Sunday, February 5, 2012


Mamshit,  a Nabatean city in the Negev near the modern town of Dimona, rose to prominence because of its location on the Incense Route and the road connecting the Mountains of Edom in Transjordan via the Arava Valley to Beer Sheva and north to Hebron and Jerusalem. At 40 dunams (10 acres), Mamshit is the smallest of the Negev's Nabatean cities. It is also the best restored, its once-opulent dwellings featuring architectural elements unknown in other Nabatean cities.

A settlement was first established here during the middle Nabatean period, in the 1st century CE.  Most of the city’s buildings – mainly grand private dwellings – were built in the next century, after the Nabatean kingdom was annexed to Rome in 106 CE.  A wall was built around the city in the 3rd century and at the beginning of the 5th century 2 churches were built.  After the Persian invasion in 614 and the Arab conquest in 636, the city ceased to exist.

In 1936 the British built a police station for their camel-back desert patrols, to monitor the Bedouin and prevent Jews from settling the area.  In 1966 the site was declared a national park and in 2005 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the Incense Route.

The Khans

These 2 large complexes were built outside the city in the 1st-4th centuries CE.  They probably served as inns for the commercial caravans passing through the region.  There are also remains of graves residents of Mamshit and Roman soldiers outside the walls.

The Gate

This was built during the late Roman period, when the city was surrounded by a 900 metre long wall.  The wall was widened during the Byzantine period after the earthquake of 363.  The gate consisted of 2 towers and a passage, whose ceiling was supported by 3 arches.  It was burnt and destroyed in the 7th century.

The Tower

This is a square structure, originally 3 stories tall.  On the ground floor a well-preserved room was found with typical Nabatean arches to support the stone ceiling slabs.  A stairwell leads to the second storey, from which there is a view of ancient Mamshit, the Mamshit Streem, the ancient dam, Mount Tzayad in the south and Dimona in the west.

The Western ChurchChurch of St Nilus & Eastern Church – Church of the Martyrs

These churches are similar in type to those found at Avdat.  They have impressive mosaic floors.
Typical Nabatean Dwellng

In the centre of the house is a courtyard with a cistern.  A stairwell led to the 2nd storey.  The courtyard had a passage to the stable, which could accommodate 16 horses.  It is thought the people of Mamshit raised Arabian horses for a livelihood.

The Market
This is a Nabatean street, with a row of rooms on either side, which served as shops.  Today, on holidays, this street is turned into a market.

The Public Reservoir

The reservoir, which was roofed, is located near the city wall and measures 3 x 10 x 18 metres.  It filled with rainwater that flowed though a channel outside the city.  The channel can be seen passing beneath the wall and continuing towards the reservoir.

The Byzantine Bathhouse

This is located next to the reservoir and supplied by its water.  It contained 3 rooms, a hot room, a tepid room and a dressing and furnace room.  The red bricks and clay pipes through which hot air flowed to heat the rooms can still be seen.

Mamshit Stream and the Dams

In and around the city were many water collection installations:  channels, cisterns and dams.  These largest of these were the 3 dams built by the Nabateans on the Mamshit stream.  Today only the lower Nabatean dam can be seen.  The British restored it and built another dam further downstream.

No comments:

Post a Comment