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"A Land whose Stones are Iron, and out of whose Hills You can Dig Copper": The Exploitation and Circulation of Copper in the Iron Age Negev and Edom. DavarLogos 6-1 (2007), 69-91.

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This paper reviews the archaeological data concerning the mining and circulation of copper extracted from the mines of the Arabah valley (Timna and Faynan) during the Iron Age. In addition to describing the finds, the paper presents a socioeconomic reconstruction of the exploitation and exchange of copper controlled, in the Iron Age I, by the local pastoral groups, and in the Late Iron Age II by the Edomite state.
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DavarLogos 6.1 (2007): 69-91
“A LAND WHOSE STONES ARE IRON, AND OUT OF WHOSE HILLS
YOU CAN DIG COPPER
: THE EXPLOITATION AND
CIRCULATION OF COPPER IN THE IRON AGE NEGEV AND EDOM
Juan Manuel Tebes
Department of Egyptology (CONICET)
University of Buenos Aires, Argentine Catholic University - ARGENTINA
Abstract
This paper reviews the archaeological data concerning the mining and circulation of copper ex-
tracted from the mines of the Arabah valley (Timna and Faynan) during the Iron Age. In addition
to describing the finds, the paper presents a socioeconomic reconstruction of the exploitation
and exchange of copper controlled, in the Iron Age I, by the local pastoral groups, and in the
Late Iron Age II by the Edomite state.
Resumen
Este artículo examina desde un punto de vista socioeconómico los datos arqueológicos concer-
nientes a la explotación minera y circulación del cobre en el valle de Arabá durante la Edad de
Hierro por los grupos nómades de la comarca edomita.
There seems to be a general agreement that a most significant social and economic
transformation occurred in the Negev and Edom (southern Jordan) during the Iron
Age. For many researches, trade in Arabian aromatics is the epitome of the reasons
behind the local socioeconomic development.
1
According to this view, the develop-
ment of the Arabian incense trade in the Late Iron Age II marks the beginning of the
Iron Age exchange networks in these areas. Although earlier dates have been pro-
posed, unquestionable archaeological and epigraphic evidences of the Arabian trade
appear only in the eighth century BC.
2
The importance of the Negev and Edom re-
sided in their geographical location: throughout the Negev, and especially the Beer-
sheba valley, crossed the route which, coming from northwestern Arabia, came into
Deutoronomy 8:9.
1
E.g. E.A. Knauf, Midian. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Palästinas und Nordarabiens am Ende des 2. Jahr-
tausends v.Chr. (Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palästinavereins; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1988); I.
Finkelstein, “Arabian Trade and Socio-Political Conditions in the Negev in the Twelfth-Eleventh
Centuries B.C.E.,” JNES 47 (1988): 241-52; idem, Living on the Fringe. The Archaeology and History of the
Negev, Sinai and Neighbouring Regions in the Bronze and Iron Ages (Monographs in Mediterranean Archae-
ology 6; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1995), 122; P. Bienkowski and E. van der Steen, “Tribes,
Trade and Towns: A New Framework for the Late Iron Age in Southern Jordan and the Negev,”
BASOR 323 (2001): 21-47.
2
Cf. J. Retsö, “The Domestication of the Camel and the Establishment of the Fran incense Road from
South Arabia,” Orientalia Suecana 40 (1991): 187-219; R. Byrne, “Early Assyrian Contacts with Arabs
and the Impact on Levantine Vassal Tribute,” BASOR 331 (2003):11-25.
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
70
the Philistine outlets in the southern coastal zone; along Edom crossed another
branch, towards central Jordan, Syria and beyond.
This view seems to have been prevalent in modern scholarship until recently. But,
as is widely known, the Arabian trade is one example of the exchange in “invisible”
products that do not leave many traces in the archaeological record. Therefore, several
questions arise. Can other models of exchange, not necessarily having the Arabian
trade as the main raison d‟être, be found in the Iron Age Negev and Edom? Are evi-
dences of exchange totally absent in the archaeological record prior to the eighth cen-
tury BC?
In my opinion, interest in this “invisible” long-distance trade has underestimated
the importance of economic factors of more local character. The intention of this pa-
per is not to question the importance of the Arabian trade in aromatics but rather to
address another question that has occupied research in recent years, namely, the min-
ing and circulation of copper extracted at the Arabah valley mines most notably
Timna and Faynan- during the Iron Age, of which I suggest there is considerable
amount of archaeological evidence.
1. METALLURGY AND EXCHANGE OF COPPER IN THE IRON AGE
SOUTHERN LEVANT
The strategic importance of copper resided in the fact that bronze, an artificial al-
loy of copper and tin, was the most important metal used for utilitarian purposes in
the ancient Near East during the third and second millennia BC. While the sources of
tin during this period remain to be determined the most feasible locations being the
Taurus Mountains in Anatolia, Iran and Afghanistan-, we do know that one of the
most important sources of copper for the Levant was the island of Cyprus. Although
the Iron Age is taken to have begun c. 1200 BC, iron replaced bronze as the main
utilitarian metal in a gradual and complex process that only ended, in the southern
Levant, at c. 1000 BC.
3
Traditionally it was assumed that the disruption of the Mediterranean trade net-
works in the 12th century BC caused a considerable shortage of copper and tin, and
that this was the driving force behind the increasing use of iron as a substitute of
3
J. Curtis (ed.), Bronzeworking Centres of Western Asia c. 1000-539 B.C. (London: Kegan Paul Interna-
tional, British Museum, 1988); P.M. McNutt, The Forging of Israel: Iron Technology, Symbolism, and Tradi-
tion in Ancient Society (JSOT Suppl. Series 108, The Social World of Biblical Antiquity Series 8; Shef-
field: Almond Press, 1990), 152; S. Sherratt, “Commerce, Iron and Ideology: Metallurgical Innovation
in the 12th-11th Century Cyprus,” in Proceedings of the International Symposium: Cyprus in the 11th Century
B.C. (ed. V. Karageorghis; Nicosia: Leventis Foundation, University of Cyprus, 1994), 59-106; J.D.
Muhly, “Mining and Metalwork in Ancient Western Asia,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (ed.
in chief J.M. Sasson; Vol. 3; New York: Charles Scribner‟s Sons, Simon and Schuster Macmillan,
1995) 1501-21; P.R.S. Moorey, Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence
(Reprint; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 242-78.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
71
bronze. More specifically, it has been claimed that the decrease or cease in the copper
supplies from Cyprus encouraged the survey and exploitation of new sources of cop-
per, most notably the Arabah valley mines.
4
There is increasing evidence, however,
that relations between the Levant and Cyprus continued during the 12th century (al-
beit at a low level),
5
being well attested again in the second half of the 11th century
BC,
6
approximately the period in which the copper mining at Faynan seems to have
resumed again after centuries of inactivity. Furthermore, some caution must be ex-
pressed due to the number of high-tin bronzes found at several Early Iron sites in
Greece and the Levant.
7
In fact, very few furnaces or other facilities for the produc-
tion of iron have been found in Early Iron Levantine sites, and these are largely out-
numbered by the evidence of bronze metallurgy.
8
This is consistent with the archaeo-
logical evidence that indicates the continuation of bronze metallurgy in Palestine and
Jordan during the Early Iron Age.
9
4
M. Liverani, “The Collapse of the Near Eastern Regional System at the End of the Bronze Age: the
Case of Syria,” in Centre and Periphery in the Ancient World (eds. M. Rowlands, M. Larsen and K. Kris-
tiansen; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 71; Knauf, “King Solomon‟s Copper Sup-
ply,” in Studia Phoenicia XI: Phoenicia and the Bible. Procedings of the Conference held at the University of Leuven
on the 15th and 16th of March 1990 (ed. E. Lipiski; Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 44; Leuven: Peet-
ers, 1991), 185; idem, “The Cultural Impact of Secondary State Formation: The Cases of the
Edomites and Moabites,” in Early Edom and Moab: The Beginning of the Iron Age in Southern Jordan (ed. P.
Bienkowski; Sheffield Archaeological Monographs 7; Oxford: Collis, 1992), 48.
5
Sherratt, “Commerce, Iron and Ideology,” 69-71.
6
Amihai Mazar, “The 11th Century B.C. in the Land of Israel,” in Cyprus in the 11th Century B.C. (ed. V.
