Thomas Levy, a UCSD professor of anthropology and Judaic studies, has pioneered three highly sophisticated digging excavations in an area called Khirbat en-Nahas, located in southern Jordan, attracting the attention of NOVA/National Geographic Television, which sent a crew to Jordan with him last fall. The resulting documentary about Levy’s findings, “NOVA: Quest for Solomon’s Mines,” airs this Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 8 p.m. on PBS.
Levy, also the associate director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3), wasn’t looking for King Solomon’s mines at first. He was actually researching the role of ancient technology on the evolution of society. But what he found in Jordan was groundbreaking — thousands of tons of slag, a by-product of smelting ore, and different types of blowpipes. Using the process of radiocarbon dating, his team discovered there was industrial-scale metal production of copper precisely in 10th century BC.
“It would have been like the Pittsburg of Palestine,” said Levy.
There are two sides to the King Solomon debate, he said. First, there are those who “minimize the historicity of the Old Testament, saying there was no Solomon because during the 10th century there were no societies capable of creating a kingdom, only petty nomads.” On the other side, there are those who maximize the content of the Old Testament, he said.
“We don’t have proof that we have found Solomon’s mines, but what we have proof of is that there were kingdoms in the 10th century,” said Levy. “I think he existed.”