Friday, October 7, 2011

In Search Of... King Solomon's Mines

A couple of nights ago I watched an excellent documentary on PBS called "Quest For Solomon's Mines." You can watch the entire 1 hour episode on the official PBS website HERE.  The description of the program there reads in part, "Countless treasure-seekers have set off in search of King Solomon's mines... inspired by the Bible's account of splendid temples and palaces adorned in glittering gold and copper. Yet... many contend that they are no more real than King Arthur. In the summer of 2010, NOVA and National Geographic embarked on two cutting-edge field investigations that... expose important new clues buried in the pockmarked desert of Jordan, including ancient remnants of an industrial-scale copper mine."

As I was watching this documentary, I found myself vaguely recollecting an episode of the 1970's TV show In Search Of..., titled "King Solomon's Mines," that I'd seen as a kid. It first aired in November 1981, but you can watch it on You Tube HERE.  "The Phoenicians opened up to Solomon the trade routes of the world," Narrator Leonard Nimoy explains. "In return Solomon guaranteed them a regular supply of oil and wheat... The existence of Solomon's sea trade brought strength and wealth to his land. It also brought the most famous woman of the time to him. The Queen of Sheba came from southern Arabia, the wealthiest region in the Semitic world... Did Solomon ever have his own mines? Or did he simply trade with people who did?"

In contrast, this new PBS special never once mentions the Phoenicians or the Queen of Sheba, asserts that the prior belief about Solomon's wealth deriving from control of trade was wrong, and posits that the real source of his wealth was a vast copper mine and smelting plant recently found in what is today Jordan. (It also explains that the legend Solomon had 1,000 wives was also likely wrong, since the entire population of Jerusalem in his time was about 1,000 people.)

This PBS documentary also explains that the Bible never makes any mention of any gold mines owned by King Solomon.  Rather, the entire concept  apparently originated in a Victorian-era adventure story.  I suppose that's considerably more intriguing than 'King Solomon's Copper Smelter.'

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