite to Israelite building stages – at least on the site of the future Temple itself (area A).  The latest possible date for this construction was that immediately preceding the monarch’s death, which both Albright (122) and Kotker (36) place around 960 BCE.  Thus the 40 years that the Jebusite structure existed on this site after 1000 BCE, when taken as a percentage of the era from that date until 1187 CE, translates into a 40/2187, or 1.83 percent, Jebusite ownership of area A.


The Solomonic Temple Mount and Palace Complex


King Solomon initiated construction on the Temple during the fourth year of his monarchy, or about 956 BCE.  Because he chose to build it on the site of his father’s altar on Mount Moriah, he had to bridge the “gap of about 100 x 250 meters” which separated that mountain from the southern City of David.  “Consequently, this open space was incorporated into the bounds of the city and effectively became one huge building plot,” and “most of the royal buildings were constructed there,” upon an artificial platform surrounded by “retaining walls” and “[filled] in with earth and detritus.”  For over three and a half centuries, this Solomonic “city plan remained in force,” and “the seat of government continued to be located on the southern slope of the Temple Mount” (Ben-Dov 33).  Three elements of this plan warrant examination in the present discussion:


First, a square esplanade was erected on Mount Moriah, creating a platform for the Temple at its peak.  Measuring 500 cubits (according to Middot 2:1), or 861 feet, on each side, its vulnerable northern face was marked by several protruding towers, including Hananeel and Mea (“[as] recorded in Jeremiah 31:38 and Zechariah 14:10”).  Further, a wall adjoined the Temple Mount just north of its “West Gate” (Ritmeyer 61-64), although others merely date this wall to the First Temple period in general (Ben-Dov 60).


Where, on today’s Temple Mount, was the Solomonic esplanade situated?  Ritmeyer locates its northwest corner along the bottom step of the stairway which ascends the northwest corner of the Muslim Platform.  First, this bottom step “consists of pre-Herodian building blocks,” and unlike that platform’s other seven stairways, this step “is parallel not to the Muslim platform but to the eastern wall of the Temple Mount.”  Second, the distance between these parallels is 500 cubits – along which nineteenth century explorer Charles Warren discovered a subterranean “sheared-off rock ledge,” likely “cut to hold the foundation for the [Temple Mount’s] northern wall” – and along which Ritmeyer therefore hypothesizes the Solomonic platform’s northern enclosure wall.  Third, slightly north of his proposed northeast corner, Ritmeyer observed a change in masonry, marked by an actual offset, in the eastern wall – and “[hypothesizes] that a defensive tower stood in the area between the northeast corner…and the offset.”  Fourth, “[a] slight bend in the eastern wall,” along a stretch composed of pre-Herodian ashlars, lies 500 cubits south of this hypothesized corner – providing the location of the original Temple Mount’s southeast corner.  Fifth, the resulting square provides an orientation for the Solomonic constructions mentioned in the above paragraph – because the “largely impoverished” Babylonian Jews who built this platform for the Second Temple “did little more than repair the existing [First Temple period] structure” (Ritmeyer 61-73).  Area B consists of the geographic combination of these structures, excluding the site of the Temple itself.


Next, in area A, the Davidic altar was replaced by the Solomonic Temple, which “remained almost intact until 586 B.C.” (Parrot 55).  Ritmeyer locates this First Temple upon es-Sakhra, rather than in the center of the original Temple Mount, citing two literary sources: Josephus describes the Temple as crowning the “top of the mountain,” which corresponds to the “rock formation” of es-Sakhra at the central peak of Mount Moriah.  This is also the only site on the Temple Mount whose four bordering courts would, as described by Middot, “[diminish in dimension] as one proceeds in a counterclockwise direction” around the Temple, beginning in the south.  Middot also specifies the Temple’s foundations as “6 cubits [or 10 feet] high” – and es-Sakhra’s summit protrudes “about 10 feet above the bedrock immediately surrounding it” (Ritmeyer 87-89).  Ritmeyer also bases his reconstruction of the Temple upon a thorough examination of es-Sakhra itself:


