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ELUSA (El-Khalasa) Israel.

A town in the central Negev, mentioned for the first time by Ptolemy (Geog. 5.15) as one of the towns of Idumaea W of the Jordan, certainly referring to Nabatea. It appears on the Peutinger Table at a distance of 71 Roman miles from Jerusalem and 24 from Oboda. In the same period, the 4th c. A.D., the city is mentioned in two of Libanius' letters. Elusa played an important part in the development of Early Christianity in the Negev, and two of its bishops participated in the councils of Ephesos (431) and Chalcedon (451). However, pagan deities were still worshiped there in this period. In the 6th c. Elusa formed part of Palaestina Tertia and was an important station on the Pilgrims' Road to Sinai.

Save for a trial trench sunk in 1938 there have been no archaeological investigations at the site. Much of its building material has been removed to provide for construction at Gaza. Little of the ancient town now remains above ground. At the beginning of our century a Nabatean inscription of the first half of the 2d c. B.C. was found, as well as numerous pre-Christian and Christian inscribed tombstones. The surface pottery indicates settlement in the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Early Arab periods. For the later phases of the town we have the evidence of the papyri found at neighboring Nessana. In these documents Elusa is referred to as the district capital of the central Negev. It seems to have been founded in the 3d c. B.C. by the Nabateans as one of their first caravan halts in the central Negev, on the Petra-Gaza road; and it seems to have shared the same fate as the other Nabatean towns about which we are better informed. Possibly in the Late Roman period it became the capital of the central Negev, which it certainly served in the Byzantine and Early Arab periods. It was abandoned before A.D. 800. In survey excavations made in 1973 the Nabatean town was located. Remains of a temple, a theater, and an elaborate water supply system were found there.


E. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine (1867) 201-2; F. M. Abel, “Epigraphie Grecque Palestinienne,” RBibl. 18 (1909) 89-166; C. L. Woolley & T. E. Lawrence, “The Wilderness of Zin,” Palestine Exploration Fund Annual 3 (1914-1915); T. J. Collin Baly, Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine 8 (1938) 159; G. E. Kirk, “The Negeb, or the Southern Desert of Palestine,” PEQ (1941) 62; A. Negev, “Elusa,” RBibl 81 (1974).


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