like other Nabataean cities, Mamshit too served as an outpost along the ancient Incense Route. The modern name Mamshit (given by the National Commission for Names) is derived from the Roman-Byzantine name– Mampsis. In Arabic Mamshit is called Kurnuv, a name given after a drink made of milk, honey and dates. Similarly to this exotic drink, a visit to the Negev and ancient city, Mamshit does leave a thirst for more.
In Sukkoth and Pesach [The feasts of Tabernacles and Passover] the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority organizes a colorful Nabataean market in this place.
Drive south on route 40 to Be'er Sheva, turn left, eastward, in Goral Junction and go around Be'er Sheva through route 406 that "cuts" the Goral Hills, then turn right in Tel Sheva Junction, and left in Hativat Ha-Negev Junction. (A monument for the Negev Brigade that commemorates battles of the Independence War that librated the area.) Continue left and eastward in Sarah Junction toward Dimona. This is town is one of the first Development Towns. It was founded in 1955 as a dwelling base for the workers of the Dead Sea Works and was named after a city in the territory of Judah tribe. A community of the Black AfricansHebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem settled in Dimona. Drive on route 25 past Dimona until you reach a sign that directs right, southward, toward the National Garden Mamshit.
Mamshit is between Hatira Range (that extends and reaches over to the Big Makhtesh which is called after the range, Makhtesh Hatira) and Ef'e Range (Dimona is located peripherally to this range). like other Nabataean settlements in the Negev, Mamshit too was initially developed as a "trade outpost" for the caravansaries that crossed the desert from Petra to Gaza. Unlikely to other desert land, the surrounding area of the city is relatively rich with water sources, namely with Mamshit Stream, wells, water cisterns and tamilot, which are areas in which underground water almost touch at the surface, and only a slight digging is needed to pump the water out. The location of Mamshit –a day walk from a further post along the Incense Route, the Ein Hazeva outpost – had contributed to its importance.
During the Nabataean Era economically speaking, the city thrived mainly from trade and growing of agriculture crops that were cultivated on the basin around the city, and on further areas too, even 25 kilometers away from the city. On 106 AD, after it was annexed to the Roman Empire, a Roman garrison was posted at Mamshit, to guard that southern frontier spot of the empire, and big dams were built during that period around the city, of which two are still standing to this day. During the Byzantine Period, the population of the city, some thousands of people, converted to Christianity, like with other Nabataean Cities, and two churches were built. During the 6th Century AD and after the Muslim conquest, Mamshit waned, and only ruins were left from it. During the British Mandate, a Patrol Police was positioned at the place, and its headquarter cab be still seen today. Mamshit is a National Park and the entrance fees and opening hours are detailed at the end of the route.
City Gate – consists of roofed guardhouse protected by two well-reconstructed towers.
"The Palace" – a vast and unique luxurious house with a guardroom, reception hall, archive, servant rooms, dwelling quarter and more.
The Dams – two of them were built by the Nabataeans and one by the British. They can store thousands of m3 of water, which was streamed and refilled the pools and water pits of the city.
St. Nilus Church – the Church is decorated with some nice mosaic floors, one of them still contains an inscription: "O Lord save your servant Nilus, Jesus-lover who established this [building], and guard the members of this household" or "O Lord help Abbr[aham] son of Zenobius, the paramounarius" [=the cleric who was in charge of the church].
Church of the Saints and Martyrs –the name derives from relics of human bones which were found in the church, and probably are ancient remnants of some communion ritual of a saint.
Fresco House – Spacious and beautiful house with well preserved stalls and frescos.
The City Swimming Pool – a big swimming pool with a capacity of 1,500 m3 of water. During the excavations, an inscription was found there: "for Flavius Gormus, the son of Zechariahu, you have completed one work of the obligatory works of the swimming pool, 25 to the month of Deus."
The Stalls. When commerce and agriculture became an integral part of city life, horses were used for both of them. One of the stalls that were found in Mamshit had enough place for accommodating 16 horses.
Bathhouse – The bathhouse was divided into three parts:
1. Frigidarium –cold water room;
2. Tepidarium –lukewarm water room;
3. Caldarium –hot water room that was heated by wood that was burnt in an underground special heating system.
The City Citadel – it was built on the highest altitude of the city and was used for defense. During the 1920' and 1930' most of the stones of the building were taken to build a police station of the British Camel Riders regiment.
North-east to Mamshit there is an access to the Israel National Trail which is marked with blue-white-orange and leads to the dam, and then continues through the waterbed of Mamshit Stream and to Be'er Mamshit [Mamshit's canyon and well]. The well was dug by the British, probably on top of an ancient Nabataean well, and supplied water to the local Bedouins. Continue down on the canyon until finally you will come to some agricultural Nabataean terraces that were devised to overcome the scarce amount of rainfall in the area. When you meet with a junction, continue with the red-marked trail (the Israel National Trail continues toward the big Makhtesh south to your path) until you will meet with Route 206. If you choose to continue with the abovementioned trial, leave one vehicle there at the end of this route.
Entrance fee: individual: adult: NIS 21; child: NIS 9; group: adult: NIS 18; child: NIS 8.
Tel.: 08-6556478. Visiting hours; April-September; 08:00 – 17:00. October-March: 08:00 - 16:00.
For more information, see the following links:
Mammashit in Madaba map
A presentation of the Nature and National Park Authorityabout the Incense Route:
Other Nabataean sites in this website: Shivta, Avdat
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