Since its publication in 1885, the novel King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard has inspired a literary genre—"lost world" fiction—and some of the worst movies you would ever care to watch.
What's been lost amid the adventures of this great story is that King Solomon's mines weren't an invention of the late-Victorian imagination—they actually existed, as the Bible said they did.
In what one newspaper calls a "discovery straight out of an Indiana Jones movie," archaeologists in modern-day Jordan believe that they have found the real King Solomon's mines.
The area, located south of the Dead Sea, contained 100 buildings, including a fortress, and was the site of intensive copper-mining activities. How intensive? The mine works are "big enough to be seen on Google Earth's satellite images."
That raises an obvious question: If the mine works were so intensive, why weren't they discovered earlier? As a matter of fact, they were, but at the time, evidence of mining there was believed to date from long after the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.
But in new study, archaeologists Thomas Levy and Mohammed Najjar date the site to the 10th century B.C. That was the time that, according to Scripture, King Solomon reigned in Jerusalem, and Edom, the area where the mine is located, was a vassal of Israel's.
This period represented the height of Israel's power and prosperity—a prosperity that, as Scripture says, was partially built on mining.
As Levy told CNN, the newly discovered "evidence . . . brings us back to the debate about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible narratives related to this period."
That is an understatement. The past few decades have witnessed a marked shift in scholars' attitudes towards the biblical narratives. When the area was first explored in the 1970s, many archaeologists doubted whether biblical figures such as David or Solomon ever existed, and they certainly didn't believe biblical accounts about their accomplishments.
To them, the Bible was a collection of stories that illustrated theological points, while containing little that is historically accurate.
Then as archaeologists found evidence for the existence of figures like David and Caiaphas and events like the Exodus, attitudes began to change.
Discoveries that corroborated biblical details, like the going price for slaves in ancient Egypt, obliged them to at least approach the biblical accounts with an open mind. As Levy put it, while "we can't believe everything ancient writings tell us . . . this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible."
Openness to the possibility of "confluence" is all believers ever ask. Christians have nothing to fear from this kind of scientific inquiry. In fact, we welcome it. Unlike other faiths, biblical faith is rooted in history. It's the account of how God has acted in human history to accomplish His purposes, and we are confident that the biblical account reflects this fact.
That the result is discoveries "straight out of an Indiana Jones' movie" just goes to show how truth, in the end, really can top fiction.