Carbon-14 Dating of Copper Smelting in Edom (Jordan) Confirm Biblical Date of King
Minimalists in archeology say that the events of the early Hebrew kingdoms in the Hebrew Old Testament were mostly made up. Many skeptics believe that the kingdoms of David and Solomon did not exist because of the paucity of archeological evidence from that era. However, recent excavations at Tel Rehov are pushing back the dates for the occupation of the biblical lands. Now, excavations in Jordon reveal extensive copper smelting both before and during the reign of Solomon.
Archaeologist Thomas E. Levy (UC San Diego) has reported high-precision radiocarbon dates for copper smelting operations in southern Jordan in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1 14C radiocarbon dating revealed continuous occupation of Khirbat en-Nahas, Jordan from 1100-900 B.C. Khirbat en-Nahas represents 10 hectares that once housed greater than 100 buildings, including one of the largest Levantine desert fortresses, indicating that this site was no small-time operation, but was associated with a large, complex society. Many archeologists believed that the kingdom of Israel was not established until the seventh or eighth centuries B.C., based primarily upon subjective pottery evidence. However, the 14C radiocarbon dating is accurate to within ± 30 years and firmly establishes the earlier date for an extensive mining and smelting operation. Dr. Levy's conjunction of "historical" and "biblical" in the title of his recent publication, along with references to the biblical King Solomon within the article have irritated some of his colleagues. However, archaeologist William Schniedewind of UCLA agreed with his assessment, saying Levy "is completely right. The scientific evidence seems to be going in his favor."2
The 14C dates associated with smelting debris layers from Khirbat en-Nahas demonstrate intensive 10th-9th century B.C. industrial metallurgical activities conducted by complex societies. High-precision radiocarbon dating at Khirbat en-Nahas establishes a date earlier than that suggested by previous studies utilizing pottery finds. The accuracy of 14C dating calls into question previous studies based solely upon pottery evidence. The current dating of the site to the 10th-9th century B.C. agrees with biblical dates for Solomon's rule of the area.
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- Levy, T. E., T. Higham, C. B. Ramsey, N. G. Smith, E. Ben-Yosef, M. Robinson, S. Münger, K. Knabb, J. P. Schulze, M. Najjar, and L. Tauxe. 2008. High-precision radiocarbon dating and historical biblical archaeology in southern Jordan. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105:16460�16465.
- Copper ruins in Jordan bolster biblical record of King Solomon, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2008.
Last Modified October 31, 2008