The Nabateans 
         in the Negev

The “spice and incense road” that led through the Negev has yielded a wealth of archeological finds related to the ancient inhabitants of that once-flourishing region, the Nabateans.

The Hecht Museum is mounting a year-long display of artifacts most of them dated back 2000 years, some being shown for the first time, revealed at ancient Nabatean cities and other sites in the region.

Originally pagan nomads, the Nabateans became urbanized Christians in Byzantine times.The remains of magnificent churches in Nabatean cities evidence this change of faith.

Scholars still have come to no consensus about the ethnic definition of the Nabateans, the circumstances of their switch to Christianity, or even the circumstances surrounding their appearance on the stage of history in the second half of the first millennium BCE and their disappearance in the second half of the first millennium CE.

Their material culture, however, was not in dispute as the magnificent remains demonstrate. The allure of the Nabatean city of Petra in Jordan tempted young Israelis to steal across the border for a visit in the 1950s and 1960s, some paying with their lives for the attempt. There was no peace with Jordan at the time. The Hebrew song Haselah Haadom, the Red Rock, referring to mysterious Petra, was even banned from the radio for a time for fear that it would incite young men to make the hazardous journey.

The principal researcher of the Nabatean era was the Hebrew University archeologist Prof. Avraham Negev, whom Dr. Rosenthal-Heginbottom, the curator of the exhibition accompanied in excavations and studies of Nabatean sites. The Hecht Museum exhibition catalog, Nabateans of the Negev, unites the two researchers once again and brings them together with today’s young generation of researchers of the Nabateans' sites in the Negev and Arava.

Most of the artifacts on display are on loan from  the Israel Antiquities Authority. Some of the artifacts were discovered in salvage excavations in the Negev conducted by Dr. Rudolph Cohen toward the end of the 1970s and in the early1980s.

A catalogue of this exhibit is available for purchase

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