Friday 19 April 2013

The copper mines of Timna

Study trip to Southern Israel and Wadi Rum (Jordan). Our bus left a little late from Jerusalem. Along the way Vernet explained some features of the lands we were passing through: Qumran, the delta of the Kidron, probably that of Gehenna, and surely that of Wadi Hariton. Ein Gedi, and Masada. The peninsula in the Dead Sea. The Pentapolis of the Dead Sea, including the famous Sodom, and Gomorrah. The present-day chemical industries along the shores of the Dead Sea. The canal linking the upper and deeper portion of the Dead Sea (80 m?) and the lower, shallower portion (8 m?), because of the shrinkage over the years. En Poceck, tourist place along the Israeli shore of the Sea. Finally the Arava. Somehow I had had the idea that the Dead Sea continued almost up to Eilat. It does not. The Arava takes its place.
The arch at Timna

The Mushroom at Timna
Temple of the Egyptian goddess Hathor - it's the little wall at the bottom left

Timna. A national park. A very good video at the entrance, indicating the many vicissitudes of Timna.  Copper mining began here more than 6000 years ago, which probably makes it the oldest copper mine in the world, and at least one, if not the first, place where people first learned how to produce copper. I forget now who the original developers of Timna were, but certainly at one point the Egyptians took over, because of the copper mines there (14th - 12th cent. BCE, from Seti I to Rameses V). The greenish ore was probably used for ornamentation in the beginning. At some point, the great discovery that the metal could be smelted out. There are still remains of this copper-smelting industry: flat stones for reducing the ore to smaller bits; pits for smelting; etc. the movie showed how copper ingots – flattish pita bread shapes – were cast, then transported to Egypt, where they were melted again and made into tools and weapons. The discovery of copper must have been a major thing in those days. Wow. A move from the Stone Age (?) to an age of metal. And then, once the initial discovery had been made, no stopping: tin, and iron, and then the mixing of metals to produce the much harder bronze.

After the video we spent 20 mins and more looking at the first stone formation in Timna: a sort of stone arch. Then 30 mins and more looking at the ‘mushroom’, and then a full 40 mins looking at the Pillars of Solomon, and the remains of the Temple of Hathor. Then to the artificial lake where we celebrated mass. Then to Eilat, leaving at around 1330 and reaching at 1430, El Gaucho, an Argentinian themed restaurant at the entrance of Eilat. 

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