The Holy of Holies, the Temple’s westernmost chamber (“34 feet, 6 inches…square”) was smaller than es-Sakhra’s “visible surface” (“approximately 43 feet by 56 feet”) – and thus “at least one of its walls must have been built” upon the rock mass.  On the southern side of the rock are “[two] flat, slightly depressed, rectangular areas,” both “about 3 feet wide;” combined with other nearby planed areas, “they appear to form a foundation trench for a broad wall [over 10 feet thick].”  Because Middot 4.7 describes the Second Temple walls as “10 feet, 4 inches [thick],” Ritmeyer hypothesizes this feature of es-Sakhra to be “the imprint of the southern wall of the Holy of Holies.”  Es-Sakhra’s western scarp largely runs in a “north-south line” skewed “approximately 3.5 degrees east” – parallel to both the “telltale step” and the Temple Mount’s eastern wall.  Ritmeyer therefore draws the western wall of the Holy of Holies along this scarp, beginning at the point of its intersection with the southern wall.  Finally, between this wall and es-Sakhra’s northern scarp, Ritmeyer discovers a distance of “34 feet, 5 inches,” which translates into “exactly 20 cubits, the Biblically prescribed measurement of each side of the Holy of Holies,” whose northern wall he thus locates along this edge. 


Perfectly centered in the resulting square chamber (whose eastern side was marked by a movable divider within both Temples) is “a rectangular depression,” approximately “4 feet, 4 inches, by 2 feet, 7 inches.”  It is thus too small and elongated to have been “a column base for a statue,” which in any event, according to pilgrims’ descriptions of Roman statues on the site, would have stood to the side of es-Sakhra.  The indentation does, however, possess the precise “dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant” detailed in Exodus 25:10 – leading Ritmeyer to the “inescapable” deduction that this “unique depression marked the emplacement of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy of Holies” (Ritmeyer 103-109).


Finally, the Solomonic palatial complex was constructed south of the Temple Mount.  This “great complex of buildings” included “the palace (I Kings 7.8), the ‘house of the forest of Lebanon’ (I Kings 7.2-5), the ‘hall of pillars’ (I Kings 7.6), the ‘throne-room’ (I Kings 7.7), where the king would give audiences and administer justice, and, finally, the ‘house of Pharaoh’s daughter’ (I Kings 7.8)….It is very probable that all these buildings were erected concurrently,” because the Bible does not state otherwise (Parrot 17-21).  Based on the biblical description of the “hall of pillars,” Parrot reconstructs the edifice “after the pattern of the bit hilani, common in Hittite culture and North Syria,” and adjoins the complex to the Temple Mount itself, permitting the king to “go directly from his private apartments to [the Temple].”  Such architectural considerations, combined with the presence of the Tyropoeon Valley to the west, result in Parrot’s blueprint of a royal complex whose western extremity does not protrude beyond the Temple Mount (18-21).  Accordingly, such Solomonic palatial and governmental structures as were built in what later became today’s Temple Mount, were located in areas C, D, and E.  The complex developed around the Temple Mount apparently altered the features of sub-area F2, which was enclosed by the wall of B2.


The Babylonian Destruction


            Although the tribes of Israel seceded from Solomon’s kingdom after his death, Jerusalem remained the capital of an independent Judah.  By 602 BCE, however, that nation “had become a vassal state within the Babylonian empire” (Kollek 68), against which the Jews made two futile revolts.  The first ended in March 597 BCE, when Babylon merely exiled Jerusalem’s political leadership and plundered its “temple treasures.”  Yet the true alteration in Temple Mount architecture occurred in 586 BCE, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar after a second rebellion – and besides razing the rest of the city, the invading army burned the Temple down to its “foundation stone” (Kotker 62-64).  “The Temple of Solomon was no more” (Parrot 60).


