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9 June 2011
Are these the real King Solomon's Mines?

A new dig, scheduled for late September 2011, could yield fresh evidence on the enduring story of King Solomon's Mines. The mines in question are located at a place called Khirbat en-Nahas in the Faynan District of Jordan and are one of the lagest copper mine complexes in the region.
     The questions to be answered are twofold: a) how old are the mines and b) how does this relate to the Israelite kingdom of Solomon. Tackling the question of age, surveys and excavations carried out at Khirbat en-Nahas 9 years ago placed the mining activity at between 1,200 and 900 BCE, backed up by high precision radiocarbon dating, Bayesian analysis and other highly accurate technologies. This had pushed the previously believed occupation date back by more than 200 years.
     The bigger debate is how does this fit, in time, with the kingdom of Solomon? The Hebrew Bible places the United Monarchy of ancient Israel as between 1,000 to 900 BCE. This view was challenged in the 1980s by a group of scholars known as the 'minimalists'.
     For various reasons they challenged that the Hebrew Bible was inaccurate and that anything recorded as occuring before 500 BCE was a fabrication. They used relative ceramic dating to back up this claim, which showed that the copper mines were no older than 700 BCE, thus making them too young for Solomon.
     But the main significance of the more recent dating results has put the Biblical interpretation back on track. So the final piece of the puzzle, having proved that the timescales are coincident, is to find hard evidence.
     Project Director Thomas A Levy, of the University of California in San Diego, is quoted as saying "I hope that in our excavations at Khirbat en-Nahas we will ultimately finf inscriptions that will tell us about Biblical characters, whether they were Edomites or early Israelite kings like David or Solomon. But that is [only] a hope".

Edited from Popular Archaeology (31 May 2011)

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