By Bower, Bruce
Science News , Vol. 174, No. 11
New finds among the remnants of a settlement in southern Jordan show that a copper-producing society existed there 3,000 years ago, about 300 years earlier than many archaeologists had assumed, according to an international research team. The site's revised age raises the controversial possibility that, in line with Old Testament accounts, Israel's King David and his son Solomon controlled copper production in southern Jordan, says team leader and archaeologist Thomas Levy of the University of California, San Diego.
A long-disputed claim that King Solomon's copper mines were located near the site must now be taken seriously, the investigators report in the Oct. 28 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"We have conclusively shown that industrial-scale copper production occurred at this site in the 10th and ninth centuries B.C., which resonates with Old Testament descriptions of vibrant, complex societies in the same area at that time," Levy says.
Since 2002, Levy and his colleagues have excavated an ancient copper-producing site called Khirbat en-Nahas, which means "ruins of copper" in Arabic. The site lies in a lowland, arid region south of the Dead Sea. Biblical writings identify this area as Edom, home to a kingdom that barred Moses during the Exodus and warred with King David. David and Solomon may have exerted political control over the area.
In 2006, the researchers excavated down to virgin soil, slicing through more than six meters of smelting debris, or slag. Special software used 20 new radiocarbon dates and other evidence to generate a chronology of the site.
"In calling for a new dialog between scientific dating techniques and historical sources, especially the Bible, these new results support the possibility that Solomon's mines in the region near the Dead Sea may be dated to the 10th or ninth centuries B. …