Archaeologists have struggled in vain to find conclusive proof that King Solomon actually existed — and with no inscriptions or remnants of the magnificent palace and temple he is supposed to have built in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, the Israelite king has sunk into the realm of myth:
Now British marine archaeologist Dr Sean Kingsley has amassed evidence showing that Solomon was not only a flesh-and-blood monarch but also the world’s first shipping magnate, who funded voyages carried out by his Phoenician allies in “history’s first special relationship”.
Over 10 years, Kingsley has carried out a maritime audit of “the Solomon question”. By extending the search beyond the Holy Land, across the Mediterranean to Spain and Sardinia, he found that archaeological evidence supports biblical descriptions of a partnership between Solomon, who “excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom”, and the Phoenician king Hiram, who “supplied Solomon with cedar timber and gold, as much as he desired”.
Kingsley told the Observer: “I’ve spread a very wide net. That kind of maritime study has never been done before.”
He said: “For 100 years, archaeologists have scrutinised Jerusalem’s holy soils, the most excavated city in the world. Nothing definitive fits the book of Kings’ and Chronicles’ epic accounts of Solomon’s palace and temple. By exploring traces of ports, warehouses, industry and shipwrecks, new evidence shakes up the quest for truth.”
He explored Andalusian port towns from Mezquitilla to Málaga and found that the archaeological evidence reveals “a Phoenician coast”. He visited the site of the great mine of the ancient world, Rio Tinto – 70km inland from Huelva – which produced gold, silver, lead, copper and zinc – and where, crucially, he realised that old maps and historical accounts referred to a particular spot as Cerro Solomon or Solomon’s Hill.
One 17th-century account notes that Solomon’s Hill was previously called Solomon’s Castle, and another describes people being “sent there by King Solomon for gold and silver”.
At the site, archaeologists have found ancient mining tools, such as granite pestles and stone mortars used to crush minerals, and remnants of lead slag that held a high proportion of silver. Kingsley said that lead isotope analysis has shown that silver hoards excavated in Israel originally came from Iberia.
Recent digs in nearby Huelva have found evidence of the Israelites and Phoenicians, including elephant tusks, merchants’ shekel weights and pottery. The Near Eastern link can be dated as far back as 930BC, the end of Solomon’s reign, and Kingsley has concluded that Huelva is “the best fit for the capital of the biblical Tarshish”, the ancient source of imported metals, which archaeologists have “signposted wildly”, everywhere from southern Israel to the Red Sea, Ethiopia to Tunisia.
He was struck by texts and ruins that support a “far more conclusive candidate” in this area of the southern Iberian Peninsula, which was known in antiquity as Tartessos, a Greek derivation of Tarshish. A Phoenician script on a ninth-century BC stele found in Sardinia refers to the land of Tarshish, also proving its historical reality.
Kingsley, who has explored more than 350 shipwrecks in the past 30 years, will publish his research in the forthcoming spring issue of Wreckwatch magazine, the free journal for maritime archaeology, which he also edits.
Solomon is believed to have built the First Temple of Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. Kingsley writes that everything historians know about it comes from the Bible, including details such as its inner sanctum lined with pure gold: “Building cities, palaces and a flagship temple didn’t come cheap. Long-distance voyages to the lands of Ophir and Tarshish brought a river of gold, silver, precious stones and marble to the royal court.
“Neither Israel nor Lebanon could tap into local gold and silver resources. The biblical entrepreneurs were forced to look to the horizon. The land of Tarshish was a vital source for Solomon’s silver. As the Book of Ezekiel recorded: ‘Tarshish did business with you because of your great wealth of goods.’”
Kingsley added: “What turned up in southern Spain is undeniable. Phoenician signature finds, richly strewn from Rio Tinto to Málaga, leave no doubt that Near Eastern ships voyaged to what must have seemed the far side of the moon by 900BC.
“When I spotted in ancient accounts the name of the hill where silver was mined at Rio Tinto – Solomon’s Hill – I was stunned. Biblical history, archaeology and myth merged to reveal the long-sought land of Tarshish celebrated in the Old Testament.
“It looks like Solomon was wise in his maritime planning. He bankrolled the voyages from Jerusalem and let salty Phoenician sailors take all the risks at sea.”
The great Israelite Empire under King David and then his son Solomon is difficult to identify because historians have long misunderstood that the Phoenician Empire was distinct and independent of it.
As Steven Collins, in his book The ‘Lost’ Ten Tribes of Israel….Found! writes, “When historians refer to the Phoenician Empire and its international power and influence around 1,000 to 700BC, they are actually identifying the empire of Israel to which Tyre and Sidon were allied” (p. 76).
Given the great value of the gold and silver used to build King Solomon’s temple, it’s no surprise that not even a trace of it is left in Jerusalem for archeologists to find — in the ancient world plunder was the name of the game.
In the Psalms, King David makes it abundantly clear that he wished to exalt not himself but rather the God of Israel — which explains why archeologists have not discovered any monuments of David — leading them to question whether he was nothing more than an Israelite myth.
But in the ancient world, new rulers often ordered evidence of previous rulers completely destroyed — so it’s shouldn’t be surprising in the least how little is actually left for archeologists to study.
Surely, Spain must have been one of the sources for Solomon’s wealth, but it’s doubtful that there was enough gold and other metals there to meet the demand — as Sir Edward Creasy in his History Of England wrote, “The British tin mines mainly supplied the glorious adornment of King Solomon’s Temple.”
And there is plenty of evidence that the Phoenicians traveled far beyond the Straits of Gibraltar — syro-phoenician and “syro-egyptian” inscriptions have indeed been found in the North America.
According to archeologist and epigraphist, Dr. Barry Fell, there simply wasn’t enough copper in the Near East or Europe to have met the demand for it — but there was enough in North America — and over 5,000 ancient copper mines have been located, none of which were used by the “native” Indians.
The historian George Rawlinson in his book Phoenicia claimed that the name of Málaga — the Phoenician port in Spain mentioned in this article — was derived from the Hebrew word “malakh” — which means “angel” or divine messenger — while the Spanish city of Cadiz is named after the Israelite tribe of Gad.
And, of course, Phoenician Spain is located on the Iberian Penninula — and “Iberian” is derived from the Hebrew word “eber” from which the word “Hebrew” itself is derived.