TIMNA (Heb. תִּמְנַע), site of intensive ancient copper mining and smelting activities. The Timna Valley (Ar. Wadi Manʿiāyya) is located 12½–18¾ mi. (2030 km.) north of Eilat, and three wadis run through it into the *Arabah: Naḥal Mangan, Naḥal Timna, and Naḥal Neḥushtan. The horseshoe-shaped area, created by tectonic plate movement, spreads out over an area of 23 sq. mi. (60 sq. km.) and is part of the Syrian-African rift. Explorations on the site were carried out by F. Frank and N. Glueck in 1932–34, and by B. Rothenberg from 1959. The ancient mines are situated in the western part of the Timna Valley, and malachite and chalcocite ores can still be found there in white sandstone formations. The mines and mining camps are spread over an area of approximately 4 sq. mi. (c. 10 sq. km.). The ancient smelting camps, where crude copper was produced, are located in the center of the valley, west of Mt. Timna.
During the Chalcolithic period (fourth millennium b.c.e.), tribes of shepherds and hunters with a good knowledge of copper metallurgy settled around Timna, collecting copper ore nodules and smelting them in well-built bowl furnaces. The Chalcolithic copper smelting furnace excavated on the fringes of the Arabah, east of the modern Timna copper mines, is the earliest smelting installation so far found. The next industrial installations for the smelting and casting of copper date to the Late Bronze and Early Iron i periods. These large installations include workshops, storehouses, cisterns, furnaces, and slagheaps. The date of this complex, called "King Solomon's Mines" by N. Glueck, was for some time much disputed. The discovery of numerous hieroglyphic inscriptions in Timna dating to the 14th–12th centuries b.c.e. now indicate that the copper industry of Timna, and probably of most of the other copper-producing sites in the Arabah, was developed by Egyptian mining expeditions during the 19th and 20th Dynasties. The inscriptions were found inside an Egyptian temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Hathor and located at the foot of "Solomon's Pillars" in the center of the mining and smelting area; it was probably the central sanctuary of Timna. This temple was built in the reign of Seti I at the end of the 14th century b.c.e. Gifts were also sent to it by Ramses ii, Merneptah, and Seti ii. It was destroyed in 1216–1210 b.c.e. and was restored only during the reign of Ramses iii (1198–1166 b.c.e.). The second temple was short-lived and came to an end with Ramses v (1160–1156 b.c.e.).
Timna, and perhaps also the other copper plants in the eastern Arabah, not yet explored, can now be identified with "Atika, the great copper mines," described in the Papyrus Harris I dating to the time of Ramses iii. According to this source, Egyptian copper mining expeditions traveled to Timna from Egypt by way of the sea and by overland caravans. The bay of Jazīrat Farʿun, the only natural anchorage in the Gulf of Eilat, can be identified as the Egyptian mining port before it became the shipyard of King Solomon (see also *Ezion-Geber).
Numerous temple gifts, including a partly gilded copper snake, a neḥushtan of Midianite origin, and finds in the smelting camp indicate that the Egyptians operated the copper industry of Timna together with the Midianites, Kenites, and, probably, the Amalekites from the central Negev, i.e., the indigenous inhabitants of the area, possessing metallurgical traditions going back to prehistoric times, as reflected in Genesis 4:22. The Egyptian-Midianite temple and copper industry, built in the Arabah at a time close to the Exodus, and the numerous objects found in the excavations contribute materially to understanding of the cultural and social relations between the tribes of Israel at the time of Moses and the Midianites and Kenites, through the Midianite priest Jethro, father-in-law and adviser to Moses.
The mines of Timna were not operated after the 12th century b.c.e., except during the second to fourth centuries c.e., apparently by soldiers of the third Roman legion (of Cyrenaica). At this time copper ore was transported from Timna to the large copper furnace at Be'er Orah (Ar. Bīr Hindis), south of Timna, the site of which was excavated in 1969.
The modern Timna Copper Works in the hills of Eilat, 15 mi. (25 km.) north of Eilat, were opened in 1959 and produce copper cement (with a content of approximately 80% pure copper) from sedimentary ores mined in open pits and shafts over an area of approximately 8½ sq. mi. (22 sq. km.). The works, employing more than 1,000 persons, increased its production from 5,000 tons (equivalent of pure copper) in 1962 to 14,000 tons in 1968. Nearly all the employees of the Timna Works were residents of Eilat; the site itself did not have a permanent population. The modern works were first closed in 1976 owing to an economic crisis in the copper industry. They was reopened in 1980 and permanently closed in 1985.
Subsequently the Timna site became a tourist and recreation site, with a park offering visitors numerous attractions: the archaeological antiquities of the Shrine of Hathor and the Chariot Rock Drawings (drawings dating from the Egyptian-Midianite period carved on stones and describing the rituals and lifestyles of people who used to live in the area); the natural phenomenon of The Arches (natural arches formed by erosion); Solomon's Pillars (red sandstone cliffs that have been sculpted into pillar-shaped ridges jutting outward and formed by centuries of water erosion); The Mushroom (a mushroom-shaped rock that was carved by the natural forces of humidity and wind); and a few others, such as the multimedia "Mines of Times" shown in the new visitors' centers and the Timna Lake, an artificial lake designed for recreational activities.
[Efraim Orni /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, 4 (1927), 204; F. Frank, in: zdpv, 57 (1934), 191–280; N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (1959), 36; B. Rothenberg, in: peq, 94 (1962), 5–71; idem, Ẓefunot Negev (1967), index; idem, in: Museum Haaretz. Bulletin, 8 (1966), 86–93 (Eng. section); B. Rothenberg and A. Lupu, ibid., 9 (1967), 53–70 (Eng. section); B. Rothenberg and E. Cohen, ibid., 10 (1968), 25–35 (Eng. section); B. Rothenberg, ibid., 11 (1969), 22–38 (in Eng. section); ibid., 12 (1970); peq, 101 (1969), 57–59; idem, in: Illustrated London News, 255 (Nov. 15, 1969), 32–33; 255 (Nov. 29, 1969), 28 website: timna-park.co.il/heb_timna.html.