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REWRITING HISTORY: Those mines weren't King Solomon's

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Cold, hard historical truth can be disillusioning, but so be it: Samples from Israel's Timna Valley confirmed the connection between ancient copper mines and the era of the biblical King Solomon. However, these structures have been proven to not have been "King Solomon's mines." Archaeologists now say that these mines are more likely to have been operated by the Edomites, who were among the king's many rivals.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An excavation conducted at a copper smelting site known as "Slaves' Hill" in the Timna Valley, in Israel's Aravah Desert has summoned forth a new, fresh historical perspective. The valley today is part of a national park. In ancient times, the area was a copper production district, dotted with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites.

Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, led by Erez Ben-Yosef, set out to answer just how old those sites were. It was previously believed that the mines dated to around the 13th century B.C., when the Egyptians held sway over the territory. Archaeologists recently used radiocarbon dating to determine that copper mines located nearby, in Jordan's Khirbat en-Nahas region, were actually operated in the 10th century B.C., which is the era when King Solomon is thought to have ruled Israel.

A team of archaeologists which included Ben-Yosef in 2009 found further support for that era at a copper-smelting camp in the Timna Valley known as "Site 30."

An excavation at Slaves' Hill confirmed the connection after Ben-Yosef and his colleagues unearthed the remains of hundreds of furnaces, and layers upon layers of copper slag waste. Clothes, fabrics, ropes, food leavings, ceramics and metallurgical facilities were all uncovered.

Ten date pits and an olive pit were subjected to carbon-dating tests at the University of Oxford, confirming that the camp was in operation during the 10th century B.C.

"The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon," Ben-Yosef said. "They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise."

Ben-Yosef and his colleagues said the mines were probably operated by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederation that numbered among Israel's biblical foes. The Slaves' Hill camp suggest a highly organized society, capable of marshaling the labor of thousands of workers in the middle of the desert, Ben-Yosef said.

"It was a society that mostly lived in tents, but still had impressive military power, since it was necessary to protect the copper mines," Ben-Yosef told newspaper journalists.

King Solomon's underground riches owe more to pulp author H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel than to the Bible or historical accounts. Ben-Yosef said the real-life copper mines were definitely part of the kingdom of Edom. There's still a chance that Solomon exerted some control over the region at times, by virtue of military victories described in the Bible.

Ben-Yosef is planning another dig at Slaves' Hill early next year.



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