Mampsis (Hebrew: ממשית‎) is the Nabataean city of Mamshit or Memphis (Ancient Greek: Μέμφις). In the Nabataean period, Mampsis was an important station on Incense Road, running from the Idumean Mountains, through the Arabah and Ma'ale Akrabim, and on to Beer-Sheva or to Hebron and Jerusalem. The city covers 10 acres (40,000 m2) and is the smallest but best restored city in the Negev Desert. The once-luxurious houses feature unusual architecture not found in any other Nabataean city.

The Mampsis Church
Mampsis is located in Israel
Shown within Israel
Alternative nameMamshit
LocationSouthern District, Israel
Coordinates31°01′30″N 35°03′50″E / 31.025°N 35.064°E / 31.025; 35.064Coordinates: 31°01′30″N 35°03′50″E / 31.025°N 35.064°E / 31.025; 35.064
Founded1st century BC
CulturesNabataean, Roman, Byzantine
Site notes
ConditionIn ruins
Official nameIncense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev (Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta)
Criteriaiii, v
Designated2005 (29th session)
Reference no.1107
State PartyIsrael
RegionEurope and North America

The reconstructed city gives the visitor a sense of how Mampsis once looked. Entire streets have survived intact, and there are also large groups of Nabataean buildings with open rooms, courtyards, and terraces. The stones are carefully chiseled and the arches that support the ceiling are remarkably well constructed.


Mampsis was founded in the 1st century BC as trade post between Petra and Gaza. Also based on agriculture, it continued to develop over time. When its trade with the Roman occupation waned the city developed a lucrative trade breeding fine horses, notably, the renowned Arabian horse. During the Byzantine period Mampsis received support from the authorities as a frontier city until the time of Justinian when this funding ceased and the city went into decline.

Before the founding of the State of Israel, Prime Minister to-be David Ben-Gurion saw Mampsis as the capital of the future country, which dovetailed with his dream of settling the Negev Desert.

Two churches were discovered in Mampsis. The western St. Nilus Church has a mosaic floor with colourful geometric patterns, birds, a fruit basket, and five dedications in Greek. The eastern church has a lectern on small marble pillars, the remnants of which can be seen at the site.

The biggest hoard of treasure ever found in Israel was discovered in Mampsis; 10,500 silver coins, a 72Kg, lead ingot with its foundry markings, a collection of ancient Greek texts on papyrus, and other objects indicative of wealthy people.

Mampsis was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in June 2005.


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