Part of the Ancient Mines at Timna Park
Part of the Ancient Mines at Timna Park

Ancient Mines

As you will see with the History of the Copper Mines below, this area had a high amount of copper and once people worked out how to mine, make  and use the copper, this became a central location for copper production. The links of this area to the Egyptians is strong and hence the very egyptian influence in some of the buildings located at the Park.  Hence I was amused a little seeing the symbol of Horus on the sign directing us to the Ancient Mines. (See below)

In the photo above, you can see many holes in the walls of the columns and the rock faces. These are just a small number of the mines that are located in this part of Timna Park.

History of copper mining in the Timna Park Area

Calcolithic period

Copper started to be in use in the Calcolithic period (4500-3200 BC), and actually its name came from the word “copper”.  In those days the copper was collected on the surface, and only at the last centuries of the period that they started mining the ore under the surface. These were probably one of the first mines in the World, using stone tools to dig into vertical shafts and horizontal tunnels.

Bronze period

The enhancement of the copper to Bronze, using additives such as tin, came at later phase, and the period is known as the Bronze period (3200 BC to the 1200 BC). The perfected metal was stronger and more durable, and gave its possessors a military and technologic edge. The growing demand for bronze drove the Egyptian to perfect the mining industry, and it reached its peak in Timna during the 1400 to 1200 BC .

Display of how the Vertical and Horizontal shafts work in the Old Copper mines
Display of how the Vertical and Horizontal shafts work in the Old Copper mine

Egyptian period

Royal Egyptian delegations came to Timna, representing the pharaohs of the nineteenth and twentieth dynasties, from the time of Seti I, and Ramses II to Ramses V (1400 to 1200 BC).

A great deal of evidence of their presence was found in the center of the valley, including the ancient mines at the Arch, the rock paintings at the Chariot site, the production camp near the Mushroom and  a walled camp west of Solomon’s Pillars and nearby Hathor’s Temple.

Thousands of finds were unearthed at these sites, which shed light on social, economic cultural and cultic aspects of human activities in the valley.

Hathor’s Temple consists of a low stone wall enclosing a courtyard. The heart of the temple was a rectangular chamber near the rock wall, made of dressed stone. Standing stones were found in the courtyard, as well as basins and objects of a local or Midianite nature.

A temple to Hathor was also found at Sarabit el-Hadem near the turquoise mines in southwestern Sinai. There, the goddess is defined as the “Lady of Turquoise,” which explains her status as goddess of copper mining. She is also known as the queen of gods and the ruler of heaven. Hathor’s southern Semitic, or Midianite counterpart was also worshipped at Timna.

Later periods

After the 1200 BC the Iron rose as the preferred metal, starting the “Iron period” (1200-600 BC), and the mining in Timna has been suspended and carried in other mines.

During the Roman period (100-200 AD) the mining was renewed and continued during the early Arab period.

Modern Later period

The mines were modernized in 1955 in a plant located south to the Timna valley, but the production was stopped in 1984 due to low copper prices.

Horis - holding the sign of the Ancient Mines
Horus – holding the sign of the Ancient Mines

For more information about Timna Park