Dating archaeological sites in an arid environment: A multi-method case study in the Negev Highlands, Israel

Zachary C. Dunseth, Andrea Junge, Johanna Lomax, Elisabetta Boaretto, Israel Finkelstein, Markus Fuchs, Ruth Shahack-Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological surveys of the Negev Highlands show that the settlement history of this arid environment oscillated widely over time. This observation is almost entirely based on scant sherd assemblages from surveys, with only a few chronometric ages from one or two archaeological features at a given site. The reasons for the scarcity of chronometric ages include insufficient attention to radiocarbon dating in past research, low amounts of datable organic material for radiocarbon dating and issues related to low rate of site accumulation, and incomplete preservation of activity remains. In order to overcome these problems, we present here the results of a detailed chronometric radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating study exploring the development of Negev archaeological sites in the third millennium BCE. The study included micromorphological analyses to aid identification of sedimentological and post-depositional processes at the studied sites. At Nahal Boqer 66, one of many small Negev third millennium BCE sites, seven radiocarbon ages were determined from archaeological contexts that suggest repeated discontinuous activity throughout the Early Bronze (EB) and early part of the Intermediate Bronze Age (IBA) (c. 3300–2350 BCE). At Ein Ziq – one of a few large sites in the region – seven samples were dated; they show a very short period of activity in the beginning of the IBA (c. 2450–2200 BCE). OSL age determinations at this site provided evidence for the rapidity of site burial by sediment accumulation. Also, OSL ages from secure depositional contexts – verified via micromorphology – are in agreement with those obtained by radiocarbon dating. Taken together, the results provide new systematic evidence for the timing of EB–IBA activity in the arid Negev Highlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-169
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF; Grant No. I-1244-107.4/2014 to R.S-G. and M.F. as principal investigators and I.F. as co-investigator).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Arid environments
  • Early bronze age
  • Intermediate bronze age
  • Micromorphology
  • Negev Highlands
  • Optically stimulated luminescence
  • Radiocarbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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