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Eilat Stone (Long)


#1

Vicky, I did a little more research, in the hope of finding clue
to where you might begin to look in your area for the source of
Eilat Stone. The following is an excerpt from an article by
Hillel Geva, entitled “Archeological Sites in Israel”. I hope
you find this useful… -Pete-

"Hillel Geva studied archeology at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, participated in excavations in the Jewish Quarter and
the Citadel in Jerusalem, is author of the entry “Jerusalem” in
the New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy
Land and editor of Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.

VALLEY OF THE ANCIENT COPPER MINES

The survey and excavations at Timna were conducted by B.
Rotenberg, on behalf of the =91Arava Expedition=92 under the auspices
of the Ha=92aretz Museum of Tel Aviv, the Institute of Archeology,
Tel Aviv University and (since 1974) the Institute for
Archeo-Metallurgical Studies of University College, London. A
land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig
copper Deuteronomy 8:9

The Timna Valley is located in the southwestern Arava, some 30
km. north of the Gulf of Eilat. It is a semi-circular, erosional
formation of some 70 sq. km., opening in the east towards the
Arava; on the north, west and south it is surrounded by cliffs,
about 300 m. high. In the lower parts of these cliffs and on the
slopes in front of them, copper-rich nodules (up to 55% copper)
mainly of malachite and chalcocite, were mined in ancient times.
Ever since man discovered, in the 6th millennium BCE, how to
turn a =91piece of rock=92 into malleable metal, copper has been
mined and smelted in the Timna Valley =96 even in modern times, by
the Israeli Timna Mining Company, which is no longer in
production.

Extensive remains of human activity during early periods are
still visible in the rugged hills. There is evidence of copper
mining in shafts and galleries and copper smelting in furnaces
of various types, and there are remains of camps and several cult
sites, including an Egyptian mining sanctuary.

The existence of the remains of copper production at Timna was
known from surveys conducted at the end of last century, but
scientific attention and public interest was aroused when in the
1930s Nelson Glueck attributed the copper mining at Timna to King
Solomon (10th century BCE) and named the site “King Solomon=92s
Mines”; this theory has not been verified by subsequent field
work.

Surveys and excavations in the Timna Valley were conducted
between 1959 and 1990. From the surprising findings it is now
possible to reconstruct the long and complex history of copper
production there, from the Late Neolithic period to the Middle
Ages. Mining activities in the Timna Valley reached a peak
during the reign of the Pharaohs of the 14th=9612th centuries BCE,
when Egyptian mining expeditions, in collaboration with
Midianites and local Amalekites, turned the Timna Valley into a
large-scale copper industry.

Copper mining

After an initial phase of surface collection of ore nodules in
prehistoric times, the early miners followed outcropping ore
veins underground. These earliest shafts, hammered into the rock
with large and clumsy stone tools, were irregular big holes from
which galleries spread in all directions, following the ore.

The Egyptian miners who came later used metal chisels and hoes
and excavated very regular, tubular shafts, with footholds in the
walls for moving down, and up, the shafts. Some of these shafts
penetrated to a depth of 30 m. and more, before reaching the
copper-rich sandstone formation. From the shafts, narrow
galleries followed the ore occurrence, widening into underground
cavities where large bodies of ore nodules had to be mined out.
As the

complex network of galleries grew, heavy loads of ore had to be
dragged along the narrow galleries, to be hauled to the surface.
These sophisticated multi-leveled shaft-and-gallery mines, with
proper underground ventilation, are the earliest systematic mines
of this kind discovered to date.

Mining was abandoned when the concentration of ore nodules
declined. The abandoned shafts and galleries were either
intentionally filled with mining waste, or gradually filled up
with wind- and water-carried sand. Evidence of their existence is
visible today in saucer-like “plates” =96 thousands of them =96 on
the slopes below the Timna Cliffs.

Copper production

The earliest, well-preserved copper smelting furnace dates from
the 5th millennium BCE. It consisted of a small pit dug in the
ground, with a low substructure of field stones, and was
ventilated by goatskin bellows. Smelting in these pits was
primitive and inefficient.

During the following three millennia, copper was produced with
steadily improving furnaces and control of the metallurgical
processes. Already in the Chalcolithic period (4th millennium
BCE), iron ore (available in Timna) was added as flux to the
smelting charge of copper ore and charcoal, which greatly
improved the smelting. Another big step forward, in the early
third millennium BCE, was “tapping” the fluid slag out of the
hot furnace, which made continuous smelting possible and saved
precious fuel. The metallic copper produced by this process
remained at the bottom of the furnace as an irregular ingot =96
probably the earliest copper ingot in history.

