Last updated
Overview of Avdat
Israel location map with stripes.svg
Archaeological site icon (red).svg
Shown within Israel
Alternative nameOvdat
Location Southern District, Israel
Region Negev
Coordinates 30°47′38″N34°46′23″E / 30.794°N 34.773°E / 30.794; 34.773 Coordinates: 30°47′38″N34°46′23″E / 30.794°N 34.773°E / 30.794; 34.773
Founded3rd century BCE
Cultures Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine
Site notes
ConditionIn ruins
Official name Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev (Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta)
Criteriaiii, v
Designated2005 (29th session)
Reference no. 1107
State PartyIsrael
Region Europe and North America

Avdat (Hebrew : עבדת, Arabic : عبدة, Abdah), also known as Abdah and Ovdat and Obodat, is a site of a ruined Nabataean city in the Negev desert in southern Israel. It was the most important city on the Incense Route after Petra, between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE. It was founded in the 3rd century BCE, and inhabited by Nabataeans, Romans, and Byzantines. [1] Avdat was a seasonal camping ground for Nabataean caravans travelling along the early Petra–Gaza road (Darb es-Sultan) in the 3rd – late 2nd century BCE. The city's original name was changed to Avdat in honor of Nabataean King Obodas I, who, according to tradition, was revered as a deity and was buried there. [2] [3]



Temple of Oboda Avdat view to the Negev.JPG
Temple of Oboda

Before the end of the 1st century BCE a temple platform (the acropolis) was created along the western edge of the plateau. Recent excavations have shown that the town continued to be inhabited by the Nabataeans continuously from this period until its destruction by earthquake in the early 7th century CE. Sometime towards the end of the 1st century BCE the Nabataeans began using a new route between the site of Moyat Awad in the Arabah valley and Avdat by way of Makhtesh Ramon. Nabataean or Roman Nabataean sites have been found and excavated at Moyat Awad (mistakenly identified as Moa of the 6th century CE Madeba Map), Qatzra, Har Masa, Mezad Nekarot, Sha'ar Ramon (Khan Saharonim), Mezad Ma'ale Mahmal and Grafon.

Avdat continued to prosper as a major station along the Petra-Gaza road after the Roman annexation of Nabataea in 106 CE. Avdat, like other towns in the central Negev highlands, adjusted to the cessation of international trade through the region in the early to mid 3rd century by adopting agriculture, and particularly the production of wine, as its means of subsistence. Numerous terraced farms and water channels were built throughout the region in order to collect enough run-off from winter rains to support agriculture in the hyper-arid zone of southern Palestine. At least five wine presses dated to the Byzantine period have been found at the site.ael

In the late 3rd or early 4th century (probably during the reign of Diocletian) the Roman army constructed an army camp measuring 100 x 100 m. on the northern side of the plateau. Elsewhere at the site, an inscription was found in the ruins of a tower describing the date (293/294 CE) and the fact that one of the builders hailed from Petra. Around this time a bath house was constructed on the plain below the site. The bath house was supplied with water by way of a well, tunneled 70 meters through bedrock. Sites along the Petra-Gaza road were apparently used by the Roman army in the 4th and 5th centuries when the road continued to function as an artery between Petra and the Nabataean Negev settlements. Pottery and coins from the late 3rd to the early 5th century have been found at Mezad Ma'ale Mahmal, Shar Ramon and Har Masa and Roman milestones line part of the road between Avdat and Shar Ramon. A fort with four corner towers was constructed on the ruins of early Nabataean structures north of Avdat at Horvat Ma'agora. Milestones have been found on along the Petra Gaza road north at Avdat between Avdat and Horvat Ma'agora and further up the road towards Halutza (Elusa).

The early town was heavily damaged by a major (probably local) earthquake, sometime in the early 5th century CE. In the ruins of this destruction a Nabataean inscription, in black ink on plaster, was found bearing a blessing of the Nabataean god, Dushara. The inscription was written by the plasterer, one Ben-Gadya. This is the latest Nabataean inscription ever found in Palestine.

Avdat earthquake damage Avdat02.JPG
Avdat earthquake damage

A wall was built around the later town, including a large area of man-made caves, some of which were partially inhabited in the Byzantine period. Under Byzantine rule, in 5th and 6th century, a citadel and a monastery with two churches were built on the acropolis of Avdat. Saint Theodore's Church is the most interesting Byzantine relic in Avdat. Marble tombstones inserted in the floor are covered with Greek inscriptions. St. Theodore was a Greek martyr of the 4th century. The Monastery stands next to the church and nearby a lintel is carved with lions and it marks the entrance to the castle.

