Was King Solomon the ancient world’s first shipping magnate?

Marine archaeologist unearths evidence suggesting biblical king’s riches were based on voyages he funded with Phoenician allies

The Judgement of Solomon, 1518 -19, by Raphael. Photograph: Alamy

King Solomon is venerated in Judaism and Christianity for his wisdom and in Islam as a prophet, but the fabled ruler is one of the Bible’s great unsolved mysteries.

Archaeologists have struggled in vain to find conclusive proof that he actually existed. With no inscriptions or remnants of the magnificent palace and temple he is supposed to have built in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, the Israelite king has sunk into the realm of myth.

Now British marine archaeologist Dr Sean Kingsley has amassed evidence showing that Solomon was not only a flesh-and-blood monarch but also the world’s first shipping magnate, who funded voyages carried out by his Phoenician allies in “history’s first special relationship”.