Photo by Richard Nowitz

To honor their dead five millennia ago, family members would place the bones in cylindrical burial tombs, called nawamis in the local Bedouin dialect. When Israeli archaeologists began exploring the Sinai after the 1967 war, they found nine clusters of nawamis scattered about the south-central part of the peninsula. In “Nawamis of Sinai: Exploring 5,000-Year-Old Desert Tombs,” Israeli archaeologist Avner Goren describes these earliest excavations—as well as the builders of the enigmatic structures.