Egyptian scarab of hunting scene found 2005
Egyptian scarab of hunting scene found 2005Israel News Photo: (courtesy Thom Levy, UC San Diego)

An international team of archaeologists may have uncovered the copper mines owned and operated by the biblical King Solomon during a dig at Khirbat en-Nahas, an ancient mining and metallurgy district of more than 450 square miles in southern Jordan.


The study, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, is led by Thomas Levy from the University of California at San Diego and Mohammed Najjar of Jordan's Friends of Archaeology. The researchers reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Levy is also collaborating with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan and other organizations to declare the area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Such a move would protect the site from possible mining in the future, as well as preserve "its spectacular desert landscape and rare, ancient character."


According to a report published in the October 28 issue of the prestigious international journal, ScienceDaily ( ), the team excavated through more than 20 feet of slag down to virgin soil at the ancient copper production center.


The findings from the 2006 produced new artifacts, as well as new data that give evidence to the Biblical chapters on the monarchies of King David and his son King Solomon and challenge the timeline of previous data, creating a discrepancy of some 300 years. The area of Khirbat en-Nahas – which means "ruins of copper" in Arabic – is located in what the Bible identified as the Kingdom of Edom, near the southern tip of the Dead Sea. The Edomites were one of the enemies of the People of Israel.


The site, which spans an area of more than 24 acres, is comprised of some 100 ancient buildings, includes a fortress, and it is covered in black slag. Its face, as seen by Google Earth's sensitive satellite photography, is pocked by mines and lined with miners' trails.


The depth of waste at the site, which Levy said equaled more than 20 feet, provided a convenient means by which the team measured social and technological changes in the history of ancient Israel and Edom from 1200 to 500 BCE on the Gregorian calendar.


High-precision radio-carbon dating, carried out by Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford, was used on date seeds, tamarisk sticks and other wood used for charcoal in smelting that was found at the site.


An ancient Egyptian scarab and amulet were also found in a layer of the excavation associated with a disruption in production at the end of the 10th century BCE. The event is thought to have been connected with a military campaign by the Egyptian Pharaoh "Shishak" that took place that followed the death of King Solomon.


Future research is expected to focus on the environmental impact of the ancient smelting, as well obtaining more specific information about the lucrative copper industry in the region.