The revolutionary discovery that copper ore could be converted into metallic copper is the story of the Nechushtan Pavilion. From the smelting furnaces of the Chalcolithic period to the mining expeditions of the Egyptian pharaohs in Timna, near Eilat in the southern Negev, mining and metal-works in the ancient Middle East region grew in sophistication. Timna, also known as King Solomon's mines, offered up a wealth of finds.
At the entrance to the pavilion is an underground shaft and gallery mine from the Chalcolithic Period and the Late Bronze Age, where the remains of stone hammers, flint blades, copper chisels and other mining tools, all with their unique period markings, can be seen.
Representing four distinct periods, the exhibit highlights
• A bowl furnace from the Chalcolithic period (4th century BCE): A clay-lined hole, this furnace is one of the most ancient and primitive ever unearthed.
• Domed furnace from the Late Bronze Age (13th-14th centuries BCE)
• Authentic Late Bronze Age furnace (12th century BCE)
• Shaft furnace from the Iron Age (10th century BCE): The ancient coppersmith's extraordinary sophistication is on display in this highly developed furnace, equipped with a number of bellows for regular air induction, enabling uninterrupted charging of crushed ores and coal.
Apart from the 12th-century BCE furnace, which was transferred from Timna as found, the other three are reconstructed according to remains uncovered at the site. All four furnaces are shown against the backdrop of a modern copper relief, representing a Late Bronze Age smelting camp in operation.
The Egyptian-Midianite Mining Temple
Beginning in the 14th century BCE, the Egyptian pharaohs dispatched mining expeditions to Timna. Together with expert Midianite metalsmiths, they extracted copper there until the early 12th century BCE, when the Egyptians returned home and the Midianites took over the mining enterprise.
Before their departure, the Egyptians erected a temple in honor of Hathor, patron goddess of mining, in the center of the Timna Valley. The Midianites later converted this temple into a Semitic tent-shrine for their own cultic rituals. The Midianite Mazzeboth constitutes the last phase of worship at Timna. These impressing standing stones demonstrate the re-use of Egyptian architectural elements and cultic installations from earlier phases.
The showcases display sacred votive offerings presented to the Mining Temple: statuettes and objects bearing the image of Hathor, as well as figurines of other Egyptian deities, and also metal figurines, all locally made and imported from Midian. Of particular note are Egyptian, Midianite and local ceramic vessels, and objects inscribed with cartouches of the Egyptian pharaohs, including the names of Ramesses ll, Pharaoh of the Exodus, and Merenptah, who mentions the name "Israel" in his famous stela of special interest is the copper snake with 9 gilded head, found in the naos of the Midianite shrine, pointing perhaps to the biblical Nehushtan ( Kings 2 18:4).
Food remnants and organic material found at Timna, which reveal the miners' dietary habits, are on special display. Textiles, animal bones, fruit and grain were brought to Timna from the Nile Valley, the Mediterranean region and Midian.