Archaeologists unearth ancient copper-smelting site dating to King David

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January 15, 2017 18:23

Findings from 10th century BC may provide evidence of biblical battle in Kingdom of Edom




The Timna excavation site.

The Timna excavation site.. (photo credit:EREZ BEN-YOSEF/TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

A recently unearthed ancient copper-smelting site, numerous sling stones and the remains of a deeply fortified wall found in the Negev’s Timna region by archeologists may buttress the biblical story of King David’s military victory over the Kingdom of Edom.

The archeological team, led by Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, first found a wall of the 10th-century BCE copper-smelting site near Timna Park in the southern desert where the world’s first copper mine is believed to have been located.

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Citing the biblical story about King David traveling with his soldiers to the land of Edom, where a major battle took place with the Edomites by the Dead Sea, Ben-Yosef said his team may have found evidence of the bloody conflict.

According to the Bible, Edom stretched from the Sinai Peninsula to the southern border of Canaan and Kingdom of Judah and as far west as Eilat, where it maintained its seaport. As David expanded his reign, Samuel 8:13 states that his army vanquished 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.


Following the victory, David turned Edom into an Israelite province ruled by handpicked governors.

“You cannot overstate the importance of copper in the Levant during the 10th century BC,” said Ben-Yosef. “It was the oil of the time and produced agricultural tools and weapons.”

Despite ancient accounts that the mines were operated by slaves, the researcher said mining experts likely oversaw and trained apprentices to extricate the valuable natural resource.

According to Ben-Yosef, the wall his team found was five meters high and once stretched for hundreds of meters.

In addition to the wall, the archeologists uncovered sling stones, donkey bones and dung on both sides of a gatehouse.

An analysis of the donkey dung showed the animals were well fed with hay, straw and even grapes, to maintain their health for transporting copper and water to and from the site, said Ben-Yosef.

“You have to remember the copper was used to [sustain life], and the nearest water source was 15 kilometers away,” he said.

Next, Ben-Yosef and his team plan to conduct DNA research on all the organic material found at the site.

“The research potential here is great,” he said. “Who knows, maybe one day we will be able to reconstruct ancient palm wine and the days of King David.”

The university’s findings have been published in The Journal of Archeological Science.

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