Lonely Planet Writer

Archaeologists may have found the fabled King Solomon's Mines in this amazing valley in Israel

Archaeologists digging in the deserts of Israel have discovered more evidence of what may well eventually prove to be the fabled King Solomon’s Mines.

Solomon's Pillars, Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel.
Solomon’s Pillars, Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel. Image by DeAgostini/Getty Images

The mines, which are mentioned in the Bible, were said to have created so much wealth that they paid for impossibly grand temples and ornate palaces in JerusalemThey were made even more famous in the Quatermain books by English writer H Rider Haggard and later turned into a Hollywood movie. 

In their latest discovery, archaeologists found a well-preserved ancient military fortification that they reckon is around 3000 years old. It has donkey stables and well-organised defences in a gatehouse complex and probably dates back to the reigns of King David and Solomon in the tenth century BC. During the dig, they found bones and dung piles so well preserved in the harsh arid climate that they could tell what the animals had eaten when alive. They said the fortifications were designed with one thing in mind – to protect the copper mines underneath the Timna Valley region.

Dr Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University explained: “Copper was a rare product and very challenging to produce. Because copper – like oil today, perhaps – was the most coveted commodity. It landed at the very heart of military conflicts. The discovery of the fortification indicates a period of serious instability and military threats … in the region.”

The site was first discovered in the 1930s and was thought at the time to be an Iron Age slave camp, designed to prevent workers from escaping. By 2014, that theory had been debunked because the food and clothing of the workers there – all immaculately preserved in the desert – proved to be far too refined. Travellers can visit the Timna Valley and its ancient copper mines, along with the desert’s other sights like Solomon’s Pillars and the Mushroom, a sandstone monolith shaped unsurprisingly like a mushroom.

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