De Nouveaux Indices Sur Le Mystère Des Mines Du Roi Salomon

Des analyses d’anciens excréments d’origine animale confirment qu’un grand camp minier daterait de l’âge d’or du célèbre monarque biblique.

Des analyses d’anciens excréments d’origine animale confirment qu’un grand camp minier daterait de l’âge d’or du célèbre monarque biblique. 

 

De l’engrais préservé pendant des millénaires grâce au climat aride de la vallée Timna en Palestine occupée ravive un ancien débat sur le roi Salomon et l’origine de sa fortune légendaire.

C’est dans un ancien camp minier situé au-dessus d’un plateau de grès appelé Slaves’ Hill (la colline des esclaves) que des archéologues ont découvert des excréments vieux de 3 000 ans. La région est parsemée de mines de cuivre et de camps de fonte, des sites où le minerai a été chauffé puis transformé en métal.

En 2013, Erez Ben-Yosef, archéologue à l’Université de Tel Aviv, avait commencé à fouiller le site. L’année dernière, son équipe et lui avaient mis au jour les restes de plusieurs constructions dotées de murs, dont une porte fortifiée, lorsqu’ils avaient fait la découverte de ce qui semblait être des excréments d’origine animale relativement récents.

Des archéologues ont retrouvé des excréments vieux de 3 000 ans dans un ancien camp minier situé au-dessus d’un plateau connu sous le nom de Slaves’ Hill (la colline des esclaves) en Israël, dans la Vallée de Timna.

« Nous pensions qu’il  était possible que des nomades aient établi un camp, avec leurs chèvres, quelques décennies plus tôt, » explique Ben-Yosef en notant que les excréments contenaient encore de la matière végétale décomposée. « Mais au retour des résultats du labo, la datation [au carbone] a révélé qu’il s’agissait d’excréments d’ânes et d’autres animaux d’élevage datant du 10ème siècle avant J.-C. On a eu du mal à y croire. »

Alors que les excréments, d’âge et d’état exceptionnels, étaient tout à fait remarquables, les implications des résultats du radiocarbone étaient d’autant plus surprenants.

« Avant le lancement du projet en 2013, on estimait que le site datait de l’âge du bronze tardif, qui a des liens étroits avec le nouveau royaume d’Égypte du 13ème et du début du 12ème siècle av. J.-C., » dit Ben-Yosef. Il existe des preuves évidentes indiquant une présence égyptienne pendant ces siècles. Et à proximité du parc de Timna, les visiteurs sont aujourd’hui accueillis par des signes représentant les égyptiens de l’antiquité.

Mais la datation très précise des excréments par radiocarbone, ainsi que de textiles et d’autres matières organiques, a montré que l’apogée du camp minier coïncidait avec le 10ème siècle avant J.-C., soit l’ère des rois bibliques David et Salomon.

Reconstitution par un artiste du camp minier à partir d’indices archéologiques.

 

LA LONGUE QUÊTE DES MINES DE SALOMON

Selon la Bible hébraïque, le roi Salomon était réputé pour sa grande sagesse et son opulente richesse. Ses nombreux projets de construction comprenaient l’élévation d’un temple somptueusement décoré d’objets en or et en bronze à Jérusalem. Une telle structure aurait nécessité de grandes quantités de métal provenant d’opérations minières quasi industrielles, quelque part au Moyen-Orient. Mais les écritures restent silencieuses quant à leur emplacement exact.

Dans les années 1930, l’archéologue américain Nelson Glueck (prononcé Glick) avait annoncé qu’il avait trouvé les célèbres mines alors qu’il explorait la vallée de l’Arabah, riche en cuivre, une faille géologique qui s’étend de la mer Morte au sud jusqu’à la Mer Rouge et chevauche la frontière de la Palestine occuppée moderne et la Jordanie.

« On sait maintenant que sur toute la longueur du Wadi ‘Araba, il y a des gisements de cuivre et de fer, » a écrit Glueck dans un article intitulé « Sur la piste des mines du roi Salomon » dans le numéro de février 1944 de National Geographic. « Ils ont autrefois été intensément exploités, en particulier à l’époque du roi Salomon. »

Il est facile de trouver des morceaux de minerai de cuivre dans cette région isolée de Jordanie, une région où un ancien centre minier a été mis au jour par l’archéologue Thomas Levy.

