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ARAM, 13-14 (2001-2002), 403-421

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV


UZI AVNER

INTRODUCTION
The southern Negev is an extremely arid area, with summer temperatures
above 400C, an average annual precipitation of 28 mm, and an annual potential
evaporation rate of 4000 mm. This negative water balance causes the area to
be poor in water sources and limits the Saharo-Arabian vegetation almost totally to wadi beds. Certainly, the desert presents several obstacles to the development of human communities, the foremost of which is the scarcity of water,
for drinking, for everyday uses, for animals and for agriculture. Considering
the environmental conditions, one would expect the Southern Negev to be almost devoid of ancient remains of human presence and activity.
However, the harshest part of this area, from Uvda Valley and southward
(see Map 1), is surprisingly rich in archaeological sites. A complete sequence
of settlement is found during the last 10,000 years, with a wide range of activities such as hunting, grazing, agriculture, trade, copper production, some gold
production and others (Avner et al 1994). In this article I will describe several
methods of water exploitation in the region. The first will concern the early
agricultural settlement in Uvda Valley, 6th to 3rd millennia B.C., the others
relate to the Nabatean and the Early Islamic period.
AGRICULTURAL SETTLEMENT IN UVDA VALLEY
Uvda Valley (Wadi Uqfi in Arabic), 40 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba
(Fig. 1), was first briefly described by A. Musil (1907:180-182, 1926:85). He
described the aiwat Beduin cultivating the eastern side of the valley and renting plots to the residents of Aqaba. Musil also recognized ancient remains on
this side of the valley. The first archaeological survey was made by
Rothenberg (1967b:303-307) who documented 15 sites, while citing others
distinguishable from the air. During 1978-1982 I led a survey team which was
part of the Negev Emergency Survey, under the auspices of the Israel Department of Antiquities (today the Israel Antiquities Authority). The survey was
intended to precede the redeployment of the Israeli army from Sinai, while
Uvda Valley itself was selected for a new air base. The survey was never
completed. The western side of the valley was only briefly surveyed and revealed a small number of sites. However, one third of the area on the eastern

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

side was meticulously surveyed, resulting in the documentation of approximately 400 sites in an area of 50 sq km (Fig. 2). This site density was unexpectedly high considering the present environment. The remains in the valley
present a complete sequence of settlement, from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
(PPNB) to the present. A major excavation operation took place in February
1980, when 22 sites were excavated by 20 archaeologists and 180 volunteers.
These were later followed by smaller scale excavations, and conservation
works (Avner 1998 with references).1
Most surveyed sites were dated to the 6th-3rd millennia B.C., i.e. the Pottery Neolithic, Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age. They included 154
habitation sites, 32 corrals, 40 tent camps, 30 threshing floors, water installations of various types, and many cult sites (Fig. 2). Ample agricultural tools
were collected during the survey and excavations, among them flint adzes,
hundreds of sickle blades and grinding stones, and two stone plough tips, the
earliest found in the Near East. Botanical remains included a few olive pits and
grains of domesticated cereal, while indications of other crops were also
found. Quite surprisingly, grazing was only of secondary importance to the agriculture in this area. A demographic study demonstrated that ca. 3000 people
lived in the area at the settlements climax, in the 3rd millennium B.C. (Avner
1998).
THE CULTIVATED FIELDS AND FLOOD IRRIGATION
A unique combination of environmental conditions, fertile soil and hydrology situation, made this vast agricultural settlement possible. The soil along
the eastern side of the valley contains lime-sand, which is rarely found in the
world. It makes the soil light, well-ventilated, easily tilled, and highly water
absorbent. At a depth of 0.5 m it consists of 50-70% lime-sand, 20-40% silt
and 10-14% clay. The soil is slightly alkaline (Ph 7.8-8.35), with a low level of
salinity, only 0.9-2.3 milimo (units of electrical conductivity). The water absorption capacity is very high, up to 39% of its volume.2 The clay percentage
increases with depth, reaching 18-23% at a depth of 1.2 m, a situation which
minimizes water loss through seepage. This fact, along with the high water
content capacity, enabled excellent watering of the soil at the efficient rootdepth, for cereal, bushes, and even trees. These qualities are well demon1
Initial plans for the air base required destruction of 104 sites. However, after long negotiations, the plans were re-adjusted so that all but one site remained outside the base perimeter. The
U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers constructing the base also displayed a high sensitivity to the ancient sites and avoided damage. Today, the sites are accessible and an archaeological park is in
an advanced stage of planning.
2
I thank Igor Mindel, of the Jewish Agency in Beer Sheva, who provided this information.
Mindel tested the soil during 1983-1986.

