Negev

The Negev and the Nabateans in Roman Times

Byzantine Churches in the Negev. In the first century BCE, the Nabateans (nomadic traders from Northern Arabia) established a kingdom in todays Kingdom of Jordan with Petra as its capital. They accumulated great wealth from their trade in costly perfumes and spices from East Africa and Arabia, which they transported by camel caravans to the southern Mediterranean port of Gaza. To secure their trade routes, the Nabateans built way stations at the intersections of the main routes at Kurnub (Mampsis), Shivta and Avdat. In the inhospitable Negev desert, the Nabateans developed an agriculture based on terraces built into the hillsides and on a sophisticated system for collecting every drop of available water: to capture flood waters, they constructed dams in the valleys; to collect rain water, they cut cisterns into the rock. Their way stations grew into cities. The Nabatean kingdom was conquered by the Romans in the year 106 and annexed to the Roman Empire. [ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES] [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

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Kurnub in Roman and Byzantine Times

Kurnub is located some 40 km. east of Beer Sheva, above Nahal Mamshit. The Romans fortified it as one of the limes, the network of forts demarcating and protecting the eastern border of the Roman Empire. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, Kurnub was a flourishing city. In the second half of the 4th century, two churches were built here. The city was abandoned at the time of the Arab conquest (mid-7th century). The Eastern Church was built on the highest point of the city. It is part of a 55 x 25 m. complex consisting of service rooms and a small bathhouse. In front of the church was an atrium (courtyard) surrounded by porticoes (roofed aisles); under the courtyard was a cistern covered over with arches. The church measured 25.5 x 15 m., had two rows of columns, a bema (raised platform) and an apse. The hall of the church was paved with mosaics in geometrical patterns and large crosses; the aisles were paved with stone slabs. A small room with a baptismal font in its floor was found south of the church. Parts of the foundations of a four-roomed tower were uncovered near the entrance to the church, apparently a bell tower, since a large stone sundial was found there. The smaller but more elaborate Western Church, located in the western part of the city, was of similar design. The mosaic floor of its hall was divided into octagonal medallions in which birds and baskets of fruit are depicted, with two peacocks in front of the raised platform. Two of the dedicatory inscriptions mention a man by the name of Nilus as the builder of the church, as well as the names of two of the churchs beadles. [ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES] [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

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Shivta in Roman and Byzantine Times

Shivta is located some 40 km. southwest of Beer Sheva. Some of the buildings now standing date from the Roman period, but most were built in Byzantine times, when the inhabitants engaged in intensive agriculture. In the 4th century two churches were built here (the northern and the southern); later, in the 5th-6th century, when the city expanded, the central church was added. Shivta appears to have been abandoned at some point during the Islamic period (9th-10th century). The Southern Church was built among the Roman-period buildings, next to the water cisterns. Because of lack of space it had only one apse, with a room on either side of it. In the 6th century, these rooms were turned into two small side apses with wall paintings, surviving fragments of which depict Moses and Elija and the Transfiguration of Christ. During a later phase, several rooms were added north of the basilica, including chapels and a large baptistery with a stone cruciform baptismal font and a smaller, rock-cut font for infant baptism. An inscription on a lintel attests to the building of these annexes at the beginning of the 5th century, and one incorporated into the floor the year 640. The Northern Church was part of a large monastery, which consisted of many courtyards and some 40 rooms, in the very north of the city. The only entrance to the church was through a particularly large atrium (21 x 15 m.), which had an opening into the rock-cut cistern beneath it. Between the atrium and the church is a narthex (passageway) leading to the triple entrance of the basilica, which measures 12 x 10 m., divided by two rows of six columns into a main hall and two aisles. As in the northern church, the original central apse with rooms on either side of it was replaced with a triple apse in the 6th century. Niches in the rear walls of the side apses probably contained reliquaries. Marble slabs covered the floor and also the lower part of the walls. A chapel was constructed south of the basilica, with an apse in its eastern side. The floor is paved with mosaics in geometrical patterns and contains an inscription attesting to its construction in the time of Bishop Thomas in the fifth year of the indiction (517). The baptistery, with a large stone-cut baptismal font, lies south of the chapel. It was also used as a cemetery, and contains several gravestones with the names of monks and priests, dated between 612 and 679. The Central Church was built in the center of the new (5th-6th century) residential quarter in the northern part of Shivta. It has a small, narrow atrium through which one enters a basilica measuring 18 x 14 m. Along its length run two rows of four columns and on its eastern side are three apses. [ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES] [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

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Avdat in Roman and Byzantine Times

