In Mamshit, Even The Poorest Family Had A 500-meter Home
The ancient, wealthy Nabatean city in the Negev is marking Sukkot with a bazaar featuring music, dancing, arts and crafts
Nabateans: A Semitic people who thrived in the Negev between the third century BCE and the seventh century CE. They accumulated great wealth by transporting spices across the desert and built six cites in the Negev.
Unlike Israel’s five other Nabatean cities, Mamshit was situated well away from the famous Spice Trail – an arduous route that extended over 2,000 kilometers from the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean Sea.
Despite its seemingly out-of-the-way location, however, its inhabitants were extraordinarily wealthy. One house at Mamshit was over 1,500 square meters in size — and even the poorest family could boast a dwelling of at least 500 meters. Some people were so filthy rich they apparently “forgot” where they hid their money: archeologists found an incredible hoard of over 10,500 silver coins in one of the homes.
The city may have been off the Spice Trail, but the people of Mamshit dealt in commerce just like their fellow Nabateans. Mamshit was an important crossroad along trade routes leading towards the Dead Sea and the Arava. It was too hot to live in the Dead Sea valley and no cooler in the Arava, so Nabatean merchants built their homes at a comfortable location several hundred meters above sea level.