Israel: Expert discusses 1964 discovery in Timna Valley
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The region that encompasses Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt is rich in ancient history. Much of Israel’s deserts have offered archaeologists scores of artefacts from hundreds, as well as thousands, of years ago. Perhaps the most famous discovery came when shepherds happened upon a series of manuscripts in jars in Qumran in the mid-20th century.
Later called the Dead Sea Scrolls, the parchments contained literature dated as early as the eighth century BCE.
Further south, deep in the Israeli desert, lies the Timna Valley.
Archaeologists began excavating the ancient site in 1964.
Since then, researchers have discovered a network of mines, believed to have been worked by slaves under King Solomon, explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s, ‘Secrets: King Solomon’s Mines’.
The documentary’s narrator noted that archaeologists “might have discovered” the source of his legendary wealth.
Professor Erez Ben-Yosef, from Tel Aviv University, has determined that production at the site was booming at the time of Solomon’s rule 3,000 years ago.
The mines, however, are filled not with gold or silver, but copper.
Evidence is scattered all across the site for mass copper production.
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Handling a piece of black rock, Prof Ben-Yosef said: “All of the black material is slag, it’s waste from the furnaces.
“This is very important evidence for the ancient copper production in Timna.”
While copper is today a common commodity, in ancient times, it was one of the most sought after metals on Earth.
Prof Ben-Yosef continued: “Copper, at this particular time in history, was the most important economic resource.
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“This was the most lucrative industry.”
Dr Mohammad Najjar, from Friends of Archaeology of Jordan, explained that the metal back then is akin to crude oil today.
He said: “Because you cannot do without oil, and at that time you couldn’t do without copper.”
Copper was at the heart of a radical turning point in human history.
For the first time, people were extracting metals from rock and turning them into tools and weapons.
Dr Najjar described the moment as a “quantum leap” as humans started to produce their own materials.
He has studied ancient copper processes, and showed the documentary how Solomon’s men would have worked the natural copper found in the caves.
Through a process called smelting, once mined, the metal was separated from its natural ore in the rock.
The ore had to be heated to 2,000 F°, and in order to achieve such a temperature, the worker had to continuously blow on the flames through a pipe.
It would take many hours to get the sought after commodity: copper in its pure form.
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