Tagged: Anati, Anati_E, Ayn_Qudayrat, C.L.Woolley, Ein_Qudeirat, Har_Karkom, Jebel_el-Lawz, Jebel_Ideid, Kadesh-barnea, Karkom-Sinai_identity, Kerkeslager, Kerkeslager_A, moon-god_Sin, Mount_Sinai, Nabataeans, Nahal_Paran, patina, Ramon_Crater, rock_art, Seir, standing_stones, T.E.Lawrence, Vatican, Water_from_Rock, Wilderness_of_Paran, Wilderness_of_Sinai
Attributes of the proposed mountains
MemberDecember 30, 2020 at 7:08 pm
The footnote below from Beitzel’s Moody Bible Atlas is a little hard to read with its lengthy in-text references. It basically says that several mountain candidates exhibit features of the biblical Mount Sinai, but this is not sufficient ‘proof’ of identity.
Beitzel, Barry J. The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. New Ed. Chicago, IL: Moody, 2009.
[282 n.142] “Identifications of any particular location of Mt. Sinai based on specifics within the biblical text or alleged uniqueness of local rock formations are spurious at best. For example, it is ironic that J. Karkom (see E. Anati, “Mt. Sinai—in the Negev? Ancient Cult Center Discovered on Desert Peak,” in M. D. Meinhardt, ed., Mysteries of the Bible: From the Garden of Eden to the Shroud of Turin, [Washington D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 2004], 47–69) in northern Sinai and J. el-Lawz (see A. Kerkeslager, “Mt. Sinai—in Arabia? Ancient Jewish Tradition Locates Holy Mountain,” in M. D. Meinhardt, ed., Mysteries of the Bible: From the Garden of Eden to the Shroud of Turin, [Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 2004], 33–46) in modern Saudi Arabia are both claimed to be the “real mountain of God” precisely because of the discovery of some of the same features at both places:
(1) a “cleft in the rock” (Ex. 33:21–23; Anati, 59; Kerkeslager, 40);
(2) an “altar with 12 standing stones” (Ex. 24:4; Anati, 51, 58; Kerkeslager, 40);
(3) a “cave” on the side of the mountain (Ex. 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8–13; Anati, 67–68; Kerkeslager, 40);
(4) evidence of burned rock or ashes at the top of the mountain (Ex. 19:18; Anati, 68; Kerkeslager, 41);
(5) large open space near the foot of the respective mountain, capable of accommodating the encamped Israelites (Anati, 54; Kerkeslager, 40); and
(6) the presence of rock drawings or rock art near the foot of the mountain, indicating the presence of a large company of people (Anati, 52; Kerkeslager, 40).”
To this list of expected features could be added some kind of notable rock for “the rock in Horeb” (Ex 17:6).
MemberJanuary 3, 2021 at 9:48 pm
I think it makes better sense to search the idea of the two places that might meet the criteria rather than one place on the wrong side of the sea that absolutely doesn’t meet the criteria; or is that logic bogus?
I think there’s too much pressure on scholars to continue trying to support and or prove traditional ideas that if tossed might be feared to discredit so much previous effort, individuals, institutions, and FUNDING.
The reality is: so much of the traditional research I grew up with was so bogus and far off it made no sense to me, even when I was a child; and it wasn’t even laughable.
In fact much of the research was so far off it lent itself to discrediting the entire bible, and the disregard of all of the word of God, furthermore, that discredit and disregard were capitalized upon by marxism, socialism, communism, and other social , humanistic, and many anti-Judeao-Christian movements/organizations, culminating in a tremendous falling away of believers.
Contrarily, I believe much of the work compiled and exposed by the Patterns of Evidence effort, and so many modern scholars it highlights have taken such advantageous opportunity with such magnificent technology and information access, that it clearly becomes not just believable, but pretty much suggests that disbelief is an act of blatant disregard for wisdom and lazy-minded apathy.
So I’ve learned to have such an enormous respect for todays scholars who put their life’s work, reputation, and future prospects on the line for the rest of us to benefit. And imagine, some are in the wrong hole, in the wrong country, cracking and sifting dirt for a life time only to come up to prove just that and perhaps the wrong idea, but even that in the end aids in the process of elimination. They really are on the warfront protecting, defending and fortifying the faith of believers and become a sanctuary of the same faith for others to come into the church and believe in. They have my prayers and deepest respect.
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 2:19 am
Hi James. Which “one place on the wrong side of the sea” do you refer to? Yes, the state of biblical history is dire, hence this forum and Tim’s documentary series to try to reverse the trend.
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 8:50 pm
With respect to Mt Sinai, I was referring to wrong one as the one near the tip of the shark’s tooth between Suez and and the gulf of Aqaba, commonly referred to as Mt Sinai even today.
Sometimes thinking outside the box eliminates the answer. But like I said, tis not all a waste because the process of elimination serves to strengthen the prospects and evidence elsewhere, like inside the box.
MemberJanuary 5, 2021 at 8:31 am
It is surprising that Mount Sinai is still not conclusively identified. The location of the other central site of the wilderness era, Kadesh-barnea, was finally verified in 1920 (with Woolley and Lawrence’s 2014 survey of the Ayn Qudayrat region) after several decades of exploration and debate. Yet here we are a full century later with no site that satisfies all the geographical data for Mount Sinai. We need new information to make progress with this problem.
MemberFebruary 12, 2021 at 11:54 pm
I will write this here because I don’t know which discussion it fits.
All the effort to locate Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia: What use is it? How does it help? Is it preaching? How does it convert people? So what? Now what?
The Arabian candidates in the Hejaz (al-Lawz, Hala al-Badr etc) do not make any better sense of the routes and stations of the Israelite journeys than Jebel Musa did. They don’t identify more biblical sites, if anything fewer, and create confusion re the long-established location of Kadesh-barnea which works *in every other way* historically and biblically. Rainclouds without rain, for a biblical allusion (Jud 1:6). If you want to get excited about Moses and Mount Sinai and you don’t mind if the site fixes the itinerary or not, go and climb Jebel Musa and see the sunrise. At least you can get into Egypt more easily. And it is a better view. And the monastery is amazing.
I don’t get this obsession with al-Lawz seeing as it seems to be a dead end for research. The true location of Mount Sinai should be the key to unlock the wilderness itinerary, the breakthrough in the puzzle of Pentateuchal geography. But all we have out of the Beke-Musil-Caldwell-Cornuke-Williams-Wyatt-MooreCross-Humphreys-Richardson-Fritz-Rudd-Mauro (did I miss anyone?) pot-boiler is a whole lot of sensationalism but no progress. The wanderings remain mysterious, the texts geographically inscrutable. We have no more information about Early Israel with which to demonstrate that the biblical narratives are historical. I don’t know what the aim is, but the outcome is not historical apologetics.
MemberFebruary 20, 2021 at 10:45 am
Rather than focusing on the various archaeological remains and geological features of the mountain candidates (e.g. split rocks, altars, black-top, cave etc), the argument should look to the geographical location and whether it fulfils the biblical criteria. There are several posts on the problems with the location of Jebel al-Lawz on another thread (linked below).
