Avdat National Park contains the ruins of an ancient Nabatean city in the Negev Desert and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city of Avdat was founded by the Nabateans in the 4th century BCE as a waystation on the Nabatean Incense Route, which stretches in Israel from Shivta through Ramon Crater.
Other ancient Nabatean cities along the route are Mamshit and Nitzana.
These routes served the camel caravans, mainly carrying spices and incense.
The city developed in the days of King Obodas II (1st century BCE), and was named after him.
A temple and public buildings from this time have been found, which were visible from afar and served as a landmark to the caravaneers.
They also discovered residential quarter, a military camp, and various pens in which camels, sheep and goats were kept, and horses which became famous as racehorses were bred.
The military camp which housed the riders of the camel corps units which protected the caravan routes.
A unique find of the Nabataean period is the pottery workshop at Avdat. which included a room with a potters wheel and a kiln for firing.
An abundance of pottery, including Nabatean painted ware, delicately decorated with reddishbrown floral patterns, was found here.
At the end of the 1st century CE, the city’s inhabitants moved to agriculture as their main livelihood, since the Romans made their route redundant.
Devoid of its caravan trade, Avdat fell into decline.
In the year 106 CE, after the death of their king, Avdat was annexed by Rome and was resettled as part of the southern defense system.
It became an important military outpost and permanent settlement.
A temple to Zeus was erected, like the previous Nabatean temple, was dismantled and its stones used in Byzantine buildings.
The height of its prosperity was in the Byzantine period with an estimated population of 3,000.
The city had and continued to serve as an outpost in the defense of the Negev and a citadel was built to protection against marauding nomads. ‘
The Byzantine residential quarter included numerous buildings on the slopes below the acropolis.
They were erected on several terraces and included, behind the buildings, caves cut into the soft limestone of the hillside.
The caves were used mainly as workshops and storerooms for keeping and processing the agricultural produce. A winepress was found in one of them.
However, towards the end of the Byzantine period the city was damaged by a strong earthquake, and shortly after, the area was conquered by Arab tribes, leading the city to be abandoned.
Like most places in the Judean and Negve deserts, it is easiest to get here by car.
For visiting hours and entrance fees see the Avdat National Park webpage.