Excavations At Kadesh-Barnea: 1976-1978
Ein el-Qudeirat
Rudolph Cohen
1981 AD

(Excavations At Kadesh-Barnea: 1976-1978, Ein el-Qudeirat, Rudolph Cohen, 1981 AD)

In December of 1978 the author completed his fourth season of excavations at the desert oasis site of Tell el Qudeirat, generally identified with Kadesh-barnea of the Bible. A comprehensive review of the research hitherto conducted on the site, including an update from the 1979 season, is here presented, along with a summary of the latest findings and a discussion of some of the remaining archeological and historical problems.

General view of Tell el-Qudeirat and the adjacent Wadi.

Left: The fortress of 'Ain Qedeis. Right: A casemate room in the fortress.

Kadesh-barnea in the Bible

It was after the theophany of Sinai that the Israelites, advancing by successive stages towards the Promised Land, came to Kadesh-barnea, between the Wilderness of Paran (Num 13:3) and the Wilderness of Zin (Num 13:21). It proved to be one of the principal stations along the course of their wanderings. From their Kadesh-barnea encampment Moses directed 12 men, 1 for each of the 12 tribes, to "spy out the Land of Canaan" (Num 13:17). In this well-known episode (Numbers 13, 14), which is set in Kadesh-barnea, the spies returned impressed both with the bounty of the land and with the might of its present inhabitants—and the people, despairing of taking their heritage, so angered God that He condemned the older generation to perish in the desert. It will be recalled that the Israelites, now contrite and hoping to circumvent this sentence, attempted, against Moses' counsel, to enter the Promised Land from the south but were beaten back by the Canaanites and Amalekites and were forced to remain at Kadesh-barnea for a substantial time: "And you dwelt at Kadesh for many days, according to the days you dwelt" (Deut 1:46). It was also at Kadeshbarnea that Moses' sister Miriam died and was buried (Num 20:1). And when the people bitterly complained about their thirst, Moses brought water out of the rock by striking it with his rod but, in the process, transgressed God's decree, and as punishment, he and Aaron were not themselves allowed to cross into the Promised Land. On account of this, the site was also known as the Waters of Meribah, "strife" (Num 20: 2-13). Ezekiel subsequently referred to "the waters of strife of Kadesh" (Ezek 47:19). Finally, Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom, requesting peaceful passage through his land, but this being denied, the Israelites nevertheless took leave of Kadesh-barnea, proceeding on their circuitous route to Mount H or and through Transjordan (Num 20:14-22). Kadesh-barnea is also described in Josh 15:3 as a site on the southern border of Judah and in Num 20:16 as a city on the border of Edom. In Gen 14:7 it is called by its (possibly original) name of `Ein Mishpat.

The Identification of the Site Kadesh-barnea's actual site for a long time was subject to scholarly dispute. This is hardly surprising since many of the geographical terms employed in the Bible, including most of those connected with the route of the Exodus, had passed out of currency by late antiquity. Discussion of the site's location, until the 19th century, was based completely on the diverse literary sources. In 1807, however, U. J. Seetzen entered the Negev in the course of his Levantine travels (1854: 1-68), opening this area to modern exploration. At first the search for Kadesh-barnea focused on the Arabah, the deep, desolate geological fissure extending from the south end of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It was assumed that the Arabah had formed the western limits of Edom; and Moses, after all, had described Kadesh-barnea (Num 20:16) as a city on Edom's uttermost border. Accordingly, in 1831 K. von Raumer proposed 'Ain Hasb as a candidate for the site (1831: 480), while E. Robinson, in 1838, suggested 'Ain el-Webeh (1860: 175, 194)—both oases in the Arabah proper.