Karageorghis), 51.
7
J.C. Waldbaum, “The First Archaeological Appearance of Iron and the Transition to the Iron Age,”
in The Coming of the Age of Iron (eds. T.A. Wertime and J.D. Muhly; New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1980), 83-87; Muhly, “Mining and Metalwork,” 1515.
8
N.A. Mirau, “The Social Context of Early Iron Working in the Levant,” in Urbanism in Antiquity: From
Mesopotamia to Crete (eds. W.E. Aufrecht, N.A. Mirau and S.W. Gauley; JSOT Suppl. Series 244; Shef-
field: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 105-06.
9
In Palestine and Jordan, indications of bronze or copper metalwork during the Iron Age I exists at
Tel Mor (Stratum VI), Tell Qasile (Strata XI-X), Beth Shemesh (Stratum III), Khirbet Raddana, Beth-
Shean (Level VI), Dan (Stratum V), Tel Harashim and Tell Deir ±Alla (Phase B). In addition, large
amounts of bronze items, mainly utilitarian, have been found at Tel Nami, Megiddo (Locus
1739/Stratum VIA), Beth-Shean (Level VI - Tomb 90 in Northern Cemetery), Tell el-Mazar, Tel
Dothan (Tomb 1/Level 1), Beth Shemesh (Tomb 2 - Strata IVb-III), Deir el-Balah (Tombs 114 and
118), Tell el-Far±ah (south) (Cemeteries 500 and 900), Gezer (Tomb 252), Lachish (cave dwelling),
Tell Deir ±Alla, Madeba (Tomb A), Tell es-Sa±idiyeh (Graves 32, 101-102 and 119/Stratum XII), and
Tell el-±Umayri. Cf. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10.000-586 B.C.E. (The Anchor Bible
Reference Library; New York: Doubleday, 1990) 359; J.N. Tubb, , “The Role of the Sea Peoples in
the Bronze Industry of Palestine/Transjordan in the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age Transition,” in
Bronzeworking Centres (ed. Curtis), 254, n. 5; idem, “Sea Peoples in the Jordan Valley,” in The Sea Peoples
in Their World: A Reassessment (ed. E.D. Oren; University Museum Monograph 108, University Mu-
seum Symposium Series 11; Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 2000),
191-92; D. Wengrow, “Egyptian Taskmasters and Heavy Burdens: Highland Exploitation and the
Collared-Rim Pithos of the Bronze/Iron Age Levant,” Oxford Journal of Archaeology 15.3 (1996): 320;
O. Negbi, “Were There Sea Peoples in the Central Jordan Valley at the Transition from the Bronze
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
72
Many other social factors and customs could also have had some effect on the cir-
culation of metals in the Iron Age. There is some archaeological evidence in the Early
Iron Age that may point to metallurgical activities associated with ritual contexts. The
presence of cultic places at Timna (southern Arabah) may have permeated some kind
of cultic significance to the copper metalworking at the site: next to the bamah (high
place) of Site 2 remains of metallurgical operations were found; whereas at the Hathor
Temple‟s courtyard another workshop was discovered. It is quite probable that the
copper processing activities were an integral part of the ritual.
10
Similarly, in Tel Masos
(Beersheba valley), archaeologists unhearted a workshop for casting metals (House
314: Stratum II), which contained molded stones similar to the votive offerings found
at Timna‟s Mining Temple, which would suggest a ritual context.
11
All of these data
are also reinforced by the evidence from the turquoise mining operations at Serabit el-
Kadim, in west-central Sinai. At Serabit, the Egyptians and the local workers built a
large temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor, who among other epithets was known
as the “Lady of the Turquoise.”
12
To these examples we probably should add the case
of Tell Deir ±Alla (Phase B) in central Jordan, where metal workers carried out their
craft among and on the ruins of a Late Bronze shrine, which they rapidly restored.
13
Lastly, we should mention the recent discovery of cemetery Wadi Fidan 40, located at
the heart of the mining region of Faynan in southern Jordan. Here, archaeologists un-
hearted four graves that contained metal objects (copper and iron rings, anklets,
bracelets and earrings), which may have had attached some sort of symbolic value.
14
Although these findings are by no means easy to interpret, we know that in ancient
societies metal-making did not possess the scientific connotations that it does have in
the industrial world. The various activities related to it were necessarily ritualized and
symbolic. Ethnological researches on metalwork activities have shown that ritual con-
texts are usual in every stage of the production process; even the act of firing has ritual
significance. More specifically, early metallurgy was often associated with politico-
religious power and charisma.
15
Age to the Iron Age?,” TA 18 (1991): 216-22; G. London, “Central Jordanian Ceramic Traditions,” in
Ancient Ammon (eds. B. Macdonald and R.W. Younker; Studies in the History and Culture of the An-
cient Near East vol. 17; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 80.
10
B. Rothenberg, “Archaeo-Metallurgical Researches in the Southern Arabah 1959-1990. Part 2: Egyp-
tian New Kingdom (Ramesside) to Early Islam,” PEQ 131 (1999): 158, 171-72.
11
Fritz and A. Wittstock, “Areal H,” in Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen auf der
irbert el-Mšāš
(T
˜
l Māśōś) 1972-
1975 (eds. V. Fritz and A. Kempinski; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1983), 40-41.
12
Y. Beit-Arieh, “Fifteen Years in Sinai. Israeli Archaeologists Discover a New World,” BAR 10: 26-54.
13
G. van der Kooij and M.M. Ibrahim (eds.), Picking up the Threads…A Continuing Review of Excavations at
Deir Alla, Jordan (Leiden: University of Leiden, Archaeological Centre, 1989), 80-81; McNutt, The
Forging of Israel, 207-08.
14
T. E. Levy, R.B. Adams and R. Shafiq, “The Jebel Hamrat Fidan Project: Excavations at the Wadi
Fidan 40 Cemetery, Jordan (1997),” Levant 31 (1999): 302.
15
P. Budd and T. Taylor, “The Faerie Smith Meets the Bronze Industry: Magic versus Science in the
Interpretation of Prehistoric Metal-making,” World Archaeology 27.1 (1995): 138-39; McNutt, The Forg-
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
73
How many of these metal items originated from Arabah copper ores is regrettably
difficult to evaluate. At the present time the discussion is incomplete because too little
is known about the chemical composition of copper/bronze artifacts found in Pales-
tine and Jordan. Few analyses have been done, and for that reason the amount of
Arabah copper in southern Levantine archaeological assemblages is unknown. Fortu-
nately, it seems that recent studies are changing this picture. Recent analyses on
bronze artifacts from a tomb at Pella in the Jordan valley, dated to the late 11th or
10th centuries BC, gave lead isotope signatures consistent with the copper from Fay-
nan deposits
16
(cf. below the case of Khirbet edh-Dharih). The evidence is insuffi-
cient, however, to judge the nature, scope, and intensity of these connections.
It has been pointed out in recent years that copper played an important role in
previous periods of Negev‟s history, more specifically in the Chalcolithic,
17
and the
Early Bronze and Intermediate Bronze Ages.
18
For the Early Iron Negev and Edom
there is, unfortunately, limited evidence concerning the processing and circulation of
copper outside the mining areas. Apart from Timna and Faynan, the technology for
casting copper has been found at only few places; and even in these cases the remains
are not very impressive (see below).
However, it has been noted that the evidence of metallurgy and circulation of cop-
per is very difficult to assess. For example, we should not expect (except in ship-
wrecks) to find large quantities of copper ingots the form into which the copper was
generally transformed for transport or further casting-, given that these items were
expensive as well as easily portable. Instead, the less expensive stone tools, used for
hammering, polishing and grinding, as well as the remains of pyrotechnical facilities
(crucibles, furnaces, slag, etc.), are more frequent.
19
Further to this kind of evidence, it
is the case of the items used to carry the copper, consisting of packings made of or-
ganic materials, especially straw and leather. These materials are highly perishable and
generally do not survive in the archaeological assemblage. It must be assumed, there-
ing of Israel, 45-46. Cf. also S. Needham, “When Expediency Broaches Ritual Intention: The Flow of
Metal between Systemic and Buried Domains,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 7
(2001): 275-98.
16
G. Philip, P.W. Clogg, D. Dungworth and S. Stos, “Copper Metallurgy in the Jordan Valley from the
Third to the First Millennia BC: Chemical, Metallographic and Lead Isotope Analyses of Artifacts
from Pella,” Levant 35 (2003): 91.
