Since the works of Nelson Glueck in the Negev in
the 1930s, a historical line of the desert has been established, of short
settlement periods, interrupted by longer periods of gaps, times when the few
desert nomads did note leave archaeological remains behind them. This view was
later supported by the intensive survey of the Negev Highlands during the
1980-90s. In the Southern Negev, however, a different settlement scenario has
been found, of a full sequence of human presence and activity in a variety of
fields during the last 10,000 yeas.
unfinished archaeological Survey and excavations at ‘Uvda Valley revealed an
unexpected settlement pattern. On an area of 60 sq km on the eastern side of
the valley, four stone-built habitations of the PPNB (8th-7th millennia BC)
were found (two excavated), built by hunters and gatherers. During the
following periods, the population grew dramatically. The umber of habitations
recorded to date is 182, in addition to hundreds of other types of sites and
sites’ density is the highest known in the entire Negev, despite the hyper arid
conditions (e.g. only 20 mm annual average precipitation agains 3600 mm annual
potential evaporation). The cause of this major change in settlement was the
adoption of agriculture and herding by the desert inhabitants ca. 6000 BC.
While in the broader desert herding is the main economical source, in ‘Uvda
Valley herding was secondary to agriculture. The growth of settlement seems to
be steady, reaching a peak in the 3rd millennium BC.
In the mid 3rd millennium BC, the Near Eastern
countries entered into a deep crisis. Empires collapsed and cities were
abandoned. The cause was most probably a climatic abrupt deterioration. In the
desert, however, continuation of settlement is found, despite the sensitivity
of the desert environment.
Around 2000 BC the Near East recovered from the
crisis and the new city-systems of the Middle Bronze were established. Now, the
desert is considered vacant of human presence, not one site of the period has
been recorded in surveys of the Negev Highlands. However, in the southern
Negev, the copper industry continued and other finds from the period were found
in some cult and burial sites
Today, as more radiocarbon date are received,
the “missing periods” of the Negev are minimizing, and the desert inhabitants
are seen in a very different view.
The Full Presentation