Biblical Archaeology Review 16:6, November/December 1990

How Ancient Man First Utilized the Rivers in the Desert

By Thomas E. Levy

In Rivers in the Desert, the famous American archaeologist and rabbi Nelson Glueck reported the results of his archaeological site survey in the Negev Desert from 1952 to 1964. Glueck himself explains the allure that drew him to this work:

“A blank space on a historical map is a constant challenge to the explorer and archaeologist. Its emptiness disturbs him. What role, if any, did it play in the development of civilization? …

“Every area on the face of the earth, be it seemingly ever so waste and empty, has a story behind it which the inquisitive sooner or later will attempt to obtain.”1

Glueck visited over 1,500 sites, and most of his identifications are still accepted.2 He was a pioneer in archaeological survey work. Based on what we have learned during the past 30 years, however, it is easy to see gaps and blank areas on Glueck’s maps—places he never visited. Glueck paid scant attention to smaller sites and those located far away from the main drainage systems that transect the desert.

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