“Ark of the Covenant”
by Jonathan Gray
SOLOMON’S FLEET MYSTERY
Location: Mount Moehau, on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, which plunges steeply into the sea.
Here, says Maori legend, the Turehu people, light-skinned, with reddish hair, made their last stand.1 The Maoris say they found them in parts of New Zealand. As the Maoris encroached, the Turehu retreated further into the hills, particularly of the Coromandel Peninsula.
The mountains of Moehau became their final refuge. Since they sought concealment near the misty summit of Moehau, the Turehu were sometimes spoken of as the "Mist People". Their voices and the ghostly piping of their flutes could often be heard in the dense forest. They built forts from interlaced supplejack, a long thick woody vine that trailed across the tall forest trees.
I believe that the Turehu people as referred to in the Maori legend, were really Hebrews and Phoenicians from the holy land. This concept will be established in the following text.
According to Pacific islanders, people answering the same physical description had come from the east — from the direction of South America — long, long ago.
And would you believe, in South America there are similar traditions of a light-skinned, red-haired, blue-eyed race. According to legends, these people settled and built stone cities (whose ruins survive), but following a war, fled west . He knows ward across the Pacific.
Was there some link, here? Could they have been the same people?
And pushing the question a little further, could these people of historical tradition have been the descendants of some ancient traders whose story we shall now relate?
It was the destiny of Phoenicia that she should become to the ancient world in material things, what the Hebrew was called to be in spiritual things.
Phoenicia was the great manufacturing nation of the ancient world. Her dyed textiles, superb stonework, ceramics, glass technology, and gem engraving were unsurpassed. Indeed, L.A. Waddell (citing Sir Flinders Petrie) asserts that the Phoenicians "had a civilization equal or superior to that of Egypt, in taste and skill.., luxury far beyond that of the Egyptians, and technical work which could teach others rather than be taught."
The city of Tyre was the London of antiquity, the centre of a vast global trading network.
Mistress of the seas
Phoenicia, mistress of the seas, sent ships to all ports and traversed all oceans. From the thirteenth century BC she was the dominant naval and commercial power. Her mercantile operations were enormous. This great naval power had the trade of the planet in her hands. She was a great distributing nation; her people reached the corners of the world.
The famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, states that:
The able Panch (Phoenicians) setting out to invade the Earth, brought the whole world under their sway. They were termed "leaders of the Earth." And Phoenicia was, in the tenth to eleventh centuries BC as great as Babylon or Egypt.
The coasts and islands of the Mediterranean were rapidly covered with colonies. The Straits of Gibraltar were passed and cities built on the shores of the Atlantic. They founded Gades (Cadiz) on Spain’s west coast, 2,500 miles from Tyre, as the starting point for the Atlantic trade.
In the expanding range of their voyages, Phoenician ships out of Spain were battling the wild Atlantic en route to the tin of Cornwall and even to Norway (2,000 miles beyond Gades). Eastward, there is evidence that Phoenicia built factories on the Persian Gulf and traded as far as Ceylon.
An interesting sideline concerns the founding of London.
It has been adduced from substantial evidence that some 89 years after the fall of Troy (a Phoenician colony), Brutus, a descendant of the Trojan royalty, sailed up the River Thames in Britain and founded Tri-Novantum ("New Troy"). This ultimately became London.
Thus, contrary to popular misconception, there existed a highly civilized dynasty, which survived in Britain even until the Roman invasion. It left behind gold coins, at least one surviving stone inscription and a detailed chronology. Indeed, Julius Caesar and other contemporaries testified to its cultured, well-dressed city-dwelling subjects, though untamed tribes did flank the western and northern borders.
Researcher L.A. Waddell gives an authenticated unbroken chronology of highly civilized independent British kings reigning in London from Brutus (c. 1103 BC) to the Roman conquerors. There is evidence that a large proportion of the people of Britain are descendants of the sea-going Phoenicians.
Phoenician ships probed ever further. Navigation across open ocean was no problem to these explorers.
Due to the insufficient attention paid to this subject, we have tended to belittle the size and sophistication of Phoenician shipping. If we conceive of it as represented by types of marine craft as outlined on Phoenician coins and tombs, we shall not be able to suppose that the nation was ever employed on such voyages as those that shall shortly engage our attention. There is evidence that they had the benefit of sophisticated instruments and large, fast, modern vessels carrying over 500 people. This will be a surprise to many readers.
