Copper smelting in 10th century B.C. Edom

Several sources are reporting the discovery of copper smelting operations in Jordan dating to the 10th century B.C. This is the time of Solomon. The discovery was made at a site called Khirbat en-Nahas about 30 mile south of the Dead Sea on the eastern side of the Arabah. The photo below is by Thomas Levy, UC San Diego.

Industrial copper slag mound at Khirbat en-Nahas. Photo Thomas Levy.

Industrial copper slag mound at Khirbat en-Nahas. Photo Thomas Levy.

This is the ancient territory of Edom. Scholars have known for 30 or more years that there was metalworking there in the 7th century B.C. Researchers, led by Professor Thomas E. Levy of the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego, and Mohammad Najjar of Jordan’s Friends of Archaeology, dug deeper into the site to find evidence of smelting from the 9th and 10th century.

Naysayers who seem frightened that some modern archaeological discovery might “confirm” the biblical record are already at work. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University is quoted as saying that the stories of the Old Testament “depict the concerns, theology and background of the time of the writers” which he says belong to the 5th century B.C. They cannot be accepted as factual according to Finkelstein.

From his study in Florida, Ferrell Jenkins said,

Instead of immediately linking a discovery such as this to a biblical character or event, would it not be better to think of the discovery in the terms of shedding light on the biblical record?

An Egyptian scarab from Tanis or the eastern delta and an amulet of the Egyptian goddess Mut caused Levy to suggest that these artifacts might be associated with the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq I. Pharaoh Sheshonq I is known as Shishak in the Bible. Here is a summary of the biblical references to Shishak.

  • Provided refuge to Jeroboam for a few years prior to the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11:40).
  • Invaded Israel (Canaan) in the fifth year of King Rehoboam (926 B.C.) and took away treasures from the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:25-26; 2 Chronicles 12:2-9).

Shishak left a record of his invasion of Canaan on the walls of the temple of Amum at Karnak (modern Luxor, Egypt). Here is a photo of the relief at Karnak showing Shishak holding lines to the 156 Canaanite cities he claims to have captured.

Pharaoh Shishak I of Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pharaoh Shishak I of Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible says that Israel would be able to dig copper from the hills of the country to which they were going (Deuteronomy 8:9). See also Job 28:1-2.

We have known for some time that copper was smelted by the Egyptians at Timna, about 25 miles north of Eilat. Here is a photo showing a reconstruction of the process for copper smelting there in the 13-12th century B.C.

Model of copper smelting installation at Timna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of copper smelting installation at Timna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

More details about this discovery may be found at the following sites: UC San Diego News Center. At the Los Angeles Times there is a nice 12 minute video about the discovery narrated by Thomas Levy.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Update [later in the day]: Todd Bolen has added three great photos taken at Khirbat en-Nahas at his Bible Places Blog.

About these ads

5 responses to “Copper smelting in 10th century B.C. Edom

  1. Pingback: King Solomon’s Mines? (not the movie) « A Bible, Truth and Travel Blog

  2. Pingback: Society of Biblical Literature in Boston « Ferrell’s Travel Blog

  3. Pingback: Following current excavations « Ferrell's Travel Blog

  4. I’m not sure Finkelstein places any part of the Bible’s composition in the 5th century. He seems to favor the Hasmonean and Late Monarchic (with a final redaction of Late Monarchic material in the Exilic) periods as the periods when most of the OT was composed. From where did you get the idea that anyone “seem[s] frightened that some modern archaeological discovery might “confirm” the biblical record”?

  5. Pingback: Copper production in the time of Solomon | Ferrell's Travel Blog

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s