Israeli researchers discover evidence of biblical kingdom of Edom in Arava Desert

Ending centuries of conflicting views on the Biblical interpretation of Genesis 36:31 that describes an early, pre-10th century BCE Edomite kingdom as the one that ruled the region before any Israeli king reigned, a team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University proved it with the help of copper specimens found in the Arava desert.

The Biblical description reads, "the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned," but the archaeological record has remained controversial ever since. The new study based on specimens found in copper production sites found that the Edom kingdom flourished in the Arava Desert in today's Israel and Jordan during the 12th-11th centuries BCE.

The team led by Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Prof. Tom Levy of the University of California, San Diego, reveals the secret story of a rich and advanced society that flourished using a copper "high-tech network."

Copper was high in demand during the ancient times to produce weapons and tools but its mining remained a complex process, requiring different stages and levels of expertise. After analyzing the findings from ancient copper mines in Jordan and Israel for over 500 years from the first millennium BCE (1300-800 BCE), archaeologists were surprised to find dramatic changes in the copper slag discovered at the Arava sites.

"Using technological evolution as a proxy for social processes, we were able to identify and characterize the emergence of the biblical kingdom of Edom," said the team lead Ben-Yosef. "Our results prove it happened earlier than previously thought and in accordance with the biblical description."

Copper slag or the waste of copper extraction by smelting, indicates a clear statistical fall in the amount of copper in the slag over time, which means the production had become expertly streamlined for efficiency. The researchers attribute this sudden improvement to one of the most famous Egyptian invasions of the Holy Land -- the military campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I (the biblical "Shishak"), who sacked Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE.

In another sense, the new research suggests that Egypt's invasion of Edom that was associated with destruction, could have actually triggered a "technological leap" as was evident in more efficient copper production and trade.

The team found a sudden standardization of the copper slag in the second half of the 10th century BC, from the Faynan sites in Jordan to the Timna sites in Israel, an extensive area of some 2,000 square kilometers, which occurred just as the Egyptians entered the region. This enabled the local copper industry to increase its production methods. "The Edomites developed precise working protocols that allowed them to produce a very large amount of copper with minimum energy," said Prof. Ben-Yosef.

"As a consumer of imported copper, Egypt had a vested interest in streamlining the industry. It seems that, through their long-distance ties, they were a catalyst for technological innovations across the region. For example, the camel first appeared in the region immediately after the arrival of Shoshenq I," Prof. Ben-Yosef said.

The new findings contradict the previous view of archaeologists that the Arava was populated by a loose alliance of tribes, and they're consistent with the biblical story that there was an Edomite kingdom here. "A flourishing copper industry in the Arava can only be attributed to a centralized and hierarchical polity, and this might fit the biblical description of the Edomite kingdom," said Prof. Ben-Yosef.

Source: ibtimes

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