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'En Hazeva
Summary Report on Excavations at 'En Hazeva - 1990

Institution: IAA


Rudolph Gohen

Yigal Israel

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The excavations at 'En Hazeva (ESI 10:46-47) were carried out intermittently in 1990-1992 and continuously in 1993-1994. The excavations were directed on behalf of the Antiquities Authority by R. Cohen, and from 1992, in cooperation with Y. Israel. In 1990-1991 the work was assisted by Y. Israel, Y. Lender and R. Cohen-Amin and in 1992 by R. Cohen-Amin. Also participating in 1990-1992 were V. Shorr and I. Vatkin (surveyors), N. Sneh (photographer) and students from the Denmark High School in Jerusalem, led by S. Cohen, assisted by S. Maizlish (1992). In the 1993-1994 seasons, the directors of the excavation were assisted by 0. Feder, F. Tischler, A. Ganor, M. Zuaretz, S. Blankenstein and Y. Kalman, with the participation of N. Kolelle, D. Poretzki, R. Niculescu and I. Vatkin (surveyors), N. Sneh (photographer), Z. Sagiv and K. Amit (studio photos) and students from the Denmark High School in Jerusalem, led by S. Cohen and with the assistance of A. Ganor, M. Zuaretz and M. Halfon. Assistance was provided by the Negev Tourism Development Administration and the Ministry of Labor.

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The excavation areas were extended in these seasons, mainly in Areas C and D in the north and Area F in the east. The abundant finds added to the information concerning the two main periods of occupation it the site: the Late Roman period (Stratum 2; 3rd-4th centuries CE) and Iron Age II (Strata 5-4). A few remains of the Nabatean period (Stratum 3) were also recovered.

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Late Roman Period

The Fortress. In Areas C and D all the casemates along the west and north sides of the Roman fortress were cleared. Two main building phases were distinguished. In the first phase (second half of the 3rd century CE), the square fortress (46 x 46 m) was erected. Four corner towers (7.0 x 8.5 m) projecting from its walls were added toward the end of the 3rd century CE, probably in the reign of Diocletian. The abundant pottery and the coins attributed to this phase indicate that it was destroyed in the mid-4th century CE, probably by the earthquake of 344 CE, and was almost immediately rebuilt. Changes made in this phase are evident in its inner layout, especially in the size of the casemates. Its final ruin should be attributed to the earthquake of 363 CE, which also destroyed Petra.
This fortress was the largest and thus the most important in the disposition of the Roman fortresses built in the Arava Valley to protect the southeast frontier of the Empire-the border of the settled lands-and the trade routes in this area. The fortress between 'En Boqeq and 'En Hazeva, those at Qasr el-Juheiniye and next to Yotvata and the strongholds erected in the Roman period along main roads in the Negev and the Dead Sea area should be attributed to this defensive system. The Roman fortresses along the road from the Dead Sea south to Elat are similar in plan. A Latin inscription commemorating the construction of the fortress near Yotvata in the reign of Diocletian (ESI 5:115) can probably be used to date the other fortresses as well, including that at 'En Hazeva.

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Bathhouse The excavation of the bathhouse in Area E, located c. 50 m southeast of the fortress was completed. Like the fortress, the bathhouse dates from the 3rd-4th centuries CE and was also built in two phases. Three entrances were identified -in the north, south and west. Leading to the baths' west entrance was a corridor which ran between the baths and another building, probably a caravanserai or a palaestra. The apodyterium, tepidarium, sudatorium, caldarium and bathtubs for cold and hot water were preserved, as well as the praefurnium in the east of the building. A room uncovered in the south was probably a latrine.

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Nabatean Period
Remains of the Nabatean period (Stratum 3) were exposed under the mined Roman fortress (Stratum 2). For the present, the plan of these remains, which includes a room containing four intact store jars, could not be determined.

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Iron Age
The Fortresses. The ruins of the latest (Stratum 4) of the three Iron Age fortresses discovered at the site were uncovered only in Area A (ESI 10:46-47). These remains were scanty and thus far, no coherent plan could be traced, though it was clearly smaller than the middle fortress. Wall remains are mostly limited to the foundations, although there are a few sections where up to three courses were preserved. The north corner of the northeast tower still stands c. 2 m above the casemate wall of the middle fortress. Pottery characteristic of the 7th-6th centuries BCE was found on the floors of the towers.
The finds in this stratum included a stone seal carved with a horned altar flanked by two antithetically facing figures. The Edomite inscription above the figures (deciphered by J. Naveh) reads "(belonging) to m'skt son of whzm".
Excavations of the middle fortress (Stratum 5; 9th-8th centuries BCE) continued in Areas A-D (ESI 10: Fig.45). Thus far, mainly the casemate wall (c. 100 x 100 m) has been exposed. Three towers projected c. 3 m from the wall. The outer wall has offsets and insets of 8-10 m each (width of wall at offsets c.3 m; at insets 1.5-2.0 m). The width of the inner wall is 1.5-2.0 m; the walls separating the casemate rooms are 0.9 m thick. The rooms are 2.1 m wide and 8.0-1O.7 m long.

