In February 2016, a salvage excavation was conducted at the Nitẓẓane Sinai site (Qadesh Barne‘a; Permit No. A-7626; map ref. 142392–725/537116–467; Fig. 1), prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Qadesh Barne‘a Local Council, was directed by M.D. Pasternak, with the assistance of Y. Haimi (consultation and photography) and laborers from Qadesh Barne‘a.
Agricultural Terrace Wall 1 was partially excavated (3.5 m out of a total length of 350 m) after one course was discerned on the surface prior to the excavation. Six other courses were exposed in the sandy soil. The wall, running in a north–south direction, was built of medium and large fieldstones arranged as header and stretchers. The wall was stepped, creating five terraces (width of each terrace 3.5 m, height of each terrace 1.78 m; Fig. 2). Small stones placed along an east–west axis, between the medium and large stones, served to reinforce the construction. The bottom terrace, which served as an massive base for the retaining wall, was built of very large fieldstones (Fig. 3).
Agricultural Terrace Wall 2 was partially excavated (3.3 m out of a total length of 200 m), after one course was discerned on the surface prior to the excavation. Another six courses of the wall were exposed, consisting of small to large fieldstones that were placed in a stepped manner, forming six terraces (width of each terrace 3.3 m, height 1. 4 m; Fig. 4). Despite the similarity to Terrace Wall 1 in construction method, and even though it was also built of fieldstones, the stones used to build the foundation course of W2 were less massive.
. A straight wall consisting of a single course (Fig. 5) was identified near Agricultural Terrace 1. It extended at an acute angle to the agricultural terrace, severed it and damaged it. This wall seems to have been a dam for trapping runoff and thus and was meant to reduce the flow of water down the slope (Ashkenazi 2007
The two terrace walls were massive and long. No ceramic finds were discovered in the trial excavations. However, based on the finds from prior excavations and surveys near similarly constructed agricultural terraces (Haiman 1989
), they can be dated to the sixth–seventh centuries CE. The terraces were part of the agricultural activity near Niẓẓana. This activity reached its zenith in the fifth–sixth centuries CE, as evidenced by the significant increase in the permanent settlement in this region during these centuries (Haiman 1989:101). Agricultural terraces were found throughout the area. Furthermore, documents discovered in the remains of two churches describe the extensive farming activity during this period (Bruins 1986
:37). The proximity of the examined agricultural terraces to those of Niẓẓana indicates that this area was also affected by the grpith in the permanent settlement in the region.
Ashkenazi E. 2007. Ancient Agriculture in the Negev Highlands – Spatial Distribution in Light of Geographical and Geological Characteristics
. M.A. thesis, the Hebrew University. Jerusalem (Hebrew; English abstract).
Bruins H.J. 1986. Desert Environment and Agriculture in the Central Negev and Kadesh-Barnea during Historical Times. Nijkerk.
Haiman M. 1989. Farmers and Herders in the Area of Kadesh Barnea. Midreshet Sede Boqer (Hebrew).