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The prehistoric megalith Rujm el-Hiri.

Wheel of Giants: Mysterious Prehistoric Rujm el-Hiri Puzzles Archaeologists

Sitting in plain sight but unnoticed for centuries, an unusual megalith near the Sea of Galilee has stumped experts. An ancient monument comprised of enormous stone circles dating to the Early Bronze Age remains a mystery to this day. No one knows who created the stone rings in the form of a wheel, nor why.

Livestock grazing nearby reveals scale of enormous stone rings on the plains of the Golan Heights.

Livestock grazing nearby reveals scale of enormous stone rings on the plains of the Golan Heights. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Pattern Within Giant Stone Circles Revealed From the Air

The impressive ancient ruins, located in the Golan Heights (a contested region claimed by both Israel and Syria) are a wheel-like design of enormous piled rocks—an estimated 40,000 tons of black basalt—stacked into at least five concentric rings, with a central burial cairn at its center, according to news website Haaretz.

Red marks indicate location of Rujm el-Hiri, "stone heap of the wild cat".

Red marks indicate location of Rujm el-Hiri, "stone heap of the wild cat". ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In Arabic it is called Rujm el-Hiri, meaning the "stone heap of the wild cat”. In Hebrew it is named Gilgal Refaim, or the “wheel of giants”. The reference to a race of giants in the Bible, the Rephaites, alludes to only one of the many theories as to who built the complex monument, or the purposes behind it. Considering the great size of Rujm el-Hiri, it’s no wonder it might be considered the work of giant beings.

Referred to as “Stonehenge of the Levant”, it is estimated to be approximately 5,000 years old. Dated to the Early Bronze Age II period (3000 to 2700 BC), it is believed contemporary with the prehistoric Stonehenge monument in the UK.

The iconic Stonehenge at Whiltshire, UK.

The iconic Stonehenge at Whiltshire, UK. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

According to Reuters, at ground level it appears to be heaps of crumbling stone walls. Hundreds of dolmens, or rock formations, are scattered across the expansive field at the site, and so it was only the aerial archaeological surveys in the late 1960’s that finally allowed the whole of the pattern to be revealed from the air, which was unrecognized from the ground—that of a massive bull’s-eye.

A view of the site at ground level.

A view of the site at ground level. (Flickr/ CC BY 2.0 )

Excavations found it to be one of the biggest and oldest structures in the region.

No Bodies to be Found at the Large Burial Site

Between five and nine massive circular rings surround a central burial chamber, the largest ring measuring more than 500 feet (152 meters) wide, and reaching three to eight feet (one to 2.5 meters) high, reports About Education . The rings are not all complete, and some of them are connected with short walls, making ‘spokes’ in the giant wheel.

The walls were formed consistently thick, between 10.5 and 10.8 feet (3.2 and 3.3 meters).

There is debate as to whether the burial cairn at the center of this prehistoric megalith was made at the time original creation of the rings. The central heap of stone is approximately 15 to 16 feet (five meters) high, and 65 to 80 (20 to 25 meters) feet in diameter.

Precious few artifacts have been uncovered at Rujm el-Hiri, due to its age and an unfortunate history of looting at the site. A single Chalcolithic pin was seemingly dropped by looters at the site.  It is thought the central cairn may have once held jewelry and weapons. Excavations of walled chambers did not find any artifacts, indicating the spaces were not used for storage or living spaces.

No radiocarbon dating timelines could be established as no prehistoric organic material was ever recovered from the site.

The dark entrance to the burial chamber found at the center of the megalithic site.

The dark entrance to the burial chamber found at the center of the megalithic site. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Trying to Explain the Prehistoric Mystery

Uri Berger, an expert on megalithic tombs with the Israel Antiquities Authority said,

“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," reports Haaretz.

View inside the burial chamber.

View inside the burial chamber. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Archaeologists believe the site was not used as dwellings or a defensive structure, but other than that there’s no consensus on its purpose or function. No other structure like it has been found in the Near East.

One theory explaining the purpose of the site is that of an astrological calendar. On the June and December solstices the sunrise aligns with openings on the rocks, says Uri Berger. Some researchers believe the site was used as a place of ritual astrological observance or sun worship until the central burial site was installed, blocking the sun’s rays on the special days.

Although a tomb is located at the center of the wheel, no human remains have ever been found within. According to Popular Archaeology , Dr. Rami Arav, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, proposes that this may be because the funerals involved “excarnation” or the defleshing of bones by birds and wildlife. The remains would later be collected by local inhabitants and placed in bone boxes.

Further complicating the issue of who built it is the obvious construction work involved. It’s estimated to have required more than 25,000 working days to build up the massive monument. That, combined with the collection and transportation of stone, seems to have required an enormous support network that a nomadic civilization or itinerants may not have had, notes Reuters.

Explanations for one of the region’s most unique and puzzling sites continues to elude archaeologists.

Video: Rujm el Hiri - Prehistoric ''Stonehenge'' monument in Golan Heights

Featured Image: The prehistoric megalith Rujm el-Hiri.  (Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

By: Liz Leafloor

 

Comments

Why did people all around the world build giant structures visible only from the sky?

They had to have had a very good reason, or at least very good to their minds. I have built stone walls. Even a modest stone wall running 10 feet or so takes days of hauling stones and stacking them.

Where did the stones come from? Locally? How local? 20 feet? 5 miles?

People everywhere built these megaliths.

Cyrus H. Gordon, the philologist, argued that ancient people had vast sea faring networks and that people from the Middle East and the Mediterranean made most of the Stonehenge like megaliths we find in so many places, especially islands and places close to the sea. Stonehenge lies only about 30 miles from the sea.

We have found Hebrew and other Semitic scripts in North and South America. We have found Sumerian wedge writing in South America.

And not just the Semites. The Chinese had huge navies, as did many others.

All of our beliefs about civilization beginning at Sumer amount to just that, beliefs, unsupported by the facts. Something super bad happened to the Earth and humans to wipe out all knowledge of these past achievements, including maps of Antarctica without ice.

Tom Carberry

but tom, its a heap of rocks, most likely to stone christians and then let the lion in central den come out to eat him, drag him back to lair, and block lion in again. the walls for spectators, the bridges to get to the inner ring easily.
Sloppiest megalith I ever saw, but then again, christian murderers probably were not all that gifted a sort.

Burial chamber? Ha ha.

The fact that name in arabic means "circle of the wild cats"
and the one doctor suggests his hint "bodies defleshed by wildlife"
shows that the
"burial chamber" was a manmade lions den,
the wall for safely viewing christians thrown to lions.
This matches all and the haphazard way it is built. As an animal corral/viewing raised surface.
Lions eat bones.

Unfortunately, it was built nearly 3 millennia early for murdering Christians.

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