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Mampsis was the smallest of the traditional six Nabataean towns in the central Negev. The ruins are quite exposed and in a state of excellent preservation. The town plan, from the Nabataean period, offers scholars a unique opportunity to study the lifestyle of the Nabataeans.

Mampsis was first discovered by the German historian, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, who visited the Negev in 1806 disguised as Musa al-Hakim, (Moses the doctor). Seetzen was later killed in Yemen in 1811, trying to carry out many historical treasures. His writings were published forty years after his death, and he is generally unknown, although he was the first European in modern times to penetrate deep into Arabia.

The defenses of Nabataean Mampsis consisted of towers, at least one of which was founded in the Middle Nabataean period. Other buildings, who’s foundations can be seen under the Late Nabataean structures also belong to the Middle Nabataean period. In the Late Nabataean period Mampsis was densely covered by buildings, some of which were built to high standards and which demonstrate many principle features of Nabataean architecture. These houses presumably belonged to wealthy citizens. One of them contains a wall frescoes which was illustrated in color. Other structures of the Late Nabataean period include a caravansary, a bathhouse, a market, and a public reservoir, a brothel, and city walls. The sophistication of its construction makes Mampsis an isolated Nabataean architectural jewel. The British Mounted Police constructed a building here, which has been converted to a restaurant known as Dushura.

Mampsis was in the Roman Province of Palaestina Tertia whcih had 10 cities under a praeses: Petra, Augustopolis, Arindela, Charachmuba, Areo-polis, Zoara, Mampsis, Bitarous, Elusa, Salton. (Hierocles, Synecdemos, 721:1-11)

Special thanks to Yanina Zaslavsky for sending us the photos below of Mampsis from her family trip in 2004.


Gibson, Dan, The Nabataeans, Builders of Petra, CanBooks, Saskatchewan, Canada 2002

Glueck, Nelson, Rivers in the Desert, A history of the Negev, The Norton Library, W. W. Norton & Company Inc, New York, 1959, 1968

Levy, Udi, The Lost Civilization of Petra, Bath Press Color Books, Glasgow, 1999

Negev, Avraham, Vol. 27 The Architecture of Mampsis, Final Report Volume II: the Late Roman and Byzantine Periods, The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem,1988.

Negev, Avraham, Vol. 26, The Architecture of Mampsis. Part I: The Middle and Late Nabatean Periods, The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1988.

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