site located along the eastern margin of a broad valley some 10 km (6 mi.) south of Tel Arad (31°11′00″ N, 35°03′10″ E; map reference 1564 × 0660) in Israel. The site is on a long, flat, stone-covered hilltop whose slopes are stepped flint cliffs. Naḥal Qitmit (Wadi Qatamat), cuts the hilltop off from the surrounding range of hills.

Ḥorvat Qitmit lies within a radius of approximately 5–10 km (3–6 mi.) of other contemporary sites—Tel ῾Aro῾er, Tel Masos, Tel ῾Ira, Tel Malḥata, Tel Arad, Ḥorvat Ṭov, Ḥorvat ῾Uza, and Ḥorvat Radum. It is located between two major ancient roads: one that leads to the “Land of Edom” to the east and one to the Negev highlands to the southwest, within sight of Tel ῾Ira, Tel Malḥata, and Tel Arad. No permanent water sources are known to be within its immediate vicinity, but wells near Tel Malḥata probably served as a water supply for Qitmit in antiquity. Ḥorvat Qitmit is a one-period site from the end of the seventh century BCE, erected directly on the limestone bedrock. The site covers an area of about 650 sq m. It consists of two complexes on its west side: A and B; each comprises a number of rooms, a courtyard with various installations, and two enclosures (nos. 114 and 60). Complex A consists of one structure with three rooms, a bāmâ (“platform”), bounded on three sides by a stone wall (hereafter referred to as the bāmâ enclosure); and a stone basin and an altar, also apparently enclosed by a stone wall (hereafter referred to as the altar enclosure).

The structure is rectangular and measures 10.5 × 5 m, with each room opening to the south for its entire width. Podiumlike wall segments, whose upper courses consist of large, flat stones, were erected perpendicular to the entrances in all three rooms. It is fairly clear, however, that these podiumlike elements served no structural function. Rather, they should be seen as elements of the room's furniture. They may have served as a table on which rituals were performed in the room's entrance spaces.

The platform, or bāmâ, measures 1.25 × 1 m. It was built of medium-sized fieldstones directly on the bedrock and is preserved to a height of about 30 cm. It was enclosed on three sides—south, east, and west—by straight walls; its northern side, which faces the rooms, was left open. Crevices and hollows in the rock were filled with pebbles and the entire surface completely covered with a heavy coat of plaster, creating a table with a smooth surface for placing cult vessels around the bāmâ. The altar enclosure (locus 24) is located south of the rooms, near the eastern wall of the bāmâ enclosure, on a smooth rock surface that slopes to the southeast. It comprises a stone altar, a basin, and a pit enclosed by an elliptical or circular wall.

Complex B was erected on level ground about 15 m north of complex A. Enclosed by a massive wall (1.20 m thick), it contains a number of rooms and an open courtyard. Near the southeast corner of room 108, a rectangular flintstone was found in situ, probably a maṣṣēbâ (a ritual standing stone, 0.8 × 0.6 × 0.3 m). An area (1.3 × 1.1 m) in front of the courtyard was paved with small flintstones slabs framed by rectangular stones.

Most of the finds are from complex A. They were scattered over the enclosure area, concentrated either in groups on the rock surface or in the shallow earth layer. The largest quantity is from the bāmâ enclosure. The finds include various clay figurines, different types of ceramic cult stands, pottery vessels, bronze and stone artifacts, and seashells.

The pottery from the site can be divided into three groups: domestic vessels, Edomite-type vessels, and vessels widely found at sites in Judah and Transjordan. Five potsherds bear fragmentary incised inscriptions (four from complex B and one from complex A). One consists of only a single line, too fragmentary to be interpreted, with the exception of the letters qws in the middle, the name of the principal Edomite god, Qos. The same name is found in another inscription on a rim fragments of a krater and in a bronze stamp from complex A.

Qitmit, Ḥorvat

QITMIT, ḥORVAT. Figure 1. Three-horned goddess. Height, 13 cm. (Photograph by Avraham Hay; courtesy I. Beit-Arieh)

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Qitmit, Ḥorvat

QITMIT, ḥORVAT. Figure 2. Anthropomorphic stand. Height, 60 cm. (Photograph by Avraham Hay; courtesy I. Beit-Arieh)

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The largest accumulation of iconographic finds was exposed in the bāmâ enclosure. In addition to everyday pottery vessels, more than one hundred ceramic figurines, statues, reliefs, stands, and cultic vessels were discovered in this area. The figurines depict humans and animals (sheep, cattle, and birds). All the large animal figurines are hollow; some were punctured with small holes both on their sides and underneath their tail. Of special interest are the head of a three-horned goddess (see figure 1), a sphinx with a bearded human head, the body of an animal (perhaps a lion) that has wings spread loftily upward, and assorted anthropomorphic stands (see figure 2).

Cultic vessels include chalices covered with pendant pomegranates as surface decoration; fragments of a square, windowed stand; and perforated incense bowls. The pottery figurines and cultic stands are tentatively interpreted as closely related to the eastern Mediterranean traditions embodied in Phoenician culture.

The shrine at Qitmit in the Judean Desert is indicative of relations between Edom and Judah at the end of the period of the Judean kingdom. It may be construed as evidence of Edomite domination of several regions in Judah at the end of the First Temple period or a few years later. The biblical prophets' wrathful denunciations of Edom, along with expressed sentiments for revenge, reflect a historical reality of dire conflict between the two kingdoms that may have had many causes (Jos. 34; 63:1–6; Jer. 49:7–22; Ez. 25:12–14, 35:1–6; Jl. 4:19; Am. 1:11–12). The most plausible explanation of this enmity may be Edom's attempt to exploit the weakness of the Judean kingdom at the very time that the latter was engaged in a life-and-death struggle against the Babylonian army.


  • Aharoni, Yohanan. Arad Inscriptions. Translated by Judith Ben-Or. Jerusalem, 1981.
  • Bartlett, J. R. Edom and the Edomites. Sheffield, 1989.
  • Beit-Arieh, Itzhaq. “New Data on the Relationship between Judah and Edom toward the End of the Iron Age.” Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 49 (1989): 125–131.
  • Beit-Arieh, Itzhaq. “The Edomite Shrine at Ḥorvat Qitmit in the Judean Negev: Preliminary Excavation Report.” Tel Aviv 18.1 (1991): 93–116.

Itzhaq Beit-Arieh