Massive 5,000-year-old monument dedicated to Moon God found near Sea of Galilee
Archaeologists have discovered an enormous 5,000-year-old stone monument shaped like a lunar crescent near the Sea of Galilee in what is now Israel, according to a report in Live Science. Its crescent shape, and the fact that it is located next to an ancient town named Bet Yerah (‘House of the Moon God’) leads researchers to suggest that the structure was dedicated to the Moon God, Sin, although its actual function is unknown.
The monument was found about 13 kilometres northwest of the Sea of Galilee and approximately 29 kilometres from the town of Bet Yerah. It consists of an enormous crescent-shaped mound of stones measuring about 150 metres in length, 7 metres in height, and with a volume of about 14,000 cubic metres. It has been estimated that such a structure would have taken about 200 workers more than 5 months to construct.
The research team have been able to approximately date the site to between 3050 BC and 2650 BC, based on pottery found in the structure. But aside from the pottery, no other artifacts or remains of buildings have been found in its vicinity, so it appears to be an entirely free standing monument.
Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Live Science that the crescent shape stands out in the landscape and may have had symbolic importance as a monument dedicated to the ancient Mesopotamian Moon God named Sin, or otherwise Nanna.
About 8 miles (13 kilometres) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, a newly identified crescent-shaped monument was built about 5,000 years ago.
Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north. The Semitic moon god Sin was originally a separate deity from the Sumerian Nanna, but from the Akkadian Empire period the two merged into the one god.
Sin was commonly designated as En-zu, which means "lord of wisdom". During the period (c.2600-2400 BC) that Ur exercised a large measure of supremacy over the Euphrates valley, Sin was naturally regarded as the head of the pantheon – references can be found naming Sin the "father of the gods", "chief of the gods", and "creator of all things". The wisdom personified by the moon-god is an expression of the science of astronomy, in which the observation of the moon's phases is an important factor.
The moon god, Sin. Image source.
Other evidence supporting its connection to the Moon God is the fact that the nearest town is the ancient settlement of Bet Yerah, whose name is also connected to the Moon God. However, it's uncertain whether the town actually bore this name 5,000 years ago.
Occupied throughout the Early Bronze Age and sporadically in later times, including the Persian period (c 450 BC) through to the early Islamic period (c 1000 AD), Bet Yerah was a large fortified city at the beginning of the third millennium BC. Its inhabitants traded with the early kings of Egypt, as seen from several artifacts, including a jug with a hieroglyphic inscription. The town spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant.
Ancient town of Bet Yerah. Image source.
Although archaeologists have speculated on various functions of the newly-discovered monument, for example, marking possession, asserting rights over natural resources, or identifying the border of Bet Yerah’s territory, the reality is that the true meaning and purpose of the monument remains unknown.
Featured image: The crescent monument was constructed with about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) of stone. Credit: Ido Wachtel