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strated by fairly dense plant growth on the eastern side of the valley, outside
the wadi channels, in contrast to the rest of the southern Negev. Sand Wormwood (Artemisia monosperma) a Mediterranean plant, remains large and green
even through the summer, and White Saxaul (Haloxilon persicum) reaches 5 m
in height, the tallest known in the Negev and Sinai.
In a situation of low precipitation, as in Uvda Valley, only floods can supply the amount of water necessary for cereals. The drainage area of Uvda Valley is ca. 400 sq km, mainly to the south, 550-892 m above sea level. Most of
the surface is barren rock which absorbs a comparatively small amount of the
rain water. In addition, most desert rains fall in a concentrated way (Shanan et
al 1967; Finkel & Finkel 1979; Sharon 1979), so that even a small amount is
often enough to create floods (Fig. 3). Here, another element becomes important. The gradient of the valley is moderate, from 500 m above sea level in the
south to 415 m in the north. The gradient is 1% in the south and only 0.3% in
the northern part. The flood water flow is slow, does not wash the soil away,
and is well absorbed.3 Since the eastern side is lower than the western by 20
m, all wadis merge on this side, which is better irrigated (Fig. 4). Following a
flood, a thick growth of wild cereal appears (Fig. 5).
These natural conditions were successfully exploited by the inhabitants of
the valley. Observation of surface and aerial photographs reveals a system of
low earth embankments perpendicular to the water channels, sometimes with
one layer of rocks on top (Fig. 6). These embankments may have contributed
greatly to the quality of the cultivated land. They retarded the flow of water,
further increased the amount of water absorbed by the soil, prevented soil and
seed erosion, increased the sedimentation of new soil enriched with organic
material with each flood, and widened the irrigated strip. Another long embankment running south-north is discernible, west of the water channels
(Fig. 6), most probably constructed to limit the irrigated strip to approximately
500 m. This actually turned the east-west embankments into a series of
limans. This produced an important result, that the inhabitants were able to
plough and sow the land before the first flood, not 2-3 weeks later as practiced
by the Beduins. In addition, the enrichment of the soil with organic material
brought by the flood, as well as dung from animals grazing on the stubble, allowed cultivation year after year, with no need to lay the fields fallow.4
The embankments in Uvda Valley were not well dated. However, several
arguments favor early dates: 1. The Neger Beduin did not attempt to control
3

The total drainage area of N. Hayun, including Uvda Valley, is 1116 sq km, and the annual
average flood water volume in the northern end reaches 1,000,150 cu m. This is the second largest amount of flood water in the Negev, after N. Paran, with 2,005,000 cu m (Finkel & Finkel
1979:134).
4
Repeated cultivation of fields without fallowing or overuse of the soil is described by Marx
(1988:90) in connection with Beduin agriculture in the Beer Sheva area, even though in this case
it was not flood agriculture, and the only source of fertilization was the animal dung.

