Nova (1974–…): Season 37, Episode 16 - Quest for Solomon's Mines - full transcript

This documentary, part of the Nova (1974) television series, focuses on two archaeological expeditions that may shed light on the origin and nature of King Solomon's fabled mines. There is little in the historical record and while there are several Biblical references to Solomon's wealth, the mines themselves are never mentioned. In the ancient Kingdom of the Edomites, in what is now Jordan, ancient copper mines and the remnants of massive smelting have been found. Copper was an expensive commodity at the time and was used initially as a metal for ornaments and jewelry. In Israel, what is believed to be an early Israelite city has been found. Could it have been the city of David? An ancient piece of pottery with writing indicates Canaanite community and has been dated to the same period as the mines in ancient Edom.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
King Solomon... son of David,

ruler of the first
great Israelite kingdom,

builder of the first temple
in Jerusalem

The Bible tells us Solomon
was not only the wisest,

but the richest of all kings

But where did his wealth
come from?

Legends tell of fabulous mines
of gold and copper

But where were they?

Archaeologists have searched
for evidence of Solomon

and found nothing

So far there is

absolutely no evidence for
Solomon outside the Bible

Now, in the deserts of Jordan,

mine shafts carved from bedrock
a hundred feet deep

and the remains
of ancient smelting

We have industrial-scale
metal production,

layer after layer

Are these King Solomon's mines?

Are these the bones
of his miners?

At last, new finds
from Solomon's era...

Ancient cities and
the first evidence

of early Hebrew writing...

Clues to the real world
of the great biblical king

"The Quest for King
Solomon's Mines"... right now

on this NOVA/National Geographic

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In the Bible, the wise ruler

of a magnificent
Israelite kingdom

A star on the stage
of the ancient Near East

"All the world came to pay
homage to Solomon

"and to listen to the wisdom

"which God had put

into his heart"

The kingdom created
by his father,

the warrior King David,

under Solomon reached new
heights of power and prosperity

"King Solomon surpassed
all the kings of the Earth

"in wealth and wisdom

"They brought him tribute...
Silver and gold objects,

robes, weapons and spices"

In addition to his vast wealth,

the Bible tells us Solomon
was a great builder

In Jerusalem, he built
the famous Temple of Solomon

to house the
Ark of the Covenant...

Spiritual focus of the newly
unified Israelite kingdom

3,000 years later,

he is still revered by all three
of the Holy Land's great faiths

The Jewish people love Solomon

because he built
the first temple

To Christians he is the wisest
of Old Testament kings

Muslims too claim him
as one of their own...

The great prophet, Suleiman

But no conclusive archaeological
proof of Solomon

or his great kingdom
has ever been found,

few traces of his palaces,

temple or the sources
of his vast wealth

His century... the tenth century
B C... remains a mystery

In the tenth century B C,

there are things which we know,
but it's like a puzzle

Much of the puzzle is dark

and here and there you have
lights in the puzzle

Many scholars have questioned

whether Solomon
was a great king at all

and biblical scholars

have been arguing about whether
or not David and Solomon

were magnificent kings
or simple chiefs

If they were great kings,
where did they get their wealth?

Now, for the first time,

a provocative find may help
answer this question

Ancient mines...

Their shafts disappearing deep
beneath the sands of Jordan

And bodies

Were these the miners?

And who was their master?

King Solomon's mines were never
mentioned in the Bible

but over the centuries became
the stuff of legend,

popularized by a 19th-century
adventure story

and no less
than three Hollywood movies

Are these the real
King Solomon's mines?

Were they the source of
the wealth the Bible chronicles?

