Archaeological evidence of a Jewish town located on the edge of the Samaria desert during the Second Temple Period (516 BCE to 70 CE) will be made public later this month. The recently-discovered artifacts include the remains of a mikveh (ritual bath), stone tools and hidden chambers.

The town was located in the Akraba district, a frontier region northeast of

The geographical and ethnic make-up of the region also gave rise to militant rebel sects.

Jerusalem. The poorly-developed district served as a natural division between the Samarians, who distanced themselves from Jerusalem as the political and spiritual center of Judea, and the Jews. The geographical and ethnic make-up of the region also gave rise to militant rebel sects, such as the Sicarii faction led by Shimon Bar-Giora during the First Jewish-Roman War (1st century CE).

Eitan Klein, a researcher from Bar-Ilan University, explained that "until recently, historical sources, dated from the Second Temple Period until the Bar Kochva Rebellion, testified to Jewish settlement existing in the Akraba district. As opposed to the wealth of relevant historical sources, there were few archaeological findings that supported the presence of such a settlement." The current findings, Klein said, support historical references to the Jewish presence in the Akraba region in ancient documentation.

Klein is to present the latest archaeological findings at the fourth annual Frontier and the Desert Conference sponsored by the Susia Center for Exploration and Study, located in Susia in the South Hevron Hills. The conference is scheduled for December 29, the eighth day of the Chanukah holiday, and will feature lectures on a variety of topics related to history and agriculture, both ancient and modern.

Like Klein, Doron Sher Avi of Susia will be looking into the distant past and discussing recent revelations about the daily lives of Jews and Nabateans, based on ancient documents discovered in hillside caves in the Judean desert. These documents, from the end of the first century BCE through the start of the second century CE, include fascinating insights, including a wealth of Jewish and Nabatean names and descriptive appellations.

More recent history will feature in a lecture by Dr. Tzvika Peleg on the attempt to grow Agave plants in the Negev region during the 1950s. The plants were imported from South America with the intention of producing the raw material for rope on an industrial scale. Dr. Peleg will discuss the factors contributing to the project's ultimate failure.

The Susia Center for Exploration and Study was established in 1985 to provide an experience-oriented educational encounter with the Land of Israel. The Center hosts groups from all sectors of Israeli society, including public schools, yeshivas and ulpanas, university students, soldiers, teachers, retirees and families on vacation.