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Book: About Edom and Idumea in the Persian Period

Chapter: 2. Edom in the Persian Period, Relations with the Negev, and the Arabian Trade: The Archaeological Evidence

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42819


Piotr Bienkowski contributed the next essays, entitled “Edom in the Persian Period, Relations with the Negev, and the Arabian Trade: The Archaeological Evidence.” As Bienkowski demonstrates, the Persian period in Edom is not clearly distinguishable from the Iron II period, from an archaeological perspective. Major Edomite sites – Busayra, Tall al-Khalayfi and Tawilan – continued to be occupied from the Iron II through the Persian period, while others were abandoned by the end of the sixth century BCE. The local pottery continued virtually unchanged. There was fourth-century BCE building activity in Petra, attributable to an early Nabataean occupation contemporary with continued occupation at some Edomite sites. A review of the evidence demonstrates that the presence of Edomite pottery at sites in the Negev in the late Iron Age can only be explained by Edomite tribes interacting with sites along the Arabian trade route through the Beersheba Valley. The evidence discounts an Edomite invasion or migration. The Arabian trade was disrupted in the early sixth century BCE, when all those Negev sites were destroyed or abandoned, but there is evidence that it had revived by the end of the sixth century BCE and continued to the end of the Persian period. It has been suggested previously that this trade was controlled by the Qedarites. Lack of evidence for their presence in Edom, together with continued Edomite occupation at Busayra and Khalayfi – the two key sites along the old Arabian trade route through Edom –and the presence there of Attic imports indicates instead that it was the Edomite tribes who were once again running the trade through Edom and probably the Beersheba Valley and the central Negev highlands.

Chapter Contributors

  • Piotr Bienkowski ( - piotrb) 'Cultural Consultant, Co-Director International Umm al-Biyara Project'