"Ships of Tarshish"
The type of vessel built especially for ocean travel was designated "ship of Tarshish" to distinguish it from the smaller craft which merely plied the eastern Mediterranean.
The name of the original city in Spain, Tarshish (means “Westward”) became displaced as the horizon of the Phoenician navigators moved westward.
Herodotus records a Phoenician clockwise circumnavigation of Africa about 600 BC, on behalf of Pharaoh Necho — a distance of 13,000 miles. Herodotus sniffed at their report that the sun was on their right, that is, to their north. (Herodotus History of Herodotus. iv:42)
This establishes the fact that Phoenician nautical prowess and daring was at a level not to be seen in modern times until the century of Columbus.
It is only due to the proud announcement of the Pharaoh who sponsored the trip that we know of this voyage. The Phoenicians were not publicists.
So what other trips were being made — from perhaps as early as 1200 BC?
At La Venta, Mexico, was found a sculpture with distinctly Phoenician characteristics: bearded faces, upturned shoes, twisted rope borders and other details. It has been dated to around 850 BC. From Nicaragua to Mexico, on jade figurines, the backs of slate mirrors, funeral urns and other objects, appear bearded men who bear little resemblance to American Indians.
A well-known colony of Phoenicia was Carthage. An ancient historical work records the voyage of a convoy of as many as 60 ships, each carrying 550 people. This was around 500 BC. Irwin, Constance Fair Gods and Stone Faces. London: W.H. Allen, 1964, pp.228,229,235 (118)
Strabo writes that Phoenician colonies (300 colonies, he estimates) were planted prolifically well down the Atlantic coast of Africa.
From West Africa, it would be a simple matter to follow the trade winds to - you guessed it - South America.
To some, the idea that ancient mariners would have known the Americas may appear too ridiculous to consider, and it will be cast aside. But before such actions are taken, surely the evidence for this position should be carefully considered.
As Michael G. Bradley aptly put it, "The truth is just now being glimpsed by a handful of specialists - it is still almost completely unsuspected by the average civilized citizen." Bancroft, H.H. Works of Bancroft. San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft & Company, 1883, Vol V, pp.64-65
Voyages to the New World at around the time of King Solomon of Israel now seem more likely than not.
Some twelve years’ research for the book Dead Men’s Secrets finally convinced me that these colonists of a forgotten age were indeed part of a great network of ancient civilizations that once maintained a flourishing trade between Europe, Asia, and the Americas, some 3,000 years ago.
I was surprised to discover that Harvard professor Dr. Barry Fell, from his own research, had reached the same conclusion. He considered the ancient visitors to North America were probably not explorers, but rather merchants, trading with well-established fur trappers and very likely also mining precious metals on those sites where ancient workings have been discovered.
Because of the depth of ignorance into which Europe fell during the Dark Ages, at times we are apt to forget how advanced were the ideas of the ancients, and how much they knew about the earth and about astronomy and navigation. Fell, Barry America BC: Ancient Settlers in the New World. London: Wildwood House Ltd,1978, p.88
Fell is also convinced that "America shares a history with the Old World, and ancient Americans must have been well acquainted with much of that history as it took place."
Dr. Fell is now recognized as one of the world’s foremost epigraphers
Phoenicians in America?
In 1780, on a rock on the shores of Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island, there was discovered an inscription, which Fell deciphered in 1975 to read:
Voyages from Tarsus.
The stone proclaims
This suggests strongly that here on the eastern seaboard of North America there was once a port for "ships of Tarshish".
On the island of Hispaniola, Columbus discovered immense ancient mines. In Haiti, he thought he could trace furnaces in which gold had been refined. Bancroft, H.H. Works of Bancroft. San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft & Company, 1883, Vol V, pp.64-65
Between 1850 and 1910, travelers in the Amazon region and other parts of Brazil were reporting the finding of old inscriptions on rock faces.
Former rubber tapper Bernardo da Silva Ramos, in a now rare book in Portuguese, has published 1,500 reproductions from such rock carvings. They are all covered over with the letters of the Phoenician alphabet.
