The ruins of Byzantine Shivta, dominated by its three monumental churches, are visible from afar in the Negev Desert environment. They attract occasional visitors, tourists, pilgrims, and nomads who for centuries have recorded their personal marks and expressions in the form of written and pictorial graffiti. Commonly considered as vandalism, graffiti now is a recognized means of informal communication and recently has become an eligible field of research. The study of graffiti contributes to understanding social, cultural, religious, and even political contexts of ancient sites, and thereby they become an inseparable part of their history. This study surveys pre-modern pictorial graffiti discovered in Shivta and especially emphasizes two incised graffiti, a horse rider at the entrance to the North Church and an orans figure on the doorway of the ‘Governor’s House’ next to the Central Church. Published here for the first time, they constitute seldomly seen relics from the times when Shivta was still teeming with life. Discussed in context of their iconography, local and regional parallels, and spatial settings, these minute personal images seemingly reflect the main aspects of life in this desert settlement, religious and military, emerging from recent archaeological, artistic, and historical research of the site.
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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- Byzantine period
- christian graffiti
- horse rider
ASJC Scopus subject areas