Copper mines that scientists thought belonged to the Egyptians in the 13th century were actually originated three centuries later, during the reign of the legendary King Solomon. The finding was disclosed by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, from the Tel Aviv University’s Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures, who is coordinating an archaeological excavation at the location.
The evidence gathered from the ancient mining sites, in Timna Valley (Aravah Desert), was submitted to the radiocarbon test that showed the age of the pieces found. According to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford, in England, the items found dated to the 10th century BCE, when King Solomon supposedly ruled the Kingdom of Israel.
Also, the investigation and materials found in the area suggest the mines were operated by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederation that battled constantly with Israel, according to the Bible. Dr. Ben-Yosef says that:
The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon. They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise.
Timna Valley is currently a national park. Centuries ago, the place was a copper production district with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites. Until now, researchers thought the place had been explored by the Egyptians. But last February, Dr. Ben-Yosef and his team started excavating a previously untouched site in the valley, the Slaves’ Hill. The area contained the remains of hundreds of furnaces and layers of copper slag, waste created during the smelting process. The furnace was just the beginning of the findings.
The experts collected clothing, fabrics and ropes made using advanced weaving technology. There were also foods, like grapes and pistachios, ceramics and various types of metallurgical installations, the pieces submitted to the radiocarbon test.
The archaeological record shows the mines in Timna Valley were built and operated by a local society, likely the early Edomites. Besides, the lack of architectural remains supports the idea that the locals were a semi-nomadic people who lived in tents. The proof shows that the society established in Timna Valley was surprisingly complex, especially the advanced smelting technology used by the Edomites. According to Ben-Yosef:
In Timna Valley, we unearthed a society with undoubtedly significant development, organization, and power. 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.
Experts believe that if it weren’t for the mining operations established, they never would have discovered evidence of the Edomites’ existence.