Did We Stop Throwing Away the Garbage? Negating Urban Collapse at Elusa in the Sixth Century CE

Haggai Olshanetsky, Lev Cosijns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The settlements of the Byzantine Negev figure prominently in the current debate over the effects of the Justinianic Plague and the Late Antique Little Ice Age. A recent study claiming that the settlements were abandoned or in decline in the middle of the sixth century CE, based on radiocarbon dating of organic samples and pottery from garbage mounds in Elusa, was offered as evidence for the far-reaching effects of the plague and the climatic event. The current article aims to show that this analysis and the data it is based on are inaccurate. The current study reanalyses and contests that data and presents where and when the last garbage was disposed of before the decline and abandonment of the city. It is suggested that this occurred in the seventh century CE, claiming that the cause was neither the Justinianic Plague nor the Late Antique Little Ice Age but rather social and political upheavals following the Persian war and the Arab conquest in the first half of the seventh century CE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages17
JournalIsrael Exploration Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Israel Exploration Society. All rights reserved.


  • Arab conquest
  • Elusa
  • Justinianic Plague
  • Late Antique Little Ice Age
  • Negev desert
  • Roman-Persian wars
  • radiocarbon dating


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