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Mizpe Shivta

 Mizpe Shivta and environs on

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Transliterated Name Source Name
Mizpe Shivta Hebrew
Khirbet el-Misrafa Arabic

The ruins of Mizpe Shivta (in Arabic, Khirbet el-Misrafa) are in the central Negev, at the eastern edge of a large spur and on the low horseshoe-shaped terrace surrounding it (map reference 1126.0364). The site consists of a complex of buildings comprising a single unit, whose area is 160 by 180m. E. H. Palmer (see below) suggested identifying the site with biblical Zephath (Jg. I: 17), but no finds predating the Byzantine period have been uncovered. According to its excavator, it should be identified with the "fortress and inn of Saint George," where the traveler known as Antoninus of Placentia stayed on his way from Elusa to Sinai in about 570 CE (Itinerarium 35; CCSC 175, 146-147). Saint George is mentioned in one of the inscriptions found at the site.


Following Palmer's discovery of the site in 1871 and publication of its plan, it was visited by A. Musil, in 1901, who also drew a plan of it; by C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence, in 1914, who surveyed it and gave a detailed account of their findings, and measured the church; and by T. Wiegand, in 1916, who did a survey and took aerial photographs. In 1979, the site was surveyed again as part of the Emergency Survey of the Negev by Y. Baumgarten, who excavated the site on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums.


As Woolley and Lawrence had correctly discerned, Mizpe Shivta was the site of a monastery, perhaps a laura. The cellars may initially have served as a place of seclusion for a single monk (Saint George?), around which the monastery developed. The walls and towers have created the impression that this was a fortress; however, it should be noted that the monasteries established in Palestine in the Byzantine period were surrounded by defensive walls. This apparently is the reason why at the end of the sixth century the traveler from Placentia described the site as the "fortress and inn of Saint George."

Two building phases can be distinguished: the first is characterized by fine construction, whereas in the second several changes occurred. The western gate was blocked by masonry; additions (of inferior quality) were made to the northern structures on the summit; and a set of crude steps was built, leading from the summit to the lower terrace in the eastern part of the site. Judging from the extent of the destruction and debris, the site may have been struck by an earthquake. Only Byzantine pottery was found on the floors of the rooms, particularly in the church. The site showed no signs of violent destruction and was apparently abandoned after the rooms' contents had been removed

Aerial Views and Plans
Aerial Views and Plans

Aerial Views

  • Mizpe Shivta and environs in Google Earth
  • Mizpe Shivta and environs on



Yaacov Baumgarten in Stern et. al. (1993 v.3) noted that two building phases were distinguished.

7th century CE earthquake

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that this site in the Negev suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE. Yaacov Baumgarten in Stern et. al. (1993 v.3) noted that judging from the extent of the destruction and debris, the site may have been struck by an earthquake.

Notes and Further Reading

Articles and Books

Musil, A. (1908), Arabia Petraea - open access at but Mizpe Shivta may be in Volume 2

Musil, A. (1908), Arabia Petraea 2, 44-45

Palmer, E.H., The Desert of the Exodus 2, London 1871, 404-405

Woolley, C.L. and Lawrence, T.E. (1914-1915) "The Wilderness of Zin" (PEFA 3),London 1914-1915, 92-93 - can be borrowed with a free account from

Bibliography from Stern et al (1993 v.3)

E. H. Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus 2, Cambridge 1871,371-374, 378-380

id., PEQ 3 (1871), 29-32

Musil, Arabia Petraea 2, 44-45

C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence, The Wilderness of Zin (PEFA 3), London 1914-1915, 92-93

T. Wiegand, Sinai, Berlin 1920, 62-66

P. Mayerson, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 107 (1963), 160-161, 169-171

Y. Baumgarten, ESI I (1982), 75-76.