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ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

The Queen of Sheba

Earlier this year, a British expedition excavating in Gheralta, in the Ethiopian highlands, found what is believed to be the remains of a gold mine operated by the Sabaeans. The clue? A stele marked with Sabaean symbols—namely the sun and crescent moon—and the ruins of a temple.

British archaeologist Louise Schofield led the charge, finding an entrance to a shaft—the gateway to the mine. In almost Hollywood-like fashion, a human skull marked the entrance. Early tests show the mine could be vast—and ancient, likely going back some 3,000 years.

Could this be the legendary gold mine of the Queen of Sheba? Makeda (the queen’s given name) was known for the gold stores that brought unprecedented wealth to her state. According to the Bible, she visited King Solomon back in the tenth century B.C.E. and brought him, among other things, “120 talents of gold.”

Could she have sourced it here? Schofield and others are saying this is likely. Interestingly, a few weeks ago a study linking the legendary queen with Ethiopia was published. Researchers tested the Ethiopian genome and found that genes from the Levant flowed into Ethiopia some 3,000 years ago—presumably the Queen of Sheba’s era.

The study, by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, U.K., tested 200 individuals from 10 Ethiopian populations in an attempt to trace the people’s ancient past. The findings, according to lead researcher Luca Pagani, are “in support of the legend of the Queen of Sheba.”

“In support,” of course, does not mean anything is proven. But it at least allows for the possibility.

My second novel, The Riddle of Solomon, touches upon the legend of the Queen of Sheba and her relationship with the biblical king. In the book, Sarah Weston and Daniel Madigan unearth a mysterious scroll in a desert boneyard that could be the queen’s lost caravan. The scroll, penned in Egyptian hieratic, was being safeguarded by the queen’s retinue during its return to Saba from Jerusalem when a furious sandstorm struck, burying dozens of camels and men.

What was the scroll’s message? Did King Solomon give it to the Queen of Sheba for safekeeping? And if so, why? All the answers will come June 1, 2013!

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