New finds are reshaping our
image of the ancient world,

giving credence to some of
the Bible's historical accounts,

but also casting an entirely
new light on Solomon's era

Our quest for Solomon's world
begins not in Israel

but far to the east

Petra... an ancient trade center
built over 2,000 years ago

in the highlands of Jordan

In the mountains around Petra

lie the ruins of an ancient
kingdom called Edom

For over a decade, archaeologist
Tom Levy has been researching

the evolution of that
Edomite kingdom

According to Genesis,
the Edomites,

descendants of Jacob's
brother Esau,

created a kingdom even before
ancient Israel

The remains of Edomite

cling to the mountaintops
and plateaus high above Petra

Tom wants to know about
the sources of wealth

behind the Edomite kingdom

His search has led him down
from the highlands

into the baking desert cauldron
of the Dead Sea Rift Valley

It was here,
in the no-man's-land

between ancient Israel and Edom,

that he discovered the clues
he was looking for

In an area called Wadi Feynan

was an entire valley covered
with a mysterious black rock

This was solidified slag, the
waste product of metal smelting,

and on a massive scale

Nearby, multiple shafts
dug through rock

and, far underground,

tunnels stretching deep inside
the hills

And everywhere, a striking
blue-green rock:

the unmistakable evidence
of natural copper

The slag, the mines, the
copper... it all added up

This was an ancient copper
mining and smelting complex...

Perhaps the source of wealth
behind the Edomite kingdom

Most scholars had assumed
that it was trade routes

that stimulated the rise
of the Edomite kingdom

But I thought that metal
production and mining

might be a key factor

The local people called it
Khirbet en Nahas

Khirbet en Nahas in Arabic means
"the ruins of copper"

As you can see around us,

the site is just covered with
heaps of black, industrial slag

Tom has been excavating this
site for almost ten years

He has shown how ancient
smelters separated pure copper

from the ore
in which it's found,

then spewed out slag,

the molten waste product
of the process

The layers of slag reveal
an astonishing record

of hundreds of years
of ancient copper production

I'm really excited about this

Look, right before us,

we have industrial-scale metal
production, layer after layer,

almost like a book
that page by page would reveal

the history of metal production
at this site

Tom believes that metal
production played a key role

in the evolution of not only
Edom but of ancient Israel, too

For ritual and prestige,
weapons and tools,

metals helped turn simple
agrarian societies

into kingdoms

Ancient peoples discovered

that from blue rocks like these
a mysterious new substance

could be created

When heated,
it was soft and malleable

When mixed with tin,
cooled and polished,

it had a magical luster

The Stone Age was over

The age of metals had begun

Tom's student, Erez Ben-Yosef,

has been trying to find out

how those first copper-producing
techniques evolved

It's really, as you see,

a pit in the ground

We have the copper ore here

We need to crush it

and then we need to sort out
the copper-rich fragments

You will see it's not easy

Ancient metal workers needed
a way to raise the temperature

of their charcoal fires to over
1,200 degrees Celsius,

the point at which copper
separates from ore

They did that with blow pipes

We need three people
constantly blowing

It takes Erez and his friends
two hours of constant blowing

before they see the first signs
of smelting

Can you see the blue flame?

This is a good indicator
that the smelting process

is actually taking place

When they finally take the
crucible out of the fire,

they hope to find tiny droplets
of copper in the bottom

All right, yes,
that's how it looks like

It looks like that

Very few

There's another one here

It's tiny, tiny, but it's metal

It's a copper color

That's an awful lot of work
for very little metal

But for thousands of years, this
is how people smelted copper

The difficulty of producing it
may have been why

it was largely used for ritual
objects and ornaments

But that small-scale
village production

is not what Tom has discovered
at Khirbet en Nahas

Over years of excavation,

his team from the University
of California at San Diego

has revealed the remains
of a massive operation...

A copper producing factory

The site is so large,

they send up cameras attached
to helium balloons

to get a better sense
of its scale

The aerial photos clearly reveal

the structures of the ancient

A fortress and gatehouse

an administrative building

a tower

a temple

The site was enormous

Its massive walls,
buildings and slag heaps

covered an area of 25 acres

Up to a thousand men worked here
day and night,

feeding the furnaces
where the copper was smelted

Erez Ben-Yosef is excavating
one of those smelters

It's like a treasure for us

to try and actually reconstruct
the technology, step by step

At the moment,
Erez is unearthing

the business end
of the smelter...

