The area is a hilly, rocky area cut by some wadis. The Armistice Demarcation Line (ADL, Green line) runs generally east to west approximately five kilometers south of as Samu. The village of as Samu is located on twin hills with a wadi varying from shallow to deep between them. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the town had a population of 19,649 in 2007.
As-Samu, was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and in the census of 1596 the village appeared as being in the Nahiya of Halil of the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 16 households, all Muslim. They paid a fixed tax-rate of 33,3% on agricultural products, including wheat, barley, vineyards and fruit trees, in addition to occasional revenues, goats and bee-hives; a total of 3000 akçe.
In 1838, Edward Robinson identified the town of Semua with biblical Eshtemoa. He described As-Samu as a "considerable" village..."full of flocks and herds all in fine order". He also found remains of walls built from very large stones, some of which were more than 10 feet long. In 1863 the French explorer Victor Guérin visited the place.
An Ottoman village list from about 1870 found that as-Samu had a population of 298, in 77 houses, though the population count included men, only.
In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described it as "A village of moderate size, standing high.
On the north is an open valley, and the modern buildings extend along a spur which runs out west from the watershed. The ground is rocky
on the hills, but the valleys are arable land. There are remains of an ancient castle in the village, and other fragments. A church is said once
to have existed here, and the ruins to the west show that the town was once much larger. To the south there are olives in the valley. To the north there are rock-cut tombs on the hill-side ; the water-supply is from cisterns. The inhabitants number some 400 to 500 souls.
In the 1945 statistics the population of As-Samu was 2,520, all Muslims, who owned 138,872 dunams of land according to an official land and population survey. 30 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 40,398 for cereals, while 165 dunams were built-up (urban) land.
In 1966 Israel launched a full-scale military operation against the town, which resulted in the deaths of fifteen Jordanian soldiers and three Jordanian civilians; fifty-four other soldiers were wounded. The villagers suffered 3 civilians killed and 96 wounded. According to David Dean Shulman, the villagers were unconnected to the incident that had triggered the reprisal. Much of the village was destroyed. The commander of the Israeli paratroop battalion, Colonel Yoav Shaham, was killed and ten other Israeli soldiers were wounded.
A headdress or 'money hat' (wuqayat al-darahem) from as-Samu (c. 1840s, with later additions) is exhibited at the British Museum. The caption notes that the headdress was worn in the 19th century and early 20th century during the wedding ceremony, especially for the 'going out to the well' ceremony when the bride appeared in public as a married woman for the first time. Generally, the headdress was considered to be one of the most important parts of the Palestinian costume.
As-Samu is also known for its handwoven kilims.
^UN Doc[permanent dead link] Chronological Review of Events Relating to the Question of Palestine; Monthly Media Monitoring Review March 2005
^14 May:[permanent dead link] Farmers and shepherds from Yatta and As Samu towns were denied access to their land by settlers from Ma'on settlement.
^Relief web. According to Palestinian sources, a 30-year-old Palestinian man from the town of As-Samu' sustained multiple bodily injuries when a group of settlers beat him and dragged him to the nearby settlement outpost of Asael. The settlers then tied him to an electricity pole where the assault continued.