I expect in the next of Tim’s documentary, Patterns of Evidence: The Journey to Mount Sinai, there will be a segment on Har Karkom as a candidate for Mount Sinai. Har Karkom is a late runner in the contest. In 1955, Emmanuel Anati, then an archaeology student but now a paleoethnologist professor, found a great concentration of ancient dwelling and cultic remains around an obscure mountain in the Central Negev. In 1980 he found the mountain again and returned to survey it. He wondered how such an important site could be unknown to the Bible, and in 1983 proposed it to be the biblical Mount Sinai. Anati has been surveying and publishing the archaeology of the mountain and its environs ever since, nearly 40 years.
Here are two ways in which Har Karkom fulfils the biblical criteria for the location of the holy mount:
1. Har Karkom lies within the great Paran river-catchment of the Central and Southern Negev, overlooking the floodplain of Nahal Paran. This fulfils the requirement that Mount Sinai is also called Mount Paran in two poetic texts:
Deu 33:2 He said: The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran. With him were myriads of holy ones; at his right, a host of his own.
Hab 3:3 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. [Selah] His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
According to the itinerary of the Sinai-to-Kadesh journey, the Wilderness of Paran lies adjacent to the Wilderness of Sinai:
Num 10:12 Then the Israelites set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai, and the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran.
In Solomon’s time, Hadad the Edomite passed through Paran on his way from Midian to Egypt, indicating a location in the Southern Negev.
1Ki 11:17-18 Hadad fled to Egypt with some Edomites who were servants of his father. He was a young boy at that time. (18) They set out from Midian and came to Paran; they took people with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, assigned him an allowance of food, and gave him land.
Thus, Har Karkom is the only mountain associated with Israel’s identification of the Wilderness of Paran.
2. Har Karkom is also in Seir West. All biblical references taken together locate Seir as a mountainous region on both sides of the Arabah. When the Israelites attempted to invade Southern Canaan from Kadesh, the Canaanites, Amorites and Amalekites came out against them and defeated them “in Seir, as far as Hormah” (Deut 1:44; cf. Num 14:45). Thus, Seir must be south of Canaan on the west side of the Arabah, notwithstanding other references which locate Seir on the east side.
MemberFebruary 20, 2021 at 11:26 am
Rather than focusing on the various archaeological remains and geological features of the mountain candidates (e.g. split rocks…
That big split rock brings a smile to my face. But, unless it was hollow or open at the top like a glass or a big bird bath, or had internal piping from the bottom forcing water up into, it would have required a super size miracle to get water out of it. Why people even think of this as a possible source for water… I don’t know. Got a lot to do though…
MemberFebruary 20, 2021 at 11:27 pm
To be able to strike rockface and have water gush out as the Bible seems to describe, and also to have perpetually flowing springs, you need to be in a limestone region where rainfall can penetrate and ‘saturate’ the rock, dissolve the rock to create karstic channels, and feed local underground aquifers which maintain ‘pressure’ to the springs. Without these natural phenomena, you need to assume a completely spectacular miracle. Let’s not go down the path of that debate again :-/ … but let me just note here that there is a great reservoir of ‘fossil’ water under the Karkom Plateau.
'Drinking Water from Under the Arava" from Teva Ha-Dvarim, Dec 2001, no. 74, p. 20.
“An underground reservoir of water of good quality has been found recently under Nahal Karkom, south of the Ramon Crater. The reservoir is not connected to any of the great underground reservoirs found in the Negev 20 years ago. The reservoir is 1000 m below the surface and it contains high quality water — the concentration of salts in the water is similar to that of the Kinneret. / This is good news for the settlements in the Negev and Southern Arava Valley, whose locations far from Israel’s water sources has created difficulties in water supplies. According to estimates made by Israel’s water company, Mekorot, it will be possible to take advantage of the Karkom area for drilling wells of great depth for a long period of time. The water can be transported to the settlements in the Arava and possibly even Mizpe Ramon. At the moment the town gets its water from the national water carrier, and thus the people of Mizpe Ramon are drinking water from the Kinneret, located hundreds of kilometers distant. / So far there is no exact estimate of the amount of water in the [Karkom] reservoir but it will be possible to pump a steady amount of water of several million cubic meters every year, approximately the amount used by Eilat, which gets its water from desalination plants next to the town. / The use of the Karkom reservoir will eventually be used up because it is a one-time reservoir to which water does not penetrate. It appears that water flowed into it in early periods from the edges of the Ramon Crater and sank down to a layer of sand, From here the water continues to move southwards in the direction of the Arava and there they are exploited. The problem is that the water pumped in the Arava is very salty and of a poor quality.”
MemberFebruary 20, 2021 at 11:36 pm
This comment on the above article by Dr Tali Gini, IAA archaeologist and senior researcher in the Negev. Tali will appear in interviews in the upcoming Journey to Mount Sinai episode of the Patterns of Evidence series.
From this we know that there was enough water to create a flow that easily lasted over a year, and since the region has active faults it must have pushed up the same way the ground water was pushed up at Moa [or Moyat ‘Awad in the Central Arabah after an earthquake] in 1996. Of course in both cases the water receded within a year or so as underground pressure receded. And it was good water. Take that into account. All the wells in the south are saline to some extent or another and the only sweet water is collected into cisterns and there aren’t many of those.
MemberFebruary 21, 2021 at 12:43 pm
The mention of “Ramon Crater” (which I haven’t heard of before) in your quote above, led me to do some research on it. https://hikingintheholyland.com/2018/11/25/ramon-crater-nekarot-horseshoe-loop/ It wasn’t an impact crater or a volcanic one either.
There are other interesting articles about it too. Seeing the Ibexes in the photos in the article and reading about the water in the area heightened my interest in the geology, geography etc of the area. I wondered about the Israelites perhaps wandering through many years ago. An article referenced a Nabatean village also in the area. It is getting more interesting.
MemberFebruary 21, 2021 at 11:37 pm
Thomas, the Ramon Crater marks the great E-W watershed of the Central Negev Highlands. By far the largest of three erosional cirques in the Negev, it is about 40 km long (WSW-ENE), 10 km wide (N-S), and is shaped like a long arrowhead pointing WSW. It forms a formidable obstacle to passage through the Central Negev Highlands, an obstacle that the Nabataean traders had to overcome when the Romans shut down their trade routes to Gaza passing around the crater. The Ramon crater has particular biblical significance because all land to the north of the crater is the Wilderness of Zin and all to the south is the Wilderness of Paran. The Kadesh district to the WNW of the crater represents the western interface between these two wildernesses; thus, the biblical accounts locate Kadesh-barnea in both the Wilderness of Paran (Num 13:3, 26) and the Wilderness of Zin (Num 20:1; 27:14; 33:36; Deut 32:51). So, as with all other geographical aspects of the exodus and conquest, the data are reliable.
MemberFebruary 20, 2021 at 11:43 pm
To the above post re Har Karkom being in the Nahal Paran catchment, I should have added this paragraph:
In 1950, some 30 years before Anati suggested that Har Karkom might be Mount Sinai, the Israel Governmental Names Commission renamed Wadi Jirafi as Nahal Paran for biblical and historical reasons (Pliny, Ptolemy, Josephus, Eusebius). Wadi Jirafi / Nahal Paran has its sources in the Harey Elath (the mountains to the west of Elath) and drains a large area NNE towards the Central Aravah. The Paran basin basically defines the whole Southern Negev. Har Karkom is in the northwest quadrant of this region, in the highlands component of the drainage basin. As above, the prominent ‘finger’ of the Karkom Plateau protrudes southward into the Paran floodplain and can be seen at great distances in many directions.
