Just-published evidence from a US-directed archeological dig in Jordan further authenticates the Bible‘s descriptions of the existence of the ancient nation of Edom during the eras of King David and his son, King Solomon.
The full results of the 2002 excavation by a team of international scholars at the site of Khirbet en-Nahas (“ruins of copper” in Arabic), are reported in the current issue of the British journal Antiquity published this week.
The new study, headed by archeology Prof. Thomas Levy of University of California, San Diego, contradicts much contemporary scholarship claiming – on the basis of no physical evidence – that no Edomite state existed before the 8th Century BCE. Until the new discovery, many scholars said the Bible’s numerous references to ancient Israel’s interactions with Edom could not be valid.
While previous investigations in Edom had been carried out in the Jordanian highland zone and put the rise of the Edomite kingdom during the 8th to 6th centuries BCE, the new archeological data from modern-day Jordan presents strong evidence for the involvement of Edom with neighboring ancient Israel as described in the Bible and indicates the existence of the biblical nation of Edom at least as early as the 10th Century BCE – when David and Solomon were alive.
The Edomite lowlands, home to a large copper ore zone, had been ignored by archeologists because of the logistical difficulties of working in the extremely dry and hot region. But with an anthropological perspective and using high precision radiocarbon dating, the team showed evidence of two major phases of copper production – during the 12th to 11th centuries BCE and the 10th to 9th centuries BCE.
The archeologists dug up evidence of construction of massive fortifications and industrial-scale metal production activities, as well as over 100 building complexes. Egyptian scarabs of a “walking sphinx” and a hunting scene provide additional evidence of metal-working activities at the site in the period around 1200 to 900 BCE. The researchers note in their journal article that these results “push back the beginnings of Edom 300 years earlier than the current scholarly consensus and show the presence of complex societies, perhaps a kingdom, much earlier than previously assumed.”
Excavations at Khirbet en-Nahas were part of the Jabal Hamrat Fidan Project and carried out under the auspices of the UC -San Diego and Jordan’s antiquities department. Working under Levy, the international team included Russell Adams (of McMaster University in Canada); Mohammad Najjar (of Jordan) and Prof. Andreas Hauptmann (of the German Mining Museum). The digs were funded by grants from the C. Paul Johnson Family Charitable Foundation and the university.