We learn about King Solomon from the Bible. According to the Old Testament he was the King of Israel and ruled over the Holy Land. He was a successful under whose rule Israel grew from a city state to one of the leading kingdoms in the region. He was conceived of illicit passion. He was the son of David who slew the giant Goliath and his mother was beautiful Bathsheba. David stole Bathsheba from her husband after murdering the later. Solomon was the third king of Israel and under his influence Israel dominated over the Middle-East for four decades (965 BC to 925 BC).
He was known for his wisdom and was an epic lover having 700 wives and 300 concubines. But he is most known for his fabled treasures. The Bible states that he sat on a golden throne, had effigies of animal made of gold, five hundred shields of gold. He is said to even dine in golden plates and drink from golden goblets. He built many temples that were laden with gold, bronze and other precious gems. But what was the source of his wealth? The Bible explains that King Solomon received shipments of precious metals and gold from mines situated in a far off land. This land has been mentioned as Ophir. No further description of the land is provided, except that it was situated by the river.
Lust for gold has led many expeditions over the years in quest of Solomon’s mines. The renowned astronomer and geographer claimed that Ophir was infact situated in modern day Pakistan near the mouth of Indus river. Later on he stated that the place might be near the Straits of Malacca, between Indonesia and Malaysia. In the 15th century a Portuguese explorer landed in the Shona lands of Greater Zimbabwe. He stumbled upon some monuments which could not be made by the local Africans. Thus he mentioned this place as Ophir. The theory was further strengthened by the association of Queen of Sheba with King Solomon. Indeed, Solomon could easily set up his mines in Africa near Queen of Sheba’s kingdom. But later studies revealed that the ruins were about a thousand years before Solomon’s reign. Famous explorer Christopher Columbus claimed that Ophir was situated in Haiti while Sir Walter Raleigh felt it was in the jungles of Surinam. In 1568 a Spanish captain named an archipelago as Solomon Island as he believed this was the exact location of Ophir.
After many expeditions and thorough research it seems that finally the location of King Solomon’s mines or Ophir has been found. Archaeologists have confirmed that the mines were actually placed in the Deserts situated south of the Dead Sea which can be found in modern day Jordan. The recently discovered 24 acre site has tunnels, holes which are topped with black slag. These ruins have undergone radio carbon dating and are from the 10th century BC, time when Solomon ruled over Israel. Thus Solomon’s mines were within his own kingdom and not placed at any far off land. But the samples taken from the site clearly show that the slaves employed in these mines were extracting copper and not gold. Copper was used for many purposes during King Solomon’s times. From ornaments, coins to cooking pots everything were made with copper.
Now the question is where did the gold mentioned in the Bible come from? One group of experts believe that the descriptions in Bible were symbolical rather than real. It symbolised the prosperity in King Solomon’s kingdom. While other scholars feel that many things described about King Solomon are fable like. One such story states that he had a flying carpet which could carry about 40,000 men at the same time. He used to fly from Damascus to Medina within a day using this carpet. Similarly, the stories described in the Bible are actually exaggerated accounts.
There is yet another view to the Golden treasure of King Solomon. Some researchers believe that Israel in those days had trading relations with all the major kingdoms. They traded in many things. So might be King Solomon traded gold in exchange of other precious items that his kingdom had to offer. If you recall the King had 400 wives and it is said that there were lavish gifts showered on each of these weddings. One of these wives was the daughter of Pharaoh while another was Queen Sheba. After each wedding King Solomon would grow wealthier and stronger.