MemberFebruary 24, 2021 at 9:56 pm
RE BLACKENED ROCKS AS EVIDENCE OF BURNING:
I posted this comment on Dan Greer’s update, but updates tend to sink in the news feed and cannot be found again. Here is the link anyway https://historicalfaithsociety.com/news-feed/p/17691/ I will post the comment here again as it relates to the subject of the black-top on Jebel al Lawz-Maqla and its significance to the identity of Mount Sinai. Also I can format the footnotes somewhat.
No rocks can be burned, Dan, only heated. If rocks go black in fire it is because of organic matter that has been burned with them, depositing carbon on the surface. Reducing the search for Mount Sinai (in this video) to darkened rocks and an erosion basin at the base of a mountain (not required by the narrative) and the remains of some undated campsites (so common throughout the region) is sadly off-base. Darkened rocks are a feature of the whole region: the rocks get progressively darker with time. The colour is called patina. There seem to be a couple of ways it can form (organic and mineral deposits), as in the references below:
“Another method for determining the antiquity of rock drawings is “the thickness of the patina, the hard dark layer that forms on the surface of desert rocks. In ancient carvings, the colour of the patina is similar to that of the surrounding rock, while in more recent carvings the patina is a lighter shade than its surroundings. The patina seems to be created by the secretions of micro-organisms, composed mainly of mucous covered with dust.”
Shalmon, P. “Pet Rocks.” Eretz Geographic Magazine, Mar/Apr 1996.
Patina (or patina), a thin crust (5 μm–1 mm) that develops on Negev limestone (including the Avdat ridge and Har Michia) is composed of iron, manganese oxides, quartz, clays and carbonates. Patina on boulders and re-patination of petroglyphs is highly affected by daily and seasonal variation in temperature, precipitation, wind direction and atmospheric dust, and the size and physical character of the underlying rock, (Krumbein and Jens 1981; Pope et al. 2002; Schneider and Bierman 1997) [16–18]. Therefore comparisons between patina shades were limited to single surfaces. Single surfaces, i.e., panels, present minimal change in inclination and are as constant a surface as can be found in the Negev desert. The governing factor followed is that the darker the patina, the longer it has taken for it to form (Krunbein and Jens 1981) . Applying varying degrees of pressure or using different tools may penetrate the patina to different depths resulting in diverse patina shades (Macdonald 1981) . In an attempt to compare like data, the technique used was noted. (For further discussions regarding patina formation see Dorn 1998, Fleisher et al. 1999; Liu and Broecker 2000) [20–22].
Eisenberg-Degen, Davida, and Steven A. Rosen. “Chronological Trends in Negev Rock Art: The Har Michia Petroglyphs as a Test Case.” Arts 2, no. 4 (2013): 225–52.
“At the nearby main site of Janin, one of those in the Kingdom that are protected by long steel fences, the patination of a zoomorph resembling an antelope was sampled for accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon analysis. The result, 1820 ± 50 years BP (OZF900) was, however, regarded as an inconclusive and conservative minimum date, because of the inherently open carbon system of such deposits (Bednarik, Khan 2005, pp. 61-62).”
NB: the al-Lawz site is not the only archaeological site that is fenced off.
Bednarik, Robert G., and Majeed Khan. “A Chronology of Saudi Arabian Rock Art.” In Prospects for the Prehistoric Art Research: 50 Years Since the Founding of Centro Camuno, edited by Federico Troletti. Capo di Ponte: Centro Camuno Di Studi Preistorici, 2015.
“In contrast to other sites of rock art in the Saudi desert, no artifacts were found here that could help date Camel Site, which was explored in 2016 and 2017. Also, <b style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;”>patination (formation of a mineral film) and erosion have almost entirely destroyed the tool marks.”
Schuster, Ruth. “2,000-Year-Old Life-Size Camel Art Found in Heart of Saudi Arabian Desert.” Haaretz, February 13, 2018.
“The survey area is comprised of limestone hills; one of its characteristic features is concentrations of rocks with a dark crust or patina, comprised of micro-organisms, clay minerals, and oxides and hydroxides of iron and/or manganese. These rocks appear as layers, outcrops, or separate boulders, and may occur in riverbeds, mountaintops or on the slopes.
“A special characteristic of these dark rocks is that when their patina is scratched, the light color of the stone is revealed. Ancient inhabitants of the region were familiar with this and by pecking, incising or carving, removed the patina to create various designs. The etched scenes are clearly visible due to the contrast between the dark patina and the light-colored stone.
“Petroglyphs in the Negev were carved over an immensely long period of time, and in many cases individual rock panels were repeatedly incised at different times. But since new patina is continually formed on the rock face, older engravings gradually turn dark until they eventually regain the original color of the patina that covers the entire surface. In cases of multiple engravings on the same rock surface, the different hues of the etched scenes and their overlap may make it possible to discern the order in which the scenes were engraved.”
Schwimmer, Lior, and Yuval Yekutieli. “Visitors from the Intermediate Bronze Age? Crescent Headed Figures in Negev Rock Art.” The ASOR Blog (blog), December 12, 2017. http://asorblog.org/2017/12/12/visitors-intermediate-bronze-age-crescent-headed-figures-negev-rock-art/.
MemberFebruary 26, 2021 at 8:29 pm
Just copying the rest of the comments over from Dan’s update, which doesn’t show in the News Feed after the first post:
Thank you for your response, Deborah! I appreciate your thoroughness. I will look it over and learn a bit more in the process.
Also, by the “whole region,” were you referring to the Jabal al-Maqla peak, the Jabal al-Lawz area, or even areas outside of this (the surrounding area outside of Jabal al-Lawz)?
The patina effect applies across the Arabian region, Dan. The quotes above are taken from articles referring to both Sinai-Negev and Arabia.
I guess I was referring to specifically how many mountain tops in the area exhibit the same blackened color as al-Maqla. Just a curiosity question on my part. It seems the scorched peak theory doesn’t work, but would be interesting if this is the only mountain top that’s blackened.
Dan, you can check it out in Google Earth Pro. Here are the co-ords for Jebel al Lawz 28°39’15.29″N 28°39’15.29″N, enter them into the search bar and fly around if you know how. Tick the ‘Terrain’ box in the L bottom bar to get 3D. There is a lot of darkened rock in the range of which Lawz-Maqla is part with the characteristic patina hue visible in the satellite imagery. To the south and northeast are large black mountains. East there is a plateau of red earth through which ran the trade-routes. Nothing particularly stands out as unusual in the area which seems to be very geologically mixed.
MemberFebruary 27, 2021 at 10:49 pm
and a couple more comments in the update:
Google Maps seems to work in Satellite mode too. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
Any thoughts on the rubbing the rock, emitting a burnt or charcoal scent? Just wondering if that’s what they actually are smelling in the video, and if so, why would it smell that way?
If the patina is of the mineral kind there will be no organic smell. If the patina is from microorganisms (and I have only one claim to that effect, as above) then it is possible that rubbing it may produce a smell. I have never tried rubbing and smelling a patinated stone surface… I will be sure to try if and when I am ever back in the desert. As I have stated many times on this forum, we cannot establish the location of Mount Sinai by ambiguous features. The location can only be established by historical geography, that is, a holistic consideration of *all* the biblical and geographical data. If we have to deny, discount, or distort any of the biblical and geographic data in making our case for one of the mountains, then we 1. either have the wrong site, or 2. we are misunderstanding the evidence.
