This unexpected conclusion was reached by studying that precious source of evidence in modern archaeology: ancient garbage.
Specifically, a team of researchers analyzed slag, the waste left over from metal smelting, at ancient copper production sites in the Aravah Valley, a region that spans the southern deserts of Israel and Jordan and was once the heartland of the Edomite nation.
The team of American, Israeli and Jordanian archaeologists found that people at different sites in the Aravah were producing metal using the same standardized techniques, which improved and advanced in parallel, more than 3,000 years ago. This, the archaeologists say, is a sign that there was a strong, centralized entity that coordinated copper production over vast distances: in other words, a state.
And this in turn would mean that the Edomite kingdom was already formed by the mid-11th century B.C.E., some 300 years earlier than previously thought, the archaeologists conclude in a paper published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS One.