            Thus ended the First Temple period.  The 956-586 BCE Solomonic Temple, when temporally merged with the 960-956 BCE Davidic altar, translates into Jewish possession of area A for 374 out of 2187 years, amounting to a 17.10 percent ownership share.  Like the First Temple, Solomon’s Temple Mount and royal complex lasted for 370 years – but because no buildings are known to have existed on areas B, C, D, E, and F2 prior to Solomon, this length of time must be divided by 2143, rather than 2187, years (the difference is that between 1000 and 956 BCE) – amounting to a 17.27 percent Jewish ownership of these sites. 


The Second Temple


            In 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia took Babylon, and “the whole of the Near East experienced a real deliverance.”  Among other measures indicative of his tolerant administration, Cyrus permitted Jews to return to their homeland in the following year.  The exodus – which many prospering Babylonian Jews forewent – began in 537 BCE (Parrot 68-69), and the first sizeable group of exiles returned in 536 BCE (Levine 4).


Although it is unclear “what the exiles did…after their return to Palestine,” it appears that they immediately rebuilt the Temple altar “so that they could offer sacrifices to Yahweh,” and concomitantly removed, or at least neatened, the rubble obscuring the Temple Mount, as recounted by the biblical Books of Ezra and Haggai (Parrot 70).  The architecture upon the Temple Mount thus underwent significant restoration, in the process reinstating Jewish ownership over areas A and B1, and likely also sites C, D, and E, and probably F2 – which lay between the City of David and Mount Moriah, and thus had to be made passable for Jerusalemites to reach the site of the former Temple.  This therefore occurred before the austere Second Temple, which in all likelihood “followed the plan of Solomon’s sanctuary,” was built from 520 to 515 BCE (Parrot 70-71).  Jerusalem’s city walls – and thus sub-area B2 – were rebuilt under Nehemiah, in about 440 BCE (Kollek 74-76).


On the basis of Nebuchadnezzar’s responsibility for the 50-year-old ruins which previously marked the Babylonian conquest of the Temple Mount, his descendants can lay a claim to a 2.24 percent share of area A, a 2.29 percent stake in areas B1, C, D, E, and F2, and a 6.81 percent ownership of sub-area B2.


Hellenistic Alterations


            Alexander took Judea from Persia in 332 BCE; after the political chaos following his death, it had been incorporated into Ptolemaic Egypt by 301 BCE.  Although the Ptolemies fought five wars with the Seleucids to the north over the region, “[most] of the hostilities occurred along the coast,” and it is unknown whether “Jerusalem suffered any ravages during this period,” which therefore may be safely considered “a relatively quiet one for the city” (Levine 46-51).


            In 198 BCE, the city finally fell to Antiochus III, who inaugurated Seleucid rule over Jerusalem with “a proclamation guaranteeing the city and its leadership certain rights and privileges.”  These included a subsidy for repairs to the Temple, which was apparently damaged “in the last war” – although “responsibility for the restoration and enhancement of the Temple building and its surrounding area appears to have fallen on the Jews” (Levine 65-68).  Therefore Temple Mount architecture in the Hellenistic period represented a continuation of the post-536 BCE Jewish constructions on the platform.  Indeed, “the first large-scale architectural additions attested in Jerusalem since the time of Nehemiah,” including a similar refortification of the Temple Mount, occurred only several decades earlier, “overseen by the high priest Simon” (Berlin 16).


            Hellenism did, however, witness a rupture in this pattern of solely Jewish construction atop Temple Mount edifices that were already attributable to Judaism.  In 169 BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes took advantage of internal Jewish clashes over the role of Hellenistic culture, “restoring order” by his move to “enter the Temple, plunder it, and carry off its holy and precious vessels and treasures” (Kollek 85).


The following year, when Antiochus IV became “enraged by [a] humiliating retreat from Egypt” (Levine 75), “the Temple was desecrated, a statue of Antiochus was placed in its court, and the Jewish rites [were] brought to a halt” (Ben-Dov 61).  This state of partial destruction and partial profanation – which therefore significantly altered the main edifices of areas A and B – lasted until 164 BCE, when the Maccabean revolt captured the Temple Mount, made the necessary architectural restorations, and rededicated the Temple (Kollek 87).  Indicating the extent of these alterations, Parrot states that “[the] pagan altar was destroyed, and the former altar of burnt offerings, which had been defiled, was also demolished” (74). 