The nozzles, called tuyeres,

where the air from the bellows
blasted into the smelter

It's the nozzle of a bellow pipe

And it's just one of the best
preserved tuyere

we have seen in this area

The nozzle of a bellow pipe may
not sound like a great find,

but to Erez,
it's crucial evidence

for the technological

that made large-scale
smelting possible

We will try to take it out

If we can help them
from this side

Try not to break them

All right

Okay, that's a nice one

You can see the nozzle,
but it's all covered with slag

This was the hottest place
in the furnace

You can see even some
copper prills in the slag,

some actual copper metal

Beneath the slag,

the nozzle has been carefully
made from layers of fired clay

This was necessary for it
to withstand

the 1,200-degree temperatures
of the furnace

This new shaft furnace was
powered by foot bellows

providing a steady stream of air
into the smelter

During the second millennium
B C E,

we have the introduction
of this amazing shaft furnace

that made this whole copper
production process

much more efficient

With men working day and night,

copper could be produced on
an industrial scale, and it was

Environmental scientist
John Grattan

is discovering
ancient pollution,

a measure of just how intensive
this copper production was

I'm using this instrument,

which measures metals
in the environment,

to see and map where the
pollution actually is

It says there is nearly 7,000
parts per million copper

just in the small sample
I've taken

That's really nearly
7,000 times more

than is safe to be in the soil

And as if copper wasn't bad
enough, looking down here,

I can see extremely
high levels...

Dangerously high levels...
Of lead, zinc, arsenic

And this is just on
this one tiny spot

Using a state-of-the-art X-ray
fluorescence device,

John Grattan has found
powerful confirmation

of the scale of ancient copper
smelting at Khirbet en Nahas

Copper was no longer
an ornament...

It was a commodity vital for
tools, weapons and buildings

Demand for the precious
metal exploded

turning the Dead Sea Rift Valley
into an industrial powerhouse

We've got here

the evidence of the earliest
industrial revolution

and what I see as the birth
of the modern world

But how did they get the tons
of copper ore they needed

to power this revolution?

Over 15 mines have been found,

cut into the copper-rich hills
surrounding Khirbet en Nahas

Project co-director,

Jordanian archaeologist
Mohammad Najjar,

is exploring one of them

During our work here,

we find out that the shafts
are from 3,000 years ago

Many of the mines were
over 100 feet deep

to reach the copper seams
far below ground

Even with modern climbing gear,
the descent is perilous

It's not easy to go down or up

We know that probably

ancient miners were
inside the galleries,

inside the mines,
for many months

Mohammad and Tom both believe
the miners were slaves

This was not the kind of work

that anyone would want to do,
even for pay

In order to mine on
this industrial scale,

some sort of forced labor system
must have been in existence

Imprisoned in claustrophobic
tunnels far underground,

the miners hacked out
the copper-bearing rocks

that fed the smelters
of Khirbet en Nahas

Above ground,
camel trains waited

to transport the copper ore
to the smelting site

Okay, guys, so we're
going to take our ore

To understand the copper ore
supply system,

Tom Levy is re-creating
one of those camel trains

We want to try an experiment,

what it would be like
to actually take ore

that would have been mined
in one of these mines...

We've got one
right behind me here...

And by having these camels and
our Bedouin friends helping us,

we'll be able to reconstruct
that process

They've discovered that
a single camel can carry

about 300 pounds of ore

But usually that ore is
only ten percent copper

and 90% useless rock

So for every 30 pounds
of pure copper,

they needed at least
a camel load of ore

That means that 3,000 years ago,

ancient camel supply trains
like this

probably made their way through
these same desert wadis

every day

All heading for the largest
copper smelting site

of the Dead Sea Rift Valley...
Khirbet en Nahas

The size of the slag heaps

that over its lifetime,

the site produced 5,000 tons
of copper,

enough to supply copper
to the entire region

Isotope analysis
of copper objects

from sites all over
ancient Israel

has proved that they came
from the Wadi Feynan area

Right now in Israel,

a metallurgical study
of copper objects

found in contexts
of 11th century,

late 12th and 11th century B C,

were proven to originate
from Feynan

Perhaps this copper
even reached Jerusalem,

where Solomon built his temple

The Bible tells us
that the temple would require

precious metals,
including tons of copper

And the closest source of copper
for Jerusalem,

it's about a three-day ride from
here, is this area of Feynan

"Then the word of the Lord came
to Solomon, saying,

"" Concerning this house
which you are building,

"" if you keep all
my commandments,

"" I will dwell among
the children of Israel

"and will not forsake
my people '

