for National Geographic News
Copper mines in southern Jordan were active centuries earlier than previously believed, according to a new study that suggests the area was producing the metal at the same time the biblical figure of King Solomon is said to have built Jerusalem's first Jewish temple.
Industrial-scale metal production was occurring at a site in Jordan in the tenth century B.C., according to the study's carbon dating of ancient industrial mining debris and analysis of the settlement's layout.
Previous studies had concluded no copper production occurred in the area before the seventh century B.C.
"We're conclusively showing that the Iron Age chronology [of this region] has to be pushed back another 300 years," said lead author Thomas Levy, an anthropologist at the University of California, San Diego.
The shift in estimated Iron Age dates means the Jordan copper mine would have been in operation during the reigns of Kings David and Solomon—who are referred to in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) but have not been verified as actual historical figures.
"Now we have to readdress many of the questions about the relationship between the biblical text about this region in those centuries and the archeological record," Levy said.
(Levy's research was funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. National Geographic owns National Geographic News.)
The study appears in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the Bible, God chose King Solomon to build Jerusalem's first temple.
(Related: "Solomon's Temple Artifacts Found by Muslim Workers" [October 23, 2007].)
Hundreds of tons of copper were given to the project, as well as smaller amounts of gold and silver, the Bible says. Some English versions of the Old Testament use the word bronze instead of copper as a result of a mistranslation, Levy said.
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