The Timna Valley, north of the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba, within the Rift Valley, is a large semicircular erosion formation containing four wadis that run from the Timna Cliffs into Nahal Arava.
Timna provides a remarkable example of industrial archaeology, as it was the site of ancient mineral mining and smelting. Along the foot of the Timna Cliffs are mainly copper carbonate ore nodules that consist of malachite and chalcocite mixed with azurite, cuprite, paratacamite. A second type of copper ore, of the chrysocolla group, is located in the Timna Formation of the Lower Cambrian and was therefore more difficult to reach by ancient mining methods. However, both types of ore, the copper carbonates and copper silicates, were exploited in antiquity. Numerous mine workings, including shafts and galleries, as well as mining tools from various periods, were found in this part of the TimnaValley.
Eleven camps are located in the center of the valley, several containing substantial slag heaps, testimony to the existence of intensive mining activities. These remains belong mainly to the 19th and 20th dynasties of the Egyptian New Kingdom (Late Bronze Iron Age). There is only one smelting site in the mining area of the Timna Valley. All other early smelting sites were located outside the Timna Valley, along the western fringes of the Arava. North of the Timna Valley, an Early Bronze Age II copper-smelting site was excavated, as were an Early Bronze Age IV smelting site and mine at the estuary of Wadi Timna. South of the Timna Valley, the center of Roman and Early Arab copper smelting in the western Arava was located at Be'er Ora.
Beginning in l845 numerous explorations identified copper-smelting slag in Timna, the remains of dwellings, and copper-smelting sites. Pottery found at Timna was dated to the Iron Age I and II. In 1940 N. Glueck attributed copper-smelting in Timna to King Solomon, calling the area King Solomon's mines. Between 1959 and 1961 B. Rothenberg explored the Timna Valley and in 1962 published, with Y. Aharoni and B.H. McLeod, a detailed description of its ancient mines and smelting camps. King Solomon's mines were dated to several widesly separated periods, from the fourth millennium to Roman times.