A new study by a team from Tel Aviv University concludes that the copper mines at Timna, near Eilat, were in operation during the reign of Solomon. The new dating is based upon Carbon-14 studies which shift the peak of copper production down three centuries from the 13th century to the 10th.
Because of close similarities between the mines at Timna and those at Feinan (biblical Punon) further north, the scholars believe that the Timna mines were operated by the Edomites but not by Solomon. Perhaps this is correct. Another possibility is that Solomon controlled both. The biblical texts do not identify either site as Solomonic, but the Israelite king did control territory as far south as Eilat.
1 Kings 9:26–28 (NIV) “King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.”
During David and Solomon’s reigns, the Edomites were subject to Israel (2 Sam 8:11-14; 1 Kgs 11:14). Perhaps they operated the mines to pay the annual tribute.
If I had time, it would be interesting to go back through the literature and review the statements of those who used the absence of evidence at Timna from Solomon’s time as evidence against the biblical account. Once again we see why we should hold to the assured results of archaeological research lightly.
The full BASOR journal article is here.
A video from this year’s excavations is posted at YouTube.