Figure 1 Research The Neolithic of the Near East was a period of fundamental changes in human social and economic strategies. In the Mediterranean zone, these changes included the emergence of large sedentary villages, plant cultivation and animal husbandry. In the arid zones on the other hand, processes were in general more prolonged, and subsistence remained largely based on hunting and gathering until late into the period. The deserts of the Near East are nevertheless vast and varied, and when we take a closer look into specific regions and sub-regions within them, a much wider range of local adaptations can be discerned, both socially and culturally, as well as economically. Yet, while the Neolithic of the Mediterranean zones of the southern Levant is quite well-studied, our knowledge of the contemporaneous occupation of the deserts is limited. This is especially true for the southern Negev desert.


Figure 2 Research  Located in southern Israel, the southern Negev is a hyper-arid region, exhibiting extreme environmental conditions. Still, human exploitation of this region has been persistent, almost uninterrupted over millennia. Within the southern Negev, the Uvda valley (Biq’at Uvda) represents a well-defined sub-region, both geographically and ecologically. Extensive surveys and excavations during the 1970s and 1980s have revealed substantial exploitation of the valley during the Early Neolithic (ca. 8600-6400 calBC) but have remained largely unpublished. Through the re-examination of the key-site of Nahal Issaron, and the excavation of two more sites (Ein Qtura and Nahal Reu’el),

Figure 4 Research this project wishes to explore in a systemic manner the Early Neolithic exploitation of the extreme, hyper-arid environment of the southern Negev desert, as manifested in the Uvda valley. Bringing together archaeological, geomorphological and paleoenvironmental methods, we wish to understand how Neolithic populations made use of this harsh environment and how they organized their activities within it.


The Uvda valley, with its surprisingly rich and diverse evidence for Early Neolithic activity, presents a natural laboratory to test these modes of adaptation. Located in a pivotal point, connecting the vast deserts of the Near East with those of North Africa, and the Mediterranean region to the north, it has the potential of elucidating important issues such as settlement strategies, cultural transmission, and the exchange or trade of concepts, materials, and goods. Thus, it will supplement our models of Neolithization strategies, processes and dynamics in the Mediterranean zone with invaluable knowledge of the contemporary desert occupations, enhancing the southern Levantine narrative of the ‘Neolithic Revolution’.  

The project is funded by the Israel Science Foundation (grant #351/21) 


Figure 5 Research  The site of Naḥal Issaron is located in Biq'at Uvda, a large planar valley ca. 35 km north of the Gulf of Eilat and ca. 5 km west of the ‘Arabah Rift Valley. It was discovered in 1980 during the Emergency Archaeological Survey of the Negev, and subsequently excavated in 1980-1981 (Gopher et al. 1994; Goring-Morris and Gopher 1983). A complex stratigraphic sequence was recorded, comprising both Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic occupations, as well as a later, more ephemeral, Early Bronze Age stratum. The principal phase of occupation was dated by 14C to ca. 8500-6500 calBC, after which the site continued to be occupied sporadically until ca. 4500 calBC, or shortly thereafter (Carmi et al. 1994). 

Figure 6 Research  The Pre-Pottery Neolithic layer (Layer C) was surprisingly rich and included complex ‘bee-hive’ architecture, a variety of storage and combustion installations, and a unique repertoire of small finds, including shell, bone and stone artefacts. Most impressive was the exceptional preservation of organic material, including faunal remains, which to date remain unparalleled in the region (Carmi et al. 1994; Goring-Morris and Gopher 1983; Gopher et al. 1994).


Figure 7 Research  The renewed excavation project at Nahal Issaron is part of the ISF-funded project titled “Into the Desert: Biq’at Uvda and the Early Neolithic of the hyper-arid Negev desert” (grant #351/21). It also received a generous dedicated grant from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung (grant # AZ 38/V/20). 


Archaeological surveys in the southern Negev (Israel) uncovered hundreds of special activity sites, apparently Neolithic in age (ca. 9th-7th millennia BP; Avner 2002; Avner et al. 2014, 2019). They are very hard to detect and usually comprise small, low stone-built installations containing a variety of unusual finds including standing stones, anthropomorphic images, perforated stones and other intriguing features as well as scatters of lithic artefacts. The densest clusters of these sites are known from the Eilat mountains, above Nahal Roded (hence their name – ‘Rodedian’ sites). However, they also occur elsewhere in the Negev and southern Jordan, and seem to represent a wide, desert-based phenomenon. 

Until recently, the ‘Rodedian’ sites have only been surveyed and recorded with selected surface collections made. The current project is aimed at excavating several such sites, located in the igneous mountains above Nahal Roded. These excavations are aimed at clarifying the time span, content, and function of these unique sites. At the same time, statistical and spatial analyses are applied, in an attempt to identify and define spatial and temporal trend within the ‘Rodedian’ phenomenon/phenomena.


Figure 8 Research  Located on the uppermost reaches of the Roded mountain, ca. 5 km north-west from the city of Eilat, the site of Nahal Roded 110 (NR110) is a unique hunting locale that specialized in hunting raptors. Both radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence date the site to the Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (LPPNB, late 8thmillennium BC)



Figure 9 Research  Palaeoenvironmental data from pollen and charcoal indicate that arid conditions prevailed in the region during the site’s exploitation, with a strong Saharo-Arabian influence. The finds—flint tools, marine shells and other stone objects— show affinities to LPPNB settlement sites in the region, and reflect a variety of activities performed on site, such as flint knapping and bead making.


Figure 10 Research  The faunal assemblage is unique and comprised solely of raptors. in the Neolithic of the Near East, birds of prey appear to have played an important symbolic role in iconography and archaeozoology at least since the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. Related finds in Neolithic sites are usually comprised of few, scattered remains of talons or isolated bones.




This project is funded by a generous grant from the Irine Levi-Sala CARE Foundation.


Figure 12 Research

Co-PI: Talia Abulafia (The Israel Antiquities Authority). 

The site of Nahal Zahal is located in Ramat Hovav (northern Negev). It is situated on the southern bank of the Nahal Zahal wadi, a small tributary of Nahal Sekher. A salvage excavation, carried out in March 2020, revealed an Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B occupation (EPPNB; ca. 8600-8150 calBC), comprising at least one large, round structure with adjoining cells and installations, as well as a rich lithic assemblage.

Figure13 Research The site of Nahal Zahal provides an important opportunity to explore EPPNB dynamics in the arid Negev. The complex architecture exposed in the salvage excavation and the range of activities conducted, as implied by the small finds and installations, will enable a discussion of EPPNB ways of life. The unique preservation of organic material presents an exceptional chance to radiometrically date the occupation at the site and the EPPNB of the Negev in general.   

This project is funded by a generous grant from the Irine Levi-Sala CARE Foundation.