Timna Copper Smelting


The country of Atika with its great copper mines has been variously identified as a region of the Sinai desert (Wadi Arabah is mentioned), or the Negev (the Timna copper mines)

I sent forth my messengers to the country of Atika, to the great copper mines which are in this place. Their galleys carried them; others on the land-journey were upon their asses. It has not been heard before, since kings reign. Their mines were found abounding in copper; it was loaded by ten-thousands into their galleys. They were sent forward to Egypt, and arrived safely. It was carried and made into a heap under the balcony, in many bars of copper, being of the color of gold of three times.

The enhancement of the copper to Bronze, using additives such as tin, came at later phase, and the period is known as the Bronze period. Bronze is formed when tin is added to copper. Being stronger and more durable than copper, bronze gave its possessors a military and technologic edge.

The growing demand for bronze drove the Egyptian to perfect the mining industry, and it reached its peak in Timna during the 14th to 12th Century BC (Pharaohs Seti I thru Ramses V) . The Egyptians performed a series of geological surveys, digging thousands of holes in the rocks of Timna. They constructed vertical shafts and arrays of horizontal tunnels, and established mining installations, camps and worship shrines. They assembled a workforce based on local and foreign workers, mostly from nearby Midian (Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was a Midian priest). The copper nuggets were then shipped through the ancient harbor south of Eilat.

One of the impressive rock formation in the valley is the giant "mushroom", seen below. This sandstone "sculpture" was created by nature, and there are other "mushrooms" in the vicinity. This one is adjacent to the ancient copper mining facilities.

A closer view of the first area, which included workshops, storage rooms for raw materials (charcoal, copper ore, clay, water and other) .

Another view of the workshops, where the copper ore crushing installation and storage is located.

In the Timna hills the Egyptian miners cut into the hills to dig out the copper ore. This is what they were looking for - the greenish powder, hidden in deposits and veins between the rocks.

There are thousands of mining holes and tunnels in this area, such as seen in the arches visitors center - a mining tunnel dated to the end of the 2nd Millennium BC. The miners followed the green veins of the copper ore, extracted it, and hauled it to the smelting centers.

The ancient miners used stone tools to dig into the soft sandstone rock, as on display in the visitors center.


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Timna Copper Smelting, Chapter 29

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