In the permanently inhabited area in the Negev we can discern two settlement patterns. The first pattern extends across an extensive area, between Beer Sheva to its north and and Sede Boqer to its south and it can be identified by the name: “the inter-settlement region”. This region is located next to and between the large Negev settlements (the ‘Negev Cities’) but does not include any of these settlements.
The second pattern is that of the large settlements, represented here by the Shivta region and includes the settlement itself and the cultivated areas within its domain.
The archaeological finds in the inter-settlement region indicate c. 65 farmsteads of the Byzantine period sparsely scattered across a total area of 900 square kilometers; that is to say, an average of approximately seven farmsteads per 100 square kilometers. The remains of ancient agriculture in this region are very sparse and only appear intermittently in the river channels.
The picture in the Shivta region is completely different. First of all, the settlement itself extends across an area of c. 85 dunams. Around Shivta and very close to it are the remains of c. 25 farmsteads and there is a monastery north of it (Mitzpe Shivta). The remains of the ancient agriculture around Shivta are very impressive and extend across extensive areas in the river channels and along the riverbanks. A considerable part of the hills surrounding the agricultural area are covered with small mounds and conduction channels, two means that were intended to increase the amount of surface run-off that reached the cultivated fields.
The question arises – what are the reasons for such extreme differences between these two models? I will try to answer this during the course of the lecture.