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

flood water in any way (see Avner 1998:175-177). 2. Flint and pottery of the
5th-3rd millennia B.C. predominated in every surface collection of finds near
the embankments (on their eastern end), and this is the period of most of the
agricultural remains. 3. In N. Paran, 40 km north of Uvda Valley, I discovered
the remains of an agricultural field based on rectangular limans and water conduits (Figs. 7, 8). The limans are surrounded by embankments identical in
technique to those of Uvda Valley. The present remains cover seven hectares,
and on the surface many flint adzes were collected (Fig. 9), dated to the late
Neolithic and Chalcolithic.5 The site, its function and date, indicate that water
management and engineering already existed by the 5th-4th millennia B.C.,
and this could well have been the case in Uvda Valley.6
The cultivated strip in eastern Uvda Valley is 12 km long and averages 500
m wide, equal to 600 hectares (Fig. 2). Another plot in the south-center of the
valley provides an additional 150 hectares. Remains of low stone terraces in
the wadis to the east of the valley indicate another 250 hectares of cultivated
fields, and embankments in Nahal Hayun, which drains the valley to the north,
add approximately 200 hectares. Altogether, these cultivated fields covered at
least 1200 hectares. This brings to light a special aspect of Uvda Valley.
While in the Negev Highland cultivated plots are divided into relatively small
wadis, Uvda Valley provides large, uninterrupted fields with high quality soil,
efficiently irrigated by floods.
DRINKING WATER
The availability of drinking water for people and animal is critical to the existence of any settlement, especially in the desert. Five natural water sources
are found around Uvda Valley, within a half days walk from the heart of the
settlement, but only one, the Yotvata Oasis, supplies abundant water (see below). Nonetheless, during the survey we encountered three different methods
of collecting rain water and utilization of underground water:
1. In 36 sites, a series of dams was found in small wadis (Fig. 10). Usually
only limited remains of 3-6 dams are visible, but in one site, 17 dams were
found in a single wadi channel. All dams are situated near dwelling sites of the
5th-3rd millennia B.C. Since these dams are generally in a poor state of preser5
For the dating of the adzes see S. Rosen 1997:98; Barkai 1996:25-35, 52, and for the occurrence of adzes in the LN in the Negev see Forenbaher 1997, Fig. 4:9. Barkai examined the adzes
from N. Paran, and dated them to LN-Chalcolithic in general, with no indication of preference for
either.
6
For a possible Chalcolithic flood irrigation method in the Beer Sheva Valley, based on water conversion walls and micro-catchments see Levy 1987: 55-58, 77-78. Support for the possibility of flood water irrigation at Shiqmim was found in the morphology of phytoliths (A.
Rosen 1987, 1999).

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vation, one may assume that many others were totally eroded or covered. Another variant of this method was the conveyance of flood water into caves,
which has been detected in two sites.
2. Along the cliff edges east of the valley a series of closed depressions developed from vertical faults in the rock, filled with marl and clay soil. These
naturally collect and retain rain water. Inside or near most of these depressions, dwelling sites of the 5th-3rd millennia B.C. were built, enabling utilization of the accumulated water (Fig. 11). Beduins also used to dig cisterns to
collect and store rainwater in some depressions. They cleaned the cisterns before winter, and when full, they covered them with plants, to minimize evaporation. It is highly likely that similar cisterns were also excavated in these depressions in the past.
3. In the same area east of the valley, four wells have been found to date,
two were incomplete. One was fairly well preserved, enabling a study of how
it functioned. The well's neck is 0.8 x 1.4 m, cut into a hard and cracked layer
of limestone which has a low gradient from east to west (Fig. 12). At a depth
of 1.5 m the rock changes to a soft chalk where the well widens to a bell
shape, presently filled with debris. The cracks in the hard rock enable drain
water to seep down, while the chalk layer blocked the seeping water, causing it
to flow slowly and drip into the well. Flint and pottery collected from around
the well date it to the 5th-3rd millennia B.C., and today the wells face still
remains moist.
The well in Uvda Valley is one of the earliest dated in the Near East. The
oldest known are two wells in Hailar, Anatolia (Mellaart 1970:35) and in the
submerged Neolithic village near Atlit, northern Israel (Galili & Nir 1993).
Both sites have been dated to the 6th millennium B.C. A well, in the site of
Abu Hof, central Israel, was dated to the Chalcolithic period (Levy & Alon
1987:59; Alon 1988), as was the well in Wadi Sirhan, northern Saudi Arabia
(Zarins 1979:76). This date is also suggested for the wells in Uvda Valley
based on the collected artifacts.
Another well was discovered by A. Shapira on Ma'aleh Shaharut (Avner
1989). It is covered by clay soil (of Ora formation), but the fill is moist even
during the summer. A few flint pieces were collected near the well in addition
to recent Ghaza ware. In May 1989, a flow of water appeared 20 m below the
well, with a supply of 100 litres per hour, while another spring appeared 500 m
to the south. Both are still active today and have created a narrow grove of
tamarisk trees.7 Ancient remains located below the springs indicate activity
during the 5th-3rd millennia B.C.
7
The springs were first noticed by N. Minkowski, from the Maaleh Shaharut settlement.
Shortly thereafter, the flow measurement was taken by A. Greenberg from the Agricultural Research Center in Yotvata.