Other scholars, however, considered the northern Sinai a more probable and appropriate setting for the important historical site. Here the search led inevitably to the relatively fertile triangle between 'Ain Qedeis, `Ain el-Qudeirat, and 'Ain Muweileh. J. Rowlands was the first Westernexplorer to visit 'Ain Qedeis and identify it with Kadesh-barnea of the Bible (1845: 463-68). E. H. Palmer, in the course of his extensive tour of the Sinai, the Negev, Edom, and Moab, also passed through the region and, although he questioned Rowlands' localization of 'Ain Qedeis, nevertheless supported the identification of this oasis with Kadesh-barnea (1871: 349-51). This identification was popularized in an influential account by H. C. Trumbull, who visited 'Ain Qedeis in 1881 and wrote a lavishly picturesque description of the site, speaking of "an oasis of verdure and beauty," various wells and pools, and even "a New England look (1884: 272). Familiar with his description of `Ain Qedeis, subsequent visitors, such as J. Lagrange (1896: 448), N. Schmidt (1910: 69), and C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence (191415: 53-57), were unable to refrain from voicing their keen disappointment at encountering a scene so decidedly barren and infertile by nondesert standards.

In 1905 N. Schmidt saw 'Ain Qedeis and was distinctly unimpressed. He also, however, visited the oasis of 'Ain el-Qudeirat, in the same general area, noting in particular the tell located in its valley, and this appeared to him a much more promising site: "The sheltered position, the broad stream of water, the comparatively luxuriant vegetation, the impressive 'tell,' the well constructed pool, the traces of ancient buildings, clearly indicate the importance of this place" (1910: 73). While not specifically equating this tell with the biblical site, he felt that Kadeshbarnea was located assuredly in this region.


Eastern part of Tell el-Qudeirat showing the rows of casemate rooms and the protruding northeast tower of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.

In 1912 T. Kiihtreiber entered the district and came to the same conclusion (1914). Finally, in 1914 C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence also toured the area as part of their archeological survey of the "Wilderness of Zin." They contended that the relatively well-watered district between 'Ain Muwileh, 'Ain elQudeirat, and 'Ain Qedeis was the only region in the northern Sinai capable of sustaining a substantial population for some time, as required by the biblical account. Furthermore, they suggested that the actual site might be localized in the fortress ruins of Tell el-Qudeirat (Woolley and Lawrence 1914-15: 69-71). The identification of this site with biblical Kadesh-barnea generally has been accepted ever since.

The Excavations of C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence

Woolley and Lawrence were the first scholars with solid archeological training to study Tell el-Qudeirat. They not only identified the site with Kadesh-barnea but also recognized its strategic position at the crossroads of two of antiquity's major desert routes: the Way of Shur, which ran from Egypt through the Sinai, and northward past Beer-sheba to Hebron, as well as branching off toward the Arabah and Edom; and the road which led south of the Central Negev to Eilat (Woolley and Lawrence 1914-15: 71). Furthermore, with several soldiers placed at their disposal, they carried out three days of (admittedly superficial) excavations on the tell and charted the basic ground plan of the remains.

The ruins, in their description, comprised a rectangular fortress, some 200 X 120 ft, with square protruding towers at each of the four corners and smaller towers set in the middle of each wall. They noted that the rampart walls were faced with well-laid blocks and filled in to a certain height with river pebbles, rough stones, and mud, but that above this filling the walls were hollow, forming a series of rooms or corridor (or "casemate rooms," as they currently are called). Outside and below the fortress walls they distinguished a talus aligned with, and connecting, the outer tower faces. They also observed that the eastern half of the fortress courtyard contained remains of a complex of rooms, while the western half seemed open. They were unable to locate the gate (Woolley and Lawrence 1914-15: 64-66).


Left: Pottery of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E. found in Locus 186 of the fortress. Right: Casemate rooms in eastern part of the fortress.

In the debris they found fragments of both wheel-made and handmade pottery. The wheel-made sherds were "Syrian" in type, thus associating the site with the north. According to Macalister's classification then in use, this pottery belonged to the Second and Third Semitic periods (broadly 1800-900 B.c.E.)—but other fine-painted sherds seemed to narrow the time span to the latter second or early first millennium B.C.E. The handmade pottery was notably rough in character and similar to other sherds observed in the vicinity (Woolley and Lawrence 1914-15: 6667). Woolley and Lawrence emphatically stated that only further excavations could solve some of the problems raised by their probe (191415: 67). They could not affirm assuredly that the fortress had already existed during the time of the Exodus (1914-15: 71).

