Chapter Twenty Two.
Ptolemaic Colonies of Queensland’s Far North.
To the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom [during the 12th Dynasty – around 2000 to 1788 BC] ‘Punt’ was situated near present-day Somalia.
Much later the name ‘Punt’ became confused and was a slang term for any generally unknown land in the southern hemisphere, and eventually linked with the mysterious Great Southern continent – Australia. They also called it ‘Kenti-Amenti’, the fabled “Land of the Gods”, the land of origin of all mankind in Egyptian tradition.
To the Phoenicians the southern continent was known as ‘Ophir’ or “Land of Iron” and in the Book of Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet makes a passing reference to the people of the southern land of Sinim, the “Queen of the south”, which scholars of his time located far out in the southernmost part of the Indian Ocean beyond the Oriental region.
In fact the Bible is full of references to the mysterious Land of Sinim, the “Lost Paradise of Mankind” and for a full account of biblical information in this matter the reader is directed to my book “Pyramids in the Pacific - the Unwritten History of Australia” [URU Publications 2000].
There has long been countless speculation concerning just how far the treasure-seeking fleets dispatched by King Solomon penetrated in their search for riches. All that scholars have had to go on are the famous passages in the First Book of Kings, Chapter 9; verses 26-28:
“And King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-Geber,
which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the Land of Edom.
And Hiram sent in the navy, his servants, shipmen that
had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon.
And they went to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold,
four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon”.
The Old Testament identifies Ophir as a source of gold and most scholars have pin-pointed Somalia on the Horn of Africa as the location, while others have named India and Sri Lanka [formerly Ceylon]. Yet there is another school of thought, that ‘Ophir’ was the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and the location from which Solomon obtained much of the gold and other precious metals and stones needed for the building of his great temple in Jerusalem.
New evidence gathered in the course of our recent Far North Queensland expeditions suggests ships of Solomon and Hiram penetrated Torres Strait to venture down the Queensland coast, and perhaps further than that. We shall examine this evidence anon.
The reign of King Solomon [961-922 BC] is regarded by scholars as the apex of power and prosperity for the Israelite monarchy. A great builder, he supervised the construction of cities in strategic areas of his kingdom of Israel, among which were Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. He also oversaw the building of his magnificent temple in which he would house the Ark of the Covenant, and his own palace beside it.
His kingdom had become economically powerful due to the control it had over trade routes that extended between Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Red Sea. He also had a great fleet of merchant ships build, and which he manned with skilled Phoenician sailors from Tyre, which for centuries had been a major trading port, located in what is now Lebanon.
Solomon based his fleet at the city port of Ezion-Geber, which stood on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba [Gulf of Elath]. Seeking to make his temple the most magnificent ever built, he dispatched his convoys from Ezion-Geber down the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean in search of riches.
”And they went to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold,
four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon
[Ch 9; V 28].
Deciding to dispatch another expedition to Ophir, Solomon called upon his ally, Hiram, King of Tyre, to dispatch a second fleet of ships by an alternate route, in order to minimise delays in the construction of the Lord’s temple.
“And the Kind had at sea a navy of Tarshish* with the navy of Hiram.
Once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold
and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks. [1 Kings, Ch 1; V 22].
[*on the western Mediterranean. The name means ‘smelter’].
Hiram’s fleet obviously sailed in the opposite direction, through the Straits of Gibraltar and down the west coast of Africa; so that the ‘Ophir’ of Hiram’s fleets destination was probably Somalia [aka Somaliland], which they reached by rounding Cape Horn.
This course [the round trip] took the fleet three years to complete, during which they would have established temporary bases along the way to replenish their supplies by growing crops and to trap animals for Solomon.
It seems likely that ‘Ophir’ was two different lands; one located in Africa from where ivory, apes, peacocks, gold and silver were obtained; the other somewhere on the Australian continent [if indeed this too was ‘Ophir’].
To the Phoenicians ‘Ophir’ was located in the southernmost region of the world. If they had found iron here, the most likely area would have been somewhere in what is now Western Australia [which even today besides its vast resources of gold, silver, tin, copper, diamonds and other precious stones, still contains vast iron ore deposits], particularly in the Kimberley region. This would have been the most likely location for mining, because landings could be made in King Sound or at the present site of Broome.
Penetrating the coastal rivers, the Phoenicians would have established upriver bases from where the locally smelted ores would have been loaded onto vessels. In these operations hundreds of men and women would probably have been involved; besides pack animals, oxen [for pulling carts] and camels, all obtained in India and other ports along the way.
In order to finance all his projects, Solomon introduced heavy taxes and used forced labour – of both his Jewish and non-Jewish subjects. Little wonder that, when he died, he was not mourned and his subjects looked forward to a better monarch and better living standards that than they had experienced under Solomon. The temple of King Solomon was finally destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC.
During our July 2002 Queensland expedition, as fully detailed in Chapter Nineteen, Heather and I uncovered a communal temple at a Proserpine location, being part of a mining colony established at least 3,500 years ago. Many votive offering stones have so far been uncovered there, together with a small Baal idol.
On our return visit here in October 2002 a thorough measuring of the ruins was carried out, during which an altar stone was uncovered, bearing the inscription in Iberian Phoenician:
“This is the temple of Baal the Sun which has been built by the
settlers from the ships of Hiram and Solomon for giving thanks.
To this colony built on the flat land people in ships sail, to this land of black
people to work* and grow grain for all. Bana your ruler declares”.
The altar stone was in fact the centrepiece of an extension to the original earlier temple, the new section having been kept separate for the worship of Baal. Therefore this new section dated to around the 900 BC period.
The presence of this expedition at the already long-established Proserpine colony suggests the new arrivals were hoping to obtain gold and other precious metals and stones from this district for Solomon’s temple project back home. We may never know whether they were successful in gaining permission from their hosts or not.