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Experts divided on accuracy of study into King Solomon’s trade habits


Pedro Berruguete | Public Domain

J-P Mauro - published on 05/08/21

New archaeological study suggests King Solomon understood how to limit risk while growing his wealth, but expert opinions differ.

King Solomon is one of the grandest monarchs to appear in the biblical narratives. His wisdom and riches made him one of the most famous men in the world, but little evidence of his reign remains outside the Bible. Now one expert believes he has found confirmation of the life and wisdom of the successor of David

The Guardian reports that archaeologist Dr. Sean Kingsley has spent 10 years tackling this mystery. At his start, Dr. Kingsley recognized Jerusalem as the “most excavated city” in the world. If 100 years of archaeological activity in the Holy City had not revealed any indication of Solomon’s reign, he was going to have to cast a wider net.

Although the Kingdom of Israel during Solomon’s time stretched from the Euphrates River to the Red Sea, Kingsley found what he sought across the Mediterranean. In Spain and Sardinia, he discovered maritime records of trade between Solomon and the Phoenician king Hiram. 

“What turned up in southern Spain is undeniable. Phoenician signature finds, richly strewn from Rio Tinto to Málaga, leave no doubt that Near Eastern ships voyaged to what must have seemed the far side of the moon by 900 BC,” Kingsley explains.

Trade relations

Kingsley traveled along the Mediterranean coast exploring remnants of ports, warehouses, and shipwrecks. What emerged was evidence of a coastal trade route between the Kingdom of Israel and Phoenicia. Solomon, in his wisdom, apparently funded trade expeditions for Phoenician vessels. By doing this, he could receive a cut of the profits while Phoenician boats took all the risks.

The study further revealed several other collaborations between these two ancient kingdoms. One in particular was a mining operation at a site called “Solomon’s Hill.” Their isotope analysis of silver slag suggested it came from the Iberian Peninsula. This silver would have been imported from Spain by Phoenician ships. 

Kingsley also found similar collaborations in the production of ivory, pottery, and merchants’ shekel weights. The variety of goods suggests the two kingdoms shared a prosperous commercial relationship. 

Academics disagree

A May 4 article from Live Science, however, features experts who disagree with Kingsley’s findings. While they do not dispute the presence of Phoenicians in the region during that era, they reiterate that there is no evidence linking them to King Solomon.

Steven Weitzman, director of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, goes as far as to say there is no evidence of King Solomon’s rule at all. Weitzman posits that names like “Solomon’s Hill” speak more of Spain’s faith and desire to find Solomon’s wealth than of biblical references.

Weitzman further supported his arguement with biblical references that show Solomon sent his ships East, rather than West to Spain. Backing up Weitzman was Professor Ayelet Gilboa, of the University of Haifa, who stated:

“Based on all available scientific data, silver in Solomonic times [10th century B.C.] did not arrive to the east from Iberia.”

While the arguments make the value of Kingsley’s findings unclear, he still intends to publish the conclusions of his study.

Read the more on this fascinating study at Live Science.

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