Fortification, donkey stables dating to King Solomon found

An advanced military fortification with a well-defined gatehouse complex and donkey stables dating back to the time of King Solomon have been discovered in Israel, a finding that points to the ancient community's highly organised defence system and long-distance trade.

The fortification dates to the reigns of Kings David and Solomon in the 10th century BCE.
The fabled mines of King Solomon were believed to be located among copper smelting camps in Israel's Timna Valley.

The arid conditions at Timna have seen the astonishing preservation of 3,000-year-old organic materials, which have provided archaeologists at Tel Aviv University with a unique window into the culture and practices of a sophisticated ancient society.

"While there is no explicit description of 'King Solomon's mines' in the Old Testament, there are references to military conflicts between Israel and Edomites in the Arava Valley," said Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU's Institute of Archaeology.

"According to the Bible, David travelled hundreds of miles outside of Jerusalem and engaged in military conflict in the desert - striking down '18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt'," said Ben-Yosef.

"Having found evidence of defensive measures - a sophisticated fortification - we understand what must have been at stake for him in this remote region: copper," he said.
"Copper was a rare product and very challenging to produce," Ben-Yosef said.

"Because copper - like oil today, perhaps - was the most coveted commodity, it landed at the very heart of military conflicts," he said.

"The discovery of the fortification indicates a period of serious instability and military threats at that time in the region," he said. In the remarkably intact two-room fortification, located in one of the largest smelting camps in the Timna Valley, the researchers also found evidence of a complex long-distance trade system that probably included the northern Edomite plateau, the Mediterranean coastal plain and Judea.

The complex featured pens for draught animals and other livestock. According to precise pollen, seed and fauna analyses, they were fed with hay and grape pomace - high-quality sustenance that must have been delivered from the Mediterranean region hundreds of miles away.

"The gatehouse fortification was apparently a prominent landmark. It had a cultic or symbolic function in addition to its defensive and administrative roles. It was built of sturdy stone to defend against invasion," said Ben-Yosef.

"We found animal bones and dung piles so intact, we could analyse the food the animals were fed with precision. The food suggests special treatment and care, in accordance with the key role of the donkeys in the copper production and in trade in a logistically

challenging region," he said. The research was published in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

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