MemberMarch 25, 2021 at 12:39 am
Some features of Har Karkom.
I would repeat here that the identity of Mount Sinai is NOT established by its features but its location; nonetheless, these details are of interest:
Har Karkom is the ‘prow’ of the Hill Country when approaching from the south through the Paran basin, as mentioned.
Its long flat profile dominates the horizon like a ship (barge) when looking from the eastern hemisphere.
It has a pyramid or horn-shaped prominence at the southern (front) end. Both these are evocative cultic images in the ANE.
The main promontory into the western valley (the campground) looks like a sphinx, complete with a human face in profile and extended ‘arms’ like a crouching lion. Another evocative ANE cultic image.
It is eery and other-worldly on top of the plateau, which is about 2 km wide (E-W) and 4 km long (N-S).
The surface is covered with flint hammada which has been cleared in circles in places for paleolithic flint workshops.
There is also a large plaza to the north of the plateau covered with small black volcanic balls (pumice?) which have largely disappeared into tourists’ packs.
From the middle of the Karkom plateau you can see nothing below or around the mountain except the two low peaks rising only to about 70 m from the plateau towards the southern edge.
The two peaks are close to each other. From the east (coming from the eastern ascent and the paleolithic flint sanctuary as described below) they look like the breasts of a reclining woman.
From any other angle and definitely from above, it is clear that one peak is phallus-shaped and one is vulva-shaped (are we shocked yet?). Anati calls them the male and female peaks.
On the main trail up from the western campground, at the exact point where the male peak on the plateau first becomes visible, there is an ancient gal-ed (a round tumulus, “heap of witness” as per Gen 31:48) beside the path. Anati excavated this tumulus: it is not a grave; it had an altar within it.
This is also where the “10 Commandments” rock art engraving was found (on a rocky outcrop back from the trail).
On top of the plateau are many ancient standing stones, altars, shrines and open-air temples, rock engravings often with distinctly religious intent, graves (tumuli), cup-marks, and geoglyphs (large animal shapes traced by stones, generally visible only from the air (i.e. from drones, planes).
On the far eastern side of the plateau, there is a large black tumulus overlooking the Nahal Paran floodplain that is also visible from below. Anati excavated it: it is not a grave; it contained an altar and a large white semi-circular stone like a half-moon. Anati calls this tumulus the “monument to Sin” (the moon-god) for which the mountain is probably named. The eastern aspect of the tumulus where one could clearly see the moon rise over the mountains of Edom supports his proposal.
Nahal Karkom drains the peaks and the plateau westward into the western campground, and northward past Beer Karkom.
Nahal Saggi drains the peaks and the southern edge of the plateau southward.
These wadyun are both within the Nahal Paran catchment (Mount Sinai is also known as Mount Paran).
The western valley (where the sphinx is) has many dwelling and cultic remains from the key eras represented in the Central and Southern Negev.
The Roman Road to Aila (Elath) of the Tabula Peutingeriana (map) for the section between Avdat (Oboda) and Yotvata (Ad Dianum) passed right through the western campground of Har Karkom (Aharoni 1954). There are Romano-Byzantine remains in the campground.
It seems we are dealing with a very ancient pagan holy site, holy since the dawn of human history and the earliest migration westward. Along the way, the mountain has gained several names, one cultic (Sin-ai: ‘of Sin’), one secular (Horeb: ‘crumbling, dry’), and one geographical (Paran: i.e. in the wilderness of Paran). At some stage, it became sacred to the Semites in the area (Jethro the priest of Midian, Ex 18) and was known to them, and later to Israel, as Har ha-Elohim (mount of God, Ex 3:1; 18:5; cf. 1 Kgs 19:8). Moses had no objections to re-purposing it for the worship of YHWH (if it wasn’t already).
Its Arabic name is Jebel Ideid, “mount of the congregation/celebration”. And then for a short while in the 1950s it was Har Geshur. And now Har Karkom. I aim to get it renamed Har Sinai 🙂
All these features and many more are documented in Anati’s prolific archaeological survey reports and his published books.
Yet the scholars seem to dismiss this candidate and give it very little coverage. Why? I actually would like to know. I think all other candidates for Mount Sinai shape up very poorly in comparison to the deep-time sacred nature of this site as abundantly revealed in the archaeological evidence.
MemberMarch 25, 2021 at 12:46 am
Here is an excerpt from my diary of the Karkom archaeological survey, dated 11 April 2004.
“We saw many standing stones, rock art and shrines. Some were damaged. The hikers push them over or re-arrange the stones. Anati seems less distressed about this than I thought he would be. We went right across the plateau to the eastern side, to the Paleolithic sanctuary, where there is a great view of Nahal Paran, and the hills of Edom, 75 km away. The Paleolithic sanctuary is at the head of a difficult trail up to the mountain from the eastern (Paran) valley and consists of many large flint cores which have been stood on end to resemble a crowd of people. Flint cores tend to come in strange fluid shapes and have rich rust- and ochre-coloured patina. Many of these stones have been chosen for their human-like form. This site is also now damaged. Some of the flint cores have been toppled, others erected and hikers have built their own figures by balancing stones on top. Anati asked me to take them all down.
“We had a small break and ate our snacks here overlooking the hazy grey deeply grooved wasteland of the Paran Valley. Xxxxxx pointed out the area of the airforce firing range that we drove through with yyyy in ’98. I had some questions and doubts about the mountain which today were mostly cleared. I asked Anati why this mountain was holy when it did not appear to be particularly impressive or prominent. He explained that Indo-European people expect their holy sites to be visible, external and awesome. The Semitic concept of ‘holy’ is hidden, modest and private (like the word harem). Therefore Har Karkom is anomalous to most, including modern Israelis, who doubt that an obscure mountain in their own back yard could be their principal holy site after Mount Zion.
Although Karkom is the major plateau of the southern Negev Heights and can be seen from the southern rim of the Ramon crater and from all along the mountains of Edom, there are other higher peaks nearby. Har Saggi and Jebel Araif en-Naqa (on the Egyptian side, hence the Arabic name) are higher and more ‘compact’, but neither of these is holy to the Arabs and has no ancient cultic remains. It makes sense to me that Karkom has been holy for millennia and yet is tucked away, for the Temple Mount is also nested among other higher hills and is not geographically impressive. I am very relieved at this new perspective. There is no doubt from the archaeology of the area that these two insignificant peaks on top of a flinty wasteland plateau are a major Semitic holy site… but for what reason? It seems it was already a holy site when it was first introduced into the record as “the Mount of God, Horeb” (Ex 3:1), and there are camping remains and sacred rock art here from the dawn of history.”
MemberMarch 27, 2021 at 8:06 pm
Along the way, the mountain has gained several names, one cultic
(Sin-ai: ‘of Sin’), one secular (Horeb: ‘crumbling, dry’), and one
geographical (Paran: i.e. in the wilderness of Paran). At some stage, it
became sacred to the Semites in the area (Jethro the priest of Midian,
Ex 18) and was known to them, and later to Israel, as Har ha-Elohim
(mount of God, Ex 3:1; 18:5; cf. 1 Kgs 19:8).
