Unfolding in an easterly direction from Sde Boker, the Valley of Zin stretches until it meets the Arava Valley. Like the majority of the Negev, it was likely formed over time by immense geological forces initiated during the years the region was covered by the water of the Tethys Ocean. As sedimentary layers accumulated under the Ocean, other tectonic pressures between the southern and northern tectonic plates caused them to bend and buckle. The Arava Valley that we see today was created by geological pressures causing the surrounding land to sink a great deal, draining the soft sedimentary layers from the Zin Valley and leaving the harder materials like Mount Zin intact.
During the Exodus from Egypt, the wilderness of Zin was one of the stopping points for the Israelites. Following the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, the Zin Valley marked the southern border of the tribe of Judah. Some scholars have identified Mount Zin as the biblical site of Mt. Hor which is known as the burial site of Moses’s brother Aaron. In the Book of Numbers, Mt. Hor is named as a feature in the Valley of Zin. Other traditions have located the mountain at the current site of Jabal Harun in Petra as well as near Mt. Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula.
Aside from the majestic view of the mountain rising above the valley of Zin, there are some other significant land features worth seeing. One of these is the collection of oddly circular stones known as “potato stones”. Also known as Bulbus, the Arabic word for potato, these 60 million year old formations were found all around the base of the mountain. These geological oddities are the product of Tethys ocean which once covered the Negev. At the core of most is some kind of organic matter like the remains of a plant or animal which was gradually covered over time by calcite and forced into its current shape by the immense pressure of the ocean water.