Historical sites

Temple of Oboda

Temple Layout Temple Layout.png
Temple Layout

The building complex known as The Temple of Oboda sits on the acropolis of the city. The temple was built as a dedication to the deified Nabataean king Obodas I. The temple stands adjacent to the east of two other buildings: a Christian chapel and a second temple known as the “western temple.” The temple dedicated to the cult of Obodas the King was built with a hard-limestone in the year 9 BCE during the reign of Obodas II. The temple is a tripartite structure: consisting of a porch, hall and adytum; its overall dimensions are 14 by 11 metres (46 ft × 36 ft). The building was divided into four rooms. The first and second rooms were unequal subdivisions of the adytum (debir), the first room is the eastern room which is the smaller of the two measuring at 3 by 4 metres (9.8 ft × 13.1 ft). The second room was the western room and the larger of the two rooms measuring 5 by 4 metres (16 ft × 13 ft). The third room was the hall (hekhal), an oblong shape measuring 8 metres (26 ft), which is now completely covered by a Talus. The fourth room is the porch (‘ulam) divided into two compartments one facing west measuring approximately 4 by 4 metres (13 ft × 13 ft) and the other facing east measuring approximately 4 by 4.5 metres (13 ft × 15 ft) were divided by a 60-centimetre (2 ft) wall. [4] A worshiper entered through the porch, which faces south, proceeded through the hall to the rooms of the adytum at the northern end. The worshiper then turned about face toward south to worship the images of the deities placed in niches in the wall. The western room contained two niches which may have contained the images of two Nabataean gods Allat and Dushura. The other room contained a larger single niche where it is believed the defied image of Obodas the King was worshiped. The temple was built to be his eternal resting place and the center of worship for his cult. [5]


Avdat was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June 2005, but on 4 October 2009 the site suffered extensive damage when hundreds of artifacts were smashed and paint smeared on walls and an ancient wine press. [1] Two Bedouin men were later indicted for causing NIS 8.7m worth ($2.3 million) of damages to the site. The men sought to avenge the demolition of a nearby relatives' home by Israeli authorities. [6]

Avdat was also the filming location of Jesus Christ Superstar .

Related Research Articles

Petra Ancient historical site in Jordan

Petra, originally known to its inhabitants in as Raqmu or Raqēmō (𐢚𐢛𐢓𐢈), is a historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies around Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin surrounded by mountains which form the eastern flank of the Arabah valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC, and the Nabataeans might have settled in what would become the capital city of their kingdom, as early as the 4th century BC. However, archaeological work has only discovered evidence of Nabataean presence dating back to the second century BC, by which time Petra had become their capital. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.


Shivta, originally Sobata or Subeita, is an ancient city in the Negev Desert of Israel located 43 kilometers southwest of Beersheba. Shivta was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2005, as part of the Incense Route and the Desert Cities of the Negev, together with Haluza/Elusa, Avdat and Mamshit/Mampsis.

Nabataeans Arab people who inhabited northern Arabia and the Southern Levant

The Nabataeans, also Nabateans, were an ancient Arab people who inhabited northern Arabia and the southern Levant. Their settlements—most prominently the assumed capital city of Raqmu —gave the name Nabatene to the Arabian borderland that stretched from the Euphrates to the Red Sea.

Archaeology of Israel Commons-category

The archaeology of Israel is the study of the archaeology of the present-day Israel, stretching from prehistory through three millennia of documented history. The ancient Land of Israel was a geographical bridge between the political and cultural centers of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Despite the importance of the country to three major religions, serious archaeological research only began in the 15th century. The first major work on the antiquities of Israel was Adriaan Reland's Palestina ex monumentis veteribus, published in 1709. Edward Robinson, an American theologian who visited the country in 1838, published the first topographical studies. Lady Hester Stanhope performed the first modern excavation at Ashkelon in 1815. A Frenchman, Louis Felicien de Saucy, embarked on early "modern" excavations in 1850. Today, in Israel, there are some 30,000 sites of antiquity, the vast majority of which have never been excavated.

Tel Rehov

Rehov, meaning "broad", "wide place", was an important Bronze and Iron Age city located at Tel Rehov or تل الصارم Tell es-Sarem, an archaeological site in the Bet She'an Valley, a segment of the Jordan Valley, Israel, approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Beit She'an and 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of the Jordan River.

Ir Ovot Place in Southern, Israel

Ir Ovot is a small village in southern Israel. Located in the northeastern Arabah, it falls under the jurisdiction of Central Arava Regional Council. It operated as a kibbutz from 1967 until the 1980s. In 2019 it had a population of 54.


Haluza, also known as Al-Khalasa, Halasa, Chellous, Elusa, al-Khalasa and al-Khalūṣ (Arabic), was a city in the Negev near present-day Kibbutz Mash'abei Sadeh that was once part of the Nabataean Incense Route. It lay on the route from Gaza to Petra.

Nabataean Aramaic variety of Western Aramaic

Nabataean Aramaic was the Western Aramaic variety used in inscriptions by the Nabataeans of the Negev, the east bank of the Jordan River and the Sinai Peninsula.

Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev

Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev is a World Heritage-designated area near the end of the Incense Route in the Negev, southern Israel, which connected Arabia to the Mediterranean in the Hellenistic-Roman period, proclaimed as being of outstanding universal value by UNESCO in 2005. The trade led to the development of ancient towns, forts and caravanserai en route, apart from agricultural development.

Nitzana (Nabataean city)

Nitzana is an ancient Nabataean city located in the southwest Negev desert in Israel close to the Egyptian border. It may have been a camel caravan station on the eastern branch of the ancient Incense Route, serving pilgrims and merchants travelling to Sinai or central Egypt. The Nabataean towns of the Negev were typically founded around the first century BC, conquered by Romans two centuries later, who garrisoned the site, and inhabited by Byzantine Christians from at latest the fourth century until the invasion and the Muslim conquest of Syria in the seventh century. Relatively few stones remain on the site because most were recycled into buildings in Gaza in the early 20th century.

Nabataean Kingdom Ancient Arab Kingdom (3rd century BC - 106 AD)

The Nabataean Kingdom, also named Nabatea, was a political state of the Arab Nabataeans during classical antiquity.

Obodas I

Obodas I was king of the Nabataeans from 96 BC to 85 BC. After his death, Obodas was worshiped as a deity.

Ein Avdat

Ein Avdat or Ein Ovdat is a canyon in the Negev Desert of Israel, south of Kibbutz Sde Boker. Archaeological evidence shows that Ein Avdat was inhabited by Nabateans and Catholic monks. Numerous springs at the southern opening of the canyon empty into deep pools in a series of waterfalls. The water emerges from the rock layers with salt-tolerant plants like Poplar trees and Atriplexes growing nearby.

Palaestina Salutaris

Palaestina Salutaris or Palaestina Tertia was a Byzantine province, which covered the area of the Negev, Sinai and south-west of Transjordan, south of the Dead Sea. The province, a part of the Diocese of the East, was split from Arabia Petraea during the reforms of Diocletian in c.300 CE, and existed until the Muslim Arab conquests of the 7th century.

Maiuma Place in State of Palestine

Maiuma or Maiumas was an ancient town at the site of present-day Rimal near Gaza, Palestine.

Nabataean architecture

Nabatean architecture refers to the building traditions of the Nabateans in Jordan. It includes the temple and tombs of Petra in the sandstone cliffs of Jordan’s Negev desert. The style appears a mix of Mesopotamian and Hellenistic (Greek) influences.

Little Petra

Little Petra, also known as Siq al-Barid is an archaeological site located north of Petra and the town of Wadi Musa in the Ma'an Governorate of Jordan. Like Petra, it is a Nabataean site, with buildings carved into the walls of the sandstone canyons. As its name suggests, it is much smaller, consisting of three wider open areas connected by a 450-metre (1,480 ft) canyon. It is part of the Petra Archeological Park, though accessed separately, and included in Petra's inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is often visited by tourists in conjunction with Petra itself, since it is free and usually less crowded.

Battle of Cana

The Battle of Cana was fought between Greek Seleucid under king Antiochus XII Dionysus of Syria, and the Arab Nabataean Kingdom. Cana is an unknown village; scholars place it somewhere south or southwest the Dead Sea.

Battle of Gadara

Battle of Gadara was fought between the Judaean Hasmoneans and the Arab Nabataeans around 93 BC in Gadara in modern-day Jordan.

Temple of the Winged Lions Temple complex located in Petra, Jordan

The Temple of the Winged Lions is a large Nabatean temple complex located in Petra, Jordan, and dated to the reign of King Aretas IV. The temple is located in Petra’s so-called Sacred Quarter, an area situated at the end of Petra’s main Colonnaded Street consisting of two majestic temples, the Qasr al-Bint and, opposite, the Temple of the Winged Lions on the northern bank of Wadi Musa.


  1. 1 2 Yedioth Ahronoth (6 October 2009). "Avdat National Park vandalized". Retrieved on April 3, 2012.
  2. Nabataea: Early History. Retrieved on April 3, 2012.
  3. Neuwirth, Angelika; Sinai, Nicolai; Marx, Michael (2010). The Qur'an in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations Into the Qur'anic Milieu. BRILL. p. 233. ISBN   978-90-04-17688-1.
  4. Negev, Avraham. The Architecture of Oboda: Final Report. Jerusalem, Israel: Institute of Archaeology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1997. Print
  5. The Temple of Obodas: Excavations at Oboda in July 1989 Avraham Negev Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1/3 (1991), pp. 62-80 Published by: Israel Exploration Society Article Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/27926214
  6. Curiel, Ilana (April 11, 2009). "Indictment on Avdat vandalism cites Bedouin revenge". Ynet. Retrieved September 27, 2014.