Ein Avdat (Hebrew: עין עבדת) or Ein Ovdat is a canyon in the Negev Desert of Israel, south of the kibbutz Sde Boker. It
has always been an attractive place for habitation due to its luxuriant fauna and flora in the middle of the desert.
Consequently, the canyon and its surroundings have been inhabited for some 80,000–90,000 years by many peoples such as
Neanderthals, Nabateans, and Christian monks. The canyon also attracts numerous species of animals, like Ibexes and
various birds, to its fertile vegetation.
The flourishing environment is caused by the water of numerous springs that begins at the southern opening of the
canyon, and descends into deep pools in series of waterfalls. The springs in Ein Avdat emerge from between layers of
rocks, although the source is still not known definitely. Around the springs grows salt-loving plants like Poplar trees
Ein (Hebrew: עין) is the Hebrew word for spring or water source, referring to the various springs located in the canyon,
while the word Avdat (Hebrew: עבדת) derives from the neighbouring city of Avdat situated south of the canyon. The
city of Avdat is named after the Nabataean King Obodas I that according to tradition was buried there. His name was then
arabized to Abdah (Arabic: عبدا) and finally hebraicized to Avdat. Thus Ein Avdat is the Spring of Obodas.
Prehistoric era -
During the prehistoric era, Ein Avdat and its surroundings were for thousands of years inhabited, implied by the
numerous flint artefacts that have been found in the area. The tools belonged to the Neanderthalic Mousterian culture
which was active in the area 80,000–90,000 years ago. The abundance of flint in the outcrops nearby were apparently
utilized by Neanderthals for many types of tools such as arrows, points and others. The ostrich egg shells and onager
bones that have been found helps to describe the fauna of the epoch.
In the area there is also a large concentration of flint tool remnants, samples of man-made knives and other hand held
stones that is dating from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods, and remains of a small settlement consisting of
several round structures dating from the Bronze Age.
During the Hellenistic period the nearby city of Avdat became a station along the Nabatean Incense Route, an ancient
trading route stretching across Egypt to India through the Arabian Peninsula. Other regions in the Negev were not
inhabited and there was no agriculture at the time. However, agriculture developed during the early Roman era when the
Nabataean kingdom peaked. At this time the forts of the Incense Route became thriving cities with many public buildings
along with farming at the outskirts, and although the kingdom was annexed by the Roman empire in 106 CE, Avdat continued
to prosper as a major station along the Incense Route.
The city developed into a Christian city during the Byzantine period and Ein Avdat became inhabited by monks who lived
in the caves of the canyon. These monks sculpted out closets, shelves, benches, stairs, and water systems. The caves are
also decorated with crosses and prayers engraved on the walls. After the Muslim conquest of Palestine though the
region was abandoned.