King Solomon’s Lost Mine of Ophir

King Solomon in his wisdom, took Egypt’s legacy trading knowledge regarding Sub-Saharan Africa, passed to him through his Exodus royal ancestry, and leveraged that against the world-class military, trade, and ocean-going skills of the Phoenicians. Both nations became very wealthy as a result.
King Solomon’s Lost Mine, source of the legendary pure gold of Ophir, wore the most clever of disguises – it was hidden in plain sight all along.

At one point in my firm’s project history, I was afforded the chance to do some planning and analysis for various West African nations and several supporting corporations. The work focused on health, energy, resources, and trade – and took us to some of the most remote areas in a number of different nations in the region. During the course of this work, several clues began to arise with regard to a mystery I had once pondered and long since tabled in my mind, the location of King Solomon’s Lost Mine of Ophir.

The construct hit me one afternoon as I sat with the head of the ministry of natural resources for a specific client nation. My team had just completed days of exhaustive surveys regarding the rivers comprised by this West African nation’s primary river basin. But rather than go into the resulting hypothesis now, why don’t we take a moment to review the history behind this region, and the legend surrounding King Solomon’s exceptionally pure gold of Ophir. Most of this quasi-mythology is of course, related in the First Book of Kings in the Hebrew Bible, along with a few other works by Greek and Roman historians.1

King Solomon maintained ocean going trade ships which were accompanied by ships of Phoenician King Hiram I of Tyre. Once every three years this deployment would make its round trip, carrying back gold, silver and ivory, and apes and guinea peafowl (Hebrew: תֻּכִּיtukkiyyim or ‘took-kee’).

And this deployment of trading ships from King Hiram I, brought gold from Ophir, and brought in from Ophir a great quantity of almug trees (ebony or redwood – later described as used for making musical instruments and ornamentation) and precious stones.

~1 Kings 10/2 Chronicles 9 (complete context and in modern English)

I will make mortal man more rare than fine gold, and mankind [scarcer] than the pure gold of Ophir.

~ Isaiah 13:12

A Critical Path of Necessary Questions

Exhibit 1 – Phoenicia in the time of Hiram I and King Solomon. Notice that Phoenicia had no access to the Gulf of Aqaba, nor the port of Ezion-Geber.

As related through these passages in the Hebrew Bible, in a way, what Solomon had accomplished in exploiting the gold of Ophir, was to take Egypt’s legacy trading knowledge regarding Sub-Saharan Africa, passed to him through his Exodus royal ancestry, and leverage that with the world-class military, trade, and ocean-going skills of their brethren, the Phoenicians. Remember, both the Phoenicians and the Hebrews were fellow Arameans (Aramaic-speaking common people of Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel) – both cultures treasuring their shared heritage through modern partnerships between states and city-states.2

In addressing this mystery, seven objective and then eight follow-on subjective questions will frame the deductive critical path and concomitance around the question of the Lost Mine of Solomon. Each of those questions follows, inside two separate lists in this article. We begin with the first seven objective/differentiating questions:

  1. Who ventured originally to find the gold mine and when?
  2. How long did each round trip take?
  3. How did they travel?
  4. Who helped Solomon obtain the gold and why?
  5. How was the journey safeguarded?
  6. What came back along with the gold?
  7. What was the name ‘Ophir’, in reality?

Solly, I Think This is the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

The foundational trade routes (Exhibit 2 below) in the Mediterranean and beyond were developed (and settled) by the Phoenician Empire beginning in the 14th Century BCE. The Phoenicians established a chain of trading settlements throughout the Mediterranean, including colonies in Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, Cyprus, Marseilles, and North Africa. Like their own city states, these settlements were mainly self-governing.3

Exhibit 2 – The Phoenician Trading Empire (1350 to 574 BCE). Their established military might and trade routes strength resided solely in the Mediterranean Sea.
Exhibit 3 – Israel under King Solomon (970-931 BCE) At the time Israel had no port of Ezion-Geber on the Gulf of Aqaba.

