Giant stone circles in the Middle East puzzle archaeologists
Huge stone circles in the Middle East have been imaged from the air, but researchers remain puzzled as to why they exist, and who made them.
11 Big Circles dot the landscape across Jordan and Syria. They date back at least 2,000 years, but may even be pre-historic, created in a time before the invention of writing. They’re very large, some of them approximately 1,300 feet in diameter, and are composed of short, stone walls built from local rocks.
Researchers say the circles would have required some planning, as many of the circles are very precise. It was likely there was some sort of “architect” to head up each project. David L. Kennedy, professor at the University of Western Australia spoke to LiveScience about how they may have created the near-perfect design. He proposed that the architect may have tied a long rope to a post, and walked in a circle around that center pivot. This could also explain small defects in the circle, where the ground was uneven.
Big Circle in the Middle East. Credit: APAAME
The circles were first discovered in the 1920s, but recent imaging by Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) has given archaeologists a new perspective on the sites. “As soon as you get up a few hundred feet, it all comes into focus. You can suddenly see the shape of what you've been looking at,” Kennedy told LiveScience. The research team has also been conducting fieldwork on the ground to establish the origins and purpose of the circles.
Ground level perspective of the low stone ‘wall’ creating a Big Circle. Credit: APAAME
Unfortunately, construction and land development has destroyed many of the 11 circles, so the window of opportunity to examine them is quickly closing.
International Business Times writes that researchers question whether the circles were used to maintain animal herds, or may have been areas of burial, but so far no contemporary remains – or any obvious practical uses – have been recovered or gleaned from the sites. Thousands of other ancient structures have been found across the Middle East, such as wheels, walls, pendants (lines to and from burial cairns) and kites (stone walls used to drive animals into kill areas).
Much like the enigmatic Nasca lines of Peru - giant geoglyphs half a world away from Jordan - the intentions of the builders, and the purpose of the designs remain, for now, a very baffling mystery.
Featured Image: Mysterious Big Circle, Archaeology of the Middle East. Credit: APAAME
By Liz Leafloor