Of course that makes me want to ask, Deborah, is Har Karkom a particularly or distinctively crumbling or dry mountain compared with others in the area or that are in contention for the Mount Sinai title? I recognize that this isn’t a clincher argument but circumstantial evidence does sometimes shift the focus in one direction or another. And since you’ve been there, you might be in a good position to talk about that phrase. Also, have any of the other archaeologists that you’ve been around ever talk about that angle, or that phrase? I’d suppose the well-known archaeologist that you mentioned who has traveled the area extensively would have also had thoughts about that word “Horeb” and may have shared his insights/thoughts about that name.
MemberMarch 28, 2021 at 6:45 am
Thomas, yes Har Karkom is ‘dry’ of course (a desert area) but also crumbling, as per the meaning of חֹרֵב. Here is Anati’s UCSD talk in 2013 just after he held the Karkom-Sinai colloquium in Israel and a field-trip for about 200 people. Watch from 4:00 min for his mention of Horeb as ‘crumbling’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUZIRSQn-gU See also from 6:25 min for a picture of the two peaks on top of the Karkom plateau, from the east like breasts and from above to show how they are ‘male’ and ‘female’ shaped. It is extraordinarily clear, and Anati also found a large standing stone on the top of the male peak as if to emphasise the allusion. It is clear that the geographical symbology was not lost on the prehistoric pagan visitors.
MemberMarch 28, 2021 at 9:36 pm
Interesting Deborah. Professor Anati kept referencing a two book set or a couple of books that had more details. I was disappointed that the talk was cut short by the moderator. Due to my lack of knowledge I’ll not make any comments, except to note that the crumbling of the mountain is certainly established. I also recollect a scripture that while Elijah on the mountain of God that wind tore the rocks apart. Also it seems that there were lots of rocks shown in the video and discussed that would have been suitable for tablets for writing things … like commandments. Not sure if all this fits with Tim’s timeline. But I’ll have to check what Tim’s timeline is … I always forget all these ages … bronze, iron and whatever else. But lest I go on…I’ll cease writing and try and learn. Are there publicly available scholarly papers … and the two volumes discussed are they available? I’m not sure if Anati even mentioned the names of the volumes directly …
MemberMarch 28, 2021 at 10:32 pm
Prof Anati is a prolific publisher, 100s of books, articles, survey reports. Har Karkom is not his main research interest. He is a paleoethnographer, i.e. a rock art and ancient culture specialist so his work is global. In 1955 when he first visited the mount it was still called Jebel Ideid, and his interest was in the huge collection of rock art on and around the mountain. He started surveying the region in 1980, and in 1983, after discovering a set of 12 standing stones in the Western Valley in front of the ‘sphinx’ promontory, conceived of the notion that the mountain may be Mount Sinai. His first ‘public’ (English) proposal was in the BAR, so if you have a BAS Library subscription you can view it here:
Anati, Emmanuel. “Has Mt. Sinai Been Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review 11, no. 4 (August 1985): 42–57. https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-archaeology-review/11/4/2
Very shortly he developed his proposal further, publishing the large heavy colour-plate book:
Anati, Emmanuel. Har Karkom: The Mountain of God. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 1986.
It seems that the slides he shows in this UCSD presentation are pages from that book. I bought online an old library copy, the postage to Aust was $$, but I have to have one for my research. I have others of his books in hard copy and a 2017 pdf version of his 2013 book:
Anati, Emmanuel. The Riddle of Mount Sinai: Archaeological Discoveries at Har Karkom. 2nd Eng ed. Studi Camuni 21. Capo di Ponte: Atelier, 2017.
Here is his Karkom website: https://www.harkarkom.com/ It needs some maintenance… a few broken links… but there is still a lot there. His article re the moon god Sin is new to me, I will read and save that now.
Anati has surveyed the 200 sq. km concession around the mountain every year for 30 yrs (1980-2011), sometimes twice a year. Unlike many archaeologists, he has published all his data despite very little funding. After Moses, he is *the* old man of the mountain and we/I owe him a huge debt.
I do not agree with Anati’s routes. I think he took a wrong turn twice, once from Egypt at exodus (he went NE), and once from Mount Sinai in the second year (he went SE), and after that nothing worked. But the defence for the mountain’s identity from archaeology and general geography reveals his great Negev-Sinai expertise and his grasp of the archaeological significance of this unusual site. He has been very badly treated by scholars over the decades. For some reason, there seems to be immense hostility to the idea of a ‘real’ Mount Sinai rather than a kind of legendary one, or perhaps because it is within Israel’s borders… I don’t quite understand why.
MemberMarch 29, 2021 at 11:43 am
The set of two books that Anati refers to are the tomes of all the data from the archaeological surveys of 30 years. He writes: “All the survey was published In two volumes (Har Karkom, 2009; and Beer Karkom, 2010) as part of the Archaeological Survey of Israel. Every recorded site can be found there according to the geographical coordinates.” I think in the end there were 13,000 archaeological sites in the 200 sq. km square around the mountain. Probably the majority is rock art, though there are also 1000s of dwelling and cultic installations. As he says, most people will not be able to access these books (in the IAA library) and won’t be able to get a sense of them either. It’s just the data, site by site. But there are easier ways to understand what’s there… read one of his summary books or articles, or his website http://www.harkarkom.com. As he says at the end of his UCSD talk, “If this is *not* Mount Sinai, what is it?!”
MemberMarch 30, 2021 at 7:30 pm
I think in the end there were 13,000 archaeological sites in the 200 sq. km square around the mountain.
For a moment I had my head buried in my hands. I wanted to find out how many tabs to internet websites I had open. I created a new window. And then with FireFox I clicked the close button to find out how many tabs I had opened. FireFox web browser asked me “Do you really want to close 466” tabs? But I was just testing the browser to see how many open tabs I had.
I have my browser set to reopen the tabs when I restart my computer. Why did I put the quote up that I did? If I was able to string a joke together properly, I might have have made some comparison to the suggestions that you brought forth about numbers in the old testament sometimes trending larger than seems reasonable. In this case, though I found some statement somewhere (By Anati that the number of archaeological sites was 1,300) which is one tenth, or an order of magnitude smaller. That reminds me of some of my concerns about the US government debt, (which I was worried about since I was a teenager very roughly 35+ years ago). Sometimes I think “A trillion dollars here and a trillion dollars there — soon you are talking about real money!” My point is large numbers often tend to be incomprehensible.
So there is no judgment. Just I think the numbers were smaller from something I believe I read from Anati (but to my embarrassment I scanned so much material that I don’t want to backtrack to quote it to make an official supported “nail-tight” argument). And this leads me back to a point you have repeatedly made. At some point somewhere did a Biblical scribe somehow move some decimal point or somehow get confused? I might need an extreme amount of proof before believing this happened… but I admit that your belief that somehow some numbers in scripture got inflated in one way or another … is a hard problem for me to deal with. But it is not one that I’m going to quickly concede without substantial proof.
If “ironically” is the right word, your mistake which (maybe????) no one else here caught, Maybe your mistake “ironically” shows how numbers can somehow get accidentally inflated?
But as I said, I’ve got 466 tabs open on various topics. I can’t spend the time to research this question to “prove” my point, but I’m fairly confident that Anati spoke about 1,300 sites in the area. IF papers were written on each of these archaeological websites would I have the time, or dedication to read them? I’m exhausted with learning and various life challenges as it is.
Still I appreciate your great contributions to the HFS website, Deborah.
