Sunday, 2 November 2008

Have They Found King Solomon’s Mines?

An 18th century Russian icon depicting King Solomon. Image from Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

The Old Testament describes King Solomon as a man of great wisdom, wealth and power. Jesus Christ spoke about him in the Gospels. A recent article in Biblical Archaeology Review suggested that a first century AD painting depicting his wise judgement has been found in the ruins of Pompeii.

The fame of King Solomon has also made its way into popular literature. For instance, the British writer Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) published a fictitious novel describing the adventures of Allan Quatermain, who eventually finds the mines in South Africa. Several popular films are based on the book.

However, some archaeologists known as minimalists have doubted the veracity of the Old Testament’s description of King Solomon. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University has suggested that archaeological evidence does not support the biblical record of Solomon.

A new radiocarbon dating of an old copper smeltery challenges Finkelstein’s claim. Recently, Los Angeles Times reported on a spectacular find that throws more light on the issue. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Thomas E. Levy of the University of California, San Diego, who has directed the excavations in Jordan, says a huge copper smelting plant found in the biblical land of Edom is at least 300 years older than previously thought.

While Levy does not say the find proves the veracity of the biblical record of Solomon, he says, “we've brought empirical data that shows we have to reevaluate those questions. We're back in the ballgame now."

Archaeologist William Schniedewind supports Levy. In his view, Levy “is completely right. The scientific evidence seems to be going in his favor."

While Finkelstein and other minimalists still doubt the significance of the find, the new radiocarbon dates square nicely with the biblical dates for King Solomon’s reign (971-931 BC).

The site Levy reports on is known as Khirbat en-Nahas or “ruins of copper” in Arabic. It is a 24-acre area 30 miles (50 km) south of the Dead Sea and 30 miles (50 km) north of Petra. It includes over 100 buildings. The huge amount of black slag, which is up to 20 feet (6 metres) deep, shows that the place was by far the largest iron age copper mine.

It is thus very likely that Levy is right and the remains of King Solomon’s mines have indeed been found.

This would be no surprise. We would expect the Bible to be a record of true history.

Recently, an old seal impression found in Jerusalem indicates that the old Testament writers recorded history meticulously and accurately.


Feder, Theodore. 2008. Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle. Biblical Archaeology Review 34:5, 32-36 (September-October 2008).

Maugh II, Thomas H. 2008. Copper ruins in Jordan bolster biblical record of King Solomon. Los Angeles Times. (28 October),0,1332762.story