Excavations at Ezion-Geber

    Abstract

    RECENT excavation at Tell el-Kheleifi on the Gulf of Aqabah, Sinai, by the American School of Oriental Research at Jerusalem, not only has confirmed the indications of the importance of this site in early times as a meeting place of a number of trade routes, afforded by investigations in 1938, but also has revealed that it was the centre of an extensive industry for the smelting and refining of copper and iron from the mines of the adjacent Arabah. The site has been identified with the great port of King Solomon, Ezion-Geber “which is by Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom”. No longer, however, does it stand by the sea. the prevailing northerly winds have brought sand to silt up the head of the gulf, so that the shore is now half a mile away. The importance of the city as a commercial centre was indicated in the first season's excavation by a number of finds, of which the most important is held to be a large broken jar, on which had been incised two letters belonging to the early South Arabic script. This is assigned by stratigraphic evidence to approximately the latter part of the eighth century B.C. The letters are the earliest known to be definitely datable from a scientifically controlled excavation. Dr. Nelson Glueck, director of the School, in a preliminary account of the excavations carried out in May-June, 1939 (Illustrated London News of August 5) records the discovery of an ingenious and complicated system of flues and channels in the thick and high walls of sun-dried brick of the first city, which is so constructed as to utilize the draught of the prevailing winds from the north for the furnaces of an elaborate complex of smelting and refining plant—the largest yet discovered in the ancient Near East. This system would appear to have been the governing factor in determining the site for the first city; and so well bonded were the bricks that many of the walls still stand almost at their original height after nearly three thousand years. Among smaller finds from the third city were Egyptian amulets, of which one was a small cat, a form characteristic of the cult of the goddess Bast of Bubastis, and another was the Uzat eye of Horus.

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