17
J. Golden, T.E. Levy and A. Hauptmann, “Recent Discoveries Concerning Chalcolithic Metallurgy at
Shiqmim, Israel,” Journal of Archaeological Science 28 (2001): 961.
18
T. E. Levy, R.B. Adams, A. Hauptmann, M. Prange, S. Schmitt-Strecker and M. Najjar, “Early
Bronze Age Metallurgy: A Newly Discovered Copper Manufactory in Southern Jordan,” Antiquity 76
(2002): 432-33; M. Haiman, “Early Bronze Age IV Settlement Pattern of the Negev and Sinai Desert:
View from Small Marginal Temporary Sites,” BASOR 303 (1996):1-32; Y. Yekutieli, S. Shalev and S.
Shilstein, “±En Yahav A Copper Smelting Site in the ±Arava,” BASOR 340 (2005): 1-21. But see the
criticism of B.A. Saidel, Arid Zone Pastoralists in the Early Bronze Age in the Southern Levant (Unpublished
Ph.D. Thesis; Cambridge: Harvard University, 1998), 243-63.
19
Haiman, “Early Bronze Age IV Settlement Pattern, 20; Levy et. al., “Early Bronze Age Metallurgy,”
Fig. 4.
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
74
fore, that the quantity of metal remains found in the Early Iron Negev and Edom may
not indicate the real weight of copper in the economy of that time.
As for the possible provenance of the copper of which the objects were made,
some difficulties arise too. Many of the metal artifacts were melted and alloyed again
to be used later on as recycled objects, thus making difficult to know the source of the
copper.
20
An additional difficulty lies in the mineralogical and geochemical composi-
tion of the Arabah copper ores. Because of their common origin, the ores from both
sides of the Arabah valley are very much the same in the isotopic composition of their
lead and in their trace element contents. Therefore, no analysis based on these pa-
rameters allows us to distinguish unambiguously between copper produced at Timna
and Faynan.
21
2. EVIDENCE OF METALWORK IN THE IRON AGE NEGEV AND EDOM
A review of the survey and excavation reports reveals at least two large quarrying
and metalwork centers (Timna and Faynan) and seven metal workshops in the Iron
Negev and Edom (Fig. 1).
Wadi Faynan. The Wadi Faynan area, located 60 km south of the Dead Sea at the
eastern foothills of the Arabah valley, has the distinction of being the largest source of
copper ore in the southern Levant (Fig. 2). It contains nodules of copper ore consist-
ing mainly of malachite, chalcocite and chrysocolla.
22
Research made in the area has
discovered evidence of exploitation since the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, which continued
during the Chalcolithic Period, Early Bronze Age, Iron Age, and the Roman and Early
Islamic Periods.
23
The mining of local copper ores during the Iron Age resumed after
a hiatus in activity during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. When and by whom the
Iron Age exploitation started is, however, a matter of debate.
Most of the evidence of Iron Age occupation in the Wadi Faynan area was found -
listing from south to north- at the site of Barqa el-Hetiye 2; along the banks of the
Wadi Fidan (Wadi Fidan 40 cemetery); Wadi al-Ghuwayb (Khirbet en-Nahas site); and
Wadi al-Jariya (Khirbet al-Jariya site).
At Barqa el-Hetiye 2, a team directed by Fritz surveyed and excavated a building -
House 108-, and to its southeast numerous mounds consisting of ash mixed with
20
Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 359; Haiman, op. cit., 24.
21
A. Hauptmann, F. Begemann, E. Heitkemper, E. Pernicka and S. Schmitt-Strecker, “Early Copper
Produced at Feinan, Wadi Arabah, Jordan: The Composition of Ores and Copper,” Archaeomaterials 6
(1992): 1-33.
22
Ibid.
23
Hauptmann, Zur frühen Metallurgie des Kupfers in Fenan/Jordanien (Der Anschnitt, Beiheft 11; Bochum:
Deutches Bergbau-Museum, 2001).
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
75
earth, remains of ovens, working stones and pieces of copper. The building was radio-
carbon dated to the ninth century BC.
24
At the bank of the Wadi Fidan, a pottery survey carried out by the Jabal Hamrat
Fidan Project (JHFP) recorded, in a small sample zone, twenty-four Iron I-II sites.
Interestingly, only one of these sites was associated with a settlement with architec-
ture.
25
Wadi Fidan 40 cemetery, located on the bank of the Wadi Fidan, was excavated
in 1997 and again in 2004.
26
A total of 236 graves, each containing the skeletal remains
of several individuals, were dug, though it is estimated that the cemetery contains a
minimum of 3,500 mortuary structures. Details of the site are available only from the
1997 season. Material goods were not very impressive and consisted mainly of beads,
metal jewelry and wooden bowls. There were not pottery finds associated with these
burials. Four graves contained metal objects: Grave 54 (one iron and two copper
rings), Grave 92 (two copper anklets, one iron bracelet and a metal earring fragment),
Grave 97 (one copper bracelet) and Grave 12 (one iron ring). According to radiocar-
bon results, Wadi Fidan 40 can be dated with a 95% confidence to the 1130-815 BC,
thus falling roughly in the transitional period Iron I-II. The nature of the findings led
the excavators to conclude that the local pastoral nomads used the cemetery, very
likely the shasu of the New Kingdom Egyptian sources.
At the Wadi al-Ghuwayb, the JHFP survey identified nine Iron Age sites. How-
ever, the only permanent settlement was Khirbet en-Nahas, the largest site in the area,
measuring c. 10 ha. The site consists of over one-hundred building complexes and
over thirty-four massive slag mounds. The most prominent feature is a large square
fortress with a one four-chamber gate.
27
In 2002 part of the gate complex of this for-
tress was excavated (Area A), and a sequence of four main strata (A4-A1) was estab-
lished associated with evidence of copper production. Radiocarbon dates place its
construction at the beginning of the 10th century and its end at the 9th century BC.
Excavation and radiocarbon dates from a nearby metalwork building (Area S) revealed
24
V. Fritz, “Vorbericht über die Grabungen in Barqā el-Hetīye im Gebit von Fēnān, Wā el-
±
Araba (Jor-
danien) 1990,” ZDPV 110 (1994): 125-50; idem, “Copper Mining and Smelting in the Area of Feinān
at the End of Iron Age I,” in Aharon Kempinski Memorial Volume: Studies in Archaeology and Related Disci-
plines (eds. S. Aµituv and E.D. Oren; Studies by the Department of Bible and Ancient Near East Vol.
15; Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, 2002), 96-98.
25
Levy, Adams, A.J. Witten, J.M. Anderson, Y. Arbel, S. Kuah, J. Moreno, A. Lo and M. Wagonner,
“Early Metallurgy, Interaction, and Social Change: The Jabal amrat Fīd¦n (Jordan) Research Design
and 1998 Archaeological Survey: Preliminary Report,” ADAJ 45 (2001): 180-81.
26
Levy et. al., “The Jebel Hamrat Fidan Project,” 299-314; Levy, Adams, and A. Muniz, “Archaeology
and the Shasu Nomads: Recent Excavations in the Jabal Hamrat Fidan, Jordan,” in Le-David Maskil.
A Birthday Tribute for David Noel Freedman (eds. R.E. Friedman and W.H. Propp; Biblical and Judaic
Studies from the University of California, San Diego; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 63-89; Levy
and M. Najjar, “Wadi Fidan,” AJA 109 (2005): 546-50.
27
Levy, Adams, Anderson, Najjar, N. Smith, Y. Arbel, L. Soderbaum and Muniz, “An Iron Age Land-
scape in the Edomite Lowlands: Archaeological Surveys along Wādī al-Ghuwayb and Wādī al-Jāriya,
Jabal amrat Fīd¦n, Jordan, 2002,” ADAJ 47 (2003): 268-70.
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
76
a longer period of settlement, between the 12th and 9th centuries BC (strata S4-S2).
Significant amounts of Negevite and Midianite pottery were found, which seem to
confirm these dates.
28
The Wadi al-Jariya contains twenty-seven recorded Iron Age sites. The site of
Khirbet al-Jariya dominates the settlement pattern, consisting of clusters of rectilinear
buildings and slag mounds; there are remains of a square fortified tower.