MemberMarch 31, 2021 at 6:34 am
Well spotted, Thomas, it is indeed 1300 sites. As you observe, it is so easy to inflate figures by powers of ten, which seems to be what has also happened to a lot of the OT numbers. The good outcome is that I had to look up some of Anati’s latest publications to check: Here is his 2017 update on the 2001 “Riddle of Mount Sinai”:
Anati, Emmanuel. The Riddle of Mount Sinai: Archaeological Discoveries at Har Karkom. 2nd Eng ed. Studi Camuni 21. Capo di Ponte: Atelier, 2017.
 The annual expeditions have allowed the systematic
surveying of the 200 square kilometers of our
archaeological concession. Each research season added
new findings and stimulated the rethinking of previous
discoveries. Each new visit to an already surveyed site
provided new insight and additional information.
In 1980, when we started this survey, the ten rock art
sites discovered in 1954 were the only archaeological
finds known in the area. Today, over 1,300 archaeological
sites have been recorded. These include the remains of
villages, campsites, places of worship, rock art areas,
inhabited rock shelters, burial grounds, geoglyphs and
In 1983, thirty years after the first archaeological
discoveries and relying on the data collected in four
years of field surveys, we suggested the possible
identification of Har Karkom with the biblical Mount
Sinai. Over three decades have elapsed since then and
the debate still continues.
The proposal aroused a lively debate caused by
both scientific and emotional reasons. Biblical experts,
historians and Near Eastern archaeologists had opposite
 positions about this hypothesis. At first, the majority
of researchers were definitely against the proposed
identification, raising a sharp opposition against such
hypothesis and creating a sort of wall of anger against
the upsetting of their established conceptions. The
opposition gradually decreased, even though traditional
exegetic schools still consider such proposal as a sort of
Most scholars today accept the evidence that Har
Karkom was a paramount sacred mountain in the
Bronze Age and in earlier periods but, like all good
historical discourse, the controversy is not solved. Is
this the mountain that the Bible calls Sinai? What are the
arguments in favor of and against such a hypothesis?
How can the archaeological discoveries help us to
 solve the questions regarding what happened on this
MemberApril 19, 2021 at 1:10 am
I found Anati’s figure for the numbers of rock images on and around Har Karkom, 35,000! Better quote him so I don’t get it wrong:
Various. “A Line, a God, a Stick or a Snake? Professor Jamme Comes Down on Professor Anati, Who Replies in Kind | Queries & Comments.” Biblical Archaeology Review 11, no. 6 (December 1985): 16, 18–19, 72, 74–76.
Over 35,000 rock pictures have been recorded at Har Karkom. While it is virtually impossible as well as intellectually irresponsible to draw conclusions about the significance of a single figure as Dr. Jamme tries to do, the comparative study of this large assemblage is gradually beginning to make sense. While the rock art belonging to the “literate periods” of the last twenty-five centuries may include anecdotal scenes and descriptions of men “having a good time,” the pre-literate depictions reveal no evidence of this rather contemporary concept. This point has already been stressed in my Arte rupestre del Negev e del Sinai (Milan: Jaca Book, 1979). [Anati]
To an illiterate tribesman, an X or a Z are just scribbles. To the literate person, they have a meaning and a sound, and when combined in a certain order with other signs make a word or convey a thought, although for the illiterate person such an assertion may seem pure imagination. For Dr. Jamme, “a line is just a line” when it has nothing to do with epigraphy. However, for the scholar of rock art, when a specific anthropomorphic figure is combined with a special type of “line” and this is repeated several times, associated in the same order, on different rock surfaces, it is unlikely that they are meaningless scribblings, and they call for further analysis. [Anati]
MemberApril 19, 2021 at 8:04 am
Well, that was boring… I should have explained. 35,000 is a lot of rock engravings for a small area of the southern deserts. There are some recurring themes: footprints (like the rough outlines of two feet), worshipping/praying human stick figures (as defended by Anati above), and ibex (4-legged animal stick figures with long backward-curved horns). Anati identifies all of these as cultic symbols, the ibex connected with the moon-god Sin, their parallel horns from the side view suggesting a crescent moon. The dating of rock art is controversial, depending on the interpretation of the styles and the patina (how dark the scratchings have become from the effects of sun, oxidation, and possibly microbial growth), and their proximity to other dateable remains. In a way, it doesn’t matter when the rock art was created; the facts that it long predated modern times, has a distinctly religious nature overall, and that there is a much higher concentration around this mount than elsewhere in the Sinai and Negev, is significant enough.
Nelson Glueck also explored the vicinity of the mount in 1957-8, of which he wrote:
[236-7] There was another amazing concentration of rock drawings farther south in the Negev on the slopes and tops of high, truncated hills, called the Jebel Ideid (Har Geshur). A much-used trail employed continuation of the great north-south route, which, commencing at Beersheba, touches Abdah… and skirts the hills of Jebel Ideid…. Numerous trails converged there from southwestern Sinai and from the southernmost Negev, which threaded both to important centers of trade and settlement….
[237-8] The position and prominence of Jebel Ideid (Odeid), which of old may have had a certain sanctity attached to it, may explain why so many of them [rock engravings], together with occasional inscriptions, were chiseled into the blackened surfaces of its large sandstone boulders and smooth rock faces. There is, we think, a certain religious feeling reflected in them.
Glueck, Nelson. <i class="">Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev. Vol. 5. Evergreen Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Grove, 1959.
MemberApril 19, 2021 at 5:52 pm
We need to add a map component to this HFS website. Let’s pray about that … any readers of this message please also pray.
I barely understand the locations in scripture. I have just the foggiest idea now of where Har Karkom is. Now you are introducing “Jebel Odeod (Odeid)” and giving us some scholarly interpretations of that. I’m bewildered.
The technology is out there to make maps. if some of these concepts can somehow be better incorporated into some visual means to make maps that help HSF learners better understand all this … may God guide us to make HSF successful for what God intends it to be successful for. A few of you are real scholars and understand some or understand much or understand all of this. I’m certainly struggling to grasp some of these concepts, places, ancient chronological dating schemes … but much of the basics of ancient historical research is still, well beyond me.
God please help us to piece all this together! (a prayer) Amen.
MemberApril 19, 2021 at 7:44 pm
Thomas, Jebel Ideid is Har Karkom. It has changed names several times in its history. Jebel Ideid in Arabic means ‘Mount of Celebration’ or ‘Congregation’. This is what it was known as until the modern state if Israel renamed the features of the Negev in the 1950s.
MemberApril 20, 2021 at 3:09 am
That was unexpectedly easy for me to understand Deborah. Jebel Ideid = Har Karkom. 🙂
MemberApril 20, 2021 at 1:30 am
I can paint you a simple word picture, Thomas, although a real picture (map) paints a thousand words. The modern Negev is the long triangular region that forms the southern half of Israel. It reaches all the way south to the Elath Gulf (Red Sea). Its eastern side (a more or less straight line from the Med Sea south of Gaza to the Red Sea a little south of Elath) is the Egypt-Israel border. Its western side (also more or less a straight line from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea at Elath) is the Israel-Jordan border that runs through the centre of the Arabah Valley.
The Negev is commonly referred to in three parts, northern, central, and southern.