The Excavations of M. Dothan In 1956 further excavations were undertaken on the tell by M. Dothan on behalf of the Department of Antiquities. The aims of this expedition were quite specific: to clarify the ground plan of the fortress, its method of construction, and stratigraphy. To this end, the lines of the outer walls were exposed; the interior of one of the central towers was explored; and a sounding was taken down along a corner tower to virgin soil (Dothan 1965: 136; 1977: 697). Dothan observed that a number of changes evidently had taken place in the site since it had been inspected by Woolley and Lawrence in 1914. C. S. Jarvis, the Governor of the Sinai

Peninsula during the British Mandate, had settled bedouin in the valley in which the tell was located, and the upper walls of the fortress subsequently had been damaged, with many of the stones having disappeared completely (Dothan 1965: 136). Nevertheless, he was able to correct and elaborate on the ground plan published by Woolley and Lawrence, particularly with regard to the fortress' eastern side. The location of the gate still could not be determined, though the excavator suggested that either it had been situated in the northern rampart wall and destroyed when the fortress was breached, since this area had been badly disturbed to below the threshold level, or it was located in the southeastern corner where a pavement was found outside the walls at the height where the entrance ought to be (Dothan 1965: 137). A sounding down to virgin soil along the face of the northeastern tower showed that this tower, and presumably the walls as well, had been erected on ground only slightly higher than the surrounding area, which cast some doubt on the "talus" described by Woolley and Lawrence (Dothan 1965: 137).


The wheel-made pottery finds were mainly from the 8th-7th centuries B.c.E., though some seemed a century earlier. This 9th-century B.C.E. dating suggested to Dothan that the building of the fortress might be ascribed to the Judean king Jehoshaphat (ca. 870-846 B.c.E.), who, according to the biblical account, attempted to enter the Red Sea trade (1 Kgs 22:49) and appointed a governor in Edom (1 Kgs 22:48). If this date is too early, the likeliest ascription then would be to the later Judean king Uzziah (ca. 784-733 B.C.E.), who, in the context of his vigorous foreign policy, restored Eilat (2 Chr 26:10) and fortified the southern regions of Judah (2 Chr 26:10). Dothan assumed that the fortress had endured until its destruction in the Babylonian onslaught (Dothan 1965: 143).

Top: Animal figurine of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E. found in the fortress. Below left: Jars in the casemate room on the western side of the fortress; Below right: Wheel-made cooking pot of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.


Top left: Hand made bowl of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E. Below left: Abecedarian Hebrew ostracon of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E. Right: Hebrew-Hieratic ostracon of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.

Dothan discovered no indication of different building phases during the time of the fortress's existence, but he recognized both pre- and postfortress settlement periods on the site. The prefortress findings consisted of crude handmade pottery—mainly bowls, deep pots, and hole-mouth jars. Although these sherds could not be connected with wheel-made vessels or building remains, he dated them, on the basis of similar pottery finds at Ezion-geber, Ramat Matred, and elsewhere in the Negev, to the 10th or early 9th century B.C.E. (Dothan 1965: 139; 1977: 697).

After the destruction of the fortress, there was evidently limited reoccupation of the site during the Persian period in the 5th-4th centuries B.C.E. A few structures were built at the eastern end of the courtyard, and the associated finds included the characteristic "Persian" bowls, an Attic lekytos, and a store-jar with high basket handles (Dothan 1965: 141).

The Recent Excavations

In summarizing the findings of his 1956 expedition, M. Dothan explicitly stated that, because of the limited area explored, a reliable stratigraphy was lacking still for the site (1977: 697). In order to resolve this, as well as other problems, the author has carried out four seasons of excavations, between 1976 and 1978, on behalf of the Department of Antiquities. These recent excavations have revealed that the tell comprises not just one fortress, as was believed formerly, but three fortresses, each successive one built over its predecessor's remains. These fortresses now will be considered separately, and then the historical implications of the findings will be discussed.

