Back to Solomon’s Era: Results of the First Excavations at “Slaves’ Hill”

Site 34 (“Slaves’ Hill”), the largest smelting camp in Timna, looking east. Photo: Erez Ben-Yosef

Site 34 (“Slaves’ Hill”), the largest smelting camp in Timna, looking east. Photo: Erez Ben-Yosef

BASOR No. 376, November 2016 article, “Back to Solomon’s Era: Results of the First Excavations at “Slaves’ Hill” (Site 34, Timna, Israel),” by Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University).

Site 34 (“Slaves’ Hill”) is a large copper smelting camp located on a flat mesa at the center of the Timna Valley. The first excavations at the site focused on the main slag mounds, related metallurgical installations, the gatehouse, and the site’s perimeter wall. The results, coupled with 14 new radiocarbon dates retrieved from short-lived samples, corroborate the recently suggested new chronological framework for Iron Age copper production in the southern Arabah and reveal more information on the nature of copper production at Timna at the turn of the first millennium B.C.E. As at nearby Site 30, the peak of copper production took place during the first half of the 10th century B.C.E. Various finds, including a substantial defense system, indicate that the sophisticated copper production evident at the site was conducted by a well-organized and centralized society. It is suggested that Site 34 was abandoned as a result of Pharaoh Shoshenq I’s campaign and the consequent reorganization of production in the Arabah Valley. The new evidence further stresses the limits of archaeology in tackling questions of social complexity in non-sedentary societies, which, unless engaged in unique activities such as mining and smelting, are transparent in common archaeological practice.

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