Avdat is located on a mountain ridge in the center of the Negev highlands. In the middle of the 3rd century it was resettled and became an important Roman military outspost, with a residential quarter on the spur southeast of the acropolis. In the sixth century, under Byzantine rule, Avdat had an estimated population of 3,000. New agricultural crops were grown in the valleys around the city and a number of wine presses, which have been excavated, indicate intensive vine cultivation. A citadel and a monastery with two churches were built on the acropolis. The city was destroyed, probably by earthquake, and abandoned in the 7th century. The Northern Church, in basilical style, was reached through an atrium with a cistern and had a single apse. Behind it, to the west, was a baptismal font in cruciform shape and a smaller font for baptizing infants. The more important Southern Church had three apses on the eastern side. In the floor are reliquaries for the remains of local saints. In the floor of the prayer hall of the church are the tombs of clerical dignitaries with inscriptions on stone slabs covering the tombs, dating from 542 to 618. One of the inscriptions gives the name of the church, The Martyrion of St. Theodorus, also known from other inscriptions, who served as abbot of the monastery of Avdat and was buried in this church. The excavations at Kurnub were conducted by A. Negev of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the National Parks Authority; the excavations at Shivta date from the 1930s . Cleaning and restoration was done on behalf of the National Parks Authority under A. Aviyonah; the excavations at Avdat were conducted by A. Negev on behalf of the National Parks Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. [ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES] [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

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Negev in Wikipedia

The Negev (also Negeb; Hebrew: נֶּגֶב‎, Tiberian vocalization: Néḡeḇ, Turkish: Necef Çölü) is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region refer to the desert as al-Naqab (Arabic: النقب‎). The origin of the word Neghebh (or in Modern Hebrew Negev) is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'. In the Bible the word Neghebh is also used for the direction 'south'. Geography -- The Negev covers more than half of Israel, over some 13,000 km² (4,700 sq mi) or at least 55% of the country's land area. It forms an inverted triangle shape whose western side is contiguous with the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and whose eastern border is the Arabah valley. The Negev has a number of interesting cultural and geological features. Among the latter are three enormous, craterlike makhteshim (box canyons), which are unique to the region; Makhtesh Ramon, Makhtesh Gadol, and Makhtesh Katan. The Negev is a rocky desert. It is a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by wadis (dry riverbeds that bloom briefly after rain) and deep craters. It can be split into five different ecological regions: northern, western, and central Negev, the high plateau and the Arabah Valley. The northern Negev, or Mediterranean zone, receives 300 mm of rain annually and has fairly fertile soils. The western Negev receives 250 mm of rain per year, with light and partially sandy soils. Sand dunes can reach heights of up to 30 metres here. Home to the city of Beersheba, the central Negev has an annual precipitation of 200 mm and is characterized by impervious soil, allowing minimum penetration of water with greater soil erosion and water runoff. The high plateau area of Ramat HaNegev (Hebrew: רמת הנגב‎, The Negev Heights) stands between 370 metres and 520 metres above sea level with extreme temperatures in summer and winter. The area gets 100 mm of rain per year, with inferior and partially salty soils. The Arabah Valley along the Jordanian border stretches 180 km from Eilat in the south to the tip of the Dead Sea in the north. The Arabah Valley is very arid with barely 50 mm of rain annually. It has inferior soils in which little can grow without irrigation and special soil additives. History -- Nomads -- Nomadic life in the Negev dates back at least 4,000 years [2] and perhaps as much as 7,000 years.[3] The first urbanized settlements were established by a combination of Canaanite, Amalekite, and Edomite groups circa 2000 BC.[2] Pharaonic Egypt is credited with introducing copper mining and smelting in both the Negev and the Sinai between 1400 and 1300 BC.[2][4] [edit]Biblical According to the Hebrew Bible, the northern Negev was inhabited by the Tribe of Judah and the southern Negev by the Tribe of Shimon. The Negev was later part of the Kingdom of Solomon and then part of the Kingdom of Judah. In the 9th century BC, development and expansion of mining in both the Negev and Edom (modern Jordan) coincided with the rise of the Assyrian Empire.[5] Beersheba was the region's capital and a center for trade in the 8th century BC.[5] Small settlements of Israelites in the areas around the capital existed between 1020 and 928 BC.[5] Nabateans -- The 4th century BC arrival of the Nabateans resulted in the development of irrigation systems that supported at least five new urban centers: Avdat, Mamshit, Shivta, Haluza (Elusa), and Nitzana.[5] The Nabateans controlled the trade and spice route between their capital Petra and the Gazan seaports. Nabatean currency and the remains of red and orange potsherds, identified as a trademark of their civilization, have been found along the route, remnants of which are also still visible.[5] Nabatean control of southern Palestine ended when the Roman empire annexed their lands in 106 AD.[5] The population, largely made up of Arabian nomads and Nabateans, remained largely tribal and independent of Roman rule, with an animist belief system.[5]...

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