Investigator Pierre Honore discussing the finds of other Brazilian travelers and explorers of last century, states:
Today there is a whole library full of their reports; and they too were firmly convinced that the inscriptions were Phoenician texts. They were sure that King Solomon (975-935 BC) had once come to the Amazon with his ships; that the gold countries of Ophir, Tarshish and Parvaim were not to be looked for in the Old World at all, but here in the
Amazon region on the Rio Solimoes, Solomon’s River. Honore Pierre In Quest of the White God. London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd 1963 (Transl. from the German by Oliver Coburu and Ursula Lehrburger),
It is reported that in Havea near Rio de Janeiro are letters several feet high inscribed upon a sheer cliff face in cuneiform. The inscription reads:
Badezir of the Phoenician Tyre
the first son of Jethbaal
(Jethbaal Ruled Tire from 887-2856 BC)
In 1872, on the coast of Brazil near Paraiba, Joaquim Alves da Costa found on his property a stone that bore numerous characters which no one understood. He copied them and sent them to the President of the Instituto Historico. A translation is as follows:
We are Sidonian Canaanites from the city of the Merchant King. We were cast up on this distant island, a land of mountains. We sacrificed a youth to the celestial gods and Goddesses in the nineteenth year of our mighty King Hiram and embarked from Ezion-geber into the Red Sea. We voyaged with ten ships and were at sea together for two years around Africa. Then we were separated by the hand of Baal and were no longer with our companions. So we have come here, twelve men and three women, into "Island of Iron". Am I, the Admiral, a man who would flee? Nay! May the celestial gods and goddesses favor us well. latest fashionable evening party wears
This eight-line inscription proved to be in Phoenician characters. There are reasons to believe that the king referred to was Hiram III (553-533 BC). Brazil was known, anciently, as Hy Brasil. The incorporation of ‘I’ or ‘Hy’ is typically Phoenician.
According to Cyrus Gordon, Head of the Department of Mediterranean studies at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, the Phoenicians certainly knew Brazil, which they called "Island of Iron". Hy Brasil means "Island of Iron". Iron is still the country’s main resource.
As we noted, at the time the alleged inscription was found, the script was not known. No one other than the original translator could read it. That has now changed.
Significantly, it contains Phoenician idiosyncrasies that were unknown in 1872 but which are now authenticated by other inscriptions found since.
Because many initially rejected these finds, Barry Fell says:
“One by one competent scholars who hold responsible positions in universities and museums are now coming forward with confirmations of the decipherments.”
Shipping routes westward at first
The trend of Phoenician colonial development prior to 1000 BC was mainly in a westerly direction. However, it is quite certain that they did not rest satisfied with that. With their overland routes to the east at risk from unrest in Babylonia, the Phoenicians gave careful attention to an alternative eastern route.
We know that Hiram I, king of Tyre, shared a friendship with Israel’s King David, and his son Solomon. There was also a religious sympathy. These early Phoenicians — contrary to the now current notions of popular writers — were monotheists.
As a result of a commercial treaty, Hiram assisted in the erection of Solomon’s Temple and Israel granted Phoenicia the two ports of Eilat and Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqaba. Like Gades in west, the Persian Gulf colonies must now be viewed not as an end of Phoenician navigation in the east, but as the starting point for more distant navigation.
Fortunately, a mass of undigested historic data leaves no doubt concerning this fact. (116)
King Solomon’s silver
We find that the ships employed in the prosecution of the silver trade in both easterly and westerly directions were now "ships of Tarshish".
Suddenly we find gold and silver in such abundance in Jerusalem that Solomon made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones... for abundance" (1 Kings 10:27)
And why? "... for the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." There can be no question that the peacocks came from south-East Asia. But whence the abundance of silver?
Silver is also found in Siberia and in China or South Asia, but the large annual importation of the metal from Europe in consequence of the high price it bore in the East sufficiently prove that it was found there in small quantities. We may therefore conclude with certainty that the greater portion of the silver possessed of old by the Asiatic nations was imported, and there can be no question that the Phoenicians were the channel of importation.
