Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Copper Mine in Jordan MUST be PROOF of King Solomon

Or maybe it's just a copper mine in Jordan from the 10th century BCE with no connection to King Solomon.

"Write the news, make it plain in the papers, so that the one who reads may run with it." 
(Hab. 2:2 . . . sort of)

This morning I read that a 10th century BCE copper mine had been discovered in Jordan.  The headline suggested a connection to King Solomon.  I dismissed it as yet another example of sensationalized speculation about the Bible and archaeology.  These archaeologists sure know how to get press time. 

To be fair, Thomas Levy's comments about the biblical connections are cautious and limited.  The original story I saw even cautions that the biblical connection is "an open question."

I discovered by mid-afternoon that the story had garnered a lot of attention in blogs and other less reliable forms of media.  The LA Times proclamation that the "Copper ruins in Jordan bolster biblical record of King Solomon" was particularly distressing since Levy made no such strong claim.  It's typical of the media's treatment of artifacts potentially related to the Bible.  They read the press release and then run with it, blowing it up into something bigger than originally claimed.  More examples can be found from the London Times and Science News.  At least the Science News version is more balanced.

It's not even clear at this point whether the mines were controlled by Israel or local Edomite rulers.  All it does is suggest plausibility for one potential source of revenue for a renowned wealthy king from the appropriate era.  Levy's conclusions are cautious and preliminary.  He seems hesitant to make a strong claim until he has more data (though at the same time he's happy to exploit the publicity garnered by a tentative biblical connection).  He even seems to distance himself somewhat from the Bible and the spade style of biblical archaeology from the mid 20th century.

Here's a run-down of blogs weighing in on the discovery.  Read Duane for the Mark Twain quote. Read Paleojudaica for quotes of Israel Finkelstein raining on the parade (via Science News) and for Jim's helpfully cautious comments.  PhDiva reproduces the original press release.  Jim West was one of the first to blog on it.  Dr. Claude Mariottini also reproduces part of the original story with a few comments on the significance of the find.  Finally, Todd Bolen has posted some pictures of the site, reminding us that it's not a new story at all and linking to a NY Times article from 2006 on it along with links to the official university press release and a video.  Perhaps the hype is meant to promote BAR's latest round of DVD lectures from their 2009 catalog.  After all, Levy's lecture is titled "King Solomon's Mines and the Archaeology of the Edom Lowlands: Recent Excavations in Southern Jordan."

1 comment:

  1. The mines may or may not be related to Solomon but the story provides an opportunity for discussion and controversy.

    Claude Mariottini