updated 4/5/2009 12:50:31 PM ET 2009-04-05T16:50:31

Israeli archaeologists are inspecting the Western Wall stone by stone in a new conservation effort at the Jewish holy site.

The oldest stones were laid 2,000 years ago as part of the retaining wall of the Jewish Temple, and the newest by the Ottomans — who ruled until 1917.

Israeli Antiquities Authority archaeologist Jon Seligman says the work aims to "make sure stones don't fall on people praying below."

On Sunday workers on a platform cleaned stones near the top of the wall, nearly 66 feet high, which is a religious flash point. The authority says work will likely continue for two months.

Jews sanctify the raised area above the wall as the Temple Mount, their holiest site. To Muslims it is the Noble Sanctuary, their third-holiest place.

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