Poop. Scat. Dung. Whatever we call it, we don’t often think of excrement as having any significance whatsoever. But a recent archaeological find in Israel’s Timna Valley is shedding more light on the historical accuracy of the Bible. A team of archaeologists from the University of Tel Aviv has unearthed 3,000-year-old donkey dung on the site of an old mine that may validate the Biblical account of King Solomon and his immense wealth. A recent National Geographic article explains:
Archaeologists discovered the 3,000-year-old dung in an ancient mining camp atop a sandstone mesa known as Slaves’ Hill. The area is dotted with copper mines and smelting camps—sites where the ore was heated and turned into metal.
University of Tel Aviv archaeologist Erez Ben-Yosef began excavating the site in 2013. Last year he and his team were uncovering the remains of several walled structures, including a fortified gate, when they discovered what appeared to be animal excrement of relatively recent origin.
“We thought maybe some nomads had camped there with their goats a few decades ago,” Ben-Yosef said, noting that the dung still contained undecayed plant matter. “But the [radiocarbon] dates came back from the lab, and they confirmed we were talking about donkeys and other livestock from the 10th century B.C. It was hard to believe.”
The sheer fact that the dung has been so well preserved surprised the scientists, but they were even more surprised that the radiocarbon dating placed the age of the find at the time of King Solomon.
The Old Testament details the stunning wealth that belonged to the third king of Israel:
Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, besides that which the explorers and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the land brought gold and silver to Solomon. King Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold; 600 shekels of beaten gold went into each shield. And he made 300 shields of beaten gold; 300 shekels of gold went into each shield; and the king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. The king also made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with pure gold. The throne had six steps and a footstool of gold, which were attached to the throne, and on each side of the seat were armrests and two lions standing beside the armrests, while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. Nothing like it was ever made for any kingdom. All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. Silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon. For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Hiram. Once every three years the ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom 2 Chronicles 9:13-22 (ESV)
The debate over whether the site once belonged to King Solomon dates back to the 1930s, when an American archaeologist named Norman Glueck claimed to have found the mines that belonged to the Israelite king in the Arabah rift valley on the modern border of Israel and Jordan.
Later archaeologists disputed Glueck’s findings, taking issue with the Bible’s claims of the power and reach of the kingdom of Israel as well as the chronology of the items found in the Arabah. Some even called Glueck a laughingstock for so strongly asserting his claim.
However, over the past two decades, more recent finds have served to validate Glueck and his theory. From National Geographic:
In 1997 [National Geographic Explorer Thomas] Levy began a multi-year excavation at Khirbat en-Nahas, a site in southern Jordan that Glueck suggested was an ancient center of copper production. Levy and his team dug through more than 20 feet of copper slag waste to reach virgin soil, indicating that metal had been produced there on a massive scale. “Our excavations are providing support for many of Glueck’s insights,” Levy wrote in 2006.
The recent find in Israel’s Timna Valley may score more points for Glueck, who discovered and named the Slaves’ Hill site in 1934.
The Apostle Paul made a strong point about how God turns the world’s conventional wisdom upside down:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (ESV)
I suppose it stands to reason that God can even use dung to prove the truth of His Word.