29
The lack of any firm chronological anchor in the Wadi Faynan district precludes
any definitive conclusion regarding the sociohistorical processes behind the resuming
of exploitation in the Iron Age. In fact, the problem of the beginning of activities at
Faynan is included in the broader issue of the beginning of occupation in Edom dur-
ing the Iron Age.
Two decades ago, Hart and Knauf
30
classified the pottery of the Faynan district in-
to three groups: (1) Late Iron II Edomite pottery (7th-6th centuries BC); (2) Negevite
pottery (with no independent dating); and (3) Non-Edomite Iron Age pottery, which
do no relate to any Palestinian or Jordanian equivalents. Types 1 and 3 are usually
found in association, except for the Wadi Khaled mines, where Type 1 was found in
isolation. Therefore, Hart and Knauf suggested that Type 3 is partially earlier than the
standard Edomite pottery, although the date of these pre-Edomite wares remains un-
certain. It seems that the recent pottery surveys carried out in the area point to occu-
pation in the Iron I. The surveys in the Wadi Faynan carried out by the Wadi Faynan
Project (WFP) seem to upheld the view of a pre-Edomite pottery horizon: whereas
some sites yielded both Edomite and “generic” Iron Age pottery (WF4.1-4.6), at least
in one site (WF424) Type 3 pottery was found in isolation.
31
The SGNAS survey re-
corded Iron I-II pottery at Khirbet en-Nahas, Khirbet al-Ghuwayb and Khirbet al-
28
Levy, Adams, Najjar, Hauptmann, Anderson, B. Brandl, M.A. Robinson and T. Higham, “Reassess-
ing the Chronology of Biblical Edom: New Excavations and 14C dates from Khirbat en-Nahas (Jor-
dan),” Antiquity 78 (2004): 863-76; cf. also Fritz, “Ergebnisse einer Sondage in
irbet
en-Na
µ
ās, Wādī
el-„Araba (Jordanien),ZDPV 112 (1996): 1-9.
29
Levy et. al., “An Iron Age Landscape,” 270-71.
30
“Wadi Feinan Iron Age Pottery,” Newsletter of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, Yarmuk Univer-
sity 1 (1986): 9-10.
31
G.W. Barker, R.B. Adams, O.H. Creighton, D.D. Gilbertson, J.P. Grattan, C.O. Hunt, D.J. Mattingly,
S.J. McLaren, H.A. Mohamed, P. Newson, T.E.G. Reynolds and D.C. Thomas, “Environment and
Land Used in the Wadi Faynan, Southern Jordan: the Second Season of Geoarchaeology and Land-
scape Archaeology (1997),” Levant 30 (1998): 20-21; Barker, Adams, Creighton, D. Crook, Gilbertson,
Grattan, Hunt, Mattingly, McLaren, Mohammed, Newson, C. Palmer, F.B. Pyatt, Reynolds and R.
Tomber, “Environment and Land Use in the Wadi Faynan, Southern Jordan: the Third Season of
Geoarchaeology and Landscape Archaeology (1998),” Levant 31 (1999): 283; Barker, Adams, Creigh-
ton, P. Daly, Gilbertson, Grattan, Hunt, Mattingly, McLaren, Newson, Palmer, Pyatt, Reynolds, H.
Smith, Tomber and A.J. Truscott, “Archaeology and Desertification in the Wadi Faynan: the Fourth
(1999) Season of the Wadi Faynan Landscape Survey,” Levant 32 (2000): 49.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
77
Jariya.
32
While the pottery found by the JHFP survey at Wadi Fidan is referred to as
belonging to the “generic „Iron I-II‟”,
33
the pottery recorded by the Wadi al-Ghuwayb
and Wadi al-Jariya‟s surveys seems to belong to the last part of the Iron II.
34
Nonetheless, the hypothesis of Early Iron occupation at Faynan has met with
strong opposition. Most notably, Bienkowski has made a case of the absence of Iron I
pottery in Edom, arguing that the pottery (especially collared-rim jars, Negevite and
Midianite pottery) recovered from surveys and dated to that period were misidentified,
thus actually belonging to the Iron II.
35
It is important to note, however, that the ma-
jor studies on the pottery of Edom have not been made on Faynan material, but
rather on pottery found at sites in the Edomite plateau, which certainly does seem to
date to c. 800 BC at the earliest.
The radiocarbon dates collected at Faynan suggest an occupation spanning a
broader span of time, ranging from the 12th until the 9th century BC, then including
the Iron I and the first half of the Iron II periods. However, the use of radiocarbon
dates in the recent excavations at Khirbet en-Nahas have been strongly criticized by
some scholars. Finkelstein
36
have recently pointed out that the earliest 14C dates from
the fort area came from industrial waste and fills (strata A4-A3-A2b) under the fort,
whose floors have not been preserved. Therefore, the fort was apparently constructed
later than the copper production activity at the site. Moreover, van der Steen and Bi-
enkowski
37
have strongly criticized the use of Bayensian calibrated 14C dates by Levy‟s
team, insomuch they reach dates considerably earlier than the original calibrated ra-
diocarbon dates.
Khirbet edh-Dharih. Located 40 km. northeast of the Faynan district, Khirbet edh-
Dharih has provided evidence of metallurgical work during the Late Iron Age. The
French excavations exposed, underneath the Roman level remains, metallurgical de-
bris consisting of crucible slags, metal lumps and fragments of multiple layered refrac-
tory material, in association with fireplaces. Unfortunately, the Roman leveling greatly
disturbed the earlier stratum. The pottery was found to be Late Iron II (7th-5th centu-
ries BC). Lumps of metal analyzed turned out to be an alloy of leaded tin bronze, a
confirmation that alloying and further treatment of copper to produce bronze was
32
B. MacDonald, The Southern Ghors and Northeast
±
Arabah Archaeological Survey (Sheffield Archaeological
Monographs 5; Sheffield: Collis, Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield,
1992), 73-81.
33
Levy et. al., “Early Metallurgy,” 180.
34
Levy et. al., “An Iron Age Landscape,” 264.
35
P. Bienkowski, “Iron Age Settlement in Edom: A Revised Framework,” in The World of the Aramaeans
II: Studies in History and Archaeology in Honour of Paul-Eugène Dion (eds. P.M.M. Daviau, J.W. Wevers and
M. Weigl; JSOT Suppl. Series 325; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 257-69.
36
I. Finkelstein, “Khirbet en-Nahas, Edom and Biblical History,” TA 32 (2005): 122-23.
37
van der Steen and Bienkowski, “Radiocarbon dates from Khirbat en-Nahas: A Methodological Cri-
tique,” Antiquity 80 (2006) (www.antiquity.ac.uk)
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
78
carried out at the site. The studies pointed to Faynan or Timna as the most likely
sources of the copper ores.
38
Southern Arabah valley. The southern Arabah was exploited over the centuries
thanks to its rich copper ore deposits. The key place is Timna valley (Wadi Mene
±
iyeh),
located about 30 km. north of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is a large, semi-circular erosional
formation that contains nodules of copper ore consisting of chalcocite, malachite,
chrysocolla, and plancheite. The periods of occupation span the Late Pottery Neo-
lithic, Chalcolithic, Early Bronze Age, Late Bronze/Iron I Ages, Roman and Early
Islamic periods.
39
It was in the Late Bronze/Iron I, however, when the New Kingdom
Egyptians of the 19th and 20th Dynasties carried out the first state-directed mining
enterprise. Evidence of occupation has been found between pharaohs Seti I (c. 1294-
1279 BC) and Ramses V (c. 1160-1156 BC).
The several surveys and excavations led by Rothenberg between 1959 and 1990
discovered several mining galleries, and at least eleven camps in which the smelting of
copper took place, as well as serving for storage and habitation for workers. The ex-
peditions excavated two of the smelting camps, Site 2 and Site 30, finding abundant
evidence of the metallurgical activities that were carried out there, especially smelting
furnaces, workshops and slag heaps (Fig. 3). Accumulation of windblown sand in Site
2 suggests that it may have been occupied seasonally rather than year-round.
