In a Ruined Copper Works, Evidence That Bolsters a Doubted Biblical Tale





In biblical lore, Edom was the implacable adversary and menacing neighbor of the Israelites. The Edomites lived south of the Dead Sea and east of the desolate rift valley known as Wadi Arabah, and from time to time they had to be dealt with by force, notably by the likes of Kings David and Solomon.

Today, the Edomites are again in the thick of combat — of the scholarly kind. The conflict is heated and protracted, as is often the case with issues related to the reliability of the Bible as history.

Chronology is at the crux of the debate. Exactly when did the nomadic tribes of Edom become an organized society with the might to threaten Israel? Were David and Solomon really kings of a state with growing power in the 10th century B.C.? Had writers of the Bible magnified the stature of the two societies at such an early time in history?

An international team of archaeologists has recorded radiocarbon dates that they say show the tribes of Edom may have indeed come together in a cohesive society as early as the 12th century B.C., certainly by the 10th. The evidence was found in the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of what was Edom and is now part of Jordan.

Thomas E. Levy, a leader of the excavations, said in an interview last week that the findings there and at abandoned mines elsewhere in the region demonstrated that the Edomites had developed a complex state much earlier than previously thought.



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