“Essentially, they have completely destroyed the environment,” Erez Ben-Yosef tells i24NEWS
A new publication from Tel Aviv University in Israel explains how environmental exploitation evolved in the 11th to 9th centuries B.C. BC continues to affect the southern desert region of the country.
Researchers in one of Ph.D. The student Mark Cavanagh, Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Dafna Langgut collected samples of charcoal from mines used as fuel for metallurgical furnaces in the Timna Valley where the copper industry thrived for a period of about 250 years.
Ben Yosef tells i24NEWS that this study began in 2012, a decade ago, and stated that the mines examined were from the “period of King David and Soloman.”
According to the researchers, the copper industry in Timna was highly developed for the time, as copper was extracted from the ore by smelting it in a process that took about eight hours.
The charcoal, which is used to achieve the high temperatures required for this process, was previously produced in specific locations by slowly burning trees and shrubs felled for the purpose.
“The copper industry in Timna was first discovered about 200 years ago, and since then every researcher who has visited the area has asked the same question: What fuel was used to heat the smelting furnaces?” explained Cavanagh.
“Since the vegetation in this desert area is very sparse, where did the firewood come from? To finally solve this mystery, we collected charcoal samples from the smelting sites and examined them in the laboratory.”
The researchers found that while previous samples of the fuel used contained mostly native gorse and acacia thorn trees, the quality of the fuelwood deteriorated over time. The later samples, well preserved thanks to the desert climate, consisted of inferior firewood and wood imported from afar.
According to the study, this change was due to overexploitation, which destroyed the natural resources in the area, including high-quality firewood. Ben-Yosef noted that a manufacturing facility called “Slave Hill” burned up to 400 acacia trees and 1,800 broomsticks annually.
“As these resources ran out, the industry looked for other solutions, as evidenced by the changing composition of charcoal,” explained Ben-Yosef.
However, transporting the timber from afar proved unprofitable, and eventually the mines were abandoned by the 9th century BC. BC shut down.
explained Ben Yosef i24NEWS“Essentially, they completely destroyed the environment,” which led to the closure of the mines.
“We can still see it today when some plant species are missing that were never recovered.”