Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Solomon's mines at Timna

ARCHAEOLOGY: Preserved fortification, donkey stables dating to King Solomon discovered at TAU's Timna Valley excavations (Tel Aviv University/PhysOrg).
Some believe that the fabled mines of King Solomon were located among copper smelting camps in Israel's Timna Valley. The arid conditions at Timna have seen the astonishing preservation of 3,000-year-old organic materials, which have provided Tel Aviv University archaeologists with a unique window into the culture and practices of a sophisticated ancient society.

An advanced military fortification—a well-defined gatehouse complex—unearthed recently at Timna, including donkey stables, points to the community's highly-organized defense system and significant dependence on long-distance trade. The research was recently published in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The fortification dates to the reigns of Kings David and Solomon in the 10th century BCE.


In the remarkably intact two-room fortification, located in one of the largest smelting camps in the Timna Valley, the researchers also found evidence of a complex long-distance trade system that probably included the northern Edomite plateau, the Mediterranean coastal plain and Judea. The complex featured pens for draught animals and other livestock. According to precise pollen, seed, and fauna analyses, they were fed with hay and grape pomace—high-quality sustenance that must have been delivered from the Mediterranean region hundreds of miles away.

"The gatehouse fortification was apparently a prominent landmark," says Dr. Ben-Yosef. "It had a cultic or symbolic function in addition to its defensive and administrative roles. The gatehouse was built of sturdy stone to defend against invasion. We found animal bones and dung piles so intact, we could analyze the food the animals were fed with precision. The food suggests special treatment and care, in accordance with the key role of the donkeys in the copper production and in trade in a logistically challenging region."

I'm keeping a special eye on the Timna excavation, because of the abundant organic remains that have been found there. The arid climate seems ideal for their preservation and the discoveries have included textiles from the 10th century BCE. If there is any place where Solomonic-era scrolls or papyri might have survived, it is Timna. Let's hope that we get lucky and some turn up.