There is no evidence of mining or smelting in Timna from the
middle of the 3rd millennium BCE until the late 2nd millennium
BCE, when Egyptian mining expeditions arrived. There are the
ruins of numerous work camps, mainly workshops for copper
smelting. One of the larger ( 400 sq.m.) camps was excavated; in
its central courtyard, a stone-lined storage pit contained copper
ore nodules to be crushed on a nearby stone platform. A variety
of grinding tools, such as granite hammers, mortars and pestles,
anvils and “saddle-backed” sandstone querns were found on this
platform. Near the smelting furnaces, at a distance from the
workshops, slag heaps, charcoal pits, tuy=E8res, stone tools and
potsherds were found.

In the 14th century BCE, during the Egyptian-Midianite copper
production at Timna, a very advanced smelting furnace, consisting
of a bowl-shaped smelting hearth dug into the ground and lined
with clay mortar, was in use. It was about 40 cm. in diameter and
up to 50 cm. high. Some of the furnaces had a dome-shaped top.
In front of the smelting hearth was a shallow pit, flanked by two
large stones, which served as the slag tapping pit. A clay tube
penetrated the furnace wall opposite the tapping hole and served
as a tuy=E8re through which air was blown by pot-bellows. For each
furnace three bellows were needed and the smelting area was
littered with hundreds of tuy=E8re fragments.

The Hathor Temple

At the foot of the huge sandstone formation in the center of the
Timna Valley known as “King Solomon=92s Pillars,” a small Egyptian
temple was excavated. Dedicated to Hathor, Egyptian goddess of
mining, it was founded during the reign of Pharaoh Seti I
(1318-1304 BCE) and served the members of the Egyptian mining
expeditions and also their local co-workers. The sanctuary
consisted of an open courtyard measuring 9 x 6 m., with a naos
(cult chamber), where a niche had been cut into the rock,
apparently to house a statue of Hathor. The temple was badly
damaged by earthquake and rebuilt during the reign of Pharaoh
Ramses II (1304-1237 BCE), with an enlarged courtyard (10 x 9 m.)
and a new, solid white floor. The walls were made of local
sandstone and granite but the facade was of white sandstone from
the mining area. The temple, with its two square columns bearing
Hathor heads, must have been an exciting sight in the light of
the rising sun. In the temple courtyard there was a workshop for
casting copper figurines as votive offerings. Among the finds in
this temple were hieroglyphic inscriptions including cartouches
(seals) of most of the pharaohs who reigned in the 14th=9612th
centuries BCE. There were also numerous other Egyptian-made
votive offerings, including many copper objects, alabaster
vessels, cat and leopard figurines of faience, seals, beads and
scarabs as well as Hathor sculptures, figurines and plaques.
Altogether several thousand artifacts were uncovered in the
Egyptian temple.

With the decline of Egyptian control of the region in the middle
of the 12th century BCE, the mines at Timna and the Hathor temple
were abandoned. However, cultic activities in the temple were
restored by the Midianites, who remained in Timna for a short
period after the Egyptians left. They cleared most traces of the
Egyptian cult and effaced the images of Hathor and the Egyptian
hieroglyphic inscriptions on the stelae. Other changes were made:
a row of mazeboth (stelae), was erected and a =91bench of
offerings=92 was built on both sides of the entrance. Remains of
woolen cloth found along the courtyard walls provide evidence
that the Midianites turned the Egyptian temple into a tented
desert shrine. Among the finds in this Midianite shrine was a
large number of votive gifts brought especially from Midian,
including beautifully decorated Midianite pottery and metal
jewelry. Of particular significance is the find of a copper snake
with gilded head. It is reminiscent of the copper serpent
described in Numbers 21:6-9.

The evidence of a sophisticated Midianite culture, as found in
Timna, is of extraordinary importance in the light of the
Biblical narrative of the meeting of Moses and Jethro, high
priest of Midian, and the latter=92s participation in the
organization and cult of the Children of Israel in the desert.
(Exodus 18)"


#2

Pete, What an excellent offering. Thank you.

Eilat and “King Solomon’s Mines,” are major tourist spots. I
first visited there in 1963 and thoroughly enjoyed the
experience. While snorkeling there I saw King Hussein water
skiing. The Bay there is shared by Israel and Jordan.

Eilat Stone has been a favorite of mine since that time,
unfortunately I was only buying finished jewelry at that time.
With foresight I would have brought back rough.

I picked up a beautiful piece of beach quartz there and had a
large ring made from it.

The Gaza Strip was closed at that time. I have gone back when it
was opened and had more area to explore. It is now part of Egypt
again and not accessible.

Thanks for the memories. Teresa