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Mount Karkom

Date of Submission: 30/06/2000
Criteria: (iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Delegation Permanente d'Israel aupres de l'UNESCO
Coordinates: Lat. 30°18' N / Long. 34°44' E
Ref.: 1488

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Mount Karkom is in the southern Negev desert at the northern edge of Nahal Paran and provides among the world's best examples of rock engravings. Access to the mountain is difficult because of its sheer cliffs, which rise about 300 meters above the surroundings. The prominent plateau, some 800 meters above sea level, can be reached by means of two main ancient paths: one includes a passage of steps partly hewn in antiquity, and the other is snakelike, with concentrations of some of the some best rock engravings and pillars in a desert environment. An impressive 100 plus Paleolithic sites, mostly from the Middle Paleolithic period, were found on Mount Karkom. An abundance of excellent quality flints was found on the surface. Many flint tool workshops, containing numerous cores and flakes, as well as traces of huts from the period were found. Because of the desert conditions, the in situ sites and flakes and tools scattered around cores were found in an excellent state of preservation. The material collected so far indicates that in the Paleolithic period the mountain was an excellent source of raw material for the production of flint tools and an important meeting place. In the Late Chalcolithic, Early Bronze, and beginning of the Middle Bronze ages, the mountain was used as a pilgrimage, ceremonial, and cultic site: numerous rock engravings of religious significance were carved and massebot were set up. Many stone circles and tumuli were also erected, as was a structure that can probably be identified as a temple. After the period of intense occupation, the plateau was abandoned for about 800 years. According to the building remains, it was next occupied by desert inhabitants, who probably did not settle here permanently. The importance of the mountain is indicated by its finds, particularly from the Bronze Age Complex. The burial tumuli, stone circles and other megalithic structures, massebot, and rock engravings reveal that the mountain was sacred as an important cultic and religious center. The mountain exemplifies some of the world's best rock engravings, more than 100 of which have so far been identified from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Ages, Nabatean, Roman-Byzantine and beginning of the Early Arab periods. Outstanding here is the fact that the enclosures of the late Chalcolithis, Early Bronze, and the beginning of the Middle Bronze ages have rich remains of material culture together with an abundance of rock engravings. Similar examples of rock art in sites in the Sinai and Jordanian plateau are part of the same collection.