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Travel: Mamshit/Memphis-Negev Nabataean Town, March 19/2021


A world heritage site by UNESCO since 2005.


Touring the Golan in the North, (view post) required a re-balance to our wondering equilibrium, and thus brought us to the South of the country, where the the ancient Nabataean Town of Mamshit - Memphis is situated, on Rte 25, about 8km southeast

of Dimona



Memphis the 1st century BC town, one of a few, which was a desert trade post between Petra and Gaza by the Mediterranean sea, from which the traded merchandise, continued traveling, to also Constantinople and Rome


The city's Medieval Greek name Memphis appears on the Madaba mosaic floor map , which describes Israel in the Byzantine period..

Its Arabic name is Kurnub, as is a drink made from milk, honey and dates



,The guided group tour was lead by our favorite seasoned guide Seffi Ben-Joseph

info@seffibenjoseph.co.il 054-678-8408


For some add reason, this tour was not planed well ,as were the previous guided tours

we took with Seffi. Instead of using, after a shorter brief, the cooler morning hours, for a

2-3 hours hike, at Mamshit Greek, as was initially planned, the idea was regretfully aborted,, due to the prolonged visit at the archeological Nabataean town's site..

I wrote extensively, about the Nabataean in my previous posts on Petra in Jordan of

Dec 26/2019 and the Ovdat post-Israel, of Dec 29/2019.

Both towns Petra and Ovdat, are situated on ancient commercial routes which facilitated the lucrative trade, of the time, of both Incense and spice.


"Incense & Spice Route"


The Stations Posts/Towns along the way . Info on the site: Hebrew. English


Nabataean towns/Forts of the Israeli Negev Desert, flourished during the period from 300 BC to 300 AD, The cities/Forts were:


Avdat, Haluza, Shivta. Hazeva Haluza Nizana and Mamshit,

Caravan crossing from East to West of the mountainous range, which runs from the transJordan Idumean Mountains, through the Arabah and Ma'ale Akrabim, and on to Beer-Sheva or to Hebron and Jerusalem was challenging,



Along the main routes, and sub ways, all across the deserts. already 4000 yeas ago, parking /feeding -Inns, Khans Forts - Stations, were created, every 15 km, were water sources and streams could supply. the hosting necessities of the traveling nomads and their animals, (Donkeys Camels ), as well as the needs of surrounding agriculture grown, by the stationary town's inhabitants

These pagan Shematic tribes spoke Shematic language like Hebrew but with different - Southern (Saudi/Yaman) pronunciation. The Israelite ancient Hebrew used a Northern dialect and Arameic.


The names of their figurine iconic pagan Gods were: El, Uza and Alat.


North Yemen agriculture crisis pushed tribes. up north toward the Edomite territories were the tribes mixed with those of the North

.From 6 BC Nabataean kingdom was established in Eastern Jordan.specializing in merchandise transfer. Cities were built up to North of Damask and South to Eilat.

Later, the Hejaz railway along the same routes,connected between the North seaway and South landway were commerce pass.

Nabataeans' migration to and rise within the Negev and Judean desert from mid 1-3 c coincided, also with the destruction of the II Temple (70AD) and the emptying out of Jewish political and military presence, from the territories under the Roman control

The Nabataean were also wise not to rebel against this superior power and thus strive by economically serving the empire.

Mamashit National Park (vide0)


The city served as a Parking Station on the secondary road of the Incense Route.

in the 4th century, it became the only fully walled Nabataean city in the Negev.




The size of the City was about 40 Dunam and, although the smallest of all stations, it is best preserved and restored city in the Negev Desert.


The once-luxurious houses feature unusual architecture not found in any other Nabataean city.



Entire streets have survived intact build up.


Large groups of Nabataean massive buildings with open rooms, 2 floors houses, supportive arches, courtyards, Patios and terraces, cooler niche at entrance base, and cooling air flow system were.all built by remarkably chiseled local limestone.


Coller



The town gate, watch-towers. ancient reservoirs, water dams, bath house, private horse stable with water and feed,. market stores down the hill, and Roman/Byzantine cemeteries. can all be seen on site.