40
The complex nature of the site is corroborated by the occurrence of cultic places in
the area. In Site 2, two structures of this kind were uncovered: a small building identi-
fied as a “Semitic” shrine and, on the top of a hill, a high place (bamah). Next to the
latter there were vestiges of casting operations. The most striking remains were found
at Site 200: a “Mining Temple” dedicated to the cult of the Egyptian goddess Hathor
(Fig. 4). The Egyptian activities are attested in Layers IV-III. In the courtyard of the
Temple, a small casting workshop was discovered, where copper and bronze votive
offerings were made. According to Rothenberg, after the Egyptians withdrew from
Timna (mid-12th century BC) the Temple (Layer II) was taken over for a short time
by peoples of northwestern Arabian origin, the Midianites, who re-arranged the archi-
tectural structure but probably continued the metallurgical operations of the previous
period.
Four main types of pottery can be identified at Timna: Egyptian, local wheel-made,
Negevite, and Midianite wares. It seems clear that the two former types represent the
38
S. Klein and A. Hauptmann, “Iron Age leaded tin bronzes from Khirbet Edh-Dharih, Jordan,” Jour-
nal of Archaeological Science 26 (1999): 1075, 1079.
39
H.G. Conrad and B. Rothenberg (eds.), Antikes Kupfer im Timna-Tal. 4000 Jahre Bergbau und Verhüttung
in der Arabah (Israel) (Der Anschnitt, Beiheft 1; Bochum: Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum,
1980).
40
Rothenberg, Timna: Valley of the Biblical Copper Mines (London: Thames and Hudson, 1972); idem (ed.),
The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna (Researches in the Arabah 1959-1984 vol. 1; London: Institute for
Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 1988); idem,
“Archaeo-Metallurgical Researches in the Southern Arabah,” 149-75.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
79
presence of Egyptian population in the area. Negevite and Midianite wares, on the
other hand, attest the presence of a non-Egyptian population -from the Negev in the
case of the Negevite pottery, from the Hejaz in the case of the Midianite pottery (see
below)- at Timna, very likely working at the mines and work camps.
41
What was their
relationship with the Egyptians, and what was the extent of the Egyptian control over
them, is still a matter of debate.
South of Timna valley, additional archaeometallurgical material associated with the
above referred pottery types was found at the mines of Nahal „Amram (Wadi „Amrani),
and at a camping site at Nahal Shlomo (Wadi Masri).
Jezirat Far‟aun. Jezirat Far‟aun, or Coral Island, is an offshore island located 1,5 km.
from the Sinai coast and 11 km. south of modern Eilat. Here, remains of a small met-
allurgical installation were found, as well as fayalite slag (an iron-based silicate), evi-
dence of small scale iron-smelting activities.
42
A number of Midianite sherds were
found in the vicinity.
43
Yotvata (±Ayn el-Ghadian). In the Iron Age fortress at Yotvata archaeologists un-
covered pieces of copper slag, a low-quality copper ingot, a small piece of copper, and
a layer of ashes and slag. Probably related to the copper production were grinding
stones and flint hammers.
44
Occurrence of Midianitepottery at the site suggests an
Iron I date for this material assemblage.
Givat Hazeva (Givat Parsa). A smelting site was found on the top of Givat Haseva, a
hill northwest of the Iron Age fortress of „En Haseva.
45
The site, still unpublished,
consists of three areas, of which two are important for our discussion: a) one cultic
site (eastern part), with Edomite pottery similar to the cultic pottery found in the fav-
issa (cultic pit) at the nearby „En Haseva; b) one smelting site (western part), with
Edomite and Midianite sherds (but no cultic vessels). The findings at the latter area
include two furnaces for smelting copper, slag and part of a blowpipe. The pottery of
the site, which includes Edomite, Negevite and Midianite wares, has been dated to the
7th-6th centuries BC.
46
However, due to the appearance of Midianite pottery, an ear-
lier date cannot be discarded.
Tel Masos (Khirbet el-Meshash). Tel Masos, located at the heart of the Beersheba val-
ley, was the largest and most complex site of the first wave of settlement in the Iron
Age Negev.
47
At this site, House 314 (Area H)
48
as well as House 96 (Area A),
49
both
41
Rothenberg and J. Glass, “The Midianite Pottery,” in Midian, Moab and Edom: The History and Archae-
ology of Late Bronze and Iron Age Jordan and North-West Arabia (eds. J.F.A. Sawyer and D.J.A. Clines;
JSOT Suppl. 24; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983), 65-124.
42
A. Flinder, “Is This Solomon‟s Seaport?,” BAR 15 (1989): 41.
43
Rothenberg and Glass, “The Midianite Pottery,” 76-77.
44
Z. Meshel, “Yotvata,” NEAEHL, vol. 4, 1518.
45
R. Cohen and Y. Yisrael, “En aÐeva –Giv„at Haparsa,” ESI 2 (1983): 45.
46
Y. Yisrael and S. Ben Arieh, pers. comm., 2005.
47
Cf. J.M. Tebes, “A New Analysis of the Iron Age I „Chiefdom‟ of Tel Masos (Beersheba Valley),
Aula Orientalis 21 (2003): 63-78.
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
80
from Stratum II (dated by the archaeologists to the late-12th and mid-11th centuries
BC; but most recently considered to be of 10th century BC date),
50
have been identi-
fied as metal workshops. Archaeometallurgical material discovered at these structures
include copper remains, slag, crucibles, work stones (used as tools: a hammer, an anvil
and a counterbalancing weight), smelting kilns and ash layers.
51
House 314 may have
been connected to a ritual function, as has been suggested by the appearance of
molded stones reminding human figures, very similar to the offerings found at the
Mining Temple of Timna. The excavators interpreted the building as the home of a
high-ranking person, who controlled craft activities and had connections with the in-
terregional trade.
52
According to the final report of the excavations, it appears that the
copper material originated in the Arabah (Timna or Faynan) and from recycled mate-
rials.
53
More recently, Kempinski has suggested that two pieces of copper originated in
melted down vessels.
54
Eight Midianite sherds, probably part of a single vessel, were found at House
314;
55
one Negevite vessel was discovered in Area F.
56
±
En Sharuhen. In this site, at the bank of the Nahal Besor, remains of an installation
with traces of fire and burnt substances were found, associated with large scatters of
pottery, mainly of Iron I date. According to the excavator, the structures probably
belong to a kiln related to a metal industry, similar to the furnaces found at Tell Qasile
and Tell Jemmeh.
57
It was probably used by the inhabitants of Tel Far±ah (south), just
on the other side of the Nahal Besor.
58
48
Fritz and Wittstock, “Areal H,” in
irbert el-āš
(T
˜
l Māśōś) (eds. Fritz and Kempinski), 40-41.
49
A. Kempinski, H. Rösel, E. Gilboa and Th. Stahleber, “Area A,” in
irbert el-Mšāš
(T
˜
l Māśōś) (eds.
Fritz and Kempinski), 21.
50
E.g. Finkelstein, “The Campaign of Shoshenk I to Palestine. A Guide to the 10th. Century BCE Pol-
ity,” ZDPV 118 (2002):109-35.
51
Cf. also F. Crüseman, “Die Kleinfunde,” in
irbert el-Mšāš
(T
˜
l Māśōś)
(eds. Fritz and Kempinski), 92
52
Fritz, “Copper Mining,” 95.
53
H.-G. Bachmann, “Kommentar zu den Analysentabellen,” in
irbert el-Mšāš
(T
˜
l Māśōś)
(eds. Fritz and
Kempinski), 200.
54
Pers. comm., in Z. Meshel, “The „Aharoni Fortress‟ Near Quseima and the „Israelite Fortresses‟ in the
Negev,” BASOR 294 (1994): 63 n. 27.
55
Fritz, “Areal H,” in
irbert el-Mšāš
(T
˜
l Māśōś) (eds. Fritz and Kempinski), 87.
56
Fritz, “Areale F1 und F2,” in
irbert el-Mšāš
(T
˜
l Māśōś) (eds. Fritz and Kempinski), 91, Pl. 161:7.
57
However, analysis on the large quantity of slag associated with the Iron I kiln found at Tell Jemmeh
(Level GH), believed by Petrie to be for iron smelting, has failed to find any traces of iron. Cf. Tubb,
“The Role of the Sea Peoples,” 255-56; McNutt, The Forging of Israel, 187.
