Two photographs showing the ancient mansion. Image Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Researchers Find Unique, 1,200-Year-Old Mansion in the Middle of the Desert

Researchers have come across what they say is a unique, never-before-seen ancient mansion in the middle of the Negev Desert in present-day Israel.

It is the first of its kind discovered in this area of ​​the world.

The archaeological team discovered an ancient building with a central courtyard above a vaulted complex and an excavated water cistern in the three-meter-deep rock during a pre-construction survey of a neighborhood in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert.

The structures uncovered by archaeologists date back to the early Islamic period (8th to 9th centuries AD).

One of the first of its kind found in the Negev, this building dates back 1,200 years. Residents had access to four wings of the villa with rooms to suit their needs. A paved room was located in one wing, which was decorated with frescoes (wet plaster paintings on the walls).

The small fragments of extant frescos were richly colored in red, yellow, blue, and black.
Plaster floors were found in many of the other rooms of the building, along with large ovens and small bits of delicately decorated glass.

It is evident from the luxurious property and the impressive underground vaults that the owners are wealthy. As a result of their status and wealth, they built a luxurious mansion that served as a residence and a place for entertainment,” explained excavation directors Oren Shmueli, Dr. Elena Kogan-Zehavi, and Dr. Noé D. Michael.

“By good chance, and much to the local population’s interest and excitement, the building remains uncovered in the area planned for expanding Rahat date back to the Early Islamic period,” said Eli Eskosido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Public display and preservation of the finds is a joint initiative between the Israel Antiquities Authority and Bedouin Settlement and Development Authority.

With an estimated age of 1.8 million years, the Negev contains the oldest surface on Earth. It occupies at least 55% of Israel, covering some 13,000 km2 (4,700 sq mi). With the Sinai Peninsula desert on its western side and the Arabah Valley on its eastern side, it forms an inverted triangle.

As far back as 4,000 years ago and perhaps as far back as 7,000 years ago, nomads lived in the Negev.

Around 2000 BCE, Canaanite, Amalekite, Amorite, Nabataean, and Edomite groups established the first urban settlements. Between 1400 and 1300 BCE, Pharaonic Egypt introduced copper mining and smelting to the Negev and Sinai.

Both the Negev and Edom (modern Jordan) experienced a boom in mining during the 9th century BCE when the Assyrian Empire ascended. During the period 1020-928 BCE, there were small settlements of Israelites around the capital.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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