Ultimate destination: Ophir
The ultimate destination of the ships of Hiram and Solomon was a place or region called Ophir." And they came to Ophir," says the Scripture, "and fetched from thence gold." "And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones." (1 Kings 9:28, and 10:11
From the books of Genesis23 and Josephus,24 it can be found that Ophir was the general name for the rich southern countries lying on the African, Arabian and Indian coasts. But when we ask, Where was that Ophir which could be reached from Ezion-geber that provided silver in such abundance, we are faced with a problem. It can be shown that the source was not Asia, the greater portion of whose silver was imported.
Silver was so scarce in Arabia, that it was assessed at ten times the value of gold. Yet in Solomon’s Jerusalem it became as common as stones.
I am aware of the nineteenth century explorers’ tales that supposedly identified the mines of Ophir with central Africa. There are people who refuse to accept that the massive stone fortress known as the ruins of Zimbabwe (and situated in that country) could have been built by native Africans.
Such identification with King Solomon must be regarded as romantic fiction.
Zimbabwe is AD, not BC, and almost certainly it is the work of a powerful indigenous African empire.
"Three year" voyages
That the expeditions pushed into regions much more distant than the Indian Ocean is apparent from the "three years" required for the double voyage, only nine months being required for a return journey to the extremities of Arabia.26
Thomas Johnston suggests that Ophir "must be looked for in the farther East, and in a territory that was not only capable of supplying silver in practically unlimited quantities, but of affording conclusive evidence of occupancy by the Jews and Phoenicians."
Johnston argues persuasively that the route of the expeditions can be traced beyond the peacock lands, through Indonesia, the Torres Strait (at the north of Australia), and via Samoa and Tahiti to Mexico and Peru. It appears that they founded colonies along the route.
An American destination accords well with the fact that the world’s largest silver deposits are in the Americas — in the United States, Mexico, Canada and Peru.
Reached from two directions
The Bible says that the distant land of Tarshish was rich in silver, iron, tin and lead. (Ezekiel 27:12) It could be reached from the Mediterranean port of Joppa (Jaffa), (Ezekiel 27:12) or the Red Sea port of Ezion-geber. (Jonah 1:3)
A glance at the map tells us that the only part of the world that one would reach by ship from either the Mediterranean or Red Sea ports is the Atlantic seaboard.
Cyrus Gordon of Brandeis University, Massachusetts, says that a text mentioning "gold of Ophir" found at Tell Qasile on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, suggests that Ophir could be reached via Gibraltar. I am aware that many places have been suggested as the location of Solomon’s fabled mines. New respect for the seagoing capabilities of early navigators makes the Americas a strong possibility
The Ugha Mongulala tribe of north-west Brazil preserve written records of an ancient city called Ofir (Ophir) which once stood at the mouth of the Amazon River.
This is the ONLY independent mention of a specific locality called Ophir, outside of the Bible. Could this be significant?
Their tradition states that:
Lhasa, the prince of Akakor... commanded the construction of Ofir, a powerful harbor city at the mouth of the Great River (the Amazon). Ships from Samon’s (Solomon’s?) empire docked there with their valuable cargoes. In exchange for gold and silver... (2 Chronicles 20:36)
Perhaps, like that of Tarshish, the name Ophir became displaced, and as the trade of the Phoenicians moved further eastward and westward, it moved with the trade, until in course of time it came to be applied to a more distant region controlled by the Phoenicians.
Corroborating this, the Phoenician Ophir or Ofor means, in their ancient language, the Western Country. And what land lay to the west? The Americas, no less. (120)
While the expeditions were under Jewish and Phoenician direction, they undoubtedly carried crews and marine force of composite nationality, In the next chapter we shall touch on evidence suggesting that considerable numbers of Seythians and Thracians were employed on the Phoenician fleets. At this time in history Hebrew, Phoenician, Scythian and Thracian were the dominant factors in the national life of the eastern Mediterranean. The Thracians and Scythians were then the two great nations of south-eastern Europe.
There must have been, from Ezion-geber, a general push of the giant "ships of Tarshish" toward the east. If we continue the line to Java and Sumatra, we will have reached the native home of the peacock, which was collected on the return journey of Solomon’s and Hiram’s expeditions. Penetrating beyond Indonesia, we shall discover some facts of a rather startling nature.