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.