Stables


Remains of fresco wall paintings that include a depiction of the Greek myth on

Eros and Psyche, (story ) dating back between the end of the 2nd C and the early 3rd C .


The Fresco which is found in a structure with arches, thought to be a brothel, usually found in every "respectable" Roman town, offering "release" services to its incidental visitors merchants.




Two churches,

The western St. Nilus Church' highlight is the courtyard large mosaic floor with colorful geometric patterns, birds, Peacock - royal eastern symbol are on floor, a fruit basket, and five dedications in Greek.


The eastern church's floor has 2 cross on it , a baptism sink and a lectern remnants on small marble pillars,


Water Pool



Several water sources from which the town benefited were wells, Mamshit seasonal stream, water holes and as well rain and flood water caught by dams and pools.


Mamashit Dam

Dam over the Mamshit stream collect ed soil which was used for agricultural cultivation within the river-bed.


Usually the Nabataeans towns were surrounded by large agricultural landscape, but not Menphis, It 1000 on average inhabitants, seemed to specialize in more luxurious commercial goods and hospitality, Judging by the affluent housing structures, the size of the market, and large gold coin treasure that were found there the town served as a financial center.


Market



In 106 the town was annexed by the Roman empire and a garrison was stationed there..

The strengthening of the empire's administrative forts and road infrastructure infringed on the Nabataean flourishing commerce, now absorbed as a province in the large empire.

From the 3rd c it was christened and that is when the Byzantine churches were built, as well as the fortified walls. Interior political upheavals and the Huns invasion threats on the Turkish/Bulgarian border of the empire, caused much insecurity, also in the region. Thus the town moved from the hilly top to the flat part and fortified

When trade in Mamshit, declined, following the Roman occupation, the inhabitants made a successful living, raising Arabian steeds. Later,


Byzantine Mamshit was supported by authorities as a frontier city but after the time of Emperor Justinian (6 c) the city ceased to exist, also coinciding with the Arab conquest in 636 AD, .The destruction by the Islamic penetration and moving the economic centers to the North, made the population abandon the area for centenaries.

During the Mandate of the 1920 British police was stationed in Kurnub


All this can be seen

  • שער העיר - שער מקורה, שהיה מוגן על ידי שני מגדלים והשתמר יפה. השער מופיע במפת מידבא והוא נשרף וחרב במאה ה-7. השער נקבע בחומת העיר שנבנתה בתקופה הרומית ואשר אורכה הגיע ל-900 מטרים. החומה חוזקה לאחר רעידת אדמה שפקדה את העיר בשנת 363.

  • הארמון - בית עשירים גדול (משתרע על שטח של 1,000 מ"ר) ומיוחד ובו: חדר משמר, אולם קבלת פנים, גנזך, חדרי משרתים אגף מגורים ועוד.

  • הסכרים - שלושה נבנו על ידי הנבטים ואחד על ידי הבריטים. הם יכלו לאגור עשרות אלפי מ"ק מים ששימשו למילוי הברכות והבורות בעיר.

  • כנסיית נילוס הקדוש - שלושה פתחים הובילו אל חלל הכנסייה מהאטריום שבחזיתה. צורתה של הכנסייה כשל בזיליקה שבה שלוש ספינות ובקצהה קבוע אפסיס. ברצפת הכנסייה מספר פסיפסים באחד מהם כתוב: "אלוהים הושע את עבדך נילוס, אוהב ישוע, אשר יסד (את הבניין) הזה ושמור על בני ביתו" או "אלוהים עזור לאבר (הם) בן זנוביוס השומר על הכנסייה". כתובות אלה העניקו למבנה את שמו.

  • כנסיית הקדושים והמעונים - נקראת כך משום שנמצאו בה עצמות אדם, ככל הנראה שריד של פולחן קדושים נוצרי קדום. הכנסייה הייתה חלק ממנזר, וגרם מדרגות הוביל אל האטריום שבחזיתה. ברצפת הכנסייה פסיפס ובו נראים שני צלבים, דבר המעיד על כך שהוא קדום לשנת 427, עת נאסר להציג צלבים ברצפת כנסיות. בכנסיית רחבת טבילה שבה אגן טבילה בצורת צלב למבוגרים ולידו אגן טבילה רבוע קטן לתינוקות.