The northern Negev comprises the Beersheba and Arad river basins which lie side by side (W-E) across the map from the Med Sea near Gaza to the southern Dead Sea. This area was known to the biblical authors as the Negeb (spelling used here to distinguish between modern and biblical regions). The Bible does not speak of the Negeb as reaching all the way to the Red Sea gulf.
The central Negev is a mountainous region, hence called the Negev Heights, or the Central Negev Highlands, or to the Israelis, Har ha-Negev (Mount Negev). It reaches W-E from Kadesh-barnea (just over the border in Sinai) to the northern Arabah. Lying through the heart of this mountainous region from WSW to ENE along the line of the watershed is a large crater, the Makhtesh Ramon (Great Crater). The Negev area north of the crater was probably known to the biblical authors as the Wilderness of Zin. Nahal (wadi) Zin drains the majority of this region to the northern Arabah.
The southern Negev is a large river basin, drained by Nahal (wadi) Paran which has its sources in the mountains to the west of Elath and runs more or less SSW-NNE to empty into the central Arabah. There is another basin in the southern Negev, called Nahal (wadi) Hayun, that lies between the Paran basin and the Arabah. It also runs SSW-NNE to empty into the Arabah about 20 km south of the Paran mouth. Both Paran and Hayun have many tributaries which only flow when it rains. The southern regions are technically semi-arid but we would still call them ‘desert” rather than ‘wilderness’. The Negev area south of the crater was probably known to the biblical authors as the Wilderness of Paran.
Har Karkom (formerly Jebel Ideid) is the *southernmost* peak of the Central Negev Highlands. So it is on the interface between the central and southern Negev. It overlooks the Paran basin to the south and east (hence “Mount Paran”, Deut 33:2). If coming from the south, it is the first promontory of the mountain range that runs S-N through Israel. Mount Zion (Jerusalem) is about halfway along this mountain range, while Mount Hermon is the last peak in this range northward as far as Israelite territory goes. The mountain range was once called the “Hill Country of the Amorites” but then (after the conquest) became known as the “Mountains of Israel”. It was the heartland of Amorite, and then Israelite, settlement.
MemberApril 20, 2021 at 2:18 am
oh dear, I have got western and eastern mixed up again… I do that all the time, tch.
So the *western* side of the Negev is the Egypt-Israel border, and the *eastern* side is the Israel-Jordan border.
MemberApril 20, 2021 at 3:14 am
Deborah, The saying is that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But it appears someone inflated the numbers. It took you only 532 words (plus a correction). No wonder you thought a certain HFS scholar’s paper was “twice as long” as it should have been.
MemberApril 20, 2021 at 5:54 am
ah well if I had known I would be held to my own standards, I would have got that post down to 500 words exactly! and remembered that east is east and west is west…
MemberApril 4, 2021 at 9:48 am
So does anyone have any biblical or geographical objections to the location of Mount Sinai in the same mountain range as Mount Zion and Mount Hermon? If Har Karkom is Mount Sinai, then the three holy peaks are evenly spaced about 200 km apart along the mountain range (the Hill Country) that forms the ‘spine’ of Israel. Har Karkom is the southernmost formation of the range. It is the ‘prow’ of the Hill Country as you approach from the south through the Paran basin. Har Zion is at the centre (of course) and Har Hermon, the snowy crown of the Land and the possible site of Jesus’ transfiguration, is at the northern extent of Israelite territory. This scenario forces quite a shift in one’s concept of the biblical arena to one of a single geological formation on which played out the biblical saga of revelation, probation, and consecration. In just 400 km from south to north, the climate transitions from dry to drenched, the landscape from barren to fertile, and land use from nomadic pastoral to settled horticultural. There seems to be a theological aspect to biblical geography, including the fact that the two great centres of exile throughout the Israelite period–Egypt across a desert to the west and Babylon across a desert to the east–have great perennial rivers providing abundance but also decadence.
For the land that you are about to enter to occupy is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sow your seed and irrigate by foot like a vegetable garden. But the land that you are crossing over to occupy is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky, a land that the LORD your God looks after. The eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. (Deu 11:10-12 NRSV)
MemberMay 14, 2021 at 12:45 am
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. 12 And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. (Deut 4:11 KJV)
In favour of an ID for Mount Sinai in Arabia, the point is often made that this description of the Sinai epiphany is like a volcanic eruption. And geologists tell us there are no volcanos in the Sinai Peninsula or the Negev. Interesting, therefore, that the popular candidate for Mount Sinai in Arabia, Jebel al Lawz, is not a volcano! Sir Prof Colin Humphreys proposes a volcano way down the west side of the Arabian Peninsula, Hala al Badr, but it is 330 km from Elath!
All advocates for the various candidates for Mount Sinai have to do the historical-geographical work and do it properly. They can’t just throw out locations and ideas and point to features of the mountains that may match biblical descriptions and expect scholarship to come on board. How can we justify taking the description of the Sinai epiphany literally, but not the details of the exodus itinerary?
On the one hand, there is an ancient sacred mountain in the Negev (Har Karkom), which complies with the geographical data of the wilderness itinerary, but would require earthquake activity and severe electrical storm effects to fill the description of the epiphany. On the other hand, there are various mountains in Southern Sinai and Saudi Arabia, most of which are not even volcanos (which is one of the chief reasons that candidates were sought in Arabia). None of them can comply with the geographical data of the wilderness itinerary and they have no evidence of being sacred mountains in antiquity.
So I think Har Karkom has the better hand by far 🙂
MemberMay 14, 2021 at 9:09 pm
In its favour, Har Karkom is by no means an obscure candidate. Right from the start, Israelis have been favourable to the possibility, not least because the mountain is within their borders. A newspaper headline in the 1980s announced Anati’s proposal with the headline !הר סיני בידינו har sinai be-yadenu! “Mount Sinai In Our Hands!” Since then, despite the total lack of facilities, hundreds of pilgrims per year make the desert trek (by 4×4) to Har Karkom on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays. These are the only times it is open because the mountain is part of an IDF tank firing range during the week. The number of tourists increases every year, as evidenced by the damage to the antiquities and the boom in safari providers who offer a full service.
I would be interested to hear from HFS members here what *specifically* you would need to know about Har Karkom in order to accept its authentic identification as the biblical Mount Sinai. If you have some expertise in historical geography, please tell me what evidence is necessary to establish the identities of sites in the north of the country to everyone’s satisfaction, so that the information eventually makes it into Bible atlases and even road maps.
MemberMay 14, 2021 at 9:42 pm
It may come as a surprise to know that the Vatican has long been interested in this candidate for Mount Sinai, and in 2010 came very close to declaring Har Karkom as their official Sinai pilgrimage site. Several church officials and theologians met with Prof Anati in Italy for several days of consultation and four days at Har Karkom itself. Perhaps their interest was increased because Anati is a renowned Italian intellectual, perhaps also because the evidence for the mountain is compelling. It seems also that there would be considerable Catholic schadenfreude in proving that the Orthodox Church, which has ‘owned’ the pilgrimage to Mount Sinai at Jebel Musa since the 4th C, have the wrong site. Nonetheless, the Vatican backed off from commitment at the last stage. I don’t know why, but I suspect that Anati’s unconvincing itinerary was the reason. The article URL and full text follows:
MemberMay 14, 2021 at 9:43 pm
Here is the full text of an article in the Jerusalem Post,
June 1, 110 Tuesday 27 Sivan 3870 20:15 IST
Photo by: Courtesy
By STEVE LINDE
‘I‘m sure Karkom is the real mountain of God,’ Prof. Emmanuel Anati declares.