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

Of the three artificial means for water collection described above, the series
of dams are the most important quantitatively. An average series of dams can
contain at least 100 cubic metres. If, in the past, annual water consumption per
capita was 1 cubic meter (Rosenan, in Amiran et al 1978:14) this amount of
water could support 100 people. If we consider water loss due to seepage and
evaporation, and use for the herds, it could be estimated that a series of dams
would support one extended family, ca. 25 people with their herds. If so, the
36 series of dams identified during the survey could supply water for 900 people. As stated above, however, the original number of dam sites could have
been much higher. If the dams became depleted, the inhabitants could have
walked to one of the natural water sources every four days to water the herds,
returning to their home with filled water bags.8 In general, we may assume that
utilization of all water sources, natural and artificial, could support a considerable population, even throughout the summer.9
NABATEAN TO EARLY ISLAMIC IRRIGATION SYSTEMS IN THE
SOUTHERN ARABA
Several sites in the southern Araba Valley belong to the Nabatean-Roman
period, and previously, many more sites were identified as Byzantine (Rothenberg & Cohen 1968:29-30). Since 1971, however, it became clear that most
Byzantine sites should be dated to the Early Islamic Period (see discussion
in Avner & Magness 1998). Little information is available today on the precise
dates of the sites, but it seems that a Nabatean population maintained continuity of settlement long after the annexation of their kingdom to the Roman Empire, until the Early Islamic era. In Uvda Valley alone, Nabatean pottery was
found in more than 100 Nabatean dwelling tent camps and in most threshing
floors, indicating that the economy of the population included agriculture, as
in the earlier periods. One public building, excavated by Cohen (1980), probably served as an administrative center. Hundreds of tent camps are also found
throughout the southern Negev and Sinai, but unlike in Uvda Valley, most of
them represent a pastoral population.
The Yotvata Oasis is an important water source in the southern Araba Valley, 40 km north of the gulf of Aqaba. Archaeological sites known to date
cover a sequence of the last 7000 years, including Nabatean remains and three
8

In Sinai, Beduin shepherds camp and graze their herds up to 15 km from water sources, or a
distance of two grazing days. The black desert-goat can survive on dry food, and drink water
only once every 4 or more days. The water and food demands of sheep are much higher. For the
unique physiological adaptation of the goat see Shkolnik 1977:109-112.
9
Accumulating evidence on the paleoclimate shows that the area was a desert during the discussed periods, but somewhat moister than today. See discussion with references in Avner
1998:182-187.

