John on October 28, 2008 at 12:40 am
That may be a bit too dramatic, but this is a significant story:
King Solomon’s mines were made famous by the 19th century novel of the same name by H. Rider Haggard. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have long speculated about whether the legend was founded on real mines, and an American archaeologist named Nelson Glueck claimed in the 1930s to have discovered their site in Faynan, though this was dismissed in the 1980s. The new dig, led by Thomas Levy, of the University of California, San Diego, and Mohammed Najjar, of Jordan’s Friends of Archaeology, suggests that Glueck might have been on to something after all.
In 2006, the team began to dig through more than 20 feet of slag and industrial debris at Khirbat al-Nahas, meaning “ruins of copper” in Arabic. The lowest layers have yielded fresh radiocarbon dating evidence of its age.
Date seeds and sticks of tamarisk and other woods used for charcoal for smelting have produced dates in the 9th and 10th centuries BC, which are consistent with the likely dates of the reigns of David and Solomon, his son. Details of the research are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What remains less certain for now is whether the Khirbat al-Nahas mine was actually controlled by the kingdom of Israel at this time. It lies in a region associated with the biblical kingdom of Edom, which was an enemy of ancient Israel.
Even if the mine was not controlled by the Jewish kings, the fresh date is important to biblical scholarship. It indicates firmly that the kingdom of Edom was sufficiently organised to have been a rival to Israel, a point that has been disputed by some historians.
This discovery was actually reported more than two years ago. I think the significance here is that the research is now appearing in an extremely prestigious journal.
My understanding is that the general argument of scholars critical of the Biblical account is that there was no way an advanced kingdom existed in Israel in the late 9th century. But with the discovery of the abecedary and now the mine evidence, an advanced kingdom in the 9th century sounds likely.
Here’s the abstract of the actual paper.
Category: Archaeology |