Thursday, November 13, 2008

(CNN) -- Archaeologists believe a desert site in Jordan may contain the ruins of the elusive King Solomon's Mines.

From CNN:

Researchers using carbon dating techniques at Khirbat en-Nahas in southern Jordan discovered that copper production took place there around the time King Solomon is said to have ruled the Israelites.

The research findings were reported in this week's issue of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which came out Monday.

(Photo: The bottom stratum of the ruins at Khirbat en-Nahas in Jordan revealed a period of extensive mining that lasted for about 40 years around 940 BC, the time King Solomon is said to have lived. A digital reconstruction of the site is on display in the StarCAVE, a 3-D virtual environment at UC San Diego. Photos by Thomas Levy UC San Diego)

King Solomon is known in the Old Testament for his wisdom and wealth and for building the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The fabled mines entered popular culture in 1885 with the publication in Great Britain of the bestselling "King Solomon's Mines" by Sir H. Rider Haggard. In the book, adventurers in search of the mines find gold, diamonds and ivory.

Since then, the mines have been the the subject of several films. Yet their possible location -- and whether they exist at all -- remains cloaked in mystery.

Thomas Levy of the University of California San Diego, who led the research, said carbon dating placed copper production at Khirbat en-Nahas (Arabic for 'Ruins of copper") in the 10th century -- in line with the biblical narrative of Solomon's rule.

"We can't believe everything ancient writings tell us," Levy said in a university statement. "But this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible."

Khirbat en-Nahas is an arid region south of the Dead Sea, in Jordan's Faynan district. The Old Testament identifies the area with the Kingdom of Edom.

As early as the 1930s, archaeologists linked the site to the Edomite kingdom, but some of those claims were dismissed in subsequent years.

"Now ... we have evidence that complex societies were indeed active in 10th and 9th centuries BCE and that brings us back to the debate about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible narratives related to this period," Levy said
Chuck Colson notes:
The past few decades have witnessed a marked shift in scholars’ attitudes towards the biblical narratives. When the area was first explored in the 1970s, many archaeologists doubted whether biblical figures such as David or Solomon ever existed, and they certainly didn’t believe biblical accounts about their accomplishments.

To them, the Bible was a collection of stories that illustrated theological points, while containing little that is historically accurate.

Then as archaeologists found evidence for the existence of figures like David and Caiaphas and events like the Exodus, attitudes began to change.

Discoveries that corroborated biblical details, like the going price for slaves in ancient Egypt, obliged them to at least approach the biblical accounts with an open mind. As Levy put it, while “we can’t believe everything ancient writings tell us . . . this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible.”

Openness to the possibility of “confluence” is all believers ever ask. Christians have nothing to fear from this kind of scientific inquiry. In fact, we welcome it. Unlike other faiths, biblical faith is rooted in history. It’s the account of how God has acted in human history to accomplish His purposes, and we are confident that the biblical account reflects this fact.

That the result is discoveries “straight out of an Indiana Jones’ movie” just goes to show how truth, in the end, really can top fiction.

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