So Solomon built the temple"

In the outer rooms, he placed
elaborately carved figures

and massive pillars

And according to the Bible,

all were cast in gleaming copper

"The inner sanctuary
he prepared,

"setting there the Ark of
the Covenant of the Lord

And he overlaid it
with pure gold"

If Solomon's temple
and his palaces existed,

they would have needed
a lot of copper

So who controlled the burgeoning
copper industry

of the Dead Sea Valley?

One thing is for sure: it had
to be an advanced society

Copper production involves
many different activities...

Mining, then smelting,

You need management to do that

And that can be done
only by a complex society

It had to have been controlled

by something as complex
as an ancient kingdom

The question arises,
what kingdom?

Khirbet en Nahas was
in the no-man's-land

between three ancient kingdoms

Any one of them could have had
a hand in copper production

To the west was ancient Israel;
to the east, Edom;

far to the southwest, the great
power of the region, Egypt

While I was sitting
over there, um,

my colleague, Dr Najjar,

was waving his arms furiously,
said we just found something

It's an Egyptian scarab

The scarab suggests
that at one time,

Egypt was
an important player here

Based on this
and other evidence,

like an Egyptian shrine
at a nearby site,

it's clear that in the centuries
preceding Solomon,

Egyptians controlled the copper
industry of the Dead Sea Valley

Undoubtedly, we had
Egyptians here,

running the mines

They had the control
during the 13th century

But then, in the
12th century B C,

unexplained events shook
the ancient Near East

All of its
great civilizations fell

Around 1200 B C,

the entire political structure
of the Bronze Age collapsed

First, the Hittites
in the north,

the Mycenaeans on the west,

and finally the Egyptian Empire
collapsed and left a great void

In this political void,
new powers emerged

We basically have a vacuum

This collapse took down
the big empires

and opened the way
for something new

In the area of Khirbet en Nahas,

that something new was the rise
of ancient Israel and Edom

Tom believes these are
the only two candidates

for control of the copper mines

The more likely is nearby Edom

And now a new find
near the smelting complex

may confirm that

It's an ancient cemetery

These were circular graves with
a cist burial in the middle,

which is like a stone-lined box,
and capstones on top of it

We're hoping that
by the end of the day,

we'll be ready to lift
those capstones

The moment of truth has arrived


This is windblown sediment here

This tomb looks like it's going
to be filled with sediment

It seems they are in
for a disappointment

They are not the first
to open this grave

It looks like it's been
disturbed in antiquity

We had hoped that we
would pop these stones

and find a beautiful,
pristine grave, but let's wait

Archaeology is about patience

Okay, so this is five

That's good

Maybe on this side

But before long, good news

They catch their first glimpse
of bone

It looks like we've got a skull

There's a lot of pieces missing

It's possible that we're going
to have an articulated skeleton

extending here,
so that's exciting

Carefully, Tom's team starts
the process

of extracting the skeleton from
the sand which has encased it

for 3,000 years

Finally, the entire skeleton
is revealed

This is a fully articulated

in a crouched position,
almost a fetal position

So did this man have any
connection with the mines?

