The Mystery of the Negev’s Ancient Abandoned Cities

January 20, 2016 | Ronit Vered
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About a millennium ago, the residents of the cities of Nitzana, Haluza, and Shivita in southern Israel forsook their homes. Ronit Vered reports on archaeologists’ attempt to find out why (free registration required):

The large-scale project . . . aims to crack the mystery of why these once-thriving commercial and cultural hubs were ultimately abandoned. One day—or perhaps it occurred gradually over a longer period of time—the inhabitants packed their things, carefully sealed up their homes so they could come back to them in the future, and disappeared, never to return again.

“The people who lived here put tremendous energy into construction and infrastructure. They wanted to stay here forever, but something went wrong,” says Guy Bar-Oz [one of the project’s lead researchers]. “The next time you find settlement in the Negev is over a thousand years later, with the Zionist movement. In the scholarly literature, a number of possible theories for the abandonment have been proposed: climate change, a cultural change like the Muslim conquest, or an epidemic similar to the plague that struck the region in the 6th century.”

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