Copper mines in Israel’s Negev Desert — ancient sites that may have inspired the legend of King Solomon’s mines of gold — were abandoned 3,000 years ago, when people there used up all the plants to make charcoal for smelting, a new study finds.
The researchers studied fragments of charcoal from ancient furnaces in the Timna Valley near Eilat, where a prosperous copper industry thrived from the 11th to ninth centuries B.C.
They found that the quality of the wood used to make charcoal deteriorated over the roughly 250 years when the mines and smelters operated, as people there used up all the nearby white broom and acacia and started using wood of much lower quality, such as the trunks of palm trees.
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