|Location:||Southern Negev. 25km north of Eilat along Route 90.|
|Open:||no restrictions |
|Address:||Timna Tourist Park, Kibbutz Elifaz, M.P. Hevel, Eilot 88812, Tel: +972-7-6316756, Fax: +972-7-6356217. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|8000 BP||first copper mining.|
|3400 BP||Egyptians created a large-scale copper industry.|
|1985||copper prices plunged, mine closed.|
|Image: Natural Arch in Timna Park, Negev Desert, Israel. Photographer: Professor Mark A. Wilson, Department of Geology, The College of Wooster.|
King Solomon's Mines is a tourist complex run by Kibbutz Elifaz. It is an ancient copper mining district with mining activities since the Neolithic, or better Chalcolithic. But the most important era was about 3,400 years ago, when the Egyptians created a large-scale copper industry here. Just the name of the mine is a little weird, as a connection with King Solomon 3,000 years BP is tenuous. It seems the name was choosen because of the adventure novel of the same name by Henry Rider Haggard, where the adventurer Allan Quatermaine searches for the legendary mines of King Solomon. The story has been picturised various times. But the mines in the book where diamond mines located in the heart of Africa.
|Image: Chalcolithic mine in Timna Park, Negev Desert, Israel. Photographer: Professor Mark A. Wilson, Department of Geology, The College of Wooster.|
Mikhrot Shelomo ha-Melekh (King Solomon's Mines) is an archaeoloic site located at the top of a north-south-trending mesa. On an area 300m long and 130m wide, ancient mining structures from the Egyptian times can be seen. There are crude furnaces and slag heaps, the copper was mined in open cast mines. The ores were first roasted, which means they were heated without smelting. Then a so called Bessemer process was applied, with air blowing on the surface of the melting ore. This causes the oxidation of sulfur and carbon in the ore and thus creates pure metal. The process was (re)discovered in the 19th century in Germany by Bessemer and named after him, but it was mostly used for British iron ores. At Timna the hot desert winds which blow mostly from the north provided the necessary flow of hot air naturally. Most likely the wind was the reason why this process was discovered and used here so early. However, there is no underground tour, and it is also not possible to visit the closed modern mine to the east.
The sightseeing concentrates on the spectacular desert landscape with many strange formations of red sandstone rock. The martian landscape of Timna has mushroom rocks, strange wind erosion forms, arches, and the Ammude Shelomo (Pillars of Solomon), columnar rock formations at the northern wall of the Mesa. The traces of copper can still be seen on the walls.
The area was mined for copper for eight millenia, with interruptions. The modern mining ended in 1985, when copper prices plunged, and the publicly owned mine, run by the Israeli government, was shut down. Now, with increasing copper prices for some time, the reactivation of the mine seems possible . The Israeli Arava Mines Ltd., a subsidiary of Mexican Ahmsa, has been analyzing the ores in an area of about 1,250ha. The result is promising, there is ore to produce about 20,000 tons of copper annually for ten years.