Category Archives: JORDAN

The oldest scaled-down drawings of actual structures go back 9,000 years

The oldest scaled-down drawings of actual structures go back 9,000 years

The oldest scaled-down drawings of actual structures go back 9,000 years
Massive ancient hunting traps called desert kites (one in Jordan is shown above) include long walls that converge on enclosed spaces where animals were driven into pits.

Two large, engraved stones found in the Middle East display the oldest known building plans drawn to scale, researchers say.

One carved depiction covers part of a rectangular stone found at a Jordanian campsite dating to about 9,000 years ago. Two other engravings were made roughly 8,000 years ago on a boulder discovered at the base of a cliff in Saudi Arabia.

Carvings on these stones depict nearby desert kites, massive structures once used to capture animal herds, scientists report May 17 in PLOS ONE.

Desert kites consist of stone walls up to five kilometers long that narrow into large enclosures surrounded by pits where hunters trapped animals, such as gazelles and deer (SN: 4/18/11). Kite depictions at the two sites closely resemble the shape, layout, and proportions of desert kites found close by, archaeologist Rémy Crassard and colleagues say.

Scale drawings etched in rock may have served as maps that helped hunters plan strategies for driving animal herds into specific desert kites, the scientists report.

These engravings might also have been blueprints for building desert kites, or public displays of their makers’ ability to transfer large, 3-D structures onto small, flat surfaces.

A rectangular stone found at a Jordanian site (left) contains a roughly 9,000-year-old engraving (shown illustrated in outline at right) that accurately portrays the shape and proportions of a nearby desert kite.

As farming and animal domestication took root in parts of the Middle East, regional hunting groups that built desert kites to trap wild animal herds maintained special regard for massive hunting structures, says Crassard, of the French National Center for Scientific Research in Lyon.

Other ancient maps and structural plans, intended as scaled-down drawings, date to about 4,300 years ago in Mesopotamia. Those depictions, Crassard says, were not as accurate as the newly discovered desert kite engravings.

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

The discovery of seventy ancient metal books in a cave in Jordan is said to have the possibility of unlocking some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

The tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, have left academics divided over their authenticity, but they say that if they are verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

The pages are not much bigger than a credit card, and on them are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.

The books were discovered five years ago in a cave in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.

Important documents from the same period have previously been found there, and initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books could date from the first century AD.

This estimate is based on the form of corrosion, which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially. If the dating were verified, the books would be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.

David Elkington, a British scholar of ancient religious history and archaeology, and one of the few to have examined the books says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”. “It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

“It is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience,” he said. The books’ whereabouts are also a mystery, as after a Jordanian Bedouin discovered them, an Israeli Bedouin, who is said to have illegally smuggled them across the border into Israel, where they remain, acquired the lot.

The Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University, said there was powerful evidence that the books have a Christian origin in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

“As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image,” he said. “There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb of Jesus, a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.

“There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.

“The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little understood period of history,” he stated.

The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli “keeper” may be looking to sell some of the books onto the black market, or worse – destroy them. But the man who holds the books denies the charge and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

“The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah,” Dr Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, said. “Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery,” she stated.

Archaeologists find a 9,000-year-old shrine in the Jordan desert

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.

Archaeologists find a 9,000-year-old shrine in the Jordan desert
This photo shows two carved standing stones at a remote Neolithic site in Jordan’s eastern desert. A team of Jordanian and French archaeologists said Tuesday that it had found a roughly 9,000-year-old shrine.

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’

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.

Researchers have discovered 3,600-year-old evidence that the ancient city of Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by a ‘cosmic impact,’ which may have inspired the Bible story of the destruction of Sodom
Experts uncovered pottery shards that had their outer surfaces melted into glass, ‘bubbled’ mudbrick and partially melted building material in a 5-foot thick burn layer
Melted pottery (a and b) while (c) shows a 6-cm wide potsherd storage jar from the lower tall, displaying an unaltered inner surface, and (d) the highly vesicular outer surface
Experts uncovered pottery shards that had their outer surfaces melted into glass, ‘bubbled’ mudbrick and partially melted building material in a 5-foot thick burn layer

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

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.)

Evidence that a cosmic impact destroyed the ancient city in the Jordan Valley
“Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit,” writes study co-author Christopher Moore. “Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames. Swords, spears, mudbricks and pottery began to melt. Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.”

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.

A massive fire and shockwave caused by the exploding space rock levelled the city, according to the new study.

“[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

12,000-Year-Old Natufian Village Unearthed in Jordan Valley

12,000-Year-Old Natufian Village Unearthed in Jordan Valley
Remains of a Natufian building at NEG II: the wall of this structure is 90 cm high and is the best-preserved wall excavated thus far; it is composed of 5 courses of limestone and basalt stones; the wall tilts slightly away from the structure to the northwest and two large stones mark its base at the top of the Natufian occupation level; only the western side of the structure survived, yet the contour of the curve suggests a diameter of at least 5 m.

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.

The NEG II site in the Jordan Valley where archaeologists from The Hebrew University have discovered the remains of a 12,000-year-old settlement.

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.

Artefacts from NEG II: 1 – perforated piece; 2-5 – decorated objects; 6 – greenstone spacers; 7 – shell bead; 8-10 – disc beads; 10, 12-14 – disc beads pre-forms.

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.

Massive Structure Found Buried in Sands of Petra

Massive Structure Found Buried in Sands of Petra

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 facade at Petra, where a new monumental structure has been found at the city built by Nabateans more than 2,000 years ago.

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.

Zoomed-in UAV image of platform

“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.

Overview of the monumental platform, looking south-east. Jabal an-Nmayr is indicated by the left-facing arrow and the slope of ‘South Ridge’ with agricultural terracing by the down-facing arrow.

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.

Previous surveys of the site had missed the structure.

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

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 Neolithic figurines found in Jordan were of differing shapes and sizes.

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.”

Two clay human figurines found at the bottom of a 1.6-meter-deep pit located in J 105/110 at Kharaysin.

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.