Tuesday, November 11, 2008

King Solomon's mines?

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I defer to the Hebrew experts, but my understanding is that the Hebrew word often translated "bronze" in the Old Testament could also be translated "copper". As in 2 Chronicles 4:16-17 "The pots, the shovels, the forks, and all the equipment for these Huram-abi made of burnished bronze for King Solomon for the house of the Lord. In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah." Recently a team of archaeologists excavated a giant complex of copper mines in present-day southern Jordan -- an area corresponding to the Biblical kingdom of Edom. It covers 24 acres and is clearly visible in this satellite photo because of the black slag left over from smelting copper.

Of interest to those who believe in the historical reliability of the Old Testament narratives, the mining operation can be dated to the 10th century BC when Solomon would have been building the temple in Jerusalem -- an undertaking that would have required a tremendous amount of copper. Team leader Thomas Levy is quoted in this ScienceDaily story: "Now with data from the first large-scale stratified and systematic excavation of a site in the southern Levant to focus specifically on the role of metallurgy in Edom, we have evidence that complex societies were indeed active in 10th and 9th centuries BCE and that brings us back to the debate about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible narratives related to this period." He goes on to say, "We can't believe everything ancient writings tell us, but this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible."

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