If he did, his teeth and bones
would contain copper and lead,

the telltale traces
of copper smelting

Samples are crushed
and dissolved,

then analyzed
in a mass spectrometer

to reveal
their chemical composition

The results are compared

to skeletons from before
the copper revolution

The remains from the cemetery
have four times as much copper

and lead content as
the prehistoric remains

That may mean

that we've identified
some individuals

that were actually involved
in the smelting activity

Even though this man

was probably one
of the copper workers,

there was nothing in the grave
to suggest his ethnicity

But artifacts from the cemetery
and pottery found nearby

provide the answer

The people buried here
were from this region

We are talking about ceramics
and different finds here

What we have here is Edomite

The discovery that the workers
at Khirbet en Nahas

were probably Edomite
seems to confirm assumptions

about the dating
of the mining complex

I assumed, like the scholarly
consensus of the time,

that it must date to around
the seventh century B C E

That seventh-century B C dating
was crucial

to Tom's first understanding
of what went on here

He knew that Egypt had collapsed
in the 12th century B C,

along with all the other great
empires of the region

Based on the timeline of kings
laid out in the Bible,

Solomon's Israel flourished
in the tenth century B C

The rise of the Edomite kingdom
has traditionally been dated

to the seventh century B C

So with the evidence
from Khirbet en Nahas

pointing to Edom,

it made sense the smelting
complex would be

from the seventh century too

To confirm that dating,

Tom has brought radiocarbon
specialist Tom Higham,

from the University of Oxford,
to help him

At the guard house and the slag
heap, they look for samples

of organic material
that can be dated:

twigs, pieces of charcoal, date
seeds spat out by the miners

Well, in order to get
really precise dates,

we have to have
a sequence of samples

So you're saying we need samples

from all these sedimentary


A sequence of samples allows
them to create a chronology

All the dates need to be

or the whole sequence is
called into question

Tom Higham takes the samples
back to the lab at Oxford

Radiocarbon dating,

combined with modern
statistical analysis,

will allow him
to calculate their age

to an accuracy
of plus or minus 30 years

The result is really a surprise

We've got the preliminary
results here

that you can see on the screen,
and what is immediately apparent

is that the samples are
all fitting

in the tenth and 11th century

This means the mines
were operating

not in the seventh century B C,

but three to four centuries
before that

We're able to say with a great
deal of confidence now

that these sites were operating

in the tenth
and 11th centuries B C

There is absolutely
no question about it

The dating has thrown
the team a curve ball

According to the well-accepted
archaeological chronology,

there was no Edomite kingdom in
the 11th or tenth century B C

that could have controlled
these mines

Is this evidence
of an earlier Edomite kingdom?

If so, it might lend credence
to the Bible's accounts

of David's campaigns
against the Edomites

The Bible tells us
that David conquered Edom

and established strongholds
over the area

like the fortress
at Khirbet en Nahas

"He stationed garrisons
throughout Edom

"and all the Edomites

became vassals of David"

The fortress that we found
at Khirbet en Nahas

is similar to other fortresses
found in ancient Israel

Could it be that David invaded
Edom to get hold of its copper?

If so, his son Solomon would
have inherited these mines

But was the kingdom of David
and Solomon advanced enough

to control the copper industry
of the Dead Sea Rift Valley?

The biblical account of
Solomon's kingdom makes it sound

so huge and powerful

that controlling
the Dead Sea Rift Valley

would have been no problem

"And Solomon ruled
over all the kingdoms

"from the Euphrates
to the land of the Philistines

and to the border of Egypt"

But in the last 20 years,

archaeologists have cast doubt
on that story

For decades, they have searched
for evidence

of the great tenth-century B C
kingdom of David and Solomon

and found almost nothing

There are a few clues

A carved inscription
from the ninth century B C

records the victory
of an Aramean king

over what it calls
"the House of David"...

Good evidence for David,

but not necessarily
for a great kingdom

Ruins in Jerusalem,
claimed to be the City of David,

have still not been
conclusively dated

Some archaeologists believe
they are from a later period

The same uncertainties surround
the kingdom of Solomon

described in the Bible

Few doubt
that David and Solomon existed

There is just no proof
they were great kings

capable of commanding a copper
industry like Khirbet en Nahas

Some believe they were
more like tribal chieftains

If that is true, how did the
Bible come to describe Solomon

as ruler of a magnificent

Perhaps because the stories
of Solomon were passed down

by word of mouth for generations

In the process,
they were embroidered

"King Solomon married
many foreign women,

"in addition
to Pharaoh's daughter

"He had 700 royal wives

and 300 concubines"

When we read

the biblical tradition
concerning Solomon,

there is no doubt that the text
is exaggerating

to a huge extent

the dimensions of the kingdom,
the prosperity,

all those gold troves
in Jerusalem, et cetera

The fact that Solomon had
1,000 wives...

I mean, there was almost
1,000 people living in Jerusalem

in this time,
so to have 1,000 wives,

it would be quite difficult

So, David and Solomon...

