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Desert Habitation History by 14C Dating of Soil Layers in Rural Building Structures (Negev, Israel): Preliminary Results from Horvat Haluqim

Hendrik J Bruins, Johannes van der Plicht, Mordechai Haiman


Traditional archaeological approaches in the central Negev Desert used to employ excavation techniques in post-prehistoric periods in which stratigraphy is based on architecture, while material culture forms the basis for dating assessment and chronology. Such an approach was understandable, as it focused on the most visible remains of past human habitation. However, the detailed habitation record is in the soil rather than in the walls. Moreover, ceramics and stone tools in desert cultures often have limited time resolution in terms of absolute chronology. The rural desert site of Horvat Haluqim in the central Negev yielded 2 habitation periods with the traditional methodology: (1) Roman period, 2nd–3rd centuries CE; (2) Iron Age IIA, 10th century BCE. We have conducted at Horvat Haluqim initial excavations in small building remains that were never excavated before. Our excavation methodology focuses on detailed examination of the archaeological soil in building structures, coupled with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating for chronology, and micromorphology of undisturbed soil samples to study stratigraphy and soil contents at the microscopic scale. Here, we report preliminary results, concentrating on the 14C dates. These suggest a much longer habitation history at the site during the Iron Age. The 14C dates obtained so far from these building remains cover Iron Age I, II, III, and the Persian period. The oldest calibrated date (charred C4 plants) in a rectangular building structure (L100) is 1129–971 BCE (60.5%, highest relative probability). The youngest calibrated date in a round building structure (L700) is 540–411 BCE (57.9%, highest relative probability). This excavation methodology provides additional “eyes” to look at past human habitation in the Negev Desert, seeing more periods and more detail than was possible with traditional schemes and ceramic dating.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16400

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