King Solomon’s mines?November 1, 2008
The interface between religion and science is always fascinating. On the other hand, it is a dangerous mix that deserves much scrutiny. This statement is especially valid with this recent article in Newsweek, with the misleading title “Found? King Solomon’s Mines”. The article is based on this paper authored by Thomas Levy and his co-workers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Some local web sites eagerly picked up the story, with less critical review that the story warrants.
Both the story and the original article try to make the case that the Bible might be a credible source of historical information, largely due to the confluence of other historical texts with it (i.e. Pharonic records from the period of Sheshonq I). The scholarly article simply provides evidence that copper extraction in southern Jordan took place at the time of Sheshonq I (10th century BC), with the assertion that Sheshonq I is the same as Shishaq in the Bible.
Now, it is well established that copper mining and smelting in southern Jordan began during the Chalcolithic period (~3000 BC), and continued into the Roman and Islamic periods (up to and beyond 1000 AD). Thus, the findings reported by Levy and his co-workers falls within the time frame where known copper mining and extraction occurred, and are not particularly surprising. The implication that somehow the scale of extraction increased during the Iron Age is not demonstrated, and no quantification is offered.