Located near kibbutz Ben Guvrin the city of Maresha was mentioned in the Old Testament several times. Through its turbulent history the city saw many nations live here and even more armies march through. This city is pleasant to explore during hot Mediterranean summers since much of the best preserved remains are actually underground where the temperature is cool and does not bother as much. Some people simply take a break here to escape the midday sun.


Location: Map


History of Maresha

Little is known of the origins of the community, but it already existed in the time of the First Temple and was captured by Israelite army as it was described in the Book of Joshua. Later it appears in the Books of Chronicles as it became a fortification. Babylonian king Nabuchadnezzar II expelled Jews in the 6th century after Zedekiah’s rebellion and the city did not stay vacant for a long time. Soon Edomites took it over. This Semitic speaking nation came from the semi deserts south of the Dead Sea and managed to survive through conquests of Persians, Alexander the Greek and other invaders. The end of the community came as a result of successful Hasmonean Maccabee rebellion in the 2nd century BC. Edomites were forced to convert. Many refused and left the city. The final stroke came in 63 BC the Pompey was generous enough to grant the stated of Edom and cities inhabited by this ethnicity its independence. Ironically this spelled doom for Maresha since it became the easy target for Parthians who captured and destroyed the city in 40 BC. The city of Eleutheropolis was found nearby by the Romans, by the ruins of Maresha were not resettled.


Olive plants

The residents of Maresha had 22 subterranean olive oil plants that date back to 4th – 3rd century BC. The size and organization is amazing. The olives were first crushed by a stone that moved in circular path and then system of levers and weights finished the job by extracting oil from this mash. Much of oil was probably exported.


Columbarium Cave

Originally a cistern for keeping water in case of the draught they were eventually converted into columbarium for raising pigeons. About 85 such caves were found with tens of thousands of niches in them. However it would be wrong to assume that people had exquisite aesthetic tastes. On the contrary pigeons was just another survival tradition. Birds traveled distances to get their food, but always came back. Their dung was used as a fertilizer for the fields and in case crops failed birds paid with their heads. Literally. Pigeons are said to taste quiet good.


Byzantine Church of Saint Anne

Dwelling House

This underground houses might look gloomy and unfriendly, but the residents of the city found welcome retreat from the heat and dryness of the houses above. The size of this caves with stairs and apartments is spectacular. Parts of the cave probably also served as a granary.


The Sinian Burial Caves

With invasion of Alexander the Great in the second part of the 4th century came Hellenistic culture that the Greeks brought with them. This underground burial mausoleum is a testament of mixing of cultures that occurred at the time. Greek order and arts obviously left a mark in the details of the grave.