58
D. Gazit, “±En Sharuµen: An Iron Age I Site in Naµal Besor,
±
Atiqot 25 (1994): 41*-45*, 190 (He-
brew); idem, Archaeological Survey of Israel: Map of Urim (125) (Jerusalem: IAA, 1996), 42*, 69-70. Less
conclusive are the finds from Nahal Besor Site 72, where remains of structures, flint tools, pottery
and copper ore (1,500 sq. m.) were found. The site provided pottery from several periods (Chalco-
lithic, Early-Middle Bronze, Iron I, and Byzantine) (Gazit, Map of Urim, 43*, 43-44), and it is therefore
uncertain when the metalworking took place.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
81
Tell Abu Salima (Sheikh Zuweid). Petrie excavated this site, located in the northern
Sinai coast, for three seasons in 1935-1936. At Levels N and M, Petrie found evi-
dences of bronze metalwork: at the earliest Level N, copper slag and two crucibles
with slag;
59
whereas at Level M, another crucible with slag.
60
No precise find-spot was
provided. Although Petrie pointed out that Level N was destroyed by fire, the pottery
evidence seems to imply that both Levels M and N overlapped. Petrie only provided a
date for Level M (1275-1212 BC)
61
but the occurrence of Philistine pottery at both
levels suggests a date between the second half of the 12th and the 11th centuries BC.
62
3. COPPER AND NOMADIC PASTORALISTS IN THE EARLY IRON AGE
During the Iron Age, a society based on an economy oriented towards pastoralism,
and perhaps small-scale farming, existed in the Negev and Edom. However, the above
discussion showed that mining, smelting and circulation of copper were also impor-
tant activities undertaken in these areas. Considering the scale of metal production at
Timna and Faynan and the presence of pottery associated with mobile pastoral groups
-Negevite and Midianite wares (see below)-, it seems worthwhile to check the possibil-
ity that these peoples somehow had something to do with the copper extracted there.
In the following paragraphs, I would like to take the argument a bit further by suggest-
ing that some of these groups were engaged in the mining and circulation of the local
copper.
Many scholars believe that a good number of the peoples of the area were associ-
ated with the metallurgy and trade of copper. Kalsbeek and London,
63
who conducted
a technological analysis on Midianite vessels found at Yotvata, reported that these
wares were well fired, therefore suggesting “a connection between the pyrotechnology
of metal-working (since metallurgy could well have been known to these peoples) and
pot firing.” To Rothenberg,
64
the appearance of a great deal of Midianite wares at
Timna can confidently be linked with the presence of population of Arabian origin
collaborating with the Egyptians in the copper-extracting processes. The archaeologi-
cal association between these wares and the copper manufacture led, further, to the
hypothesis that there was a relationship between the distribution of Midianite pottery
and the copper trade.
65
Similar point of view was held by Bawden and Edens,
66
for
59
W.M.F. Petrie and J.C. Ellis, Anthedon, Sinai (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt and
Bernard Quaritch, 1937), Pl. L-187, 198, 194.
60
Ibid, Pl. L-216.
61
Ibid, 8.
62
T. Dothan, The Philistines and their Material Culture (Jerusalem: IES, 1982), 27.
63
J. Kalsbeek and G. London, “A Late Second Millennium B.C. Potting Puzzle,” BASOR 232 (1978): 53.
64
Rothenberg, Timna, 183.
65
Rothenberg and Glass, “The Midianite Pottery,” 100, 115.
66
G. Bawden and C. Edens, “Tayma Painted Pottery and the Hejaz Iron Age Ceramic Tradition,” Le-
vant 20 (1988): 212.
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
82
whom peoples of the Hejazi region were engaged both in the extraction and the long-
distance transportation of the southern Arabah copper. Knauf
67
speculated whether
the Midianites, apart from their exchange of painted pottery, traded with the product
of their mining enterprises. The association between Midianite pottery and copper
work also led Fritz
68
to the hypothesis that the craft of metalworking was possibly
related to particular ethnic groups. Finally is Finkelstein‟s theory that a vigorous ex-
change network developed from the copper mining at the Arabah by local elements
after the Egyptian retreat, and from the opening of the Arabian incense trade.
69
Similar theories concerning the role of nomads in the manufacture and circulation
of copper have arisen after the discovery of evidence of metallurgy at the central Jor-
dan valley. The key site is Tell Deir ±Alla, where three furnaces for smelting bronze
built on top of each other, a possible blowpipe and drops of metal were found at
Phase B (Iron I), a level with no permanent architectural structures.
70
In the original
publication of the site, Franken
71
associated this level with a period of semi-nomadic
occupation, and supported the view that itinerant metalsmiths inhabited the site in the
winter months, where they could have practiced farming, animal husbandry and work-
ing in the metal furnaces, until they moved back up into the hills during the hot sea-
son. Franken‟s idea has gained some support, whereas the itinerant metalworkers,
variously identified as Midianites or Kenites, are now related to the Arabah copper
mining.
72
Our work fits into this wealth of archaeological information and encourages a reas-
sessment of the socioeconomic configuration during the Iron Age. All too often the
discussion of exchange patterns has been limited to the equation of certain wares with
67
Knauf, Midian, 28, cf. also 25-26.
68
Fritz, “Copper Mining,” 100.
69
Finkelstein, “Arabian Trade”; idem, Living on the Fringe, 103-26; idem, “The Campaign of Shoshenk I,”
114-16.
70
van der Kooij and Ibrahim, Picking up the Threads, 81.
71
H.J. Franken, Excavations at Tell Deir
±
Alla I: A Stratigraphical and Analytical Study of the Early Iron Age
Pottery (Documenta et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui vol. 16; Leiden: Brill, 1969), 20-21.
72
E.g. Tubb, “The Role of the Sea Peoples,” 260; van der Kooij and Ibrahim, Picking up the Threads, 81;
Negbi, “Were There Sea Peoples,” 228; Sherratt, “Commerce, Iron and Ideology,” 73. However, van
der Steen is suspicious of the copper smelting function of the Tell Deir ±Alla‟s furnaces: their size and
shape are completely different from that of local contemporary furnaces; remains of copper ore or
slag, a main feature of metal industry, are absent; while the small drops of metal apparently were not
used for casting bronze or smelting copper. An alternative explanation is that the furnaces were part
of a casting workshop for very large objects -big bronze gates, huge vats, etc.- and therefore unique
(idem, Tribes and Territories in Transition. The Central East Jordan Valley and Surrounding regions in the Late
Bronze and Early Iron Ages: A Study of the Sources (Groningen: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2002), 162-
63. The combination of temporary occupation of the site (by Franken associated with pastoralists)
and this very sophisticated technique is very suspicious. In addition, the seasons do not fit: pastoral-
ists may not have done this casting very well in winter, because there would be too much rain,
whereas the seasonal occupation of the place is supposed to have taken place in winter, because the
summer is too hot (van der Steen, pers. comm., 2005).
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
83
ethnic groups who supposedly were engaged in the exchange of goods, because the
evidence is more easily discerned. It is much more difficult to discern the social and
economic mechanisms by which the commodities were transported from the mute
archaeological record. The attribution of ethnic labels to pottery groups, evident in the
cases of the Midianite and Edomite wares, is an indication of how the biblical text has
influenced the image that archaeologists have of the Iron Age societies of the Negev
and Edom. In this regard, Muhly
73
is correct in his assertion that behind the idea that
the Midianites were skilled metalworkers is the biblical tradition that connects Midi a-
nites and Kenites through Moses‟ father-in-law, the latter group seen as the nomadic
metalworkers par excellence.
74
However, I consider that, taken the archaeological evi-
dence alone, a case can be made of the connection between pastoral groups and the
extraction, work and circulation of the Arabah copper.
The major evidence of the processing and circulation of copper is, of course, the
distribution of copper artifacts and metalwork. However, this evidence does not tell us
who, how and why of such activities, and therefore is necessary to implement alterna-
tive methods of investigation and analysis. I believe that a comparison between the
spatial distribution of pottery and metal items may provide some insights about the
dynamics of the circulation of copper.
The occurrence of Midianite and Negevite wares can be taken as indicative of the
presence and/or movements of the autochthonous pastoral peoples.
75
Negevite pot-
tery, a coarse, hand-made ware manufactured with local clays, is usually associated
with the semi-nomadic population of the Negev area.
76
Midianite pottery is a wheel
and hand-made ware with very characteristic decorations, which according to petro-
graphic analyses was manufactured at the Hejaz (northwestern Arabia).
