King Solomon’s fabled mines are a “complete myth”, a Chester historian has concluded after 20 years’ of research.

During his reign between 970 and 931BC, King Solomon supposedly accumulated 500 tonnes of pure gold – a fortune worth in excess of £2.3 trillion by today’s standards.

But historian and author Ralph Ellis says the mines are unlikely to have existed and King Solomon, was in fact, an Egyptian Pharoah.

And while that might come as news to adventure seekers like Allan Quatermain, Mr Ellis is certain in his conclusion that has taken him more than 20 years' of painstaking research to reach.

Finding the “lost” mines, the legendary source of Solomon’s incredible wealth, he says, is “about as likely as taking a dip in the Fountain of Youth”.

The idea that Solomon derived his wealth from mines, which many still believe contain vast quantities of gold and precious stones, is based on a “gross misinterpretation” of historical texts, adds Ellis.

Even the beloved story of Solomon himself in the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles has been heavily altered to “cover up an unpalatable truth”, it has been claimed.

Ellis, however, says there is still a “grain of historical truth” to the biblical story of Solomon and his spectacular wealth — although not in the way most people would expect

His comprehensive study, which began in 1997, “strongly indicates” that Solomon was not a rich king of Israel at all, but rather a feared and powerful Egyptian Pharaoh called Shoshenq I.

He believes that neighbouring rulers plundered royal tombs located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, in Thebes, of their riches and presented them to Solomon as “tribute”, to prevent invasion.

But tales of looting and bloodthirsty pharaohs were considered “unpalatable and unacceptable” by later biblical authors, who altered their history to suit their own religious agenda and to create a “purely Israelite” hero.

His findings are revealed in his book Solomon, Pharaoh of Egypt, a revised and updated version of which hits the shelves this week.

Ellis, 54, said: “According to the Bible, King Solomon was staggeringly wealthy. Yet successive generations of theologians and archaeologists have scoured the Holy Land looking for his capital city, palace, temple and wealth without any success.

“There comes a point when we either have to accept that the biblical account is entirely fictional, or that we may be looking in the wrong location and for the wrong things.

“My research suggests that there is a factual basis for the story of Solomon and his riches, but that it was heavily amended and obscured by biblical scribes. A wealthy and powerful Israelite dynasty did exist, just as the Bible claims, but they were not simply Israelite kings and their capital city was not at Jerusalem.

He added: “This is not the kind of revelation which many Israeli archaeologists will want to hear, for political and cultural reasons, but unlike classical interpretations of the biblical story it does make sense of the confusing biblical accounts.”

He said that, if his theory is true, the treasures of King Solomon are easy enough to find today in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Treasures include two magnificent solid silver sarcophagi found in Tanis by French Egyptologist Pierre Montet in 1939.