One of the mysteries of Biblical archaeology has been the fate of the treasures from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which the Roman Legions commanded by Titus looted when they sacked and destroyed the Temple in 70 A.C.E. It is known that Titus brought the Temple artifacts to Rome, because some of them, including the golden seven-branched menorah, are shown on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which depicts the triumphal procession of Titus upon his return from the conquest of Judea. (See photo at upper left.) Many have speculated that the Temple treasures may reside in the museums of the Vatican.
Now, as reported here by Israel National News, a British historian claims to have traced the artifacts to their present hiding place. In a newly published book, British historian Sean Kingsley, basing himself on untapped historical texts and new archaeological sources, argues that the treasures were removed from Rome after the Vandal invasion of 455 CE. From there they were succesively transported to North Africa and Constantinople, before an Eastern Orthodox Patriarch, Modestus, spirited away the treasures to their final hiding place in the Judean Desert in 614. The Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Theodosius, where Kingsley believes the relics may be today, was founded in 476, and lies some 12 kilometers east of Bethlehem.
If Mr. Kingsley is correct, the publication of his book may expose the hidden Temple artifacts to grave danger. St. Theodosius lies within the areas governed by the Palestinian Authority, ruled by the radical Islamic party Hamas. Palestinians have shown little regard for the protection of Jewish historic sites within their jurisdicition. On the Temple Mount itself, the Moslem Waqf (its ruling authority) has been conducting excavations and renovations with blatant disregard for Jewish antiquities, from the time of the Temple, that the work has unearthed. Archaeologists combing truckloads of debris dumped from the construction have found a number of artifacts, but the scholarly significance of those discoveries has been greatly compromised by the loss of context.
Many suspect that the Moslem Waqf is deliberately destroying all evidence it finds of the Temple's existence on the Temple Mount, a throughly documented historical fact which Palestinians nonetheless deny, because it proves the historicity of Jewish ties to the Land of Israel. Even if the destruction is not deliberate, it represents a blatant and ongoing violation of Israeli law regarding construction excavation of archaeologically significant sites, but successive spineless Israeli governments have done nothing to confront the Waqf.
If Hamas or other Muslim fanatics locate the hidden Temple artifacts first, who can say what will become of them?