Archaeologists have found a massive monument made of thousands of stones believed to be contemporaneous with the megalithic structure of Stonehenge — but in the Middle East. It is set in a field in the Golan Heights region, an area situated about halfway between Nazareth and Damascus captured by Israel during the Israeli-Syrian conflict in 1967. And despite the mysterious site’s size, it has gone virtually unnoticed for years.
Reuters reported November 11 that archaeologists have recovered a monument made up of five concentric circles in Golan Heights that dates back approximately 5,000 years and was discovered by archaeologists looking over an aerial survey of the area. The structure is known by locals as Rujm el-Hiri (in Arabic), or “stone heap of the wild cat,” and Gilgal Refaim (in Hebrew), or “wheel of giants.” The latter is a reference to a race of giants mentioned in the Judeo-Christian bible.
Scientists, using pottery shards and flint tools, were able to date the site. Built about the same time as Stonehenge (roughly 3,500 BCE), the Middle Eastern complex of stones is quite different from the massive megalithic stones comprising the monument in England. Instead of large oblong stones, the Golan Heights site contains thousands of smaller stones. Also, its circular structure orbits around a central burial chamber.
Archaeologists are not sure who built the monument, but they do know that openings on opposing sides of “the wheel” line up with the sun on the summer and winter solstices. This could suggest that the builders had similar reasons for its construction as those who built Stonehenge. It has been proposed that nomads settling the area may have built it, because its size suggests maintenance.
In a video posted by Haaretz.com to YouTube, it is theorized that the five walls of stones were built especially for the burial chamber. Or, it is explained, the concentric walls were built for whoever was buried in the chamber. The site is the largest of its kind in the Middle East and believed to also be the oldest.
Uri Berger, an expert on megalithic tombs with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said of the complex (per Reuters): “It’s an enigmatic site. We have bits of information, but not the whole picture. Scientists come and are amazed by the site and think up their own theories.”
This megalithic mystery just adds to the number of ancient archaeological stone sites in the area. Last November, archaeologists revealed ongoing studies of “Big Circles,” giant stone circles dating back at least 2,000 years that dot the landscape of Jordan and Syria. Like the Golan Heights “Stonehenge,” the builders of these constructs and their purpose are as yet unknown. The stone circles, thirteen in all, were all discovered via aerial photos as well, according to the Christian Science Monitor.