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He said that the entire city, whose “structures include an abundance of mosques, churches and synagogues actually covers countless items that I would like to find.” Indeed, Israel’s unique antiquity law precludes construction of buildings without the permission of the government’s Antiquities Authority, “but a lot of structures are illicitly built,” he said, implying that as a result, it is impossible to investigate what may lie beneath them.

Mr. Barkay has been sifting through the rubble collected at a dump outside the city where it was discarded by Palestinian contractors authorized by the Muslim religious commission, known in Arabic as the “Waqf,” to build the subterranean Marwan Mosque near the area known as Solomon’s stables.

His project has been under way for four years and has employed 40,000 volunteers. Most are Israelis, but others have come from the U.S. and abroad. It entails sophisticated techniques developed by Mr. Barkay that enabled his team to find ancient coins, potsherds and other historically significant objects. However, he concedes that many priceless items pertaining to the First Temple period probably have been lost forever.

Mrs. Mazar’s dig is sponsored by the Ir David Foundation in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority, Hebrew University and Shalem Center.