The Upper Fortress

The uppermost, and latest fortress is already familiar to the reader from the excavations of M. Dothan and of Woolley and Lawrence. It basically comprises a rectangular structure (ca. 60 x 41 m) of casemate rooms around a central courtyard—which is really, as it emerged, a highly built-up interior—with eight projecting towers, one in each corner, and one in the middle of each of the four sides. Its walls are constructed of rough-hewn local limestone blocks. In the recent excavations, practically all of the casemate rooms were exposed, as well as two of the central towers and a number of interesting structures in the interior. Some of the casemate rooms were extremely rich in finds. One, in the eastern side, yielded a wealth of wheel-made pottery from the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E., several handmade vessels, fragments of an ostracon on which were several lines in the hieratic writing of ancient Egypt (evidently composing some kind of list), and various other small objects, including an iron arrowhead. Other rooms in the northern and western sides were also notable for their finds. The southern side of the casemate wall faces the perennial stream that flows from the valley spring, and because erosion is greater here than elsewhere on the tell, some of the rooms and towers were rather damaged. Nevertheless, their main lines could be discerned. In all, 17 casemate rooms were exposed, with a few (perhaps 2 or 3) still remaining. These casemate rooms vary considerably in size: length, ca. 5-10 m; width, ca. 2-3 m. The towers also vary in size, but those in the corners are consistently larger than those in the middle of the walls. The excavations of the towers also produced ceramic finds, e.g., the middle tower in the western side contained two complete pithoi. As mentioned above, a number of structures in the fortress interior were exposed. The casemate wall seems to have been paralleled on all four sides by an additional row of rooms. Among the many finds here were two ostraca inscribed in ancient Hebrew. The first features three consecutive letters t (*) and may have been part of an alphabet. The second has four or five extremely blurred lines, which have not yet been deciphered. The fragment of a figurine also was unearthed and appears to represent the head and torso of a man with a pinched face and the arms broken off, and probably belongs to the composite rider-and-horse type. In the fortress interior were remains of a stone-paved floor. It was adjacent to the northern row of rooms running parallel to the casemate wall and also had traces of other walls around its other sides. Although the excavations were not completed here, this find is particularly intriguing since paved floors are otherwise unknown inside the fortress—the usual surfaces being of beaten earth. This structure was apparently a courtyard or room, and in view of the unusual handmade incense-burner found here, its function was presumably cultic. Thus, it might be compared to the stone-paved sanctuary excavated at Arad, which also was situated in the northwestern part of the fortress (Aharoni 1963: 247-49). Another interesting interior structure was uncovered adjoining the southern casemate wall. Here was found a curving wall (the only curving wall on the site), and although this section, unfortunately, was not exposed completely, it is possible that this wall belongs to the hitherto unlocated fortress gate. M. Dothan, it will be recalled, suggested that the paved surface found outside the fortress beneath the eastern casemate wall might have been connected with the gate. Further excavations revealed here, however, that the paving was part of a silo.

Left: Hebrew ostracon of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.; Right: Hieratic ostracon of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.


Left: Figurine of the 7th century B.C.E.; Right: Silo between two towers on the eastern side of the fortress of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.

The upper fortress, as mentioned above, was extremely rich in ceramic remains. These were discovered mainly in the midst of a thick layer of ashes and charred wooden beams that covered the floors and provide an excellent representative sampling of the pottery of the Judean monarchy during the last fateful century before its destruction by the army of Nebuchadnezzar. The vessels, many complete and even undamaged, include bowls, jugs, juglets, storage-jars, pithoi, cooking-pots, oil-lamps, and flasks. They are paralleled closely by finds at contemporary Judean sites to the north, particularly those of cEin Gedi V (Mazar, Dothan, and Dunayevsky 1966) and Lachish II (Tufnell, Inge, and Harding 1940). There were also two characteristically delicate CyproPhoenician juglets and fragments of painted "Edomite" ware. Crude handmade pottery also was found at this level, including the incense-burner, alluded to above, several complete oil-lamps, and numerous cooking-pot sherds.