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fortresses: Iron Age, Late Roman and early Islamic.10 Water wells, water holes
and sometimes even a flow of water over the surface were described by several researchers (Kitchener 1884:209-210; Hull 1885:82-83; Musil 1907
II:183-185, 253-256; Frank 1934:231-241, 263; Glueck 1935:40).
Two different irrigation systems are distinguished in the Oasis. One was
based on 11 water pools spread along a north-south strip of 3 km. Each one
was excavated to a depth of 3-4 m and penetrated a high water table, the largest is ca. 40 x 40 m (Figs. 13, 14). In the past, the water was probably elevated
from these pools into channels by means of a wooden arm (shaduf), and ran
into the cultivated fields (Fig. 15).11 The time of the original construction of
this system is unknown, however, Nabatean, Late Roman and Byzantine pottery scattered over a large area, indicates its main use during these periods.
Aerial photographs (Fig. 16) show the ancient water channels, emphasized by
vegetation lines of Bunchgrass (Desmostachya bipinnata), a nonindigenous
Sudanian plant, introduced to the area through cultivation. Probes into these
lines revealed simple, unlined water channels, dug ca. 50 cm wide and 50 cm
deep into the original surface (Porat 1985:134).
The second irrigation system at Yotvata is based on Qanat (= Foggaras or Karez) which are series of underground water tunnels dug into the
alluvium, several km long, with a minimal gradient of ca. 0.2%. On the surface rows of circular dirt mounds are usually visible, 10-20 m apart (Fig. 17).
A depression in the center of each mound denotes the location of a vertical
shaft which reached the tunnel, but is filled today by dirt. During the tunnels
construction, the shafts allowed ventilation for the workers and elevation of
the excavated material, and later they served for maintenance of the system.
The deeper end penetrated the aquifer, while water surfaced by means of
gravitation at the other end.
The main Qanat system in Yotvata is 4.5 km long, aligned north-south,
partly paralleled by a second tunnel and with several tributary tunnel joining
from the west (Figs. 13, 17). Calculations show that the deepest shafts in the
north are ca.15 m. Another independent system, ca. 2 km long, was built in
Nahal Aragaman, south of Yotvata, reaching a total length of over 10 km. This
is the longest known system in Israel (but still short when compared to those in
10
Limited excavation was made by J. Porat (unpublished) in a large Nabatean public building
near the spring, which may be a good candidate for a temple shown in the Tabula
Pointingeriana, most probably dedicated to the goddess Diana. The three fortresses were partly
excavated by Meshel (1990, 1993).
11
In Porats opinion (1985:132-137, 1987:109-111) these are mother wells of Qanat systems, but this needs correction. First, in the better preserved Qanats at Yotvata and Evrona, no
such large depressions are observed. Second, in probes made by Porat in the channel of system
C2 (Fig. 14) many Melanopsis and Melanoides, fresh water snails, were found. These were also
found in large quantities in open channels in Yotvata and Evrona (Fig. 24), but were not found in
the excavated Qanat at Evrona, since they do not live in the dark. Their presence in the probes
indicate that this was an open channel, not a tunnel (see also note 12).

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

Iran, see e.g. Wulff 1968; Lambton 1992). One shaft was re-excavated by
Evenari et al (1971:175) it reached the water table and the tunnel at a depth of
6 m. This tunnel was found lined by stones, but collapsed.
Open channels distributed the water from the outlet of the tunnels to the cultivated plots. These channels are also emphasized by vegetation lines (Fig. 16),
and several ancient plots are seen as a checkerboard pattern indicated by
present vegetation. This pattern of ancient fields was still in a much better state
of preservation in 1956, it covered 400 hectares and resembled modern cultivated fields (Evenari et al 1971:176, Fig. 108).
It was previously suggested that the Qanat systems were introduced into the
Levant during the Roman-Byzantine period (Rothenberg 1971:212, 218) or
even the Persian period (5th-4th century B.C., Evenari et al 1971:178). However, excavation in Qanat sites in Israel, in Fatsael, Ein Yahav and Evrona,
demonstrated that they were all established during the Umayad period (Porat
1987:114). In three different locations at Yotvata the Qanat systems are intersecting or overlapping the Nabatean-Byzantine water installation. Therefore,
they were later and match the date of the other Qanat sites.12 The Qanats had
several advantages: They exploited the aquifer without exposing it to evaporation (through open pools), and thereby saved water, minimized the water and
soil salination, and made the managment of the complete irrigation system
possible without the need of man-power to elevate the water. Today, it is not
possible to distinguish between the Nabatean-Byzantine and the Early Islamic
cultivated fields. Most probably, the earlier fields continued to be cultivated,
but they reached their maximum dimensions during the Early Islamic period,
with the advantage of the Qanat systems,
The farm in Evrona was constructed on typical desert ground, with no previous cultivation. It is based on a high water table, as indicated by the Evrona
well 3 km to the north, but only the Qanat irrigation system enable its development. The total length of the Qanat remains unknown due to insufficient
preservation of surface remains. The main line consists of two parallel tunnels,
observed to a length of 600 m (Fig. 18), but an unfinished survey by ground
radar (by U. Basson) added 500 m to the previously known length. Another
branch, 400 m long, joins the main tunnel from the western side. A section of
the eastern channel, 18 m long, was re-excavated by Porat and Avner between
two shafts (Porat 1987:111). It was dug into the stony solid soil of the Araba
12
The distinction between the two water systems at Yotvata and their relative chronology escaped the attention of the earlier scholars (Frank 1934:250-263); Evenari et al (1971:173-178),
Rothenberg (1967a:139-144, 1967b:291-293), Porat (1985:132-137) and Meshel (1990:33).
Porat interpreted the remains as two stages of construction of the Early Islamic Qanats.
Until recently it was not clear enough whether Qanats were known outside Iran before the
Early Islamic period, 7th century A.D. Now, reports from Libya indicate that water systems
safely identified as Qanats. became obsolete during the 5th century A.D. (Mattingly et al
1998:137-142) I thank A. Wilson for the information and the reference.