77
As noted above, the large quantity of these wares at Timna and Faynan has been
taken as evidence by several scholars that local groups took part in the mining and
73
J.D. Muhly, “Timna and King Solomon,” Bibliotheca Orientalis 41 (1984): 275-92.
74
A full discussion of the biblical Midianites and Kenites, and their connection with metallurgy, is be-
yond the scope of this study; for discussion and relevant bibliography, cf. J.F.A. Sawyer, “Cain and
Hephastus: Possible Relics of Metalworking Traditions in Genesis 4,” Abr-Nahrain 24 (1986): 155-66;
Knauf, Midian; McNutt, The Forging of Israel, 242-47; J.D. Schloen, “Caravans, Kenites, and Casus belli:
Enmity and Alliance in the Song of Deborah,” CBQ 55.1 (1993): 18-38. Whether the biblical allusions
have anything to do with the real situation in the Early Iron is difficult to say, especially since most of
these texts are viewed as late by most scholars, e.g. W.F. Albright, “Midianite Donkey Caravans,” in
Translating & Understanding the Old Testament: Essays in Honor of Herbert Gordon May (eds. H.T. Frank and
W.L. Reed; New York: Abingdon, 1970), 205.
75
Tebes, “„Edomite‟, „Midianite‟ and „Negevite‟ Pottery: Indicators of Tribal Groups in the Negev?,
Antiguo Oriente 2 (2004): 27-49 (Spanish).
76
M. Haiman and Y. Goren, “„Negevite‟ Pottery: New Aspects and Interpretations and the Role of
Pastoralism in Designating Ceramic Technology,” in Pastoralism in the Levant: Archaeological Materials in
Anthropological Perspectives (eds. O. Bar-Yosef and A. Khazanov; Monographs in World Archaeology
No. 10; Madison: Prehistory Press, 1992), 143-52, with relevant literature.
77
Rothenberg and Glass, “The Midianite Pottery.”
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
84
processing of the local copper. To be sure, the fall-out of Midianite and Negevite
wares is not directly correlated with the distribution of metal objects and metalwork
because there are other variables involved. Nevertheless, a review of the archaeologi-
cal evidence shows that the inventory of bronze/copper artifacts and workshops for
metal smiting at Early Iron Negev and Edom in part overlaps with the distribution of
Midianite and Negevite wares, especially at the main quarrying and metalwork centers
(Timna and Faynan) but also at the small workshops (Jezirat Far‟aun, Yotvata, Givat
Hazeva and Tel Masos). On the basis of this evidence, I would like tentatively to sug-
gest that the circulation of copper was carried out (though not only) by local mobile
pastoral groups.
One, of course, can raise the claim that the non-sedentary population was not an
important part in the circulation of copper, because the Egyptians and Canaanites
would have carried out this task by themselves. The involvement of Egyptians and
Canaanites is, certainly, not denied, given the superb evidences of the Egyptian pres-
ence at Timna and the occurrence of ceramics of Palestinian type in the local sites. But
it stands in contrast to the explicit claims for continuity in the tradition of bronzework
in Palestine and Jordan during the 12th and 11th centuries BC, when Timna was being
abandoned by the Egyptians and apparently occupied by Negev/Hejazi inhabitants.
When the infrastructure of the Egyptian domination collapsed, the local population
may have filled the succeeding political and economic vacuum. A similar picture
seems to have occurred at Faynan since the resumption of activities in the Early Iron
Age, given the lack of evidence that the area was controlled by either the Egyptians or
a Levantine polity.
78
It is quite clear that the Egyptians and Canaanites cannot carry
alone the burden of being the only mediators in the distribution of the Arabah copper
in the southern Levant. In the face of the apparent persistence of the Late Bronze
tradition of metalwork, this historical reconstruction would answer the question of the
continuation of the copper supply during the Early Iron Age.
At Timna, the presence of local peoples working under the Ramesside tutelage is
attested by the great deal of Midianite and Negevite pottery found in the workcamps
and shrines. The works at the mines may have been undertaken in a seasonal basis,
being constrained by the hot climate only to the winter months. This is further indica-
ted by the layers of windblown sand accumulated at Site 2 and, if the comparison is
taken at face value, the analogous situation at the Serabit el-Khadim mines in Sinai.
79
The seasonal nature of the mining enterprise at Timna, coupled with the findings of
large quantities of pottery used by the autochthonous peoples, are possible indications
that these groups performed seasonal movements between the southern Arabah and
other areas.
78
Contra Knauf (“The Cultural Impact,” 49), who speculates that the Iron I mining at Faynan was con-
trolled by a “western” polity: Tel Masos.
79
R. Giveon, The Impact of Egypt on Canaan (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 20; Freiburg: Universitatsverlag
Freiburg, 1978), 53-54.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
85
Did the mining and circulation of copper continue in the Negev after the Iron Age
I? The evidence for the Early Iron II is elusive. By the middle of the 12th century B.C.
the Egyptians withdrew from Timna, while the subsequent “Midianite” occupation
seems not to have been very long. The next wave of settlement, which began in the
10th century B.C., did not include the southern Arabah, and only affected the Beers-
heba valley and the central Negev Highlands. In the latter area, a large number of set-
tlements, about 350, were founded.
80
Finkelstein supported years ago the hypothesis
that the rise of Tel Masos as a trade center was related to the appearance of these set-
tlements, which were the result of the sedentarization of nomads in a context of gro-
wing trade relations.
81
However, the dearth of foreign pottery and the layout of these
sites point to a small village community based on a subsistence economy of dry far-
ming and animal husbandry. In addition, the metal finds seem to be negligible: one
copper axe, two arrowheads, one sword and one copper needle.
82
After the wave of
settlement of the 10th century, only sparse occupation existed in the Negev Highlands
during the Late Iron II.
This picture strongly contrasts with what happened in Faynan. While the data are
not yet complete enough to exactly indicate when the Iron Age exploitation at Faynan
began, there is little doubt, according to the pottery surveys and the radiocarbon dates
that the mines operated during the Iron I and the Iron II. Then a question arises as
whom managed the resource extraction, metal production and transport. Levy
83
has
related the emergence of the Early Iron copper mining at Faynan with the formation
of a complex society in Edom, and specifically the biblical kingdom of Edom. Howe-
ver, van der Steen and Bienkowski have fiercely contested this interpretation of the
evidence,
84
by arguing that local corporate groups were equally capable of conducting
and maintaining large-scale industrial activities with their infrastructure. At this point,
I would suggest that the pre-Late Iron II evidence points to the second alternative.
The existence of large amounts of Midianite and Negevite pottery, and the presence
of the nomadic cemetery Wadi Fidan 40, attest the presence of pastoral groups in the
area. Furthermore, as Finkelstein
85
has shown, the earliest 14C dates at Khirbet en-
Nahas correspond to metallurgical activities before the fort was constructed, probably
80
R. Cohen and R. Cohen-Amin, Ancient Settlements of the Negev Highlands. Vol. 2: The Iron Age and the
Persian Periods (IAA Reports N° 20; Jerusalem: IAA, 2004).
81
Finkelstein, “Arabian Trade”; idem, Living on the Fringe, 102-14.
82
R. Cohen, The Settlements of the Central Negev in the Light of Archaeology and Literary Sources during the Fourth
to First Millennia B.C.E. (Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis; Hebrew; Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1986),
395.
83
Levy, “Some Theoretical Issues Concerning the Rise of the Edomite Kingdom Searching for „Pre-
Modern Identities‟,” SHAJ 8 (2004): 253-61; Levy et. al., “Reassessing the Chronology of Biblical
Edom,” 877.
84
van der Steen and Bienkowski, “Radiocarbon dates from Khirbat en-Nahas.”
85
Finkelstein, “Khirbet en-Nahas, Edom and Biblical History.”
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
86
at the late 8th century BC. The same applies to the nearby four-room building (Area
S), under whose foundations an industrial slag layer was found.
86
For models that seek to tie copper mining to state infrastructure, the evidence
from Khirbet en-Nahas is problematic. Khirbet en-Nahas is a clear counter-instance, a
case of a highly-valued resource that was not exploited by a state. My hypothesis is
that the pre-Late Iron II layers represent occupation by nomadic pastoral groups that
carried out metallurgical activities without leaving permanent architectural structures.