The Middle Fortress

Both M. Dothan and the English excavators, C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence, observed that the rampart wall was filled to a certain height with rubble and assumed that this was meant to provide a platform for the casemate rooms. Further excavations, however, revealed that this rubble-filled wall actually belonged to an earlier fortress on the site, over the remains of which the later fortress had risen. What is more, it can now be stated with certainty that this solid-walled fortress had the same ground plan as its successor, including the eight projecting towers. This follows from the fact that the stones of the towers' lower courses are dovetailed with those of the walls. The walls of this middle fortress were ca. 4 m wide. Interior structures connected with the fortress also were exposed. An inner stone wall, so far uncovered along the northern, eastern, and western sides, ran parallel to the outer rampart wall. Its upper courses were constructed presumably of mud brick since at a few places the stone walls were surmounted by mud-brick rows in situ. The wheel-made pottery, found in a layer of ashes covering the beaten-earth floors of this fortress, dates from the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E. and includes bowls, juglets, cooking-pots, and jars. These vessels are closely paralleled by the contemporary finds of Lachish III (Tufnell, Inge, and Harding 1953) and Beer-sheba II (Aharoni 1973). Interestingly, the proportion of handmade to wheel-made vessels was much higher in this earlier fortress than in the upper one. It is also apparent that this handmade pottery imitates wheel-made types. The most common vessels were standard cooking-pots, but there were also several kinds of bowls, some with knob decorations on the rim, and others with bar-handles, as well as a variety of other ceramic forms.


The Lower Fortress

The remains of the lowest, and earliest fortress are buried under some 4 m of debris, and its walls consequently were uncovered only in the southeastern corner of the tell. It appears, nevertheless, that this fortress also had casemate rooms. A section of one of these rooms was exposed, the inner width of which was ca. 3 m. The ground plan of this fortress has not yet been determined, but it apparently was established on virgin soil. The pottery, found in a layer of ashes that covered its beaten-earth floors, included both wheel-made and handmade types. The wheel-made vessels are characteristic of the 10th-9th centuries B.C.E., and particularly noteworthy among them were three undamaged items: a juglet with a spout, a "black" juglet, and a pyxis. The crude handmade pottery included numerous cooking-pot sherds.

The Handmade Pottery

Both wheel-made and handmade vessels were recovered from each of the fortresses. The wheel-made pottery, as described above, belongs to different assemblages, defined according to period, already familiar from Judean sites further north. In fact, it is mainly on the basis of ceramic typology—utilizing the wheel-made wares of the Iron Age—that the three successive fortresses have been dated. The handmade vessels, by contrast, are specific to sites in the Negev, and the last four seasons of excavations at Kadesh-barnea have produced both new types and insights.

Left: Handmade lamps of the 7th-6th centuries B.c.L.; Top right: Handmade cup of the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E.; Bottom right: Handmade chalice of the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E.

As mentioned above, the handmade pottery of the Negev evidently was observed first by Woolley and Lawrence. In excavating Kadesh-barnea, they noted fragments of "rough, handmade wares, thin-walled, of gritty clay burnt very hard in an open hearth" (Woolley and Lawrence 1914-15: 67). They also had noticed, in passing, similar sherds among the debris of the Iron Age fortress at Bir Birein (Woolley and Lawrence 1914-15: 43).

This pottery was "rediscovered" by N. Glueck in his excavations at Tell el-Kheleifeh (identified by him with biblical Ezion-geber). Here he found "large quantities of crude handmade, friable, smoke-blackened pots, many of which were built up on a mat, and most of which have various simple types of horn- or


Ijorvat Mesora. Fortress of the 10th century B.C.E. overlooking Nahal Besor (Wadi Ghazzeh).

ledge-handles, or combinations of both" (Glueck 1938: 14). Originally, he supposed that such pots had served as crucibles in the regional metal industry.

Subsequently, however, similar handmade pottery began to appear at numerous other Iron Age sites, particularly in the Central Negev and Timna-Eilat area. Y. Aharoni, for instance, collected such sherds amid the remains of the farmsteads on Ramat Matred and related them to the seminomadic inhabitants of the desert: This latter [hand-made] pottery was no doubt made locally by the most primitive methods, i.e., on a mat and with very bad firing. It may be conjectured that these vessels were the work of nomad potters, who, being constantly on the move from settlement to settlement in the Negev and `Aravah, could not make use of the more highly developed instruments of their craft, such as the potter's wheel and a permanent clay oven. These simple and cheap utensils largely satisfied the daily needs of the local population, especially as cooking pots. At the same time, a certain amount of the usual pottery of the period was imported from further north (Aharoni et a!. 1960: 101-2).