Returning to 168 BCE, Antiochus tried to ensure control over Jerusalem by erecting in it a citadel with the dual function of defending the city and lodging “both soldiers and Hellenizers who supported continued Seleucid rule” (Levine 75).  There has been considerable debate over the location of this citadel, which is “known by its Greek name, the Akra” (Berlin 18).  Ritmeyer combines Josephus’ description of the fortress with Charles Warren’s nineteenth century description of the subterranean structures underlying the Temple Mount (59), and places the Akra “at the center of the southern wall of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount,” or area C:


First, Josephus locates the Akra “in the Lower City,” referring to the City of David south of the Temple Mount, where it “adjoined to and overlooked the Temple” (Ritmeyer 74).  Although Mount Moriah slopes so steeply downward in the direction of the Lower City that “[the] Akra would have had to be a skyscraper by modern standards for it to overlook the Temple area if it were located in the much lower City of David” (Levine 76), Ritmeyer observes that Josephus also claims that the Akra “adjoined to” and had “a direct entrance…to the Temple Mount,” placing it in the vicinity of areas C, D, and E, whose bedrock lies “only 20 feet [lower]” than “the Temple Mount courts.”  Next, area C is the site of an “E”-shaped “cistern without a name,” which Ritmeyer associates with “the cistern of Akra” mentioned in the Mishnah, whose location is unknown – “a name without a cistern.”  Additionally, this cistern “is adjacent to [Ritmeyer’s] proposed southern line of the square Temple Mount” (74-76).  Finally, area C is “relatively flat,” perhaps evidencing “the result of Simon Maccabee’s work,” when he captured, demolished, and flattened the Akra’s base in 141 BCE, so as to preclude any other fortress from keeping the Temple under foreign surveillance.


This last conquest likely reinstated Jewish ownership not merely in area C, but in D and E as well – Ritmeyer hypothesizes that the Maccabees “extended the platform along the southern end of the Temple Mount,” both “building atop the dismantled Akra,” and encompassing all of area D.  Under its northern extremity lies a cistern built after the Akra (Ritmeyer 66, 84); where its southern side intersects the current eastern wall of the Temple Mount, a “seam” is visible, “a straight vertical line thirty-two meters north of the southeastern corner [of the Temple Mount].  From the seam south, the masonry is of Herodian date,” but to the north is “a different, and earlier, technique…thought by many to be Hellenistic in date” (Berlin 16).


The Hasmonean period thus marked the end of the Seleucid control over the Temple Mount, which in turn had interrupted the 368-year-old Jewish presence there, dating back to 536 BCE.  Thus by 168 BCE, the Jews had earned another 16.83 percent ownership of area A and 17.17 percent share of areas C, D, E, and sub-areas B1 and F2, and a 12.69 percent stake in sub-area B2.  The Seleucids had acquired a 0.18 percent stake in area A, a 0.19 percent share in area B, and 1.26 percent ownership in areas C, D, E, and sub-area F2 (the Akra and its environs).  Although Hasmonean independence ended after Pompey took Jerusalem in 63 BCE, Jewish ownership of the Temple Mount was not disrupted again – although that Roman general “entered the Temple” and “[slaughtered the] priests who were offering sacrifices,” he refrained from plundering the site, “out of respect for the religion of the defeated people” (Parrot 75).