Later on, the buildings constructed by the Edomite state in the Late Iron Age II cove-
red these layers. If the comparison with Timna is valid, then the local pastoralists may
have operated as workforce in the mines and/or in the distribution of the local cop-
per. That the copper production was in the range of many thousands of tons does not
seem to preclude pastoral groups as the primary force behind this activity. Acephalus
tribal societies are known to be able to mobilize large workforces for quarrying and
mining through co-operative, consensus-driven ventures.
87
Furthermore, the lack of
evidence for the presence of any Levantine polity in the area during the Iron I sug-
gests that, at least until the establishment of the Edomite state in the 8th century BC,
copper mining and processing were mainly in the hands of local pastoral groups.
4. THE FAYNAN MINES AND THE EDOMITE STATE
Even though archaeological works in the Faynan district are still in progress, the
pottery surveys and the radiocarbon dates suggest that the local copper mines contin-
ued operating during the Iron II. The exploitation in the Late Iron II was likely under
the control of the Edomite state, though there is still no textual or epigraphical evi-
dence of Edomite administrative or military presence in the area. Though not well
attested, Edomite control of the mines in this period is very likely, given the close
proximity of Faynan to the Edomite heartland and its probable capital, Bozrah (mod-
ern Buseirah). It is not clear what consequences for the pastoral groups had the devel-
opment of the Edomite state. Given the non-occurrence of Midianite and Negevite
wares in clear Late Iron II contexts at Faynan, it is expected that their importance de-
creased to a large extent.
Ironically, the absence of evidence of metalwork in the Negev during the Late Iron
II is paralleled by the period of highest production at Faynan. This fact may be di-
rectly linked to three possible scenarios. It could be evidence that, either the copper
was worked in Faynan and exported as a finished product, or the copper was not ex-
ported to the Negev and Palestine any more (a not unlikely scenario given the con-
stant state of conflict between Judah and Edom). Also, and maybe more important,
86
Levy et. al., “Reassessing the Chronology of Biblical Edom,” 873.
87
J. Burton, “Quarrying in a Tribal Society,” World Archaeology 16(2) (1984): 234-47; idem, “Repeng and
the Salt-Makers: „Ecological Trade‟ and Stone Axe Production in the Papua New Guinea Highlands,”
Man N.S. 24 (1989): 255-72.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
87
the highly profitable long-distance trade of southern Arabian commodities may have
eventually surpassed in importance the exchange of regional goods, most notably
copper.
Edom‟s demand for copper cannot explain by itself the interest in the Faynan
mines, since the lack of large urban centers and the dependence on an economy based
on small farming and animal husbandry would indicate that use of great quantities of
copper was not necessary. The scope of the Faynan production in the Late Iron II
largely surpassed the local demand for copper, and therefore most of it may have been
exported out of the country. The growing production of copper at Faynan during the
Late Iron II cannot be explained without reference to the emergent Assyrian influence
in the southern Levant. The Assyrian empire is the most likely candidate to explain the
increasing demand for copper in this period, fuelled by the Assyrian army‟s needs of
copper.
88
Though Edomite kings are known to have paid tribute several times to the Assyr-
ian empire, Edom was never conquered or dominated directly by the Assyrians.
89
As-
syrian kings were very aware of the importance of foreign copper sources, and the
Neo-Assyrian royal annals paid much attention to the booties of copper utensils,
which are mentioned more frequently and in more regions than any other good, espe-
cially in tribute and booty-lists from the Mediterranean coastal region and the Upper
Euphrates.
90
The army requirements and the constant royal building and rebuilding
projects in palaces and temples fueled the Assyrian demand.
91
Part of the Edomite
copper may have been sent to Assyria through the tributary channels, together with
other commodities. Admittedly, there are no textual references in the Assyrian sources
to the consignments of Edomite copper. Although Edom appears paying tribute sev-
eral times to the Assyrian kings, unequivocal references to copper counted as tribute
are lacking.
92
Hence the shipments of Edomite copper to Assyria as tribute remain
88
E.A. Knauf and C. J. Lenzen, “Edomite Copper Industry,” SHAJ 3 (1987): 86; Knauf, “The Cultural
Impact,” 51.
89
P. Bienkowski, “Transjordan and Assyria,” in The Archaeology of Jordan and Beyond: Essays in Honor of
James A. Sauer (eds. L.E. Stager, J.A. Green and M.D. Coogan; Studies in the Archaeology and His-
tory of the Levant 1; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2000), 44-58.
90
S. Dalley, “Neo-Assyrian Textual Evidence for Bronzeworking Centres,in Bronzeworking Centres (ed.
Curtis), 97-110; C.B.F. Walker, “Futher Notes on Assyrian Bronzeworking,” in Bronzeworking Centres
(ed. Curtis), 111-18.
91
Moorey, Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries, 264.
92
The first mention of Edomite tribute is Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III‟s (810-783 BC), which unfor-
tunately does not mention any commodity (ANET, 281). Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 BC) was paid
tribute by Edomite king Kaushmalaku; among the goods said to have been submitted were metals, as
gold, silver, tin, iron and antimony, but not copper (ANET, 282). Sargon II (721-705 BC) mentions
tribute from Edom, though specific references to commodities are lacking (ANET, 287). Sennach-
erib (704-681 BC) received Edomite king Aiarammu‟s submission, but no reference is made to metals
(ANET, 287). A text listing tribute from Sennacherib or Esarhaddon‟s times includes the delivery of
an unknown amount of silver by, most probably, Edom (ANET, 301). Esarhaddon (680-669 BC) re-
cords the consignment of building materials for his palace in Nineveh, which includes Edomite king
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
88
only a likely hypothesis. However, if the comparison with the trade of Arabian aro-
matics is suitable, any tribute in copper sent to Assyria may have been small compared
with the copper traded with Assyria through the commercial channels. In fact, it can
be adduced that tribute and exchange are part of the same economic mechanism. If
tribute most times is meant to pay respect to a far-stronger polity, it has also been
used by the weaker state as a sort of “entrance fee” to engage in official commercial
relationships, even though, certainly, the records of the core society do not share that
view.
93
This could shed new light on why Edom‟s policy towards Assyria never was of
confrontation, despite the constant regional rebellions against the latter‟s power. The
Edomite leaders themselves may have thus taken advantage of their country‟s natural
resources -most notably copper- and geographical location, distant enough from the
Assyrian core territories and its military enterprises.
Acknowledgements
This paper is the result of my research, during 2004-2006, at the IMHICIHU-
CONICET (National Research Council), where I am a Doctoral Fellow; IHAO (Uni-
versity of Buenos Aires); CEHAO (Catholic University of Argentina); W.F. Albright
Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR) in Jerusalem, where I was George A.
Barton Fellow; and at the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman,
where I was the Pierre and Patricia Bikai Fellow. I am most graceful to these institu-
tions, especially to the staff, for their help, advice and friendship. The ideas exposed in
this article were presented in a preliminary form in “The Socioeconomic Evolution of
the Negev and Southern Jordan in the Iron Age,” ASOR Newsletter 55(3) (2005): 12 =
Albright News (10) (2005): 11.
Qaushgabri‟s tribute, but copper is not mentioned (ANET, 291). Ashurbanipal (668-632 BC) said to
have been “brought heavy gifts” by, again, Qaushgabri of Edom (ANET, 294), but no additional in-
formation is provided. Tribute-lists from other southern Levantine states also lack references to cop-
per. However, Sennacherib boasts to have received, from Judaean king Hezekiah, vessels of iron, tin,
bronze and copper as booty (Walker, “Futher Notes on Assyrian Bronzeworking,” 115), and one is
tempted to suggest that part of the bronze and copper originated in Edom, reaching Judah through
the usual commercial channels.
93
G. Dalton, “Karl Polanyi‟s Analysis of Long-Distance Trade and His Wider Paradigm,” in Ancient
Civilizations and Trade (eds. J.A. Sabloff and C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky; School of American Research
Advanced Seminar Series; Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975), 105-06.
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
89
DavarLogos: Revista bíblico-teológica
90
Fig.
2. Wadi Faynan (photograph: Juan Manuel Tebes)
Fig. 3. Timna vallery: Smelting Site 2 (photograph: Juan Manuel Tebes)
Tebes: “A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper”
91
Fig. 4. Timna valley: Temple of Hathor (Site 200) (photograph: Juan Manuel Tebes)
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