N. Glueck afterward subscribed to this idea and attributed such pottery to the nomadic and seminomadic dwellers of the Negev: the Kenites, Rechabites, Calebites, and Jerachmeelites (Glueck 1959: 93). Such handmade pottery has been called "Negev" ware.

Negev ware cannot be used for chronological purposes but rather has to be dated itself on the basis ofthe wheel-made pottery found together with it. It was customary previously to assign it to the 10th century B.C.E., especially after the excavations at Ramat Matred (Aharoni et al. 1960: 97-111). However. B. Rothenberg's research in the Timna-Eilat area has shown that its origins may be several centuries earlier (1972: 153-54), and now, since the excavations at Kadesh-barnea, it is clear that it remained in use until the end of the Iron Age. Within this rather long time span, Negev ware appears to have undergone some changes. In the earlier levels (10th century B.C.E.) at Kadesh-barnea and elsewhere, virtually the only forms are cooking-pots and hole-mouth jars. By the time of the middle fortress (8th-7th centuries B.c.E.), however, a wide variety of forms were in use, many of them quite clearly modelled on contemporary wheel-made types. The


Negev vessels found in this level at Kadesh-barnea include the common cooking-pots and hole-mouth jars, but also bowls and cups of different sizes (with and without handles), and a small chalice. The workmanship remains characteristically crude, but decorative indentation is sometimes added around the rim. As previously noted, these handmade vessels predominate among the pottery finds of the earlier two fortresses, but their representation declines, in proportion to the wheel-made ware, in the final fortress. Nevertheless, this upper level yields some interesting types, such as three oil-lamps and the incense-burner.

The writer agrees that Negev ware properly should be associated with the wandering desert tribes and would further suggest that it be connected specifically with the Kenites, particularly in view of the fact that, in the Old Testament, a close relationship is posited between them and the Israelites (e.g., 1 Sam 15:6; see discussion in Fensham 1964: 51-54).

The Historical Background

The earliest fortress on the site was erected seemingly on virgin soil in the 10th-9th centuries B.C.E. Its ground plan, as explained previously, has not been determined, but it evidently belonged to a wide-ranging fortress network then existing in the Central Negev. These fortresses begin near present-day Dimona, continue south past Yeroham and Sede Boger, skirt the edge of the erosion crater of Makhtesh Ramon, and then turn west; here they form a southerly line as far as Kadeshbarnea. Dozens of such fortresses have been located since the survey of Woolley and Lawrence, and many have been excavated over the past 12 years—mainly by the author sometimes in conjunction with Z. Meshel (Cohen 1970: 6-24; 1976: 3450; Meshel 1977: 110-35). The fortresses were built according to one of three distinct ground plans—being either roughly oval, rectangular, or square—but clearly belong to the same historical period. In the author's opinion, they were established by King Solomon. As is well known, he was a powerful and energetic ruler, who sought to consolidate the gains of his predecessor, David, by fortifying cities, constructing storehouses, and founding distant trading posts—such as Ezion-geber, on the Red Sea shores. Accordingly, a network of Central Negev fortresses would have served both in protecting the vital overland trade routes and in forming a bulwark against incursions from the south. An interesting parallel exists between this line of fortresses in the Central Negev and the description (Josh 15:1-4) of the southern limits of the tribe of Judah. Thus, these fortresses also define the southern border of Israel at the time of its greatest extent.

Horvat Har Boger: Casemate rooms in fortress of the 10th century B.C.E., located about 10 km north of `Avdat.

These fortresses endured for a brief period only, and excavations have shown that most of them met a violent end. The network apparently was destroyed by Pharaoh Shishak (Sheshonk I), who launched a devastating attack into Palestine several years after Solomon's death (1 Kgs 14:25-26). B. Mazar has surmised that some of these fortress sites may well be included in the list of conquered settlements appearing on the victory stele that Shishak erected in Karnak (Mazar 1957: 57-66).

