Some 250 settlement sites and approximately 60 fortresses from the Iron Age II are spread over an area of c. 2,000 square kilometers in the Negev Highlands. Most of the sites were surveyed as part of the Emergency Survey in the Negev (1979-1990) and their results were published within the framework of the survey maps of the Antiquities Authority and in other publications. The lecture will focus on several aspects connected to the settlements that are in a desert environment.

The salient data in the analysis of the finds are:

A. In contrast with other settlement periods in which the settlements were scattered across extensive areas in the Negev and Sinai, the settlement during the Iron Age is limited to the Negev Highlands only.
B. There is no apparent connection between the distribution of the settlements and the distribution of natural water sources. Some 200 water cisterns were found within the limits of the settlement distribution, of which c. 100 are open cisterns; in the harsh evaporating conditions of the Negev Highlands it is not possible to subsist beyond the spring months by just relying on cisterns like these.
C. According to the finds, the economy of the residents was based on farming and grazing; that is based on the large number of silos, threshing floors, sickle blades and sheep and goat pens.
D. The material culture in the settlements, like that in the citadels, including the architecture and pottery, is similar to that of the populated country to the north, with the exception of the Negev pottery which has its origins in the desert.
E. Considering the agricultural and grazing limitations that exist in the Negev Highlands and based on the limited distribution of the settlements in the vicinity of the citadels only, it is doubtful whether the population of the settlements was able to exist in a desert environment.
F. The settlement model in the Negev Highlands, which includes a combination of citadels and settlements, is common along the fringes of the Israelite settlement in the populated country to the north. Similar settlement is found, at different of time in the Iron Age II in the Judean Desert, Samaritan Desert, the Galilee, Western Samaria and the western Judean Mountains. This settlement model should be considered a kind of frontier settlement for the purpose of occupying and defending territory. It seems that the settlements in the Negev Highlands reflect a presence based on geopolitical circumstances in the tenth century BCE (the relations between Egypt-Israel-Edom) and they existed in a harsh desert environment for as long as those geopolitical circumstances existed. Seeing that approximately seventy place names in the Negev are mentioned in Shishak’s List, it seems the settlement in the Negev Highlands was abandoned due to his campaign in the Land of Israel.