Herod, Rome, and Byzantium


            In 20 BCE, Herod the Great began “his reconstruction of the Temple.”  Although it was completely finished “only a few years before [70 CE],” the Temple itself took only a year and a half to rebuild, while “[the] cloisters and outer enclosures took another eight years” (Kollek 99).  This expanded platform enjoyed “unparalleled majesty” and was “the largest site of its kind in the ancient world,” but this very vastness greatly simplifies the task at hand.  It is unnecessary to inquire what parts of the Temple Mount were encompassed by the Herodian esplanade, for the latter is  indeed, it literally defines – the former, in its present-day incarnation.  The Temple Mount, which until then combined the Solomonic and Hasmonean sites, was expanded to the north, west, and south, forming a trapezoid with walls measuring 485 meters in the west, 315 meters in the north, 460 meters in the east, and 280 meters in the south.  Because Herod, at the very least, “adopted the Jewish faith” (Duncan 16), Judaism is awarded the ownership percentages accrued by his constructions in all areas of the Temple Mount up to 70 CE.  In that year, the Roman general Titus razed the Temple Mount, stomping out the last throes of the First Jewish Rebellion and ending the first period of Jewish ownership of all parts of the Herodian esplanade (Kollek 135).  Judaism had acquired another 10.70 percent share in area A, 10.92 percent of area B, 9.85 percent of areas C, D, E, and sub-area F2, and the first 7.46 percent ownership of sub-area F1.  Further percentages of ownership of Temple Mount areas and sub-areas may be found in Appendix A; the site switched hands rather frequently over the next millennium.


In 130 CE, Jews “improvised an altar at the site of the [Temple],” and the Bar Kokhba revolt began in 132, although the Roman emperor Hadrian conquered, decimated, and rebuilt the city as a pagan colony named Aelia Capitolina in 135.  The “Capitoline Jupiter, the city’s new divine patron,” “was honored at a shrine built on the site of the temple of Solomon.  Also honored there was Hadrian, whose statue [was] placed” in the area of the Holy of Holies (Kotker 122-123), although this temple was eventually “overturned by Christians” (Kotker 146).  When did this occur?  Bahat, in dating the destruction of a similar Roman temple upon the site of today’s Holy Sepulchre Church, states that it was “razed to the ground by Constantine,” although it may have been “already in ruins – destroyed by zealous Christians” before he rose to power (Bahat 32).  Here, then, the Christian destruction of the Hadrianic temple is hypothesized to have occurred around 324 CE, the year that Constantine, the Roman emperor who legalized Christianity, took control of the empire’s eastern half, including Palestine (Ben-Dov 207).


In 333 CE, an anonymous “pilgrim from Bordeaux” visited Jerusalem, and although he describes “both the ruins of the Temple Mount and the two statues of Hadrian that were still standing [upon it],” he “makes no mention whatever of building activity in the vicinity of the Temple Mount.”  Indeed, “[claims] that churches had been built there [are groundless],” because “keeping the Temple Mount in its destroyed state was a salient tenet of the Christian world view” (Ben-Dov 210). 


The Roman emperor Julian “regarded the Jews as allies in his policy of stripping Christianity of its official and preferred status,” and “even urged them to [return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple] quickly” although at the end of his two-year reign in 363 CE (Ben-Dov 218), “the project, which had not advanced very far, was abandoned” (Parrot 102). Ben-Dov finds archaeological confirmation of this renewed Jewish presence on the Temple Mount in a fourth-century “decorated oil lamp” portraying “a seven-branched candelabrum—the characteristic symbol of the Jews of Palestine during that era,” at the southwest of that esplanade.  He also located a Hebrew inscription which likely dates to that period, along the western wall of the Temple Mount.  Jewish construction efforts therefore returned the entire platform to their ownership during these two years (Ben-Dov 218-219).


Even in Byzantine times, the Temple Mount was “emphatically not touched by the [Justinian] building boom,” and “still lay desolate.  Even the remains of Hadrian’s time…were slowly vanishing” (Ben-Dov 225).  Kotker states that “Christians had never contemplated building [upon the Temple Mount],” which “was covered with filth…as a special token of contempt for the Jewish religion” (146-147).  Persia, “aided by the Jews of Galilee,” captured Jerusalem in 614 CE.  Yet despite “the Jewish hope that Jerusalem would now be turned over to them,” Persia entrusted “local authority…to the priest Modestus,” and the Byzantines retook the city fourteen years later (Kollek 152).