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Valley, 5 m below surface in this section, unlined but well preserved (Fig. 19)
and now open to visitors.
The southern part of the system, which is closer to the surface, consists of a
roofed channel built of stones, into an open ditch, and then covered (Fig. 20).
The lower part of this channel is lined by hydraulic plaster, with sedimentation
of travertine indicating the original water level, 40 cm from the bottom.
A stone valve was found in situ in an open section of the roofed channel
(Fig. 21), placed for regulating the flow of water into the reservoir. The roofed
channel reaches a reservoir, 17.5 x 13.5 m, and only 0.8 m deep, built at the
northwestern corner of the cultivated field (Figs. 18, 22). Three sides of the
reservoir were sloped and lined with clay and cobbles (Fig. 23), the southern
side was built as a vertical stone wall, lined by hydraulic plaster. A stone slab
with a circular hole 12 cm in diameter, incorporated in this wall, served as a
water valve for irrigating the field. During excavation of the reservoir, ample
Melanopsis and Melanoides, fresh water snails, were found (Fig. 24), indicating sweet water (Avner in press).
The cultivated field was well prepared, carefully leveled, cleared of rocks
and surrounded by a stone and mud brick wall. On the western side a rampart
was built which provided protection against floods. An aerial photograph (Fig.
25) shows the remains of narrow irrigation channels crisscrossing the field.
Only 2 hectares of the field are preserved today; the rest was gradually washed
away by floods once the farm was abandoned in the 11th century A.D. However, additional remains of the rampart, found 1.5 km to the south, indicate
that the original field covered ca. 300 hectares, close to that of Yotvata. The
entire irrigation system was based on gravitation only, i.e. opening and closing
the valves; no elevation of the water was necessary.
The remains of crops found in the excavation included many date pits, as
well as olive and peach pits, almond shells, carob seeds, wheat and barley. An
attempt at pollen analysis was unsuccessful, and therefore the list of crops is
surely incomplete. Based on the botanical finds, circular depressions barely
observed in the aerial photo, and comparisons with present, traditional desert
agriculture, it is possible to imagine double story agriculture (Fig. 26). A
plantation of date and other fruit trees may have covered most of the area,
while other crops, such as vegetables and legumes were grown underneath and
between the trees.
Three buildings were preserved in the farm. The main one, adjacent to the
reservoir, originally contained only two rooms, but with later additions gradually extended to 26 x 29 m. At some point, one of the two original rooms was
converted into a mosque. The farmhouse most probably served the overseers
family and the professional staff, while the majority of the workers lived in
tents. During the excavations, which remain unfinished, several notable finds
were discovered, including seven Umayad coins and a few ostraca. The most

