The sifting project began in response to illegal construction and excavations on the Temple Mount (map ref. 222533–88/631503–92) in 1996–2001. These operations led to the removal of some 400 trucks-worth of soil and its deposition in the Qidron Valley (map ref. 222730–4/632220–341) and at other sites. The sifting project collected most of the soil from these sites and transported it to the Zurim Valley National Park, where it was stored for sifting.
The project was prompted by the fact that despite the Temple Mount’s central place in the history of Jerusalem and the region, no systematic excavations has even taken place in it. By sifting the soil that was removed from it, important information can be gleaned about the Temple Mount’s material culture through the ages. The operation is managed as a tourist and educational program.
To date, three preliminary reports have been published, offering reviews of the sifting project and brief discussions of selected finds (Barkay and Zweig 2005; Barkay and Zweig 2007; Barkay and Dvira 2012; Barkay and Dvira 2016). Additional preliminary reports of studies of  various finds have also been published (Elkayam et al. 2015; Snyder, Barkay and Dvira 2016; Greener, Barkay and Dvira 2017; Snyder, Barkay and Dvira 2019). Notably, the number of finds produced by the sifting project is huge, due to which the ongoing task of sorting, identifying, dating, researching and publishing them will continue to carry on for a long time.
In 2018, a pilot project was launched to distribute the sifting to communities throughout the country. Two experiments were conducted at schools in Peta Tiqwa and Teqoʻa. The soil was transported in giant bags to the schoolyards, where a mobile sifting facility and water pipes were installed. Altogether, 550 buckets of soil were sifted in the course of five days. However, the project was discontinued due to high running costs. In June 2019, sifting was resumed at the Mipe Ha-Masu’ot complex at Mount Scopus after a new sifting facility was established. It proceeds in the same format as that previously used at Zurim Valley.
In 2018–2019, the sifting produced finds similar to those found in previous years. They are described below.
(1) Pottery dating from the First Temple period to the present; very little of the pottery (less than 0.5 %) predates the Iron Age.
(2) Coins dating from the fourth century BCE—YHD coins—to the present.
(3) Numerous Byzantine-period tesserae.
(4) Fragments and tesserae of glass mosaics, some gilded, originating from the Dome of the Rock’s outer walls. They were installed at the beginning of the Early Islamic period and removed in the sixteenth century CE to be replaced with glazed wall tiles.
(5) Glazed wall tiles from renovations carried out on the Dome of the Rock’s outer walls since the seventeenth-century CE. Kiln debris from the wall-tile production was also found.
(6) Jewelry: glass rings, glass bracelets, metal rings and beads.
(7) Arrowheads, mostly of the Crusader period, and modern weapons and ammunition.
(8) Inlays of various materials and periods, including mother-of-pearl inlays that were incorporated in the Dome of the Rock’s wall mosaics.
(9) Weights dating from the First Temple period to the British Mandate.
(10) Multiple stoneware items, including many attributed to the late Second Temple period stoneware industry.
(11) Opus sectile floor-tile fragments from the Early Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Crusader periods.
(12) Iron Age figurine fragments.
(13) Nails, including bronze nails, Crusader horseshoe nails and Roman sandal nails (caliga nails).
(14) Bone-industry production debris.
(15) Glass vessel fragments.
To date, approximately three-quarters of the evacuated soil was sifted, and we estimate that five more years are needed to complete the sifting. This does not include, however, large mounds of dirt in the eastern part of the Temple Mount that have not yet been removed due to a 2004 Supreme Court ruling. The finds produced by sifting are numerous and diverse; for the past seven years, we have been working to process and publish them.