Donkey poop offers new clues about King Solomon

Dung discovery supports archaeologists' theory of where ruler's lucrative copper mines were located.

Seldom before has poop played so important a role in uncovering historical truth.

A team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel has used 3,000 year-old donkey dung to further support their theory that the source of King Solomon's wealth came from copper mines in the country's Timna Valley.

The team used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the age of the excrement, which was found at an ancient mining camp known as "Slaves’ Hill."

Preerved animal dung found at "Slaves Hill."The extraordinary preservation of dung (of donkeys and goats) in the gatehouse complex of "Slaves' Hill" has helped archaeologists reinforce their belief that the site was a source of King Solomon's wealth. (Photo: Erez Ben-Yosef and CTV Project)

The name was given to the camp by American archaeologist Nelson Glueck in 1934 because he believed it bore all the marks of an Iron Age slave camp. In the intervening years, several copper mines were discovered in the area, but their purpose had long eluded experts.

Then earlier this year, the team of archaeologists, who have been excavating the site for several years, announced the discovery of a gatehouse believed to have been part of a larger defense against invasion. Using modern dating techniques, they concluded it was about 3,000 years old, placing it squarely in the timeframe of King Solomon's rule of the area.

They also found the well-preserved dung of donkeys and goats.

“We thought maybe some nomads had camped there with their goats a few decades ago,” Erez Ben-Yosef, who is leading the excavation of the site, said. “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.”

Thanks to the area's extreme conditions and modern research methods, Ben-Yosef believes "additional significant discoveries" are all but inevitable.

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Donkey poop offers new clues about King Solomon
Dung discovery supports archaeologists' theory that King Solomon's lucrative copper mines were located in Israel's Timna Valley.