Ein Feshkha (Arabic: عين فشخة; Hebrew: עינות צוקים, Einot Tzukim; lit. "Cliff springs") is a nature reserve and archaeological site on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about three kilometers south of Qumran in the West Bank. Within the reserve is a group of springs of brackish water. The nature reserve consists of an open section with pools of mineral water for bathing surrounded by high foliage and a section that is closed to visitors to protect the native flora and fauna.
’Ain el Feshkhah, (meaning "the spring of el Feshkhah", Feshkhah is a either personal name, or a word with no meaning) is located just north of the headland Râs Feshkhah, (meaning: "the headland of Feshkhah")
In 1838, Edward Robinson noted that the temperature of the spring was 80°. He also saw the "foundations of a small square tower and of other small buildings" near the fountain. He further noted a couple of ravens and a small hawk, and his guides killed a large (3 feet, 8 inches) lizard of the Lacerta Nilotica species.
In 1847 William F. Lynch visited the place, and described the stream as: "The fountain is a shallow and clear stream of water, at the temperature of 84°, which flows from a cane−brake, near the base of the mountain. It is soft yet brackish, and there is no deposit of silicious or cretaceous matter, but it has a strong smell of sulphur." He further "made an excursion along the base of the mountain, towards Ras es Feshkhah (cape of the stride), and gathered some specimens of conglomerate and some fresh−water shells in the bed of the stream. We were struck with the almost absence of round stones and pebbles upon the beach −the shore is covered with small angular fragments of flint. Started two partridges of a beautiful stone−colour, so much like the rocks, that they could only be distinguished when in motion. Heard the notes of a solitary bird in the cane−brake, which we could not identify. The statement that nothing can live upon the shores of the sea, is, therefore, disproved. The home and the usual haunt of the partridge may be among the cliffs above, but the smaller bird we heard must have its nest in the thicket."
Around 1860 Henry Baker Tristram visited, and noted: "Our prospects at Ain Feshkhah seemed as bright as at Jericho, and we were already prepared to pronounce the Dead Sea shore to be the shore of charmed life. Water, vegetation, birds and beasts, geology, and hot baths −everything was in abundance. The poor fountain has had, methinks, rather scurvy treatment at the hands of its biographers. [...] Perhaps our tastes were vitiated, or perhaps after the recent rains the mineral element was unusually diluted; but though the spring itself had a temperature of 82° Fahr. we found it tolerable. It made good tea and coffee, though with a slight flavour of soda, and we had no hesitation in determining to spend two days by its reeds."
In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) noted: “In the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea there are also two springs of importance. The largest of these is 'Ain Feshkhah, near which is the little spring called 'Ain et Tannur. The water comes out from beneath the cliffs into a pool surrounded with canes, and runs over a shingly bed in several streams into the Dead Sea. The supply is copious and perennial, but has a slightly brackish taste and sulphurous smell. The colour in the pool is a deep green blue.”
The saline wetlands of Ein Feshkha are the only known place in the world where populations of Blue and Dead Sea killifish (Nevit Hula and Nevit Yam Hamelakh) live side by side. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture are constructing pools in the area to preserve these native fish. Two of the pools are complete and are now populated by tens of thousands of fish. Measures are also being taken to preserve the tilapia population.
Enot Tsukim is divided into three sections: the northern "closed reserve," the central "visitors reserve," and the southern "hidden reserve." The closed reserve is only open to scientists by special invitation. This section covers approximately 2,700 dunams. The 500-dunam visitors reserve features wading pools filled with natural spring water.
Due to ecological concerns, the hidden reserve is closed to the public apart from tours on Fridays.
Excavations at Ein Feshkha were conducted by Roland de Vaux of the Ecole Biblique in 1956 and 1958. Hirschfeld excavated the site in 2001. The earliest structure at the site, located south of the spring, was an Iron Age II fort,[dubious ] constructed at a similar time to the earliest structures at Qumran and down the Dead Sea coast.
The spring at Ein Feshkha is now located 100 meters south of the main building found by de Vaux and at least 3 meters lower. In ancient times a spring, now dried up, just north of the main building supplied water. This ancient spring being several meters higher suggests that it was sweet, not brackish. The complex is composed of a main building (24m by 18m) with central courtyard, an industrial installation with two plastered basins to its northeast and what appear to be stables to its west.
De Vaux showed that the Ein Feshkha complex was contemporary with the settlement at Qumran and theorized that they were inhabited by the same community and, while he dated traces to the period from 100 to 31 BCE, both Magness and Hirschfeld have concluded that the complex was Herodian, i.e. after 37 BCE. The entrance was through two doors, side-by-side, to the east. There is a staircase in the southeast corner of the building, showing that there was an upper story. A channel brings water from the spring through the wall to the north into a small rectangular tank on to each of the two basins. The purpose of this installation is unknown. It may have served as part of a tannery or for raising fish. More recent analyses suggest it may have been used in indigo manufacturing, date-wine preparation, date-honey production or opobalsam preparation.
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