‘Israel should be proud.’
It has taken him more than a decade, but Italian-Israeli archeologist Prof. Emmanuel Anati now believes his
controversial view that the biblical Mount Sinai is in Israel’s Negev desert rather than Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
will soon be adopted by the Vatican.
On Friday, he presented his theory in the form of a new book at a seminar at the Theological Seminary in
the northeastern Italian city of Vicenza.
“Actually it’s not a theory, it’s a reality. I’m sure of it, Anati told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from his
home in Capo di Ponte. “My archeological discoveries at Har Karkom over many years and my close reading
of the Bible leave me with no doubt that it is the real Mount Sinai. I’m now sure that Karkom is the real
mountain of God.”
In 2001, Anati published the English edition of a book that was first issued in Italian two years earlier and
titled The Riddle of Mount Sinai – Archaeological Discoveries at Har Karkom. In the book, he postulated that
Karkom, 25 km. from the Ramon Crater, was probably the peak at which Moses received the Ten
Commandments – and not the summit in southern Sinai where Santa Catarina (Saint Catherine’s
“I know this is revolutionary,” he conceded. “I’m not only changing the location, but I’m moving Mount Sinai
to Israel, and I’m sure it will anger the Egyptians. But Israel should be proud of this. The Negev is empty
and should be developed.”
“I’m also changing the date of the Exodus from Egypt to some 1,000 years earlier than previously thought,”
he added. “I know this will drive everyone crazy. But I am right. I’m sure of it.”
Anati reasoned that if the account in the Book of Exodus was historically accurate, it must refer to the third
millennium BCE – and more precisely to the period between 2200 and 2000 BCE.
Jewish tradition puts the Exodus around the year
1313 BCE. According to Catholic tradition, Helena of Constantinople – the mother of Emperor Constantine
credited with finding the relics of Jesus’s cross – determined the location of Mount Sinai and ordered the
construction of a chapel at the site (sometimes referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen) in about 330 CE.
According to Anati, however, an abundance of archeological evidence showed that Mount Karkom had been
a holy place for all desert peoples, and not just the Jews, which substantiated his case.
He said more than 1,200 finds at Karkom – including sanctuaries, altars, rock paintings and a large tablet
resembling the Ten Commandments – indicated that it had been considered a sacred mountain in the Middle
Bronze Age. In addition, he said, the topography of its plateau perfectly reflected that of the biblical Mount
Finally, he concluded, the biblical tale clearly
backed up his geographic argument.
“When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they reached the Arava. They couldn’t have been in Santa
[Catarina], because it says in the Bible that they reached Nahal Tzin, and moved on to Hebron,” Anati said.
“The whole story of receiving the Torah must have taken place in the Negev. The Children of Israel
wandered in the north and not the south, in the Negev and not the Sinai.”
He was just as certain that the Holy See would officially sanction his stance, and that millions of Catholic
pilgrims could soon be visiting Mount Karkom instead of Mount Sinai.
“Actually, they have already accepted my theory,” he said. “They are already organizing pilgrimages. There
is already a plan, and I have meetings scheduled with theologians and others, including the Vatican
pilgrimage office. They want to start pilgrimages to Karkom as soon as next year.”
Anati said he was aware that he had his detractors, especially among archeologists in Israel, several of
whom were interviewed refuting his claims on a Channel 1 Mabat Sheni documentary aired on Wednesday
“I know there are all kinds of people – including professors – who resist my theory, and it’s natural that this
occurs,” he said. “I urge them all to read my book and study the evidence before criticizing me.”
Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Israel Finkelstein, a world-renowned expert on the subject, said he could not
accept Anati’s hypothesis.
“I do not see any connection between the third millennium BCE finds at Har Karkom and the Exodus story.
The latter was put in writing not before the 7th or 6th centuries BCE, and as such depicts realities which are
many centuries later than the finds of Har Karkom,” Finkelstein told the Post. “Roaming the desert with the
Bible in one hand and the spade in the other is a 19th-century endeavor which has no place in modern
Anati said it had taken the Catholic Church several years to be persuaded by his argument, and recognition
had been a slow process.
“About three-and-a-half years ago, I had a telephone call from the Vatican that a priest of high standing
wanted to meet with me, and he arrived here with a driver. I live 500 km. from Rome, and he sat with me for
a whole day and asked me a lot of questions,” Anati recalled.
“Then he disappeared, and after about a year, a group of theologians from the Catholic Church appeared
and wanted to investigate the matter more deeply. Seven theologians sat here for the whole day, and I later
met with them four times.
“Six months ago they spent four days with me at Karkom, and as a result of this, the Vatican publisher –
Edizioni Messaggero Padova – asked me to write up my findings. I revised and updated my book, and they
have now published it in Italian, changing the title to The Rediscovery of Mount Sinai.”
“Twenty years ago, I had a hunch that Har
Karkom was the real Mount Sinai,” Anati said.
“Three years ago I was convinced I was correct. Today I know I’m right.”
There was no official Vatican response to Anati’s claims, nor was there an
immediate reaction from the Egyptians.
Anati was born in Florence in 1930 to Jewish
parents, and soon after the establishment of Israel, he moved to Jerusalem and
received a bachelor’s degree in archeology from the Hebrew University. He later
became a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard and was awarded a doctorate at the Sorbonne.
Fluent in Hebrew, he taught prehistory at Tel Aviv University and conducted extensive research in the
Upon his return to Italy, he founded the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici in Capo di Ponte in 1964, and he
remains its executive director today. It is believed to be the only institute in the world that specializes in
Anati’s study of rock paintings in Valcamonica
spurred UNESCO to include the alpine valley in its list of World Cultural Heritage sites.
Tal Gottesman contributed to this report.
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MemberMay 30, 2021 at 12:40 pm
It seems to me that a biblical site identity will never take on unless it works geographically.
This is why I don’t rely on the features or archaeology of Har Karkom to make the case for its identity as Mount Sinai. They are indicative of the possibility, but not conclusive. The three most well-known Sinai candidates rely on three types of argument for their defence. A ‘score’ seems to accrue according to their tradition, location, and distinction (features and remains). As things stand at present, what each candidate lacks it makes up for in other aspects:
1. What Jebel Musa lacks in location and distinction (just one of many similar granite peaks, and not the highest), it makes up for in tradition (since the 4th C). But an arbitrary identification many centuries after the event is not really a tradition.
2. What Jebel el-Lawz lacks in distinction and tradition, it makes up for in location (in ‘Midian’). But this is all it can offer so far as ‘location’ goes… nothing else works.
3. What Har Karkom lacks in tradition and location, it makes up for in distinction (archaeological remains). Even so, most would see it as lacking distinction (it is an unimpressive plateau).
Anati has provided evidence of Har Karkom’s distinction (i.e. abundant cultic remains). I will provide evidence that the location fulfils the biblical geographical requirements, thus resolving the problems of the wilderness itineraries. It turns out that Har Karkom does not lie in an odd location too close to Kadesh and Canaan as is commonly supposed. In regard to ‘tradition’, its Arabic name is Jebel Ideid, “Mount of Congregation/Celebration”. There is also evidence of pilgrimage to the site in the biblical period, long after Israel would have been there.
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