Early Islamic Construction


The Islamic caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in 638, and “built a relatively small mosque at the southern part of the [Temple Mount],” which was “probably constructed of wood and bricks,” and possibly was “large enough to accommodate about three thousand people.”  Because the Bishop Arculfus in 670 reported that this mosque “of boards and large beams” was situated “on the remains of some ruins” (Duncan 24), and Ben-Dov describes this mosque as “the earliest incarnation of [al-Aksa],” it appears that the Muslim conquers initially built only in the southern areas C, D, and E, while not disturbing the ruins covering the remainder of the Temple Mount. 


The Dome of the Rock was erected only in 691, under the Umayyad caliph Abd el-Malik.  It is located in area A, upon a trapezoidal platform that extends into sub-area B1, which was likely cleared to make way for this commemoration of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven.


The al-Aksa mosque “was built as a stone structure by his son and heir, al-Walid (705-715)” (Ben-Dov 280).  Mukaddasi, a tenth century Muslim historian, describes these two buildings as centerpieces of an esplanade completely covered with Islamic architecture (Kollek 173).  Accordingly, the Muslims are awarded ownership of areas C, D, and E (the vicinity of al-Aksa’s predecessor) beginning in 638, area A and sub-area B1 in 691, and the remaining areas in 710 (the middle of al-Walid’s reign, and therefore likely a time at which the Muslim renovations throughout the platform were underway, if not already completed).


Crusader Alterations


After “the Crusader host” took Jerusalem in 1099, the Christian order of the Templars “took over the Temple Mount and for the first time in Jerusalem’s history turned it into a center of Christian activity.”  This new layout imposed upon the Temple Mount lasted until 1187, when the Muslims conquered the city (Ben-Dov 343-344).  The Dome of the Rock became “a Christian church, known as Templum Domini,” which was redecorated with Christian themes,” and topped with “a gold cross.”  The al-Aksa mosque became the headquarters of the Templars, “who built additional wings” (Kollek 156-161).  The “array of buildings” surrounding these sites “housed the members of the order” (Ben-Dov 344).  For nearly a century, then, the Crusaders ruled and significantly altered architectural features throughout Temple Mount, warranting an 88-year-share in all areas of the platform.




            The model of awarding ownership shares of Temple Mount sites as a percentage of the time that a religion or other group’s architectural innovation persisted in an area, out of the 2187 years investigated here, yields fairly consistent results.  According to this model, the party with the plurality ownership percentage in area A, the heart of the esplanade, is Judaism, whose share in the site is some 44.87 percent.  Christianity is next, with a 24.83 percent stake, and Islam follows with an 18.66 percent share.  All other areas and sub-areas show a similar division among these three religions, except for sub-area F1, in which Christianity holds a plurality of ownership with some 46.56 percent; Islam has a 32.23 percent share, and Judaism holds an 8.04 percent stake.


These differing ownership percentages easily can be translated into a political settlement by establishing joint sovereignty over the Temple Mount.  Each contested site – or the Temple Mount as a whole – could be placed under the control of a council with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim delegates drawn in the same proportions as are reflected in that site’s archaeological background.  Alternatively, authority over each site could be rotated among representatives of these religions, in accordance with those same proportions.  Finally, the archaeological – and objective – ownership percentages established above need not dictate the terms of a political settlement – but they can be utilized to make a compelling case for sharing the Temple Mount.


A potential focus for future research is the interplay between religion and ethnicity.  The religions mentioned above exclude the pagan Jebusites, Babylonians, Seleucids, and pre-Constantinian Romans, encompassing nations and ethnicities that may have embraced one or more of the monotheistic faiths.  The descendants of the Babylonians, for example, may today practice Islam, while the same relation may exist between the Jebusites and Judaism – or even, further complicating matters, between ancient Jews and Christianity, or early Christians and Islam.




Appendix A


Diagram of the Modern Temple Mount, Divided into Areas A, B, C, D, E, and F



Appendix B (link)


Accrued Ownership Percentages of Temple Mount Areas and Sub-areas





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(c) 2008 Jacob Jaffe