Archaeologists find a 9,000-year-old shrine in the Jordan desert
A team of Jordanian and French archaeologists said Tuesday that it had found a roughly 9,000-year-old shrine at a remote Neolithic site in Jordan’s eastern desert.
The ritual complex was found in a Neolithic campsite near large structures known as “desert kites,” or mass traps that are believed to have been used to corral wild gazelles for slaughter.
Such traps consist of two or more long stone walls converging toward an enclosure and are found scattered across the deserts of the Middle East.
“The site is unique, first because of its preservation state,” said Jordanian archaeologist Wael Abu-Azziza, co-director of the project. “It’s 9,000 years old and everything was almost intact.”
Within the shrine were two carved standing stones bearing anthropomorphic figures, one accompanied by a representation of the “desert kite,” as well as an altar, hearth, marine shells and miniature model of the gazelle trap.
The researchers said in a statement that the shrine “sheds an entirely new light on the symbolism, artistic expression as well as the spiritual culture of these hitherto unknown Neolithic populations.”
The proximity of the site to the traps suggests the inhabitants were specialized hunters and that the traps were “the centre of their cultural, economic and even symbolic life in this marginal zone,” the statement said.
The team included archaeologists from Jordan’s Al Hussein Bin Talal University and the French Institute of the Near East. The site was excavated during the most recent digging season in 2021.
Researchers find 3,600 year-old evidence that Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by a ‘cosmic airburst’
A research team including East Carolina University’s Dr Sid Mitra, professor of geological sciences, has presented evidence that a Middle Bronze Age city called Tall el-Hammam, located in the Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea, was destroyed by a cosmic airburst.
Archaeological excavation of the site began in 2005, Mitra said, and researchers have been particularly interested in a citywide 1.5-meter-thick destruction layer of carbon and ash.
The layer, which dates to about 1650 B.C.E. (about 3,600 years ago), contains shocked quartz, melted pottery and mudbricks, diamond-like carbon, soot, remnants of melted plaster, and melted minerals including platinum, iridium, nickel, gold, silver, zircon, chromite and quartz.
“They found all this evidence of high-temperature burning throughout the entire site,” Mitra said. “And the technology didn’t exist at that time, in the Middle Bronze Age, for people to be able to generate fires of that kind of temperature.”
The site includes a massive palace complex with thick walls and a monumental gateway, much of which was destroyed.
The researchers developed a hypothesis that there had been a meteorite impact or bolide — a meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.
The researchers compared the airburst to a 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a 50-meter-wide bolide detonated, generating 1,000 times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Researchers in a variety of fields were called upon to analyze evidence from the site, including Mitra, whose lab focuses on the analysis of soot.
“So we analyzed the soot at this site, and saw that a large fraction of the organic carbon is soot, and you just can’t have that unless you have really high temperatures,” Mitra said. “So that’s what led us to provide support to the story that this was a very high-temperature fire. … And that then supported the idea that this was an external source of energy such as a meteor.”
Other research that supported the hypothesis included the presence of diamond-like carbon, melted pottery, mudbricks and roofing clay; the directionality of the debris; high-pressure shock metamorphism of quartz; high-temperature melted minerals; and human bones in the destruction layer.
There is also a high concentration of salt in the destruction layer, which could have ruined agriculture in the area, explaining the abandonment of more than a dozen towns and cities in the lower Jordan Valley in the following centuries.
The researchers considered and dismissed other potential processes that could explain the destruction, including volcanic or earthquake activity, wildfire, warfare and lightning, but none provided an explanation for the various lines of evidence as well as a cosmic impact or airburst.
The paper, titled “A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea,” also speculates that “a remarkable catastrophe, such as the destruction of Tall el-Hammam by a cosmic object, may have generated an oral tradition that, after being passed down through many generations, became the source of the written story of biblical Sodom in Genesis.”
Genesis 19:24 describes sulfur raining down out of the heavens and the destruction of the cities and all those living in them, as well as the vegetation in the land.
“So some of the oral traditions talk about the walls of Jericho (about 13 1/2 miles away) falling down, as well as the fires if they’re associated with Sodom,” Mitra said. “Again it’s science; you look at your observations, and in this case, it’s the historical record, and you see what you hypothesize and if it fits the data and the data seem to fit.”
The study does not attempt to prove or disprove that possibility, but its explanation of the destruction of the city could be consistent with the biblical accounts.
Mitra said it was rewarding to work with other researchers who were approaching the question from different angles. Most of them he had never worked with before, he said.
