Temple-area digging irks archaeologists

"It was really rare that we got professors from all sides of the political spectrum out there to demonstrate," said Bar-Ilan University archaeology student Zachi Zweig, who organized the Jan. 6 rally.

As of four weeks ago, the emergency exit to the mosque area, known to Jews as Solomon's Stables, measured 90 feet long by 90 feet wide and 36 feet deep. The hole now measures about 90 feet by 150 feet and in some parts is nearly 45 feet deep, according to Antiquities Authority archaeologist Gideon Avni.

The first signs of the expansion came four weeks ago, when three additional underground arches were exposed. Prime Minister Ehud Barak had given approval last month for the Wakf to create an emergency exit out of two arches.

Jerusalem chief archaeologist Jonathan Seligman said the work being done by Islamic Movement workers, who are overseen by the Wakf, "has violated all professional ethics and there's no reason for it. They could have done a proper excavation first, then published the results, and then built the emergency exit."

Though archaeologists are furious that remains from various periods have been destroyed, they have still been able to come up with artifacts from the First and Second Temple eras, as well as the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Seligman said a stone dating back to the Second Temple had been found.

Adnan Husseini, director-general of the Wakf, did not reply to phone calls.