Near Ein Saharonim are the remains of a Nabatean caravanserai, indicating
that this was one of their stops on the Spice Route. Military camps and
forts like this one served as a stopping point on their journey and as
protection from highway robbers along the way. They had many camps like
this one, in addition to various cities, the most important of which were
Avdat (Oboda), Nessana (Nitzana), and Elusa (Halutzah).
Others included Soubaita (Shivta), Mampsis (Mamshit),
The Nabateans were a group of Arab
commercial nomads from the Arabian Peninsula. First mentioned in
Ashurbanipal’s list of enemies in 647 B.C., they appeared in the Negev
in the 4th century B.C. and pushed the Edomites (Idumeans) north into
southern Judah. Originally they were a pastoralist people, but as
traders they grew wealthy, holding a monopoly of the market because they
knew the secrets of the desert. They reached their greatest prosperity
under Aretas III (9 B.C.-40 A.D.), but were already beginning to settle
down in cities. The Nabateans are best known for their damming systems,
vineyards, horse breeding, and stone cutting.
The Spice Route
The route the Nabateans took across
the Negev with their camel trains was called the Spice Route; it
stretched from the Persian Gulf (Arabia) to the ports of Gaza, passing
through Petra (their capital) and
Avdat. Their constant travel made for a
transitory life. They did not live in houses, but they did built
elaborate tombs for their dead, especially at Petra
and Egra. Self-denial was a way of life, and they would not touch
alcohol, which they saw as a sign of settling down.
Items of Trade
The Nabateans traded items coming
from the Far East (especially what is today India, Thailand, China, and
Korea) and Southern Arabia. Many of the items were brought to Arabia by
sea, and when they reached Gaza, they were shipped off to Rome. Spices
were the most common of these items, giving the desert route its name.
Other products included perfumes, herbs, wood, gems, silks,
medicines, and metals. The Nabateans were the mediators of these
products and goods; they even sold asphalt from the
Dead Sea to Egypt for use in mummification,
coffin-sealing, and glue.
The Spice Route (Central Arava Regional Council) Provides a detailed
description of the Spice Route through Nahal Nekarot and Nahal Katzra. Also
provides instructions on following the route in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
This website also offers a map of the Spice Route
The Spice Route (StateOfIsrael.com) Introduces the Spice Route,
describing part of its course and the things that will be encountered on it
Nabataean Trade Routes (Nabataea.net) Lengthy discussion of all of the
Nabataean trade routes. Provides a helpful map.
Textiles Found Along the Spice Route (Textile Society of America)
Abstract of a paper presented at a textile symposium. It discusses textiles
that archaeologists have discovered at sites such as Moa.
The Maps (Exodus Project, The Academy of Fine Arts in Prague) Provides a
satellite image of the region and a modern map showing the route through