“That type of approach tends to be a robust study,” he said. “If someone comes along and says you didn’t do this right or there’s no way that this could have happened, you can still fall back on [all these] other things that support the same argument.”
Evidence that a cosmic impact destroyed the ancient city in the Jordan Valley
The destruction of Tall el-Hammam, a Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley, by an exploding comet or meteor may have inspired the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a new study suggests. (“[N]otoriously sinful cities,” Sodom and Gomorrah’s devastation by sulfur and fire is recorded in the Book of Genesis, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.)
At the time of the disaster, around 1650 B.C.E., Tall el-Hammam was the largest of three major cities in the valley. It likely acted as the region’s political centre, reports Ariella Marsden for the Jerusalem Post. Combined, the three metropolises boasted a population of around 50,000.
Tall el-Hammam’s mudbrick buildings stood up to five stories tall. Over the years, archaeologists examining the structures’ ruins have found evidence of a sudden high-temperature, destructive event—for instance, pottery pieces that were melted on the outside but untouched inside.
Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.
The new paper, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, examined possible causes of the devastation based on the archaeological record. The researchers concluded that warfare, a fire, a volcanic eruption or an earthquake were unlikely culprits, as these events couldn’t have produced heat intense enough to cause the melting recorded at the scene. That left a space rock as the most likely cause.
Because experts failed to find a crater at the site, they attributed the damage to an airburst created when a meteor or comet travelled through the atmosphere at high speed.
It would have exploded about 2.5 miles above the city in a blast 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima, writes study co-author Christopher R. Moore, an archaeologist at the University of South Carolina, for The Conversation.
“Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit,” Moore explains. “Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames. Swords, spears, mudbricks and pottery began to melt. Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.”
Seconds after the blast, a shockwave ripped through the city at a speed of roughly 740 miles per hour—faster than the worst tornado ever recorded. The cities’ buildings were reduced to foundations and rubble.
“None of the 8,000 people or any animals within the city survived,” Moore adds. “Their bodies were torn apart and their bones blasted into small fragments.”
Corroborating the idea that an airburst caused the destruction, the researchers found melted metals and unusual mineral fragments among the city’s ruins.
“[O]ne of the main discoveries is shocked quartz,” says James P. Kennett, an emeritus earth scientist at the University of California Santa Barbara, in a statement. “These are sand grains containing cracks that form only under very high pressure.”
The archaeologists also discovered high concentrations of salt in the “destruction layer” of the site, possibly from the blast’s impact on the Dead Sea or its shores.
The explosion could have distributed the salt across a wide area, possibly creating high-salinity soil that prevented crops from growing and resulted in the abandonment of cities along the lower Jordan Valley for centuries.
Moore writes that people may have passed down accounts of the spectacular disaster as oral history over generations, providing the basis for the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah—which, like Tall el-Hammam, were supposedly located near the Dead Sea.
In the Book of Genesis, God “rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven,” and “the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” According to the Gospel of Luke, “on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them.”
Whether Tall el-Hammam and Sodom were actually the same cities is an ongoing debate. The researchers point out that the new study does not offer evidence one way or the other.
“All the observations stated in Genesis are consistent with a cosmic airburst,” says Kennett in the statement, “but there’s no scientific proof that this destroyed city is indeed the Sodom of the Old Testament.”
12,000-Year-Old Natufian Village Unearthed in Jordan Valley
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a prehistoric village in the Jordan Valley dating from around 12,000 years ago, The Hebrew University revealed on Wednesday.
The site, named NEG II, is located in Wadi Ein-Gev, west of the Sea of Galilee and south of the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, and is estimated to cover an area of roughly 1,200 square meters (three acres).
In a series of excavations, archaeologists found numerous artefacts pointing to a vast human settlement including burial remains, flint tools, art manifestations, faunal assemblage and stone and bone tools.
While other sites from the same period have been unearthed in the area, the Institute of Archaeology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that NEG II was unique in that it contains cultural characteristics typical of both the Old Stone Age — known as the Paleolithic period — and the New Stone Age, known as the Neolithic period.
“Although attributes of the stone tool kit found at NEG II place the site chronologically in the Paleolithic period, other characteristics – such as its artistic tradition, size, the thickness of archaeological deposits and investment in architecture – are more typical of early agricultural communities in the Neolithic period,” said chief excavator Dr. Leore Grosman.
