New archaeological remains in the Arava desert, between Israel and Jordan, have been attributed to the biblical kingdom of Edom, which flourished during the twelfth and eleventh centuries before Christ. Genesis 36:31 describes an Edomite kingdom before the tenth century BC.: “… the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned.”
But the archaeological record has led to contradictory interpretations of this text.
Expert analysis of archeological remnants found at copper production sites in Arava, directed by Erez Ben-Yosef of the Department of Archeology and Cultures of the Ancient Near East of TAU (Tel Aviv University), and Tom Levy of the University of California, San Diego, reveals the untold story of a prosperous and flourishing society led by a by a copper “high-tech network,” researchers revealed in a statement.
Copper, which was used in ancient times to produce tools and weapons, was the most valuable resource in the ancient Near East. Copper production is a complex process, which requires different stages and levels of experience, the reason why it was extremely valuable in the past.
Professor Ben-Yosef’s team analyzed hundreds of findings from former copper mines in Jordan (Faynan) and Israel (Timna) to reconstruct the evolution and sophistication of the copper manufacturing industry over a period of 500 years, covering the beginning of the First Millennium BC (1300-800 BC). They identified dramatic changes in the copper residue discovered at Arava.
“Using technological evolution as a proxy for social processes, we were able to identify and characterize the emergence of the biblical kingdom of Edom,” explains Professor Ben-Yosef in a statement. “Our results show that it happened earlier than previously thought and according to the biblical description.”
Professor Ben-Yosef’s analysis of copper residue, the waste of smelting copper extraction, show a clear statistical drop in the amount of copper in the residue over time, indicating that production has been rationalized by experts for efficiency. Researchers attribute this sudden improvement to one of the most famous Egyptian invasions of the Holy Land: the military campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I (the biblical “Shishak”), which sacked Jerusalem in the 10th century BC.
Pharaoh Shoshenq I was the founder of the Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt. Shoshenq I was succeeded by his son Osorkon I after a reign of 21 years. According to the British Egyptologist Aidan Dodson, no trace has yet been found of his tomb.
The new study shows ancient Egypt played an important role in the development of the land of Edom. Instead of destruction, the arrival of ancient Egypt triggered a “technological leap” that included more efficient copper production and trade.
With the arrival of Egypt, new technologies were introduced and older ones refined.
The researchers have shown a sudden standardization of slag took place in the second half of the 10th century BC, from the sites of Faynan in Jordan to the sites of Timna in Israel, an extensive area of some 2,000 square kilometers, which occurred just when the ancient Egyptians entered the region.
The researchers demonstrated that with the arrival of the ancient Egyptians, the efficiency of the copper industry in the region was increasing. The Edomites developed precise working protocols that allowed them to produce a large amount of copper with a minimum of energy.
Interestingly, the researchers have revealed that although the influence of ancient Egypt in the region is clear, the country was not powerful at the time, and it did not rule over the copper industry.
Nonetheless, since copper was used amply across ancient Egypt, the country had interest in streamlining the industry, and thanks to their long-distance ties, ancient Egypt may have been the very catalyst for various technological innovations across the region, the scientists have revealed.
The scientists concluded that the new discoveries contradict the view of many archaeologists that the region around Arava was populated by an alliance of loose tribes. Instead, they show that the region is consistent with the biblical story that the region was where the Edomite kingdom existed.
A flourishing copper industry in Arava can only be attributed to a centralized and hierarchical policy, and this fits the biblical description of the Edomite kingdom, the researchers explained.
The discoveries have been presented in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.