The discovery of 3,000-year-old manure in Israel's Timna Valley could provide clues about the biblical King Solomon and his 10 century B.C. quest to build the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, archaeologists have said.
The History Channel reported on Monday that archaeologists from the University of Tel Aviv began excavating the site of a mining camp in 2013, and in 2014 made several important discoveries, such as the remains of walled structures and fortified gates.
The team also found animal manure, and although at first they did not realize the significance of it, radiocarbon dating results revealed that the dung came from donkeys and other livestock in the 10th century B.C.
As National Geographic reports, what is remarkable about the find is that the manure suggests significant activity was taking place at the site at a time when King Solomon is believed to have been building the Holy Temple.
"According to the Hebrew Bible, King Solomon was renowned for his great wisdom and wealth, and his many building projects included a temple in Jerusalem lavishly appointed with gold and bronze objects," National Geographic described.
"Such a structure would have required large amounts of metal from industrial-scale mining operations somewhere in the Middle East, but the scriptures are silent as to their location."
King Solomon remains a mysterious figure, with the biblical books of Kings I and Chronicles II stating that he succeeded his father as king of Israel around 970 B.C. Solomon is said to have had "great wisdom," tremendous wealth, and numerous wives.
Solomon set out to build a large temple in Jerusalem filled with gold and bronze, and although some historians have doubted his existence, the discovery of the ancient manure at the mining camp now shows that large-scale operations, perhaps to build such a temple, were taking place at the time.
In total, researchers have found over 1,000 tons of smelting debris at the site, which also suggests production on an industrial scale was taking place there.
While there is no direct evidence yet to link the mining operations at Timna Valley to King Solomon, findings in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports suggests that a complex society lived at the location.
The archaeologists suggested that the Edomites, Israel's sworn enemies, could have lived there, with biblical accounts showing that King David marched his armies into the desert to conquer them.
Erez Ben-Yosef of the University of Tel Aviv said the fortified walls previously discovered at the smelting camp strongly suggests it was indeed a military target at the time.
King David could have demanded tribute after defeating the Edomites, the research team leader speculated.
"There's a serious possibility that Jerusalem got its wealth from taxing these mining operations," he said.
"Until recently we had almost nothing from this period in this area," Ben-Yosef continued. "But now we not only know that this was a source of copper, but also that it's from the days of King David and his son Solomon."
Other discoveries near Jerusalem's Temple Mount in recent years from the time of King David and King Solomon have sometimes puzzled archaeologists.
Professor Shmuel Ahituv from Ben-Gurion University said in July 2013 that a ceramic jar, with Canaanite language inscriptions believed to be from the 10th Century B.C., dated back to the earliest alphabetical written text ever found in Jerusalem.
Hebrew University researchers at the time said that the combination of letters does not correspond to any known word in west-Semitic languages, however, leaving the meaning of the inscriptions a mystery.