Vale of Siddim, 2018
Asphalt has been created naturally in the Dead Sea; It can be found on rocks, filling cracks, and emerging from the seabed, eventually detaching and floating to the surface. The rate at which chunks of asphalt mysteriously emerge and arise ashore is not constant and was attributed to earthquakes or seasonal weather patterns. In ancient times, asphalt was one of the only natural resources available in the mediterranean basin, thus the land became associated with materials bearing medicinal properties. During the Canaanite period (circa 1500 BCE), the local population engaged in many forms of trade, with a distinct trade in asphalt. Fishermen and specialists collected and brought ashore asphalt that appeared from the sea.
The lion’s share was shipped to Egypt (who then ruled the area), where it was mixed with medicinal herbs and used for embalming. The Middle East is replete with examples of asphalt being used for construction, as a sealant, and especially as a material with many healing effects. Dead Sea asphalt is considered to be of exceptionally high quality, making it centrally important and extremely valuable. In 1826 Nicéphore Niépce managed to stabilized what consider to be the first photograph, called View from the Window at Le Gras. The material that made that process possible name is, Bitumen of Judea, which is the same asphalt from the dead sea.