Great kings
or tribal chieftains?

The debate has raged
for 40 years

Finally, discoveries
at an extraordinary new site

may help resolve it

Khirbet Qeiyafa...
On the border of ancient Israel

and the land
of the Philistines...

In exactly the place
where the Bible says

the young King David slew
the Philistine giant Goliath

Here, archaeologist Yossi
Garfinkel has been excavating

a fortified ancient settlement

Its massive walls are testament
to a highly organized workforce

We have here the city wall
of Khirbet Qeiyafa,

and we calculated that
about 200,000 tons of stone

were needed to build the
fortification of this city

This is no tribal encampment

These massive fortifications
seem to be the sign

of a political structure
far more developed

than a highland chiefdom

Other tantalizing clues include

the handles of some pottery
jugs, which bear thumb imprints,

often used
as an official state seal

You see here

a very nice impression

This is a thumb impression made
by the potter

before the jar went
into the kiln to be fired

They were marked so you know
that they are not private jars

but jars that belong
to the kingdom

Further evidence suggests it was
an early Israelite city

Among animal bones found in the
rubbish heaps of the settlement,

Yossi and his team have noticed
an intriguing absence

So these are animal bones,

and you can see these are teeth

and part of a mandible

And this is sheep or goat

In our site, we have only sheep,
goats and cattle

We don't have pig bones

Philistine settlements
are full of pig bones

So could this be a sign
that at Qeiyafa,

the Israelite taboo on pork
was already being observed?

When Yossi and his team

had organic remains
from the site dated,

their excitement grew

According to radiocarbon dating,
this is from the late 11th,

early tenth century B C

So this is really
from the time of King David

If Qeiyafa was
an Israelite city,

it would be the earliest
ever found

Another discovery suggests
an Israelite site

in an even more dramatic way

It was made by a teenager
working here

on his summer break

When I found it,

I thought it was just
another piece of pottery

Me and my friend Sanyo
were digging up

pieces of pottery... lots of them

But among them was this one
piece with writing on it,

the ostracon

The ostracon is a piece
of pottery

with writing painted on it

It was a nice geometric shape

It was quite strange, because
usually pottery shards

are much smaller and they don't
have a geometric shape

Only in the afternoon,
when it was washed in water,

suddenly we saw that it has
inscription on it

And then the question is,
what is the language?

The ostracon is faded
and almost illegible

Before Yossi can decipher it,

he has to be able
to read it clearly

That means sending it
to Greg Bearman

in Santa Barbara, California,

who uses a unique
imaging technology

The reason you're unable
to see things

on pottery or papyrus

or any kind of thing like this
with the eye

is the substrate has somehow
gotten faded

It's dark

And so you're looking at a dark
background with dark text

It's very hard
for the human eye to see

It's, you know,

the "looking for the black cat
at midnight" situation

The photospectroscopy system
takes hundreds of pictures

of the ostracon at different
wavelengths to find out

where the contrast between
writing and background

is highest

Here's an example taken
with 365 nanometers

It's blank; it may as well not
even be anything on there

So this shows
that in this wavelength,

the pottery and the ink
basically reflect

the same amount of light
and you don't see anything

As you go up in wavelength,
we're stepping into the blue

and we're now
into about 500 nanometers,

and you see text
is starting to show up

By combining
and processing photos

taken at many different

Greg finally arrives
at a clear image of the text

A replica of the ostracon
was sent

to Bill Schniedewind at UCLA

This is really

the most important early
alphabetic text that we have

Frequently when we talk about
texts from this time period,

there are three letters,
four letters, five letters

Here you have five lines!

The letters are Canaanite, the
first alphabetic writing system,

that would give rise
to many others,

including Hebrew and our own

But deciphering what the script
says is a challenge

To the ancient writing experts
working with Yossi in Jerusalem,

they seem to be written
in a haphazard way,

sometimes upside down,
sometimes standing up,

sometimes on their sides

The "a"... the aleph, which
is the same as the "a"...

Stands here three times...