“Characterizing this important period of potential overlap in the Jordan Valley is crucial for the understanding of the socioeconomic processes that marked the shift from Paleolithic mobile societies of hunter-gatherers to Neolithic agricultural communities,” she added.
The Paleolithic period is considered the earliest period in the history of mankind.
The end of that era is marked by the transition to agricultural societies with the emergence of settled villages and the domestication of plants and animals.
According to Grosman, NEG II was likely occupied in the midst of the cold and dry global climatic event known as the Younger Dryas, when temperatures declined sharply over most of the northern hemisphere around 12,900–11,600 years ago.
Affected by climatic changes, groups in the area became increasingly mobile and potentially smaller in size, she said.
NEG II, however, shows that some groups in the Jordan Valley may have become larger in size and preferred town-like settlements to a nomadic existence.
Researchers said this shift in settlement pattern could be related to climate conditions that provided the ingredients necessary for prehistoric man to take the final steps toward agriculture in the southern Levant.
“It is not surprising that at a number of sites in the Jordan Valley we find a cultural entity that bridges the crossroads between Late Paleolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers,” Grosman said.
According to a new study based on satellite imaging to map the ancient city, archaeologists have found the monumental building hidden under the sands of Petra.
A massive 184-footed platform was revealed by satellite surveys of the city, with an interior platform that was paved with flagstones, lined with columns on one side and with a gigantic staircase descending to the east. A smaller structure, 28ft by 28ft, topped the interior platform and opened to the staircase. Pottery found near the structure suggests the structure could be more than 2,150 years old.
“This monumental platform has no parallels at Petra or in its hinterlands at present,” the researchers wrote, noting that the structure, strangely, is near the city center but “hidden” and hard to reach.
“To my knowledge, we don’t have anything quite like this at Petra,” said Christopher Tuttle, an archaeologist who has worked at Petra for about 15 years and a co-author of the paper.
“I knew something was there and other archaeologists – who have worked in Petra for the last, God knows, 100 years at least – I know at least one other had noticed something there,” he said. But the structure’s sides resembled terrace walls common to the city, he noted: “I don’t think anybody paid much attention to them.”
Tuttle collaborated on the research with Sarah Parcak, a self-described “space archaeologist” from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who used satellites to survey the site.
Parcak said that she begins surveys “quite skeptical” of what they might find – they are working on sites in northern Africa, North America, Europe and elsewhere – and that she was surprised to find the monument “turned out to be something significant”.
“Petra is a massive site, and we chose the name for our article [‘Hiding in plain sight’] precisely because, even though this is less than a kilometer south of the main city, previous surveys had missed it,” she said.
Tuttle and a team took subsequent trips to measure and examine the site from the ground. There they found scattered pottery, the oldest of which suggests the site could date back to the time of Petra’s founding. “We’re always very cautious about this,” Tuttle said, “but the oldest pottery can be dated back relatively securely to about 150BC.”
Petra was built by the Nabateans in what is now southern Jordan, while the civilization was amassing great wealth trading with its Greek and Persian contemporaries around 150BC. The city was eventually subsumed by the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, but its ruins remain famous for the work of its founders, who carved spectacular facades into cliffs and canyons. It was abandoned around the seventh century and rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812.
Along with the oldest Nabatean pottery, they found fragments that had been imported from the Hellenistic cultures who traded with Petra, as well as pottery of the eras when the Roman and the Byzantine empires took the city under their guard.
In the mountains, valleys and canyons surrounding Petra, Tuttle said, “there’s tons of small cultic shrines and platforms and these things, but nothing on this scale”. He said these sites, including a large, open plateau known as the Monastery and probably “used for various cultic displays or political activities”, are the closest parallel to the newly discovered edifice. “To be honest, we don’t know a whole lot about it.”
Those sites suggest that the structure was used for “some kind of massive display function”, he said. Unlike those other sites, however, the giant staircase does not face the city center of Petra, which Tuttle called a “fascinating” peculiarity.
“We don’t understand what the purpose [of visible shrines], because the Nabateans didn’t leave any written documents to tell us,” he said, adding: “But I find it interesting that such a monumental feature doesn’t have a visible relationship to the city.”
Nabatean shrines around Petra offer mixed clues about the ancient people’s practices. Like other Semitic cultures of the day, the Nabateans used an indirect, “aniconic” style to indirectly represent their divinities: carved blocks, stelae and niches. Sometimes there will be “an empty niche, just a carving in the wall, which the empty space itself can be representative or they would’ve had portable images”, Tuttle said.