King Solomon was a contemporary of King Hiram I, Phoenician King of Tyre, during the years 970–931 BCE. As we saw in the opening related passages from the First Book of Kings, the Hebrew Bible cites the unique relationship between King Solomon of the United Kingdom of Israel (Judah and Israel in Exhibit 3 to the right), and King Hiram I of Phoenicia. Phoenicia had long before the time of Solomon, established a preeminent strength in trade across the Mediterranean. Solomon would have valued collectively the Phoenician’s knowledge of seamanship, as well as their trade colonies and navy’s ability to protect a shipment of trade goods in transit.

It is doubtful that this footprint of strength extended from the Gulf of Aqaba and into the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, despite what the Hebrew Bible First Book of Kings says about the port of Ezion-Geber being the departure point for such a putative armada. As we will see later in this article, either the goods gathered, or the port of Ezion-Geber departure point, is incorrect. They cannot both be correct. Given the Mediterranean domain of strength of Hiram I and the Phoenicians, my money is on the Ezion-Geber legend artifact being an incorrect assumption on the part of non-knowledgeable scribes of history. Finally, in 2 Chronicles 2:8, it is noted that Phoenicia had an ample supply of ‘almug logs’ on its own merits over the centuries – thus this cannot have been a wood obtained from the east of Africa nor India, as the Phoenicians did not trade there with any regularity.

A key reason as to why Solomon petitioned Hiram I to join his expedition was to afford its valuable and vulnerable shipments protection by Hiram’s navy on the high seas. He did not hire the Phoenicians simply to obtain mere deck hand labor (as 1 Kings 9:27 implies).

If Solomon had been returning the cache of goods to Egypt, he would have merely used the well established overland Egyptian trading routes. However, since the caravans could not transit Egypt and the Sinai without challenge, the sea leg of the journey was critical to its success.

Such a large amount of gold and eclectic combination of goods were not obtained through a mere stop at a couple Asian or East African trading ports. Solomon did not hold the necessary deep expertise regarding India and China in order to successfully pull off this inland expedition. No, this was ancient Egyptian Pharaoh intellectual property (which had also served to make ancient Egypt rich and powerful).4 Intellectual property which had been passed to him from the time of Joseph in Egypt.

As we saw in addition, inside the First Book of Kings, each deployment of trading ships by the partner Kings was scheduled about every three years, as apparently it required a sizeable amount of that time to assemble the goods sought in the trade venture. This amount of time suggests a significant land-bridge portion of the journey, as it would not take 3 years for a simple over-the-ocean trade mission to India or even China for that matter. An overland journey being an essential component of the sourcing itself – this would require the time to layup and secure vessels at port, gather excursion resources, hire staff and guides, conduct an overland journey to gather the trade goods, and further then make both the return journey and voyage. All of this required an extensive knowledge of the journey, as well as experience in defending such a trade mission. Both the two kingdom partnership, as well as the three year turnaround, all make sense in light of such a burden.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to insist that Solomon’s sourcing partnership with Hiram, utilized both Solomon’s legacy knowledge from an Egyptian-African heritage, as well as Hiram’s trade ports and strength on the high seas. Given that it wasn’t until 500 BCE before Hanno sailed down the coast of West Africa, it is reasonable to assume such a circa 950 BCE journey happened in a Mediterranean Sea and land caravan context.5

Āfer is the Legendary ‘Ophir

It is very possible therefore, that the name ‘Ophir’, rather than meaning ‘snake’ or a son of the Biblical character Joktan,6 actually is a transliteration of the Berber word ‘āfer’ (name for a Berber citizen). Āfer (pronounced AwH-fər), further then became the Latin name for that region of the Sahara, referring to the lands south of the Mediterranean (i.e. Ancient Mauri, Numidia, Carthage, and finally Libya).7 Finally then, Āfri, in Latin referred to ‘inhabitants of Āfer’ based upon this derivation – later becoming the origin of the name of the very continent itself.

