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Archaeologists: Israeli Copper Mines Are from King Solomon Era

Carbon dating shows the site of Timna copper mines in Southern Israel was active during the 10th century BCE

By: Graham Sigurdson
Published: September 9th, 2013 in News » Israel
The Timna Valley copper mines

Times of Israel reports that a series of new findings in the Timna copper mines in southern Israel have supported the biblical narrative that the mines were active during the reign of King Solomon.

The findings are based on the radiocarbon dating of new materials - including date and olive pits - found at a new site in Timna Valley. The findings were released last week by a team led by Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and have overturned a long held consensus in the archaeological community regarding the mines.

A 13th century BCE Egyptian temple was found in the area in 1969, leading many archaeologists to believe that the site had been built and operated by ancient Egyptians. Prior to that discovery, the area was known as "King Solomon’s Mines," based on archaeologist Nelson Glueck’s findings of pottery shards from the 10th Century BCE, and his pronouncing that the area had been in use during the times of the ancient Israelite kingdom.

Last week's discovery suggests that the mines were worked by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederation that, according to the bible, constantly warred with Israel.

"The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon," Ben-Yosef said in a statement. "They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise." Timna Valley - now a national park - according to the statement, was a copper production district with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites. The excavation that lead to this conclusion took place at the heretofore untouched site known as Slaves’ Hill.

Pieces of furnaces, clothing, fabrics, rope, and a number of food remnants were found at the site. 11 olive and date pits found at the site were sent to Oxford, where they were dated to the 10th century BCE, the time which, according to the bible, Solomon ruled Israel.

In the statement, Ben-Yosef said he and his team’s discovery confirm the findings of previous digs in the area, namely a 2009 excavation. Ben-Yosef said that the Slaves’ Hill dig has shown that the society that inhabited Timna Valley was surprisingly complex. The smelting technology was (for the time) relatively advanced, and the camp's layout suggests a high level of social organization. Immense cooperation would have been required for thousands of people to operate mines in the middle of the desert.

"In Timna Valley, we unearthed a society with undoubtedly significant development, organization, and power," said Ben-Yosef, "and yet because the people were living in tents, they would have been transparent to us as archaeologists if they had been engaged in an industry other than mining and smelting, which is very visible archaeologically."

Related articles: Israel News, Archaeology News, Archaeologist, King Solomon, Copper Mines, Tel Aviv University
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