Following Shishak's attack, the kingdom of Judah retreated to its former border along the Beer-sheba basin (Amiran 1953). The fortress network in the Central Negev was never rebuilt, although a few of the fortresses partially and casually were reoccupied in the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E. None were ever rebuilt, that is except Kadesh-barnea! Here, in the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E., a towered fortress with solid walls rose over its predecessor's remains. In view of the activist policies of the Judean king Uzziah (ca. 784-733 B.C.E.), who, as described above, regained control of Edom, undertook campaigns against the North Arabian tribes, and rebuilt Ezion-geber, it seems eminently plausible to attribute the reconstruction of Kadesh-barnea to him.

This middle fortress also was destroyed, and a third (and final) fortress was erected on the site in the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E. by the reformist king of Judah, Josiah (ca. 640-609 B.c.E.). With the rapid decline of Assyrian power, Josiah acted forcefully to assert Judah's independence, gradually extending its control in all directions (2 Chr 34:3b-7). At this time, at least two imposing fortresses were established in the Central Negev area, one at Horvat 'Liza (Aharoni 1958: 33-35), some 8 km southeast of Arad, and the other at Kadesh-barnea.


It is interesting to speculate why, of all the network fortresses, Kadesh-barnea uniquely was singled out twice for rebuilding. In attempting to answer this question, it is necessary to reconsider the biblical tradition in the light of the archeological finds.

The earliest remains on the site derive from the 10th century B.C.E. the age of David and Solomon. In the Bible, however, Kadesh-barnea is connected with the much earlier epoch of Moses and the 40-year wandering. This is an apparent inconsistency, and it should be asked if the excavations at Kadesh-barnea have contributed, in one way or another, to the understanding of Israel's early traditions. It should be stated clearly at the outset that the answer to this is equivocal.

It could be argued that the lack of any evidence for pre-10th-century B.C.E. settlement on the site supports the position of those who maintain that there is no historical basis for the early traditions of the Old Testament—specifically, in this case, for those concerning Moses and the wanderings in the desert. Before reaching this conclusion, however, some cautionary considerations should be kept in mind. First, the identification of the site is not absolutely certain. Although the author is convinced that the site of Tell el-Qudeirat is Kadesh-barnea, documentary evidence is lacking. The excavations, furthermore, have reached virgin soil in only very restricted places on the tell, and if there are earlier remains, they might not have extended over the entire area of the later fortresses. Apart from this, the author believes that there may be a connection between the concentration of settlements from MB I throughout the region in question and the biblical tradition of a prolonged sojourn at Kadesh barnea.

Leaving these issues aside, the mere fact that, of all the numerous Iron Age fortresses in the Central Negev, Kadesh-barnea alone was rebuilt twice is in itself highly intriguing. This may, of course, be explicable on the basis of its strategically important location at the junction of two main desert routes. But it is also possible that the site was particularly sacred to the Israelites of the Monarchy because of its association with the traditions of Exodus and therefore had a religious, as well as practical, role.

The final fortress remained in use until the end of the Iron Age and evidently was destroyed, along with the kingdom of Judah, in the course of Nebuchadnezzar's campaign. Afterward, as related above, there are merely some signs of Persian occupation in a limited number of areas on the tell.







5000 a...At






lemma 8000


10 6< 100

20 200

30 300

40 400

50 500

60 600

70 700

80 800



List of hieratic numerals.

The preceding article has presented the major archeological findings at Kadesh-barnea as of December 1978. The following year, however, a further three-week season of excavations was carried out (December 1979). Generally speaking, this renewed exploration confirmed the

main conclusions of the previous seasons, but important new discoveries have added to our knowledge of the site.

These recent excavations were focused on the tell's northern, southern, and eastern sides. In the south, the outer lines of the central tower (of the final fortress) were exposed. A silo, only partiallycleared, had been built against its eastern wall. Two more casemate rooms on this side of the fortress were uncovered. On their floors, in a layer of ashes, was wheel-made and "Negev" pottery from the final phase of the Iron Age.

