On display at the BGU Campus, one can see the giant head of an extinct, meat-eating, marine Mosasaur lizard (Lat., Prograthodon currii), over 65 million years old, from the Late Cretaceous period, found in 1993 in the Negev Region. When alive, this prehistoric reptile would have been at least 14 meters long!
Biblical and Ancient Be’er-Sheva
The First Temple of Jerusalem was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E. and was destroyed in 587 B.C.E. by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. The typical Iron-Age Israelite altar was 4-horned, according to the Book of Exodus (XXVII, 2); just such a stone altar was discovered in Tel Be-er-Sheva, reconstructed and may now be seen at “Gane Bereshit.”
The ancient oasis settlement of Be’er-Sheva, amid the Negev Desert, sat at the critical junction of the caravan trade routes between Egypt in the South, Jordan to the East, and Lebanon & Syria to the North, some caravans reaching as far as Samarkand in today’s Uzbekistan. There is archaeological evidence of ca. 7,000 years of human settlement in Be’er-Sheva. Be’er-Sheva is mentioned 34 times in the Hebrew Bible.
The real Tel Be’er-Sheva is currently inaccessible (located in Compound C facing the municipal marketplace). Excavations supervized by Prof. Isaac Gilead from the BGU Dept. of Bible, Archaeology & the Ancient Near East and Dr. Peter Fabian from the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered significant relics from the biblical period and remains dating from 5,000 B.C.E., including buildings, shards and impressive mosaics. Also, artifacts dating ca.4,100 B.C.E. indicate the existence of a distinct local culture called “Be’er-Sheva Culture.” This potentially world-class sight is currently under retoration but has not yet been developed for public viewing for lack of a sponsor/entrepreneur.
Two Chalcolithic (Copper Age) sites are soon to be developed at both ends of the 8-kilometer long “Be’er-Sheva River Park Project.”
On the section of the 42 km “Be’er-Sheva Ring Trail” that begins from the northern end of the Ramot neighborhood, there are remnants of ancient Byzantine agricultural terraces, an aqueduct and one of several large cisterns, used to collect runoff water for drinking and irrigation. Perhaps they were made some 2,000 years ago by semi-nomadic pastoralists, such as the Nabataeans, trying to conquer the desert?
Segments of a Byzantine city were also discovered beneath the Central “Egged” Bus Station complex and are displayed underneath transparent flooring.
Recently, in October 2017, the remains of a 1,400 year-old Byzantine farm were uncovered by a team from BGU and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Ramot neighborhood. Since Be’er-Sheva has been inhabited for ca.6,000 years, there’s literally no place you can dig without uncovering some evidence of prior human settlement, if you dig deep enough!
It was the biblical Matriarch, Rebecca, who said (Genesis 24:14): “Drink and I will give thy camels drink also …” On the ancient road leading from Be’er-Sheva to Egypt via the Sinai Desert, at the entrance to Narkiss St. in Neveh Noy neighborhood, one can see an Ottoman-Turkish sabil, a public roadside drinking place for travelers to quench their thirst and fill their waterskins before setting out into the harsh desert. The very deep well, reputed to have belonged to the biblical Matriarch, Leah (my namesake), is located in the desert just beyond the new Pelah 7 neighborhood.
To reach the nearby Tel Sheva National Park and World Heritage Site, take the Be’er-Sheva-Omer Road and turn off on to the road heading towards the Tel Sheva Bedouin settlement. This biblical site displays restored archaeological finds dating back to the 10th century B.C.E., the period of the Hebrew kings in Judaea: fortifications, a deep well, warehouses, pubic buildings, a ring road, housing units, and a unique, horned altar. It also provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area – 08-6467286.
Since “Our future is inspired by our past” – join the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites – http://www.shimur.org.il. You are welcome to come to the Be’er-Sheva Office of the Society, now located in the Old City at Mordey ha-Geta’ot 74 and/or call Michal Montal – 054-4606496.