Research Updates from MGSDII Visiting Professor – The “Indiana Jones” of Israel

The MGSDII is proud to host Erez Ben-Yosef as a visiting professor at UCSD for the 2018-2019 Acedmic Year. Read more about his work below.

“Solomon’s Mines” Revisited: Recent Discoveries of the Central Timna Valley Project

The Timna Valley in southern Israel is one of the best-preserved ancient copper ore districts in the world. More than six millennia of copper mining and smelting are represented in the archaeology of the valley, which fortuitously was almost unharmed by modern exploitation. Until systematic research in the valley began in 1960s, Timna mines were considered the source of wealth of King Solomon, whose father David is depicted in the Old Testament as the one who conquered the region and subjugated its inhabitants. However, the discovery of the Hathor Temple in 1969 resulted in a revised dating of the main production sites to the time of New Kingdom Egypt. The connection to Egypt was accepted by all scholars up until recently, when the results of the new project of Tel Aviv University, based on dozens of new radiocarbon dates from various sites, overturned the chronology of the mines once again. It is now evident that copper production peaked in the 10th century BCE, the time of the United Monarchy in Jerusalem; the question of “Solomon’s Mines” is once again part of the scholarly discussion.

The new project’s emphasis on chronology has enabled the study of social and technological processes in a high time resolution (1300-800 BCE). This study is based on new materials from excavations and surveys, including a unique collection of textiles and other rarely preserved organic remains, which reveal aspects of ancient life that are usually inaccessible in common archaeological research. In addition, the new dating provides a revised and a more detailed chronological framework to the materials obtained by previous expeditions to the valley. The reassessment of these materials, together with the newly obtained data, provide fresh insights on the development of smelting and mining technologies and other aspects of the society operating the mines in the turn of the 1st millennium BCE. Evidence of direct connections to Jerusalem and King Solomon is yet to come to light, and the quest for Solomon’s Mines still continues.

Recently on the project in National Geographic Society: 

The project’s web-page: