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Written by Stephen Langfur
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Midianite Tent Shrine
Copper at Timna
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Solomon's Pillars

timna-solomons-pillars2.jpgIf we circle Mt. Timna with the bus, rather than hiking up and down it, we make our first stop on the southwest side of the mountain at "Solomon's Pillars." Glueck (p. 77) dated most of the pottery shards here, as well as those in other copper-mining sites near the Arava, to the time of Solomon and after. The Biblical account of Solomon's wealth, including his seafaring expeditions from Ezion-Geber in quest of gold, led Glueck to entitle a chapter "King Solomon's Copper Mines." From this the pillars get their name. Today, however, archaeologists attribute most of Timna's pottery to the Egyptians of the 12th century BC. There are also earlier shards from the Chalcolithic (Copper-stone) Era, and later examples from the Midianites. No trace of Solomon.

The pillars are made of sandstone, that is, of quartz nuggets bound by natural cement, containing iron, manganese and copper. The cement is vulnerable to erosion. It is conceivable that during the formation of the Dead Sea Transform the mountain developed cracks. Water got into the cracks and sculpted these forms.

The effect is impressive, especially when we lie near the base of the pillars and look up. The ancient Egyptians too were impressed. On the nearby hill just west of us, they apparently conducted religious rites. The north end of that hill, slightly higher than the rest, forms a natural altar in the direction of the pillars. Near this altar are human-made cup-like depressions, probably for receiving libations.