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

complete ostracon (Fig. 27) is inscribed with a list of names and sums of
money in derhams, apparently a list of salaries or debts. These ostraca represent the bureaucratic order of the farm.
The farms at Yotvata and Evrona present a picture of intensive and successful early Islamic agriculture in the extreme desert conditions of the southern
Araba Valley. This picture concurs with the overall view of intensive early Islamic attempts of agricultural development across their empire. In addition,
many new crops, especially from the Far East were introduced and spread over
the empire, including spinach, eggplant, sorghum, sugar cane, banana, coconut, mango and several citrus varieties. Other crops, such as watermelon, rice
and cotton, previously known only in limited areas, now became commonplace (Watson 1983, Amar 1996). The products from the farms in Yotvata and
Evrona, as well as near the city of Ayla, supported the cities inhabitants, the
population of the villages on the western side of the Araba Valley, the workers of the copper and gold mines and production camps, and the caravan merchants and pilgrims (Avner & Magness 1998).
SUMMARY
This paper presents several examples of ancient water management in the
harsh desert of the southern Negev and southern Araba Valley. The first were
late-prehistoric, indigenous solutions for the need of water, for everyday use
and for agriculture. The embankments of Uvda Valley, and especially those in
Nahal Paran, are the earliest well preserved remains of runoff water harvesting
systems known to date in the Near East, beginning in the Chalcolithic or even
Late Neolithic. This innovation, and others, enabled the population to develop
a large scale, sustainable and durable settlement, in an area that today enjoys
only 28 mm of an average average annual precipitation and some 4000 mm of
annual potential evaporation. The Qanats, on the other hand, represent an imported technological solution. In Yotvata they enabled more efficient irrigation
and a better water supply, which allowed irrigation of a larger area. In other
places, however, as in the case of Evrona, the use of Qanats, most probably
imported from Iran, enabled the establishment of agricultural farms and settlements where they were not previously possible.
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Fig. 1.Map of the southern Negev, with location of sites mentioned in the paper.

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

Fig. 2.Survey of Uvda Valley (due to the map scale, not all sites are shown).

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417

Fig. 4.Flood in eastern Uvda Valley, from north.

Fig. 3.Waterfall in N. Issaron, eastern Uvda


Valley, following a short rain.

Fig. 5.A growth of wild cereal in eastern Uvda


Valley, following a flood.

Fig. 6.Remains of enbankments in eastern Uvda


Valley.

Fig. 7.Remains of limans in N. Paran.

Fig. 8.Ground plan of limans in N. Paran.

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

Fig. 9.Late Neolithic-Calcolithic flint tools from


N. Paran limans.

Fig. 10.Remains of water dams in eastern Uvda


Valley.

Fig. 11.A 4th millennium B.C. habitation site in


eastern Uvda Valley, built in a depression which
collected rain water.

Fig. 12.A 5th-3rd millennia B.C. water well in


eastern Uvda Valley.

Fig. 13.Map of water systems in the Yotvata


Oasis as surveyed by Evenari (1971, Fig. 105b),
with addition of open pools documented by Frank
(1934, Plan 26).

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Fig. 14.An aerial photo of a Nabatean-Byzantine water pool north of Yotvata (temporarily filled
with rain water).

419

Fig. 15.A water pool at Yotvatan, with a channel leading to the cultivated fields.

Fig. 16.An aerial photo of vegetation lines at


Yotvata, indicating ancient water channels (intersected by a modern road.

Fig. 17.An aerial photo of Qanats at Yotvata, a


section of the main line.

Fig. 18.Map of Evrona Farm. Solid line denotes


exposed or excavated elements, broken line denotes below surface or conjectured elements.

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ANCIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEGEV

Fig. 19.A reexcavated section Fig. 20.A section of the roofed


of the water tunnel at Evrona.
channel at Evrona. With a plastered bottom..

Fig. 22. Water channel at Evrona, crossing the


field's fence and reaching the reservoir (during
excavation, from north).

Fig. 24. Fresh water snails from the Evrona


reservoir.

Fig. 21. Water channel at


Evrona, with a regulation valve,
temporarily filled with rain
water.

Fig. 23. Remains of the clay and stone lining in


the Evrona reservoir.

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421

Fig. 25. Evrona farm, an aerial photo of the cultivated field, from west, showing the surrounding fence,
the rampart for protection from floods, the reservoir (before excavation), remains of irrigation channels and the main building (during excavation).

Fig. 26. Traditional double story agriculture in


northern Sinai.

Fig. 27. An ostracon from the main building in


the Evrona Farm, apparently with a list of salaries
(Porat 1987:112).