Ancient Shivta, Negev Desert
Shivta, in Israel’s Negev Desert is a Nabatean-Roman-Byzantine city, founded around 1 century BCE, that forms part of the series of UNESCO Heritage Site Desert Cities (Shivta, Avdat and Mamshit). Shivta has long been considered a classic Nabatean city to protect and provide food and shelter on the Nabatean Spice Route. The Spice Route was used by caravans of medical herbs and incenses from the Arabian Peninsula (Nabatean capital city of Petra) to Mediterranean Basin (Gaza, Raphia, Rhinocorura (al Arish). Shivta is located between Avdat (Obobda) and Nessana). However, archaeologists now consider that Shivta was a Byzantine agricultural colony and an oasis for pilgrims en route to the Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.
During the 3rd – 4th Centuries CE the Nabateans converted into Christianity and logically big churches in all of their cities. They probably became assimilated among other peoples of the area, and gradually abandoned their cities.The city of Shivta was abandoned, not destroyed, following the Muslim conquest. In fact, many of the windows and doors were blocked up with bricks perhaps in anticipation that residents would return.
What to see in Shivta
Shivta is one of the most impressive archeological sites in Israel, very large and well preserved.
- Three magnificent Byzantine churches (a main church and two smaller churches) and cruciform baptismal font
- The Colt house, used by the archeologist H. Colt (son of the famous American gun manufacturer), who dug at Shivta from 1933 to 1934. Over the entrance is an inscription in ancient Greek that translates: “With good luck. Colt built (this house) with his own money.
- Governors House
- 2 wine-presses. Archaeologist suggest that Shivta had a very large scale of wine production.
- Residential areas
- Oil presses
- Water collection and storage system
- Comprehensive network of drains in streets
- Double Pool: In the Double Pool archeologists found potsherd ‘notes’ mentioning the residents who had fulfilled their civic duty to clean the pool.
- Adjacent to the site is a large farm that uses Nabatean agricultural techniques of irrigation, sowing and reaping.
The Shivta National Park is free to enter and there is no visitor center. Please keep the place clean. Please do not either climb on the buildings or stray from the marked footpaths.
Opening Hours:The park is open in summer from 8am to 5pm, and in winter from 8am to 4pm, closing one hour earlier on Fridays and holiday eves.
Directions: From the Tlalim junction on Road 40, the main road from Beer Sheva heading south to Mitzpe Ramon, continue straight (instead of turning right) onto Road 211. Drive east for about 15 km east. Then turn south at the junction near the gas station and drive about 10 minutes.
Shivta Guest House
A unique restaurant preparing typical desert fare (you need to book ahead) and guest house, which has been opened by a family on the edge of the ruins, in the house built by the first archaeologist to excavate at the site, can provide visitors with information about the site.
Tel: 08-6550911, 0507-383802
Shivta (Sobota) is located in the extreme west of Israel, very close to the border with Egypt.