Mining in the Egyptian Era
In the 12th - 14th century B.C.E, during the Egyptian period of activity in Timna, there was a copper production camp in operation at the Mushroom site. This is the area where they brought the ore that was mined at the foot of the Timna bluffs, as well as kindling material – acacia trees. There were structures and work-yards on this site where they produced the vessels and materials required for production. In the fenced area closest to us, a work area was revealed that includes a courtyard surrounded by several rooms. The rooms contain a few devices for work and storage area. In the courtyard there are lined pits that were used to store the ore, kindling material and vessels that were used to prepare the furnaces for producing the copper. On the stone platform in the yard, ore and grinding tools were found which are proof that this place was used for preparation of copper concentrates and additives for smelting. Clay mortar was prepared for lining the furnaces and to make the bellows nozzles. A small workshop was also discovered, used for pouring copper, probably for making and repairing work tools.
The furnaces used for making the copper were built on the area before us. Their remains, and mainly the leftover slag – “industrial waste” of production, can be seen in the area. The bottom part of the furnace was found in the area near the Mushroom Rock, and a model of a furnace can be found in the lookout pavilion. This is a furnace for copper production from the period of Egyptian activity in Timna, the 13th-14th centuries B.C.E. The lower part of the furnace is dug into the ground and its upper part is constructed. The furnace is lined with clay mortar. In front of the furnace, and on a slightly lower level, a slag pit was dug and flanked with long-shaped stones. Behind the furnace a work area tiled with large, flat stones was built. Scattered around the furnace there are black stones – this is the production waste called “slag”. The copper production process began with igniting wood coals in the furnace. After the furnace was heated to the desired temperature (1200-1300 degrees Celsius) the smelting mixture was gradually added: copper ore and other ore containing iron and manganese compounds – “flux”, which were used to reduce the melting temperature and assist in the process of separating the copper. The production process took between 8-10 hours, and towards the end the melted copper accumulated at the bottom of the furnace while the slag remained on top. This was the stage of “the breeze” or “tapping” – an opening was made in the front wall of the furnace to enable the slag to flow out into the slag pit, while the copper remained on the bottom of the furnace. The slag cooled and shrunk into black stones – “slag cakes”, whose fragments are scattered all around the furnace. At the bottom of the furnace the copper cooled into a metal ingot which weighed, on average, approximately one kilogram.