Dating the agricultural terraces in the southern Levantine deserts-The spatial-contextual argument

M. Haiman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Despite the arid desert condition of the southern periphery of Israel, the entire area has an abundance of remnants from ancient agriculture of which a massive system of terraced wadis constitutes the main component. The goal of this paper is to date the agriculture terraces based on the high-resolution data collected during the 1980's in the frame of the Negev emergency survey (conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority) and later studies.Analysis of the distribution areas of the terraced wadis shows a constant correlation only with farmhouses of the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. Excavations conducted in hundreds of sites yielded finds of the 6-8th centuries CE only. It was found that the distribution areas of the desert agriculture spanned both the Northern Negev, located within the range of dry farming of the sedentary land, and the extreme desert of the Sinai Peninsula. The correlation of the terraces and settlements with the boundaries of the Byzantine desert province Palestina Tertia, raises the possibility that the enormous effort needed to pave the desert with water management facilities reflects an imperial initiative. It is assumed that the agriculture practiced in all other periods was a simple, spontaneous agriculture of the kind that is practiced in the desert by present-day Bedouin, and constitutes only a secondary element of their economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research program is located at Bar Ilan University, with collaboration of the Israel Antiquities Authority, supported by the International Arid Lands Consortium (IALC) and the Krauthammer, Kushitzky and Moskowitz foundations of behalf of Martin Szuss Department of the Land of Israel and Archaeology Studies in Bar Ilan University ( ). The main fieldwork activity is the mapping of ruins with a GPS in order to create a GIS layer of desert agriculture data for further multidisciplinary studies ( Ackermann et al., 2008 ). The following is a brief description of the results.


  • Ancient water management
  • Desert settlement


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