National Geographic : 2010 Dec
• countries. Its national identity came well before any digging. What's dug up can only con rm that identity...or not. " ," says Tom Levy cheer- fully as he stands over an open pit lled with ancient coal-black slag. Sprawling around him and his volunteer undergraduates from the University of California, San Diego is a 25-acre copper production site---and adjacent to it, a large fortress complex that includes the ruins of 3,000-year-old guardhouses. Apparently the sentinels lived practically on top of the smelt- ing operations, while overseeing a presumably reluctant labor force. "When you have indus- trial production of this scale, you have to have a procurement system for food and water," Levy continues. "I can't prove it, but I think that the only people that are going to be working in this rather miserable environment are either slaves--- or undergrads. e point is, simple tribal societ- ies couldn't do something like this." Levy, an anthropologist, rst came to south- ern Jordan in 1997 to examine metallurgy's role in social evolution. e lowland district of Faynan, where the blue-green glitter of mala- chite can be seen from a distance, was an obvi- ous place to study. It also happened to be where the American rabbi and archaeologist Nelson Glueck unabashedly proclaimed in 1940 that he had discovered the Edomite mines con- trolled by King Solomon. Subsequent British excavators believed they had found evidence that Glueck was o by some three centuries and that Edom actually dated to the seventh century . . But when Levy started probing the site known as Khirbat en Nahas (Arabic for "ruins of copper"), the samples he sent o to Oxford for radiocarbon dating con rmed that Glueck had been on the right track: is was a tenth-century copper-production site---and, Levy adds pointedly, "the closest copper source to Jerusalem." e team headed by Levy and his Jordanian colleague Mohammad Najjar has uncovered a four-chambered gate similar to ones found at sites in Israel that might date to the tenth- century . . A few miles from the mines, they've excavated a cemetery of more than 3,500 tombs dating to the same period---perhaps lled with the remains of Iron Age mountain nomads known from ancient Egyptian sources as Shasu, who Levy thinks may have been "corralled at certain points in time and forced to work in the mines." Most work in the mines appears to have ceased by the end of the ninth century---and the so-called "disruption layer" uncovered by Levy's students may explain why. ey found in this layer 22 date pits, which they dated to the tenth century . ., along with Egyptian artifacts such as a lion-headed amulet and a scarab, both from the time of the pharaoh Shoshenq I. at ruler's invasion of the region shortly a er Solomon's death is chronicled in the Old Testament and at the Temple of Amun at Karnak. "I de nitely believe that Shoshenq disrupted metal production here at the end of the tenth century," says Levy. " e Egyptians in the ird Intermediate Period weren't strong enough to eld an occupying force, which is why you don't see Egyptian bread molds and other material culture here. But they could organize some pretty big military campaigns---strong enough to upset these petty kingdoms, to make sure they wouldn't be a threat to them. at's what I think Shoshenq did here." e "hell" that Levy has unearthed at Khir- bat en Nahas could prove to be hell for the Finkelstein school of low chronology. Levy's copper mines may not be as sexy as King David's DOES DAVID, WITH ALL HIS METAPHORICAL POWER, CEASE TO MATTER IF HIS DEEDS AND HIS EMPIRE ARE ULTIMATELY VIEWED AS WORKS OF FICTION?