THE HUMAN LANDSCAPE:
CAMPING SITES AND OTHER STRUCTURES FROM THE BRONZE AGE
The valleys surrounding Har Karkom contain numerous remains of camping sites and hamlets. From the different kinds of living structures it may be inferred that several tribes came to camp at the foot of the mountain in the BAC period. Who were they? There are various ways of answering this question. One is to attempt an identification of tribes described in the Bible, which we shall let the reader do. A geographical distribution of each type of site in comparison to other areas of the Sinai and of the Near East may provide some general views on the historical and geographical background of these various groups. But the main answer we want to give is an archaeological one - other interpretations may follow thereafter. From the findings, deductions can be made about the character, social structure, economy and beliefs of these human groups. Most of the sites with stone foundations from the BAC period usually present a similar type of material culture, with a wealth of flint implements and scanty pottery finds that belong to the same general period as the cult sites.
The remains indicate the presence of villages where groups of people settled long enough to justify the construction and the occasional repair of walls and floors. Different types of living structures have been found, but all have low stone walls, probably reaching an average height of 1 to 1.5 meters, which are likely to have supported roofs of woven mats, skins, or other organic material. According to the expedition's architect, Gigi Cottinelli, the two main elements from which people needed protection were sun and wind. Rain may have forced them to shelter for only a short "season" of a few days a year. Against heat the only means of relief was the provision of as much ventilation as possible.
In the area of concession over three hundred BAC sites have been recorded, well over half of which are found in the specific area surrounding Har Karkom. Many of these 187 sites have been identified as living sites, with an average of 20 to 30 structures each. Rather consistently human groups built their habitations at the foot of the mountain or in its immediate vicinity. Why just here? The region offers meagre material resources, and today it is completely empty of population. In 1954, when we first visited the area there were a few scattered Bedouin tents, mainly near Beer Karkom, and a total of less than 60 people, in 200 sq. km. Even if the climate was somewhat less severe in the BAC period, it is hard to conceive how so many Bronze Age people could find adequate resources for their survival.