Archaeologists have uncovered a Greek inscription at the Haluza excavation in the South indicating the name of the town.The name Haluza is mentioned in many historical sources, but this is the first archaeological evidence for the name of the city to be found at the site itself.It is one of the two main possible locations for the biblical city of Ziklag, mentioned in Joshua and Samuel.“Haluza was an important station for Christian pilgrims on their way to the Monastery of Santa Catarina in southern Sinai,” said Tali Erickson-Gini, an archaeologist who worked on the project.The excavation has been ongoing for the past three years, led by a delegation of the German University of Cologne under the direction of Prof. Michael Heisenelmann and a team of students from the University of Cologne and the University of Bonn, in cooperation with the Antiquities Authority.“The export of the fine wine produced in the Negev Highlands during the Byzantine period led to economic prosperity that affected the entire region,” Erickson-Gini said.The site ceased to exist at the end of the 7th century CE, but the name was preserved by the Arabs who migrated to the region, calling the ruins “Al-Khalisa.” American archaeologist Edward Robinson identified Al-Khalisa as Elusa, another name for Haluza, in 1841.
The text, which reads “Elusa” in Greek, is currently being studied by Prof. Leah Di Segni of Hebrew University. In addition, a church and a bathhouse were uncovered in the area. The prayer niche facing east was exposed in the church and a room next to it was paved with stone slabs. The room was warmed by an underground heat transfer system, which heated the floor and walls through ceramic pipes.Researchers succeeded in reconstructing the city plan, identifying the main, large streets as well as the building style of the city.Haluza was established at the end of the 4th century BCE as an important station on the Incense Route – the road that led from Petra in today’s Jordan to Gaza, which at the time had a Jewish community. It continued to develop and reached its peak in the Byzantine period (4th-6th centuries CE), when tens of thousands of residents lived there. Haluza was the only major city in the Negev region during this period.