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 Artifacts from Iron Age fortress confirm Old Testament dates of Edomite kingdom

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Canadian archeologist Russell Adams's interest is in Bronze Age and Iron Age copper production. He never intended to walk into archeology's vicious debate over the historical accuracy of the Old Testament -- a conflict likened by one historian to a pack of feral canines at each other's throats.

Yet by coincidence, Prof. Adams of Hamilton's McMaster University says, he and an international team of colleagues fit into place a significant piece of the puzzle of human history in the Middle East -- unearthing information that points to the existence of the Bible's vilified Kingdom of Edom at precisely the time the Bible says it existed, and contradicting widespread academic belief that it did not come into being until 200 years later.

Their findings mean that those scholars convinced that the Hebrew Old Testament is at best a compendium of revisionist, fragmented history, mixed with folklore and theology, and at worst a piece of outright propaganda, likely will have to apply the brakes to their thinking.

Because, if the little bit of the Old Testament's narrative that Prof. Adams and his colleagues have looked at is true, other bits could be true as well.

References to the Kingdom of Edom -- almost none of them complimentary -- are woven through the Old Testament. It existed in what is today southern Jordan, next door to Israel, and the relationship between the biblical Edomites and Israelites was one of unrelenting hostility and warfare.

The team led by Prof. Adams, Thomas Levy of the University of California at San Diego and Mohammad Najjar of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities was investigating copper mining and smelting at a site called Khirbat en-Nahas, by far the largest copper-production site in the region.

They applied high-precision radiocarbon-dating methods to some of their finds, and as they say in the British journal Antiquities, "The results were spectacular."

They firmly established that occupation of the site began in the 11th century BC and a monumental fortress was built in the 10th century BC, supporting the argument for existence of an Edomite state at least 200 years earlier than had been assumed.


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