Ancient Christian City Discovered in Archaeological Dig in the Negev

A 130-dunam Christian city that flourished in Israel’s Negev desert some 1,500 to 2,000 years ago is now revealing its glory as the result of excavations carried out by a team from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and the University of Maryland.

Directing the recently completed fifth season of excavations at the site were Prof. Yoram Tsafrir of the Hebrew University and Prof. Kenneth Holum of the University of Maryland, who headed teams of archaeologists from both universities. Funds for the dig were provided by the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies and the National Center for Constitutional Studies, both of Washington, D.C.

The city, known as Rehovot in the Negev (Khirbet Ruheibeh in Arabic), is located some 35 kilometers southwest of Beersheba in the midst of barren desert hills. Once an important point on the Sinai-Palestine-Syria route, the town was built in the first century B.C.E. as a way station by the Nabateans, a now-extinct desert-dwelling people who conducted trade in incense and spices between Arabia and the Mediterranean region and also conducted a flourishing agriculture, even in near totally arid regions.

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