But because they were in near-constant trade with other cultures of the Mediterranean, the Nabateans also adopted figural representations. “Nabatean gods depicted as parallels to Zeus or Hermes or Aphrodite, and those kinds of things,” he said.
The researchers published their work in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. They said that while they have no plans at this time to excavate the site, they hope they will have the chance to work there in the future.
Parcak said that she expects “some pretty amazing discoveries over the next year” using satellites and sophisticated new techniques in south-east Asia “and other densely forested/rainforest areas”. A surveying technology called Lidar, for instance, has uncovered sites in remote forests in Central America.
“This technology is not about what you find – but how you can think about things like settlement scale and ancient human-environment interactions more broadly,” she added. “What happens when you can truly map the near-surface buried features for an entire site? I’m excited, but we need to think about the implications of having all this technology at our fingertips so we can use it responsibly.”
10,000-Year-Old Neolithic Figurines Discovered in Jordan Burials
From classical paintings of crucified Messiahs to Damien Hirst’s starkly grim tanks of pickled sharks, death is a subject that has haunted artistic imaginations throughout the ages.
As it turns out, a trove of archaeological discoveries in Jordan suggests that death and an unusual process of digging up the deceased may have sparked an important ancient artistic revolution in Early Neolithic Asia: the jump between artworks depicting animals to portraying humans.
Reported in the journal Antiquity, archaeologists from the Spanish National Research Council and Durham University in the UK developed this idea while studying a number of unusual objects discovered at the site of Kharaysin in the Zarqa river valley, Jordan, dating to the 8th millennium BCE.
The team was initially stumped by the jagged objects, thinking they must be tools, until they came to realize they were actively crafted into crudely-shaped human bodies, complete with broad shoulders, slim waist, and wide hips.
“One of the excavators suggested they were figurines, which the rest of the team were skeptical about,” lead author Dr. Juan José Ibáñez said in an email statement. “However, the more we studied, the stronger the idea appeared.”
The figures appear to have been crafted around the 7500 BCE, about a century after depictions of humans became more common in the Early Neolithic communities of Western Asia. But, what drove humans in the Zarqa river valley to start making human sculptures 9,000-10,000 years ago?
By no coincidence, the researchers say, the figurines were found in an area used by the Early Neolithic communities of the Zarqa river valley to bury their dead.
Among the seven original burials found here, a number of the remains appear to have been dug up following an initial burial and the partial decomposition of bodies, manipulated – in some cases bones were removed or muddled up in an unusual mortuary practice – and then reburied.
The placement of the figurines to these burials suggests they were carelessly dropped, but actively deposited in specific areas. Assembling all of these odd pieces of evidence together, the researchers put forward the hypothesis that the figurines were part of a burial ritual.
Although precise details remain unclear, it’s suggested the figurines were used as a physical representation of the dead to honor the community’s ancestors, a practice that’s well documented during this time.
“These rituals probably included remembrance of the deceased. The presence of ‘figurines’ suggests that individuals could have been symbolically depicted in flint with a simple technical gesture. If this were the case, the ‘figurines’ were discarded where they were used,” the researchers write in their paper.
The roughly shaped figurines alone might not be enough to convince some of this theory, but the conclusion was backed up by comparisons to other examples of figurines from the Neolithic Zarqa river valley.
For example, archaeologists also discovered a similar set of figurines that clearly depicted humans at another Neolithic site in Jordan, ‘Ain Ghazal.
Much older depictions of humans can be found elsewhere in the world; the 35,000-years-old Venus of Hohle Fels, found in modern-day Germany, is the oldest undisputed depiction of a human being.
However, in Early Neolithic culture in present-day Jordan, human iconography has not been found until around the time of these unusual funerary ceremonies. From this point onwards, it appears that humans became a recurring subject of artistic creations in this part of the world.
Perhaps, as the researchers outline in their study, this “artistic revolution” was triggered by this ceremony of digging up the dead and honoring lost ancestors.
The Oldest Defensive Wall on Earth Predates Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid by 5,300 Years
The Egyptian pyramids at Giza are remembered every time we speak of the pyramids. Although there are about 120 pyramids in Egypt, the most prominent temples in Giza are intimidating.
The Great Pyramid of Giza where it stood, accompanied by a nearly identical, albeit smaller pyramid, thought to have been built by Khufu’s successor Khafre. The smallest of the three pyramids at Giza is that of Menkaure, and it marked the end of pyramid-building at Giza.