Such conjecture is merely inductive however, and must of course be tested by predictive confirmation along its per hoc aditum (line of reason). This is the task we undertake below, by means of our eight subjective/context-constraining questions:

  1. What historic major trade port was established by the Phoenicians just prior this Biblical time frame?
  2. What region bore the capability to supply such massive amounts of gold, in secret?
  3. What Kingdom/King coincidentally then grew rich with gold after King Solomon’s/Europe’s trade dominance fell?
  4. What is the single region on Earth which offers a critical nexus of supply in ebony, ivory, sufficient amounts of gold, silver, apes, guinea fowl, and gemstones?
  5. What causes gold to be purer when mined?
  6. What is the most reliable way to find a heavy and pure gold and gemstone cache?
  7. What is the most gold laden river system in the World?
  8. What is the best way to hide (or ‘lose’) a mine?

The Phoenician trading colony of Utica (see Exhibit 4 below) was reputed by ancient historians to have been established in 1101 BCE. The name Utica derives from the Phoenician term ˁAtiq, or ‘Old’ or ‘Ancient of Days’. In contrast, the name of its later successor port, Carthage, literally means ‘New Town’. Utica is considered to be the first colony to have been founded by the Phoenicians in North Africa.8 We speculate in this article that this key port, became the linchpin in King Hiram and Solomon’s joint trading ventures.

In Exhibit 4 below, one may observe the trade route juxtaposition between Utica, and the largest deposits of gold in the world (West African highlands, goldfields, and river basins). It is no coincidence that the richest person in history, in terms of total mass in gold wealth, Mansa Musa (1330 CE), lived right at the Niger River debarkation point (Timbuktu) feeding these Berber-Tuareg trading routes through the land which the Romans called Āfer.9 The vast majority of such trade routes eventually ended at Phoenician trade colony ports until such time as Carthage was conquered in the Second Punic War.10

The only region on Earth, which offers a sufficient quantity of the Hebrew Bible documented mix of goods taken back to King Solomon, is West Africa. More specifically, the Niger, Senegal, Gambia, Guinean, Sanaga, and Volta river basins.11 As one can observe in Exhibit 4 below, the gold regions of West Africa offer the wealth as well as unique combination of goods and game animals documented in the First Book of Kings.

Exhibit 4 – West Africa, accessible by over-land trade routes from the Phoenician trading colony of Utica, offers the only nexus of origin which could supply the array of specific goods ferried back to Israel by Hiram and Solomon’s fleet of ships through Phoenician supply lanes of influence.

In Exhibit 5 below, one may observe that the West African river basins in question are fed from highlands containing the richest goldfields on Earth, the Bamuk, Bure, and Akan runoffs. In this region, gold (and diamonds as well) is continually extracted from alluvial soils and eroding higher strata, and has been deposited for tens of millions of years into the critical pockets and bends of the thousands of kilometers of river bed in the region. It lays there concealed, that is until one comes along who is clever enough to exploit the circumstance.

Exhibit 5 – The Niger and West Africa River Basins hold the largest cache of gold, silver, and fine gemstones on Earth by a factor of 100 to 600 to 1 over comparable regions globally. In addition, because this gold is extracted by river erosion, the resulting gold is easily found, cleverly concealed, and of the purest quality found in nature. It is no coincidence that the richest ruler in history, in terms of total mass in gold wealth, Mansa Musa, lived right at the Niger River debarkation point (Timbuktu) feeding these Berber-Tuareg trading routes through the land which the Romans called Āfer. The vast majority of such trade routes ended at trade ports which were originally founded as Phoenician colonies.

Hidden in Plain Sight – Finding the Lost Mine of Āfer

Those miners who operate in West Africa have a saying, ‘The Devil protects his gold’. To the last person, all of them fully grasp that every ounce of gold exploited from the region comes at the cost of blood, sweat, illness, trafficking, theft, danger, oppression, and graft. As we have noted in previous articles inside The Ethical Skeptic, the person behind the mythical character called the ‘Devil’ is a master at deception – one skilled in the art of the ignoratio elenchi question, legal stipulation and binding, false dilemma, agency, orthogonal and straw man argument, and hiding his most precious assets or threatening truths in ironic and plain sight. West African gold is dealt with in no different manner.

