Mamshit (Hebrew: ממשית) is the Nabataean city of Mampsis or Memphis (Ancient Greek: Μέμφις). In the Nabataean period, Mamshit 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 Mamshit Church
|Location||Southern District, Israel|
|Founded||1st century BC|
|Cultures||Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine|
|Official name||Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev (Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta)|
|Designated||2005 (29th session)|
|Region||Europe and North America|
The reconstructed city gives the visitor a sense of how Mamshit 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.
Mamshit was built in 1st century BC as trade post on the way from Petra to Gaza. with time the city was developed and based also on agriculture. When trade in Mamshit waned with the Roman occupation, the occupants found another way to make a living: raising horses. The residents of Mamshit bred the renowned Arabian horse, which brought great wealth to their city. During the Byzantine period Mamshit also received support from the authorities for being a frontier city. When this funding dried up, at the time of Justinian, the city died a natural death. Before the founding of the State of Israel, Prime Minister to-be David Ben-Gurion saw Mamshit as the capital of the future country, which dovetailed with his dream of settling the Negev Desert.
Two churches were discovered in Mamshit. The western St. Nilus Church has a mosaic floor with colorful 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 ever found in Israel was uncovered in Mamshit - 10500 silver coins, a lead ingot weighing 158 pounds with foundry signs, a papyrus cluster with ancient Greek texts, and other objects indicative of wealthy people.