In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
“No textiles have ever been found at excavation sites”, archaeologists explained. The fabrics were discovered in the Timna Valley, which was a copper production district in Solomon´s times, 3,000 years ago.
Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered an extensive fabric collection in the ancient copper mines of Timna Valley (Israel) dating back some 3,000 years to the biblical era of King David and Solomon.
The textiles may give archaeologists insight into the lives of the early Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribe that operated the copper mines at Timna.
The materials were discovered by the Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef excavation team, and include “cloth of diverse colour, design and origin”, the archaeologists said.
“NO TEXTILES FROM THIS PERIOD HAVE EVER FOUND”
According to Ben-Yosef, “no textiles (from this period) have ever been found at excavation sites like Jerusalem, Megiddo and Hazor, so this provides a unique window into an entire aspect of life from which we’ve never had physical evidence before.”
“We found fragments of textiles that originated from bags, clothing, tents, ropes and cords”, Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, senior lecturer in archaeology at the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and ANE Cultures, added.
The university explained in a press release that the small pieces of fabric, some only 5x5 centimetres in size, vary in colour, weaving technique and ornamentation.
Some of these fabrics “resemble textiles only known from the Roman era”, said Dr. Orit Shamir, a senior researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority, who led the study of the fabrics themselves.
THE EDOMITES, A DEVELOPED SOCIETY
“The wide variety of fabrics also provides new and important information about the Edomites, who, according to the Bible, warred with the Kingdom of Israel”, Dr. Ben-Yosef declared.
The mines are believed to have been operated by the semi-nomadic early Edomites, and the discoveries also offer insight into their complex society. “Nomad does not mean simple. This discovery strengthens our understanding of the Edomites as an important geopolitical presence,” Dr. Ben-Yosef added.
“The latest discovery of fabrics, many of which were made far from Timna in specialized textile workshops, provides a glimpse into the trade practices and regional economy of the day,” the university said.
“We found linen, which was not produced locally. It was most likely from the Jordan Valley or Northern Israel. The majority of the fabrics were made of sheep’s wool, a cloth that is seldom found in this ancient period,” said TAU masters student Vanessa Workman.
“This tells us how developed and sophisticated both their textile craft and trade networks must have been.”
THE “SEVEN SPECIES” ALSO FOUND
Fragments of furnaces, clothing, fabrics and rope and a number of food fragments were unearthed in a 2013 dig at the site whose findings were publicized now. The artifacts were dated to the 10th century BCE — the time during which, according to the bible, King Solomon ruled ancient Israel.
“We can reconstruct wine typical of King David's era, for example, and understand the cultivation and domestication processes that have been preserved in the DNA of the seed", the archaeologist explained.
Also found from the same period, as confirmed by radiocarbon dating, were unprecedented quantities of seeds from the Biblical “Seven Species” (the two grains and five fruits considered unique products of the Land of Israel).
THE “SILICON VALLEY” OF ANCIENT ISRAEL
The Timna Valley — now a national park — was a copper production district with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites, said by some to have been active during the reign of King Solomon.
The materials found at the site underlined that the copper mines were the “silicon valley” of their day, the university said in its press release.
“Copper was used to produce tools and weapons and was the most valuable resource in ancient societies, producing it was a highly complex process. Miners in ancient Timna may have been slaves or prisoners… but the act of smelting, of turning stone into metal, required an enormous amount of skill and organization”, it continued.
Ben-Yosef also stated that “the possession of copper was a source of great power, much as oil is today. If a person had the exceptional knowledge to ‘create copper,’ he was considered well-versed in an extremely sophisticated technology. He would have been considered magical or supernatural, and his social status would have reflected this.”
To support copper production in the middle of the desert, food, water and textiles had to be transported long distances through the desert and into the valley to the mines.