The Shivta National Park is also part of the National Parks and Reserves Tour from Shalom Israel. The park is scheduled to be visited at its 4th day.
Shivta, located in the western Negev not far from the Egyptian border at Nitsana, differs from the other Nabatean cities in the Negev in that it is not located on a main commercial route. It was also unwalled, and thus may be regarded as a large farming village.
Roman ruins, dating to the period of Shivta’s founding in the first century BCE, can be seen in the southern part of the town. Most of the remains, however, date from the Byzantine period (fourth-seventh centuries BCE). With no natural water sources, Shivta’s water supply was based on surface runoff. This required meticulous urban planning, building the streets in the northern part of the city so that they drained into large reservoirs.
A main attraction in the park is the Colt house, used by the archaeologists led by H. Colt (son of the famous American gun manufacturer), who dug at Shivta from 1933 to 1934. Over the entrance is an inscription in ancient Greek that translates: “With good luck. Colt built (this house) with his own money.” Another highlight is the city’s main church, smaller churches and monks’ cells. In the double pool archaeologists found potsherd ‘notes’ mentioning the residents who had fulfilled their civic duty to clean the pool.
Shivta is long considered a classic Nabataean town on the ancient spice route, archaeologists are now considering the possibility that Shivta was a Byzantine agricultural colony and a way station for pilgrims en route to the Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.
Roman ruins from the first century BCE have been unearthed in the southern part of the town, but most of the archaeological findings date to the Byzantine period. Shivta’s water supply was based on surface runoff collected in large reservoirs.
Three Byzantine churches (a main church and two smaller churches), 2 wine-presses, residential areas and administrative buildings have been excavated at Shivta. After the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE, the population dwindled. It was finally abandoned in the 8th or 9th Century CE.
In 1933-34, American archaeologist Harris D. Colt conducted a dig at Shivta. The house he lived in bears an inscription in ancient Greek that reads: “With good luck. Colt built (this house) with his own money.”
The wine presses at Shivta give an insight into the scale of wine production at the time. According to the calculations of archaeologists, the Nabatean/Byzantine village of Shivta produced about two million liters of wine.
Adjacent to the site is a large farm that uses Nabatean agricultural techniques of irrigation, sowing and reaping.