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The casemate rooms were exposed along the entire north facade of the fortress on both sides of the four-chambered gate, as well as partially along the three other sides. Most of the casemate rooms were full of earth. An assemblage of pottery and stone artifacts characteristic of the 9th-8th centuries BCE, found in one of the casemates west of the gate, is of special interest. It included intact pottery vessels-a cooking pot, an amphora, an Akhziv-type jug and juglets - as well as a stone bowl on a stone stand; a ceramic bowl containing a clay lamp had been placed inside the stone bowl. These vessels were found next to a rounded stone (masseva ?).
The chambers of the four-chambered gate, characteristic of fortifications in the Land of Israel in the 9th-8th centuries BCE, were of uniform size (2.5 x 3.3 m). The gate piers (c. 2.5 m in width) were impressive in the quality of workmanship and state of preservation; their walls, built of well-cut stones, still stand c. 3 m high. The gate passage narrowed from the outer entrance (width 4.8 m) inward (width 4m between the piers). An open corridor (courtyard?) has been found north of the gate, probably leading to the outer gate.

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A row of east-west casemate rooms divided the fortress in two: the northeast wing ('gate complex'; 50x50 m) and the remaining fortress area, which is three times larger. For the present, it cannot be determined whether this division indicates two occupation phases, though two architectural phases can be identified, the earlier being the northeast area. That part of the fortress, including the gate, is similar in plan to the contemporaneous fortress at Tell el-Kheleifeh (Stratum IV).

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The Stratum 5 fortress was four times larger than other Negev fortresses (Tel Arad, H. Tov, U.'Uza and Tell el-Kheleifeh) and was almost as large as contemporaneous fortified cities, such as that at Tel Sheva`. There is, therefore, some difficulty in identifying the purpose of the fortress at 'En Hazeva, though it is somewhat similar to that now being excavated at Tel Yizre'el, which served as an administrative center. The strategic importance of the site is reflected in the immense size of the Stratum 5 fortress; it was erected on the road to Flat, which crossed the Arava from north to south and defended the area opposite the mountains of Edom to the east.

The remains of a building (Stratum 6) predating the middle fortress are now being exposed under the gate of the Stratum 5 fortress; these may belong to a 10th century BCE fortress.

Assemblage of Edomite Cult Vessels. A unique assemblage of cult vessels was exposed in the north part of the site, at the foot of the wall of the Stratum fortress. It was discovered in a favissa dug next to and east of the foundations of a long building (2.5 x 6.5 m; widthof walls 0.7 m). The vessels had been shattered by ashlars of various sizes which were placed on top of them after having been dismantled from the nearbv shrine

Thanks to M. Ben-Gal's skilful restoration work, it is now possible to conclude that the assemblage consisted of 63 complete pottery items and seven stone altars of various sizes.Nine types can be discerned among the pottery items: three anthropomorphic stands (see front cover), one of which may be of a woman carrying a bowl, similar to figures found in the Edomite temple at H. Qitmit; eight stands, including one which served as the base for an anthropomorphic figure, and cylindrical stands, some with incised designs and some decorated with figures (see color plate); fourteen incense burners with fenestrated bases (see color plate) and eleven incense burners decorated with projecting triangles: eleven small chalices; four perforated cup-shaped incense burners; four small bowls; two incense shovels with a projecting handle; and two types of pomegranate-shaped vessels-three tiny, intact specimens and three larger ones, which had been shattered together with the other vessels. This unique assemblage - probably cult vessels from an Edomite shrine - can be attributed to the late 7th or early 6th century BCE. The smashing and burial of the vessels should probably be associated with the existence of the late Iron Age fortress (Stratum 4).

Identification. The finds recovered in the recent seasons of excavations confirm Aharoni's proposal that the site be identified with Roman Tamara, the biblical Tamar. The contexts in which Tamara is mentioned in ancient sources-such as the Tabula Peutingeriana, Eusebius' Onomasticon, the Madeba map, the Notitiae Dignitatum and the work of Ptolemy the Geographer - indicate that the site served as an important military and administrative center in the Roman period.

The construction of the earliest Iron Age fortress should probably be attributed to the reign of Jehoshaphat, who attempted to regain Ezion Geber when "there was then no king in Edom" (1 Kgs 22:47). The fortress may have been erected against the background of the retaliatory campaign undertaken by Jehoshaphat toward the end of his reign together with Jehoram, son of Ahab, king of Israel, against Mesha, king of Moab. However, it is also possible that the fortress was built by Amaziah, the son of Joash, who defeated the Edomite army in the 'Valley of Salt' in the northern Arava and conquered Selah (2 Kgs 14:7), or by his son Uzziah, who "built Eloth and restored it to Judah" (2 Chr 26:2) and who fortified the frontiers of his kingdom. The construction of the late fortress should be attributed to the reign of Josiah, who may also have been responsible for shattering the Edomite cult vessels, as part of his religious reforms.

  • The excavations at Hazeva begun in 1972 as a rescue excavation directed by Rudolph Cohen, no behalf ot the Department of Antiquities.
  • Excavations were conducted at the site in 1983, 1987 to 1991 and the direction of R. Cohen, on behalf of the IAA.
  • Since 1992 to July 1995, the excavations were conducted by R. Cohen and Yigal Yisrael on behalf of the IAA.
Rudolph Gohen and Yigal Israel (Excavations and Surveys in Israel Vol.15:110-116)

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