  • בית נבטו - הבית הגדול ביותר שהתגלה בעיר. שטחו 2,000 מ"ר הכוללים חצרות פנימיות וגרמי מדרגות. הבית זכה לשמו בשל המאפיינים הנבטים הרבים שהתגלו בו. באחד החדרים השתמרו פרסקאות של דמויות מהמיתולוגיה היוונית. במבנה התגלה מטמון של כ-10,800 מטבעות כסף שנאספו והוטמנו בו החל מהמאה ה-1 ועד המאה ה-3. עוד התגלו בו אורוות אשר יכלו להכיל 16 סוסים; אלה שימשו למסחר ולחקלאות המפותחים בעיר.

  • בריכת העיר - בריכה גדולה בנפח 1,500 ממ"ק. אורכה 18 מטרים, רוחבה עשרה מטרים וגובהה שלושה מטרים. בעת חפירתה נמצאה הכתובת: "בשביל פלאביוס גורמוס, בנו של זכריהו, סיימת עבודה אחת מעבודות החובה בשביל הברכה, 25 לחודש דיוס"

  • בית מרחץ - בית המרחץ כלל שלושה חלקים: פריג'ידריום - החדר ובו המים הקרים, טפידריום - החדר ובו המים הפושרים, קלדריום - החדר ובו המים החמים שהוסק על ידי שרפת עצים מתחת לרצפה מיוחדת.

  • מצודת העיר - ניצבת בנקודה הגבוהה ביותר בעיר ונועדה לשמור עליה. בשנות השלושים של המאה העשרים היא פורקה בחלקה ומאבניה נבנתה תחנת משטרת רוכבי הגמלים של הבריטים.



Settling the Negev in modern times Frontier habitation not ideology.

Excluding the ideologist- Ben Gurion,- first PriMinister of Israel, the Negev's arid condition made it historically unattractive to inhabitation.

The need to assure the security of the center of the country was the pragmatic reason

to the desert's settelments


Only 3 groups of inhabitants are to be found: 1.. Nomad Bedouin’s - the fringe element of society 2. Soldiers /mercenaries - on law and order missions 3. Subsidies Settlement - populatation that the low cost of living had them moved.

A strategic depth, a sea port - Eilat to the external world, had induced expansion and populating of the hinterland as a show of strengths and power.

So did King Salomon - when building the port in "Etzion Gevrer" (Eilat) and King Uzihu who dug wells in the Negev. For people to move to the negev there need to be a supply of: 1. water sources subsidies

2. infrastructure - Road connections

3. Employment opportunity/agricultural Yeruham Iris Flower - Iris Petrana


Yeruham is a small peripheral town ( of about 11,000) in the Negev desert, which was created to settle frontier areas in the early days of the state, and which for years suffered economic difficulties. It has absorbed an influx of immigrants from Romania

North Africa, Persia, India and from the Former USSR, who came to comprise 25% of

its residents,

Yeruham is the site of Tel Rahma, dating back to the 10th century BCE. On the outskirts of Yeruham is an ancient well, Be'er Rahma.

During the Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine periods there was a village in the western outskirts of the town and its ruins excavated in 1966. The site, known Qasr Rekhmeh or Mesad Yeruham,


But we didn't stop in town, nor visited the Nabataean ruins.

We came to admire some amazing colored desert flower.




Within the nature reserve surrounding the town, that many visit during this season

as we did, the spectacle of this gorgeous spring blooming desert flower , which comes in shades from burgundy, dark brown to dark violet and purple, is not to be missed.

This Iris is normally found in the desert sands between the countries of Jordan and Israel. for short 2-3 weeks. Reserve Hebrew)




Zebarie Orly - Cactus Fruit Farm (see video)



On the way back off route 204 we couldn't resist stopping at Zebarie Orly. Cactus fruit farm , The grown bushes covered with its deep prickly fruits span within a large yellow dry desert area in the Negev, of 1200 acres’ cultivation fields.


This is the largest company in the Middle East for growing, marketing and developing organic pricklt pear / cactus fruit and its products

Its deep purple and yellow prick-less grown fruit, which we made sure to buy, is one of the sweetest and tastiest, we ever had.


THE END!