De nombreux archéologues qui ont suivi les traces de Glueck avancent cependant que David et Salomon n’étaient pas les rois puissants décrits dans la Bible. D’après eux, ils auraient plus vraisemblablement été des chefs modestes, bien incapables de mettre en place une opération minière d’envergure et d’orchestrer un commerce à longue distance.

Les critiques s’opposaient aussi à la chronologie biblique traditionnelle, qui place les règnes de David et de Salomon au 10ème siècle avant J.-C. Par conséquent, « Glueck est devenu la risée du monde savant, » raconte Thomas Levy, professeur d’archéologie à l’Université de Californie, à San Diego, et explorateur pour National Geographic.

Mais les découvertes faites au cours des dernières décennies pourraient justifier la foi de Glueck dans l’exhaustivité des faits bibliques.

En 1997, Levy a commencé une fouille de plusieurs années à Khirbat en-Nahas, un site dans le sud de la Jordanie dont Glueck a suggéré qu’il s’agissait d’un ancien centre de production de cuivre. Levy et son équipe ont creusé plus de 60 mètres de déchets de scories de cuivre pour atteindre un sol vierge, indiquant que le métal y avait été produit massivement. « Nos fouilles confirment un bon nombre des idées de Glueck, » a écrit Levy en 2006.

La découverte récente dans la vallée de Timna en Palestine occuppée permettrait à Glueck de marquer plus de points, lui qui avait découvert et nommé le site Slaves’ Hill en 1934. L’opération minière qui y a eu lieu n’est pas encore liée à Salomon lui-même, mais elle suggère que la région abritait une société complexe, probablement les Édomites.

L’exactitude des passages bibliques affirmant que le roi David faisait marcher ses armées au cœur du désert pour combattre les Édomites a longtemps été débattue. Mais Ben-Yosef avance que les murs fortifiés qu’il a trouvés autour du camp de fonte indiquent qu’ils constituaient très probablement une cible militaire.

Si l’affirmation biblique selon laquelle les Édomites étaient sous la coupe de David se révèle exacte, il aurait pu être en mesure d’exiger un tribut, dit Ben-Yossef. « Il existe une sérieuse possibilité que Jérusalem ait obtenu sa richesse en taxant ces opérations minières. »

L’archéologue Nelson Glueck (deuxième à partir de la gauche) pensait avoir découvert les mines de Salomon dans la Valée de l’Arabah, riche en cuivre, située dans le sud de la Palestine et de la Jordanie.

 

LE TÉMOIGNAGE D’UN COMMERCE À LONGUE DISTANCE

Les échantillons d’excréments comportaient des graines et des spores de pollen si intactes que l’équipe de Ben-Yosef a pu déterminer l’alimentation des animaux, ce qui a abouti à une autre surprise: l’alimentation a été importée d’une zone située à plus de 160 kilomètres au nord, près de la côte méditerranéenne. Jérusalem étant situé à plus de 300 kilomètres de distance, cela nécessitait alors d’un voyage de deux semaines à dos d’âne.

Les échanges commerciaux à longue distance étaient la clef de la survie de ce site isolé entouré de déserts arides. Chaque produit de nécessité devait être transporté par des ânes — même la source d’eau la plus proche était à près de 20 kilomètres de distance — rendant l’entreprise laborieuse et coûteuse.

« À cette époque, le métal était un produit essentiel, de la même manière que nous consommons de l’huile aujourd’hui » explique Ben-Yosef. « Donc ces efforts étaient justifiés pour lancer de telles opérations au milieu du désert. »

Plus de 1 000 tonnes de débris de fonte ont été découverts à la Slaves’ Hill, explique Ben-Yosef, indiquant une production massive digne d’un État ou d’un royaume antique. Savoir si la Judée ou Édom ont atteint un tel niveau de développement au cours du 10ème siècle avant J.-C. reste une question qui fait l’objet d’une vive discussion, mais Ben-Yosef est encouragé par ces nouvelles découvertes.

« Jusqu’à récemment, nous n’avions presque rien de cette période dans cette région, » dit-il. « Mais maintenant, nous savons non seulement que c’était une source de cuivre, mais aussi qu’elle date de l’époque du roi David et de son fils Salomon. »

 

 

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