While these are the most imposing and the most famous pyramids in Egypt, they are definitely not the oldest. It was believed that during the Third Dynasty reign of Pharaoh Djoser, the first Pyramid in Egypt was constructed around 4,700 years ago.
The Step Pyramid at Saqqara–the first colossal stone building in Egypt–was a monument that redefined architecture in Egypt. Not only is it the earliest callosal stone building in the history of Egypt, but it is also regarded as the earliest large-scale cut stone construction in the history of ancient Egypt.
With a total volume of 330,400 cubic meters (11,667,966 cu ft), rising to a height of more than 63 meters, the Step Pyramid was an unprecedented structure. The monument itself and the pyramid complex as a whole was of unseen scale. In fact, experts believe that such was the size of Djoser’s ancient wonder that it covered 15 ha (37 acres), which is around 2.5 times as large as the Old Kingdom town of Heirakonpolis.
The successful completion of the massive pyramid complex at Giza testifies that around 4,700 years ago, the people of ancient Egypt were capable of undertaking bewildering constructions.
As noted by Mark Lehner, the social implications of completing such a large and carefully sculpted stone structure are beyond staggering. In fact, the pyramid of Djoser testifies to the fact that already in 2,700 BC, ancient Egypt was a well-developed country, and the royal government had a new level of control of resources, both material and human.
Although the Step Pyramid of Djoser was a revolutionary undertaking in Egyptian architecture, and future pyramids that followed the footsteps of Djoser became some of the most impressive the world has ever seen, what happened before Djoser? What happened before the third dynasty of Egypt in other parts of the world?
Did the very first, megalithic stone-cut buildings appear in Egypt? Or, did other cultures develop similar, if not greater structures prior to Egypt’s Third Dynasty?
As it turns out, thousands of years before the Third Dynasty, when Egypt’s first pyramid was built, people were already creating mind-boggling stone-cut constructions.
The oldest temple on Earth is evidence of that.
Built between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, the megalithic stones at Göbekli Tepe in present-day Turkey are evidence that dating back nearly to the last ice age, people on Earth had the ability to create ingenious and mind-boggling structures. Göbekli Tepe features some of the most impressive and oldest structures on Earth. Somehow, by means we have still not fully understood, ancient people at Göbekli Tepe managed to quarry, transport and erect massive blocks of stone weighing several tons.
These standing stones would eventually make up what is now considered the oldest megalithic temple on the surface of the planet, bearing evidence that more than 10,000 years ago, people had the ability to build megalithic structures.
Göbekli Tepe is so ancient that it was abandoned in 8,000 BC. This means that the builders of the intricate temple built it and abandoned it before the pyramids of Egypt were even conceived. Not many people are fully aware of the complexity and scale of Göbekli Tepe and what it means in the history of mankind. So far, more than 200, massive pillars have been found in around 20 circles. Each of the pillars has a height of around six meters and has a weight of around ten tons. Although Göbekli Tepe is perhaps one of the most impressive architectural feats of mankind, there are numerous equally stumping structures spread across the planet.
Located in the city of Jericho in the West Bank, we find another bewildering structure, a wall that is arguably the oldest defensive wall discovered by archeologists anywhere in the world. It was built of undressed stones and is located at an archaeological mound referred to as Tell es-Sultan.
Archaeological surveys indicate the wall is a Pre-Pottery Neolithic defensive or flood protection wall and dates to around 8,000 BC. This means that some 10,000 years ago, ancient mankind built complex defensive structures using massive blocks of stone. The Neolithic wall was part of a greater defensive structure. Experts have revealed it was complemented by a stone tower built into it.
Through surveys of the site, scholars believe that the wall was built in order to prevent floods and the tower was most likely used for ceremonial purposes. However, given the large dimensions of the wall (around 1.5 to 2 meters (4.9 to 6.6 ft) thick and 3.7 to 5.2 meters (12 to 17 ft) high, and the tower measuring around 8.5 meters (28 ft), researchers propose the wall and its adjacent structures served a defensive purpose as well.
Constructing something of that size around 10,00 years ago was not an easy task, and it is suggested that social organization, labor division, and classes were already clear at that time.
Surrounding the wall, the ancient builders created a ditch 8.2 meters (27 ft) wide by 2.7 meters (9 ft) deep. Surveys have shown that the ditch was actually cut through solid bedrock with a circumference around the town of as much as 600 meters (2,000 ft). This further adds to the complexity of the construction.