One on the legs,
the other time on the head,

which is the original one,
and then on the side

Struggling to piece together the
words which the letters form,

the experts can hardly contain
their excitement

This is definitely a Hebrew word

- Al ta'aseh...
- "Don't do"

They can make out
other Hebrew words too:




and melekh..."king"

The writing is Canaanite,
but the words are Hebrew

So it's not quite
Hebrew script yet,

but eventually this script
will develop into Hebrew

It makes the ostracon
an historic find,

a remarkable testament
to the birth of Hebrew writing

in the process of being

I only can say

that I hold in my hand

the most ancient Hebrew text

So far found

But what everybody really wants
to know is, what does it say?

That question is not easy
to answer

This is a very difficult

Hebrew was written
without vowels

So imagine a poorly preserved
vowel-less text

There's a lot of different ways
to read a word

It could be a noun,
it could be a verb

It's much more problematic than
I think most people realize

Hagai Misgav is cautious

We can say very carefully

that it's a text and not just
a list of names

There are sentences there

And there may be sentences
with a judicial

or a moral meaning,
and that's all

The exact meaning
of the Qeiyafa ostracon

may never be deciphered, but
its significance is undeniable

It shows that in Solomon's
century, in fortified cities,

texts were being copied

in a very early version
of written Hebrew

The finds at Qeiyafa suggest
a solution

to the long-running debate
about Solomon

Like Hebrew writing,
Solomon's Israelite kingdom

was in the early stages
of its formation...

A small kingdom struggling
to become a bigger one

This may make sense
of one of the few facts

about tenth-century B C Israel
we can be sure of

The Bible notes that five years
after Solomon died,

an Egyptian army invaded and
Solomon's kingdom was crushed

"In the fifth year
of King Rehoboam,

"King Shishak of Egypt marched
against Jerusalem

"with 1,200 chariots,
60,000 horsemen

"and innumerable troops

who came with him from Egypt"

Many scholars claim

the biblical account
of Shishak's invasion of Israel

is backed up by a giant relief

in the ancient Egyptian city
of Thebes

Figures containing images of
bound captives and city walls

represent the places
Shishak ransacked

We can see that this raid
is intended to cross

the central hill country
just north of Jerusalem

No pharaoh before him did this

They always just moved
along the coast

That means he in particular
wanted to reach

the area of Jerusalem

Perhaps the Solomonic kingdom

some Egyptian interests
in this region

If that is the case, Shishak's
raid is one last piece

of compelling evidence

for the rising power
of Solomon's kingdom

If ancient Israel was a land
of tribal chiefdoms,

why would Shishak bother
to invade?

Perhaps this was
a "Sherman's march"

through the ancient Near East
to flatten its upstart kingdoms

And at Khirbet en Nahas,
there may be evidence

that one of Shishak's targets
was copper production

in the Dead Sea Rift Valley

In a cross section
of a slag heap,

Tom Levy sees layers of slag
laid down regularly

year after year

But then there is a break

What you see

is this disruption

in the metal production

at the end of the tenth century

The thin layers suggest
a stoppage of work

at the smelters

Levy believes this corresponds

to the time
of Shishak's invasion

While scholars debate the
details of Shishak's campaign,

they all agree on one thing

To put your hand on the copper
supply at that time

was really critical

Whoever controlled or tried to
monopolize this was in power

So were these
King Solomon's mines?

I hope that in our excavations
at Khirbet en Nahas

we'll ultimately find
inscriptions that can tell us

about biblical characters,
whether they were Edomites

or the early Israelite kings
like David and Solomon

But that's a hope

Perhaps control of the mines
changed hands

as different kingdoms
came into power

Whoever controlled the mines,
we know copper from Wadi Feynan

was traded throughout the region
and probably reached Jerusalem

I believe that if one day

we shall find the copper objects

of the temple in Jerusalem,

it will prove to come
from this area

One thing is certain:

The finds at Khirbet en Nahas
and Qeiyafa have transformed

our image of the mysterious
tenth century B C,

Solomon's century

It was a time of walled cities
and scribes,

of rising kingdoms
that could command

a flourishing copper industry

At last, King Solomon's Israel

and the mysterious
kingdom of Edom

are emerging from the shadows

and along with them, the long
forgotten metal revolution

which transformed their era

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