As the oldest center of copper production in the ancient world - and the most extensive example of early mining in existence, Timna Valley hosted miners as early as the 5th millennium BCE. At the end of the 14th century BCE, as the Egyptian Empire grew and word of the copper-rich area spread, the Egyptians established a trade route leading directly through the Timna Valley. Bringing with them much more sophisticated mining wisdom, the Egyptians used metal chisels and hoes and excavated very regular, tubular shafts, with footholds in the walls for moving as far down as 30 meters to reach the copper.
Solomon’s Pillars are natural geological formations that were formed when the rock cracked and water eroded them to separate the rock into distinct “pillars”. These are popularly known as Solomon’s Pillars but there is no connection to the biblical king. An inscription nearby depicts the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses III offering gifts to the goddess Hathor. At the foot of the Solomon's Pillars, a small Egyptian temple was excavated. Dedicated to Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of mining, it was founded during the reign of Pharaoh Seti I (1318-1304 BCE) and served the members of the Egyptian mining expeditions and also their local co-workers. The sanctuary consisted of an open courtyard measuring 9 x 6 m., with a naos (cult chamber), where a niche had been cut into the rock, apparently to house a statue of Hathor. The temple was badly damaged by an earthquake and rebuilt during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II (1304-1237 BCE), with an enlarged courtyard (10 x 9 m.) and a new, solid white floor. The walls were made of local sandstone and granite but the facade was of white sandstone from the mining area.
The temple, with its two square columns bearing Hathor heads, must have been an exciting sight in the light of the rising sun. In the temple courtyard there was a workshop for casting copper figurines as votive offerings. Among the finds in this temple were hieroglyphic inscriptions including cartouches (seals) of most of the pharaohs who reigned in the 14th-12th centuries BCE. There were also numerous other Egyptian-made votive offerings, including many copper objects, alabaster vessels, cat and leopard figurines of faience, seals, beads and scarabs as well as Hathor sculptures, figurines and plaques. Altogether several thousand artifacts were uncovered in the Egyptian temple.