When I think of King Solomon”s mines the first thing that comes to mind is vast riches of gold. It conjures up images of swashbuckling techni-colour heroes played out on big screen Saturday afternoon matinees. Hollywood interpretations of darkest Africa rather than biblical King David and his son Solomon.
Just as nutmeg, pepper, and cinnamon were once worth their weight in gold, copper was just as valuable to the ancient world. Khirbat en-Nahas in what is now Jordan translates to “ruins of copper” in Arabic. Located south of the Dead Sea, archaeologists believe the area was the Kingdom of Edom, home to King Solomon and his mine. Carbon dating at the massive “industrial scale” site confirm the greatest activity between the 9th and 10th centuries BC, placing the highly organized industry in line with biblical accounts of the Edomites, and Solomon.
It doesn’t matter to me that Solomon smelted copper not gold – a conclusion reached after a day to digest this reshaping of my childhood romanticism. While doubtful afternoon matinees would have bothered with the tale of a copper mine; the story of Khirbat en-Nahas is fuel for pondering a tangible reality. Now I picture camel trains of copper ore weaving across the desert, an ancient industrial revolution driven by manpower. King Solomon’s mine has dimension and makes a lot more sense.
It would be irresponsible of me not to add that this is only a theory. No conclusive evidence exists to verify archaeological claims. Ancient history is often nothing more than a best guess.