The Argument for Rivers as Hidden ‘Mines’

As alluded to earlier in this article, a colleague on ground in a West African client nation invited our survey group to tour some of the rivers in question. We had been asked to come and assess the mineral reserves of that nation, and to develop strategies for the future of ethical exploitation partnerships with foreign entities – how the revenues for such ventures could be safely diverted to elementary schools, roads, infrastructure, healthcare, etc. We toured some 50 km of river along with the adjoining tribal lands. Tall tales were told of villager ability to simply wade through shallow tributaries and pick up gold nuggets with their toes. Local stores were paid in raw gold at times by the villagers – or so we were told. Store merchants lamented being in short supply of consumable goods for buying customers, but ironically not gold. “Get us reliable supply, this is what we need Mr. G.”, was a common plea.

Exhibit 6 – 100,000 kilometers of river basin form the West Africa exploitation footprint. This area contains over $15 trillion in recoverable gold of the finest quality (river purified).

When we got into the NI 43-101 and JORC surveys which had been conducted by professional assay teams which specialize in measuring gold content however, the contentions of the villagers did not seem so outlandish after all. The region we surveyed for economic strategy comprised a ‘mere’ 4,600 kilometers of river basin. This equated to 2 billion ounces or $2.8 trillion in recoverable gold in this small river system alone. This river basin region, not even a large one, was more than 600 times larger in terms of gold content, than the largest gold mine in the world (Nevada Gold Mines at 3.3 Moz).12 Conservatively extrapolating this metric to the entire 6 river basin region, comes to a whopping total exploitable value of $15 to 20 trillion in the purest gold – the largest repository of pure gold on Earth, by far. A cache suitable to capture the interest of a wise ancient Pharaoh, and then later, King.

Why the ‘purest gold’? one might ask. Well the principle is very straightforward in reality.

Gold that has been present in a river for a long period of time is generally purer than gold that has just recently broken off a gold-bearing vein. The reason is that the water manages to remove at least some of the reactive metals present in the gold.

~ “Gold Nugget Purity Explained” – Prospecting Planet13

Couple with this, the reality that recovering gold from an active (or even dried-up) river bed is much easier than shaft or placer mining, while of course still offering an incredible resource of purest gold. One suitable to impress the likes of King Solomon the Great. “Hiram my friend, allow me to use your trade routes, ships, and navy, and I will reveal to you, the source of my ancestral gold supply. A supplying ‘mine’ which will again hide and conceal itself should the need arise.” – Now that, is a heck of a deal! “Solomon my fellow King, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

As a result, gold will tend to follow its own path together with the heavier streambed materials, and also deposit at places where the lighter gravels are simply washed away by the current. Gold in rivers or creeks tends to be found in the following locations: along inside bends, behind/in front of bedrock outcroppings, behind large boulders, right after sudden widening sections, on bedrock or below false bedrock, in natural moss, below waterfalls.

~ “Where To Find Gold In Rivers & Creeks” – Prospecting Planet14

These same characteristic locations in dry old river beds will also produce millions of years of accumulated and high purity gold as well – which is relatively easy to exploit. Imagine all of this pure gold, shipping down one river, the Niger, and being warehoused for trade at one city of debarkation, Timbuktu. This supply chain constraint explains why Mansa Musa became the most wealthy person in terms of gold mass in history. Right about the time of the Middle Ages and downturn in demand for gold out of Europe and the Middle East, Mansa Musa began to amass its wealth, rather than trade it.15

So lavishly did he [Mansa Musa] hand out gold in Cairo [while on his Haj journey to Mecca] that his three-month stay caused the price of gold to plummet in the region for 10 years, wrecking the economy.

~ Naima Mohamud, BBC World News

But Mansa Musa was only the second ruler to come along bearing the wisdom of Solomon. The wisdom to keep quiet about the true nature of your ‘lost mine of Ophir’. The wisdom to know that your secret mines will be hidden in plain sight and that the Devil himself has your back. The wisdom to know how to leverage two separate sets of cultural tradition, into one inferential knowledge, and an advantage over all other nations.

The Ethical Skeptic, “King Solomon’s Lost Mine of Ophir”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 24 Jul 2022; Web,