A Middle Timnian nomadic encampment on the Faynan–Beersheba road: Excavations and survey at Nahal Tsafit (late 5th/early 4th millennia B.C.E.)

Kyle Knabb, Steven A. Rosen, Sorin Hermon, Jacob Vardi, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Yuval Goren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Excavations at Nahal Tsafit, on the Rotem Plain in the northeastern Negev, have uncovered a Middle Timnian encampment dated to the late 5th/early 4th millennia b.c.e. A large tumulus field, comprising 115 large cairns and three open-air shrines characteristic of the early phases of Timnian culture, was surveyed on the ridge above the site. Although contemporary with the Ghassulian- Beersheba Chalcolithic culture of the settled zone, the architecture revealed and material culture recovered from excavation of the encampment place it clearly in Middle Timnian culture, the desert complement to the Ghassulian. The location of the site on the road between Beersheba and Faynan, and the presence of potsherds originating in Faynan, suggest Timnian involvement in the early copper trade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-60
Number of pages34
JournalBulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Schools of Oriental Research.


The excavations at Nahal Tsafit served as the annual field school for the Archaeological Division of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. We are grateful to all the students for their participation and enthusiasm. Radiocarbon samples were analyzed by Elisabetta Boaretto of the Weizmann Institute of Science. We are grateful to the following individuals for their contributions to this research: Yoav Avni (Israel Geological Survey), for assistance with rock/mineral identification and sourcing of hematite and rudist fossils; Nissim Golding, for his initial research on the ceramic petrography; Tslil Censor, who conducted the tumulus survey; Patrice Kaminsky, who produced the artifact illustrations and site plan, and digitized the section profiles and shrine drawings; and Evgeny Ostroviskiy, for providing the artifact photos. We are grateful to the two anonymous BASOR reviewers for their valuable comments. This article was written while Kyle Knabb was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; he thanks the Fulbright Foundation and the United States–Israel Education Foundation for their generous support.

FundersFunder number
Fulbright Foundation
United States–Israel Education Foundation
Fulbright Foundation in Greece
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


    • Cairn field
    • Chalcolithic
    • Copper metallurgy
    • Encampment
    • Negev desert
    • Pastoral nomads
    • Timnian culture
    • Tumuli
    • Wadi Faynan


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