KKL-JNF's Timna Park, Older than you thought

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 2:00 PM

Timna Park, which was developed with the assistance of friends of KKL-JNF from the United States and Germany, is one of the most breathtaking natural and historical sites in the Negev.

There is Proof: Timna Mines from Era of King Solomon
03.09.2013, Ynet
Ziv Reinstein

A delegation of archeologists from Tel Aviv University has disproved the fifty year old scientific consensus that dated the Timna copper mines to the kingdom of Egypt. New investigations and findings have proven that activity there reached its peak in the 10th century BCE, meaning in the days of the united kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon.

Timna Park by night. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

Have the facts been overturned? It seems so. New discoveries at the copper mines in Timna Park in the southern Arava, which for decades were dated from the era of the pharaohs in the 12th century BCE, have conclusively proven that the main activity at the site occurred in the 10th century, when King Solomon reigned in the region.

A delegation from Tel Aviv University led by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, has disproved the almost fifty-year-old scientific consensus, which attributed King Solomon’s Mines to the kingdom of Egypt. Carbon fourteen dating of new findings unearthed in the Timna Valley by the delegation has proven that activity in the copper mines peaked in the 10th century BCE, meaning in the days of the united kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon. The delegation of Dr. Ben-Yosef has thus restored the glory of the kingdom and returned the King Solomon Mines back to King Solomon.

In a conversation with Ynet, Dr. Ben-Yosef said that “the peak activity in Timna occurred between 1050 and 930 BCE, and the sculptures at the entrance to the park (ancient Egyptian sculptures—Z.R.) must therefore be replaced, because excavations tell us that the locals who mined there were from the Idumean kingdom."

According to Ben-Yosef, those Idumeans were subjects of the kingdom of Israel, and it was they who transferred levies north to the capital of the kingdom. “In Samuel II it is written that David conquered Idumea and installed commissioners there,” explained Ben-Yosef, “meaning that the Idumeans continued to live there, and the commissioners saw to it that the levies were transferred north, if the biblical narratives are true.”

Seeds, bones and science
Until the 1960s all of Timna was called King Solomon’s Mines, as determined by the legendary archeologist Nelson Glueck in the 1930s. Glueck, who excavated the region and also the city of Ayala, which is today’s Eilat, dated the site to the 10th century BCE, which was perceived as mistaken when the temple of the Egyptian goddess Hathor was discovered there by the late Beno Rothenberg.

“Rothenberg was an excellent archeologist, but he did not possess the carbon fourteen technology for dating findings,” says Ben-Yosef, “so he automatically attributed all the other sites and activity in Timna to the new kingdom of Egypt, from the late 14th century BCE to the first half of the 12th century BCE. Our new findings date the great copper industry, with the hundreds of furnaces and the thousands of mines, to the days of King David and King Solomon in the 10th century BCE.”

The new results are based on carbon fourteen dating of eleven half-life examples—ten date pits and one olive pit—from among many hundreds of seeds and bones that were unearthed at the Slave Hill site.

The hill, which is located in the center of the valley and next to the Hathor temple and the Solomon Pillars, was first investigated by Glueck, who called the site the Slave Hill, based on his assumption that the wall encompassing the hill was meant to imprison the slaves engaged in the hard labor.

“We did not find any pottery from Jerusalem.”

After the discovery of the Hathor temple, the Arava delegation led by Beno Rothenberg dated the Slave Hill to the days of the new kingdom of Egypt, but did not excavate at the site itself. So it was, that the Slave Hill remained as a stone unturned until the new Tel Aviv University excavations, which began in 2012.

The eleven seeds unearthed from the Slave Hill were sent to the radiometric dating laboratory at Oxford University, where it was determined that the main activity at the site occurred in the 10th century BCE, without any evidence of activity in the days of the new kingdom of Egypt.

This discovery is in addition to the earlier discovery of Ben-Yosef and his team, who showed that Site 30, one of the larger copper smelting camps in the Timna Valley, was not inhabited before the late 12th century BCE, and that the peak of activity in the camp was in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, especially in the decades coinciding with the united kingdom of Jerusalem.

“Of course, there is no evidence that David or Solomon were ever at the site,” explains Dr. Ben-Yosef. “Neither did we find any pottery from Jerusalem at the site, which is also okay, for even if the biblical narrative is taken literally, the Israelis are not those who were operating the mines.

“In this case, the biblical narrative concurs with the material culture discovered on the Slave Hill, a culture that indicates a local society, apparently an ancient corps from the Idumean kingdom, which was subjugated by Jerusalem after the conquests of King David. My estimation is that a military guard was stationed there by Jerusalem, which supervised, defended and taxed the Idumeans.”

The aim of the Pharaohs: to turn Egypt into a preferred commercial destination
Most of the Timna Valley sites stopped operating towards the end of the 10th century BCE, meaning during the military tour  of King Shishak I of Egypt (925 BCE), who is identified as the biblical Pharaoh Shishak.

“Five years after the demise of Solomon, Shishak reached Jerusalem and taxed it, and suddenly we see a dramatic change in King Solomon’s Mines,” says Ben-Yosef. “At a time when many sites are abandoned, those that continued working started using new advanced technology, which was much more efficient. “It does seem, then, that the pharaohs did not wish to destroy the copper production in the Arava but, on the contrary, to take better advantage of the local quarries and turn Egypt into a preferred commercial destination.”