National Geographic : 1957 Dec
855 Glueck, one of the greatest of modern archeo logical explorers, descended by camelback into the forbidding Wadi el 'Araba, a deep and barren rift running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of 'Aqaba. For two centuries during Biblical times the Israelites and the Edomites had waged sporadic war for control of this ancient "Death Valley." Dr. Glueck wanted to know why.* Mining Flourished in Solomon's Reign At a place called Khirbet Nahas, or "Copper Ruin," he found the answer. Here, in cen turies gone by, had thrived a profitable copper mining operation. Dr. Glueck discovered the remains of large buildings, miners' huts, and enclosure walls some seven feet thick. On both sides of the area were great quantities of copper-bearing sandstone. On the basis of the pottery strewn about the site, Glueck dated the Copper Ruin be tween the 10th and 6th centuries B. C. He fixed its most flourishing period during and immediately after the time of Solomon. The king's role became obvious when Glueck discovered that Khirbet Nahas was but one of a whole string of such camps throughout the valley. To exploit the mines in this dis tant area on such a scale must have required the organizational powers of a strong central agency. Only the government of Solomon could have underwritten such an enterprise. To the south, beside Israel's port of Eilat, where the Wadi el 'Araba opens onto the Gulf of 'Aqaba, Glueck also searched out the site of ancient Ezion-geber. From here, accord ing to the Bible, a fleet of Solomon's ships plied the Red Sea on trading missions to southern Arabia and Africa. A previous searcher for Ezion-geber had noted an insignificant-looking mound of sand about a third of a mile from the seashore, but had been unable to date it. Glueck saw immediately that the pottery fragments strewn over the mound were of the same type as those in the mining camps. But to his vast surprise, Glueck found no evidence whatever of a sea port; instead he found a metal refinery, the most elaborate ever discovered in the ancient Near East. While the factory and its surrounding houses covered only an acre and a half, its importance may be deduced from the fact that it was defended by a heavily fortified brick wall. The main opening was a covered gateway with three entries, each protected by guardrooms. Located in the middle of the wadi, the * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "An Archeologist Looks at Palestine," December, 1947; "On the Trail of King Solomon's Mines," Feb ruary, 1944; and "Geography of the Jordan," Decem ber, 1944, all by Nelson Glueck.