“The labor involved in excavating this ditch out of solid rock must have been tremendous. As we have discovered nothing in the way of heavy flint picks, one can only suppose that it was carried out with stone mauls, perhaps helped by splitting with fire and water,” explained archaeologists Kathleen Kenyon.
Historically the Wall of Jericho is of great importance. For example, the Book of Joshua deals with Jericho during the Late Bronze Age, at around 1400 BC, which is approximately 6,400 years after the Neolithic “Wall of Jericho” fell out of use.
The ancient city of Jericho is one of the oldest on Earth. So far, archaeological excavations have revealed more than 20 successive settlements at Jericho. The first settlement at the site is believed to have ebene created around 9,000 BC, which means it dates back at least 11,000 years, which is nearly at the very start of the Holocene epoch.
The evidence further supports the notion that settlements existed in the area as early as 10,000 BC, during the Younger Dryas period. By the time the Younger Dryas was coming to an end, the area was inhabited around the year.
These Mysterious Geoglyphs in Jordan Are 6,000 Years Older Than Peru’s Nazca Lines
Although the finished product of giant earth designs has been difficult to discern, archeologists recently announced that at least some of the great “works of old men” (as the Bedouin called them in 1927) of the Middle East are significantly older than the famous Nazca Lines of Peru.
Researchers have also shown that, in the past, one cluster of the wheels could have been linked with astronomical knowledge and that some of the geoglyphs were probably connected with the burials.
It has been concluded by archeologists that at least two of the giant Wadi Al Quattafi ‘ Wheels ‘ from Wadi Al Qattafi and the Wisad Pools, in the Black Desert of Jordan are at least 8,500 years old – making them older than the famous Nazca Lines in Peru by about 6,000 years.
BBC reports that by using optically stimulated luminescence ( OSL), the archaeologists were able to show not only the date of creation of the two wheels but also that one of them was repaired about 5,500 years ago.
The research, soon to be published in the journal Antiquity, demonstrates that at the time of the creation of these two wheels the climate of the Black Desert would have been very different, making life in the area easier.
Archaeological evidence for their claim came in the form of “Charcoal from deciduous oak and tamarisk [a shrub that] were recovered from two hearths in one building dated to ca. 6,500 BC.”
Furthermore, Discovery News has reported that the recent study suggests that at least some of the geoglyphs are related to an astronomical interest by the ancient inhabitants.
Specifically, they have found importance in one group of designs in the Azraq Oasis, as “The majority of the spokes of the wheels in that cluster are oriented for some reason to stretch in a SE-NW direction – where the sun rises during the winter solstice.” This may be no more than an educated “hunch” however, as other geoglyphs in the area do not show apparent “archaeoastronomical information.”
The two wheels and the cluster make up just a small section of the famous “Works of Old Men” that cross the Arabia region – “from Syria across Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Yemen” according to the researchers from the current study.
The geoglyphs of the Middle East were first spotted in 1927 by RAF Flight Lt. Percy Maitland, while he was flying an airmail route over Jordan. he has written.
Some of the wheel-shaped structures are clustered closer together, while others appear to be solitary. Some structures have more of a rectangular shape, while many of them are round. Some of the circular structures contain two spokes that form a bar…The wheels are sometimes found on top of the kites.
The purpose of the geoglyphs probably varied according to their location and/or design.
Gary Rollefson, co-director of the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project, says that “The presence of cairns suggests some association with burials since that is often the way of treating people once they died.” However, he was also quick to add that “there are other wheels where cairns are entirely lacking, pointing to a different possible use.”
Regarding the construction of the geoglyphs, it is evident that quality also differs from one structure to the next. Speaking of the two wheels in the Black Desert, Rollefson said that they “are simple in form and not very rigidly made, according to geometric standards.
They contrast sharply with some other wheels that appear to have been set out with almost as much attention to detail as the Nazca Lines.” The precision of the other wheels may have been due to the use of a long rope and a stake.
In contrast to the designs located further north, David Kennedy, co-director of the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) has said that the forms in Saudi Arabia and Yemen “tend to be small and have only one or two bars instead of spokes.
Some of the “wheels” are actually shaped like squares, rectangles or triangles.” The APAAME has also noted kites and interconnecting walls of stones, which he has dubbed as “gates.”
APAAME is currently unable to conduct on-site or aerial imaging research of the “wheels” in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, thus they are studying aerial images from the 20th century and free satellite imaging from Google Earth and Bing for now.