In another room, already partially excavated in 1978, and located just inside this southern casemate line, a


Left: Ostracon with hieratic numerals and weight symbols found at Tell el-Qudeirat; Right: Drawing of the hieratic ostracon.

large ostracon was found. Pieced together from 11 fragments, its maximum length measures 30 cm, its maximum width 22 cm, and its average thickness 5 mm. It is still incomplete, with 4 fragments manifestly lacking. While its study remains in a preliminary stage, it is possible to state that the ostracon consists of six vertical columns of mainly hieratic numerals and weight symbols.

The first column is apparently a list of units of measurement, similar to those employed in the well-known Arad ostraca. The second column, though partially missing or blurred, lists the hieratic numerals from 1 to 9, then 10 to 100 in units of tens (i.e., 10, 20, 30, etc.), and from 100 to 700in units of hundreds (i.e., 100, 200, 300, etc.). The third column continues this list from 800 to 1,000, again in units of hundreds, and from 1,000 to 10,000 in units of thousands. In fact, the numerals 7,000, 8,000, and 9,000 are missing, but can be surmised. Interestingly, the final figure (10,000) is indicated by the hieratic numeral 10 (X) and the Hebrew word 'alep (i.e., "thousand"). In the fourth column, the counting recommences with 1. This list breaks off in a missing fragment, but then resumes, again from 1, but now preceded by the so-called shekel sign (v), continuing to 40. The beginning of the fifth column is lost, but presumably included the numerals 50 to 60, preceded by the shekel sign. Intact are the numerals 70 to 100 in tens, and 100 to 900 in hundreds—all preceded by the shekel sign. This list concludes with the

numerals 1,000 to 4,000 in units of thousands, but without the shekel sign. The beginning of the sixth column is similarly lost, but evidently contained the numeral 5,000. The surviving portion lists the numerals 6,000 to 10,000 in thousands, once again without the shekel sign.

Detailed scholarly treatments of this important ostracon will be published shortly by A. Lemaire and H. Vermusêe, and, independently, by Y. Naveh and 0. Goldwasser. The author would like to state in this preliminary view that, in consideration of the repetitive nature of the list, with the numbers written several times, sometimes with shekel signs and sometimes without, the ostracon probably represents a kind of exercise in scribal writing. Hieratic numerals have already appeared on other ostraca from Arad and elsewhere in


Judea, but, unlike those scholars who see in the hieratic numerals an indication of either Egyptian control or mercenary troops, the author believes that they represent purely cultural influence. This explains why the Egyptian numerals appear together with the normal Hebrew signs for the shekel and the unit of thousand.

It will be recalled that, in the fortress interior, the previous year's excavations had revealed a stone-paved floor which the author had suggested had served some cultic function. This season, a round mud-brick installation (1.90 m in diameter) was found in this area. It was preserved to a height of 1.20 m, but its purpose is still unclear. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that this was full of ashes and surrounded on all sides by small stone walls. Nearby was a smaller ceramic "lamp-shaped" structure, also full of ashes. The author still is inclined to believe that this complex had a cultic role.

The author had formerly suspected that the unusual curving wall, partially excavated, at the fortress' southern side might have been connected with the gateway. In fact, it was shown that this wall belonged to an inner structure. The gateway has not yet been found.

The above finds all concern the upper, latest fortress. With regard to the middle fortress, a further stretch along the inside of its southern

rampart wall was exposed. Also uncovered on the inside of the fortress were the further remains of stone and mud-brick walls, indicating the presence of numerous dwelling rooms on this side. It seems that two occupational levels can be connected with this middle fortress.

It was already known that the rampart walls of the earliest fortress consisted of casemate rooms, but the overall ground plan has not been determined. This season, a new area was opened between two of the projecting towers on the tell's northeastern side. Here, casemate rooms belonging to the earliest fortress were exposed. The outer wall was 1.50 m thick, while the inner wall was only 0.90 m thick. A 7-m tract of this casemate wall was cleared, and itis interesting to note that it was curving and continued underneath the later fortress' walls. This naturally implies that the ground plan of this original fortress was oval, like that of the nearby and contemporary stronghold of `Ain Qedeis. Quantities of pottery were found on the floors of the casemate rooms and basically confirm the 10th-century ascription.

Kadesh-barnea remains a promising object of future exploration, and further data on the southern zone of ancient Israel undoubtedly lie hidden in its ruins.



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