Found: Fresh Clues to Mystery of King Solomon’s Mines
Archaeologists discovered the 3,000-year-old dung in an ancient mining camp atop a sandstone mesa known as Slaves’ Hill. The area is dotted with copper mines and smelting camps—sites where the ore was heated and turned into metal.
Manure preserved for millennia by the arid climate of Israel’s Timna Valley is adding fresh fuel to a long-simmering debate about the biblical king Solomon and the source of his legendary wealth.
“We thought maybe some nomads had camped there with their goats a few decades ago,” Ben-Yosef said, noting that the dung still contained undecayed plant matter. “But the [radiocarbon] dates came back from the lab, and they confirmed we were talking about donkeys and other livestock from the 10th century B.C. It was hard to believe.”University of Tel Aviv archaeologist Erez Ben-Yosef began excavating the site in 2013.
Last year he and his team were uncovering the remains of several walled structures, including a fortified gate, when they discovered what appeared to be animal excrement of relatively recent origin.
While the dung’s extreme age and extraordinary condition were stunning, the implications of the radiocarbon results were even more jarring. “Until we started the project in 2013, this was considered to be a late Bronze Age site related to the New Kingdom of Egypt in the 13th and early 12th centuries B.C.,” Ben-Yosef says. There’s clear evidence of an Egyptian presence during those centuries, and modern-day visitors to nearby Timna Valley Park are greeted by signs depicting ancient Egyptians.
Image source: Wikipedia, Timna Valley, King Solomon’s Pillars.