A few years ago, scholars described life at an ancient copper mine in what is now Jordan as “hell on earth.” But recent research at a similar site in the Negev shows that at least one class of workers enjoyed all the creature comforts of the time. Hershel Shanks explains:
The better class . . . apparently ate like visitors at a first-class spa! The diet varied. There was fish from the Red Sea (nearly 20 miles away) and catfish from the Mediterranean Sea (125 miles away). The diners then polished it off with grapes and pistachios, also from the Mediterranean area.
All this was found on what is known as “Slaves’ Hill,” in apparent reference to the miners who worked and lived there. But this was clearly not the whole picture. In the words of researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef, “These new observations . . . stand in contrast to the common perception that workers in mining areas were [uniformly] a low-class, poorly paid labor force engaged in the arduous work of mining and smelting.”