Evidence of King Solomon's Mines Revealed
An archaeological dig at Timna Valley in Israel’s Aravah Desert has revealed evidence that copper mines in Israel thought to have been built by the ancient Egyptians in the 13th century BCE actually originated three centuries later, during the reign of the legendary King Solomon.
The team of archaeologists led by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University recovered numerous artefacts from the ancient copper production district including the remains of hundreds of furnaces and layers of copper slag, the waste created during the smelting process, as well as a collection of clothing, fabrics, and ropes made using advanced weaving technology; foods, like dates, grapes, and pistachios; ceramics; and various types of metallurgical installations.
Radiocarbon dating of 11 of the items dates the site back to the 10 th century BC, which is when King Solomon ruled the Kingdom of Israel. It overturns previously held beliefs of the last several decades that the mines were built by the ancient Egyptians, based primarily on the discovery of an Egyptian Temple in the center of the valley in 1969.
"The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon," said Dr. Ben-Yosef. "They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise."
Archaeological records and materials found in the area suggest the mines were operated by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribe who were known to have occupied the land and who, according to the Bible, warred constantly with Israel.
The Slaves' Hill dig also demonstrates that the society in Timna Valley was surprisingly complex. The smelting technology was relatively advanced and the layout of the camp reflects a high level of social organization. Impressive cooperation would have been required for thousands of people to operate the mines in the middle of the desert.
Although the society likely possessed a degree of political and military power, archaeologists would probably never have found evidence of its existence if it were not for the mining operation because the nomadic Edomites lived in tents. Ben-Yosef said this calls into question archaeology's traditional assumption that advanced societies usually leave behind architectural ruins