Mysterious Ancient Wall Extending Over 150km Investigated in Jordan
The Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project has mapped out a mysterious ancient wall in Jordan extending for some 150 kilometers (93 miles), leaving archaeologists perplexed as to how it was built and why.
Live Science reports that the existence of the wall was first reported in 1948 by Sir Alec Kirkbride, a British diplomat in Jordan, who had seen the structure overhead while in an airplane. However, it is only now that the wall has been mapped out in detail with aerial photography by the APAAME, a long-term research project designed to illuminate settlement history in the Near East.
Mapping an Ancient Wall
While the locals have long known about the existence of the wall, no attempts had been made until now to investigate and map out the details of the ancient structure. Archaeologists with the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project therefore set out to photograph and create a detailed map of the wall, revealing that it contains sections where two walls run side-by-side and other sections where the wall branches off in another direction.
"If we add the spurs and stretches of parallel wall, the total [wall length] may be about 150 km (93 miles)," wrote David Kennedy, a professor at the University of Western Australia, and Rebecca Banks, a research assistant at Oxford University, in a paper published recently in the journal Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie.
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In some sections, the wall branches off in another direction. (Credit: APAAME / Flickr)
Khatt Shebib – The Mysterious Wall of Jordan
Sir Alec Kirkbride’s observation of the ancient wall was recorded at the time in the journal Antiquity.
“Travelling by air over the Ma’an district, I noticed a stone wall running, for no obvious purpose, across country, from a point about twelve kilometres west of the town of Ma’an and terminating near the edge of the scarp.”
Kirkbride reported that the local inhabitants refer to the wall as “Khatt Shebib” (Shebib’s Wall), who claim that the wall was built by a prince of the Himyarite dynasty named Amir Shebib el Tubba’i el Himyari, who ruled Transjordan before the advent of Islam.
However, others argue that the wall was not built by Shebib but simply used by him in the 10th century AD as a border marker to separate the arable land with water to the west from the barren hills and deserts of the nomads to the east.
The wall is believed to have originally been a meter or a meter and a half (3.28-4.92 ft.) in height, and was rough with no solid foundation, consisting simply of boulders piled one on top of the other. Nevertheless, the sheer size of the wall suggests that its construction was no easy feat.
“Because it was built of loose fieldstones, there is no way to tell exactly who first contructed the wall,” reports Nabataea.net. “However, to this day, this wall stands as a witness of the ingenuity of the people of that region and as one of the least known, yet amazing structures in the Middle East.”
A close-up of the Khatt Shebib wall showing the lose boulders that were once stacked on top of each other to form a 1 to 1.5 meter-high wall. (Credit: APAAME)
A Landscape of Ancient Structures
Along the Khatt Shebib wall, archaeologists have also identified over 100 ‘towers’ measuring 2 to 4 meters (6.56-13.12 ft.) in diameter. They are thought to have either been places of refuge or small watch posts that could have had one or two men stationed there to watch for raiders trying to cross into their lands.
The remains of one of the towers situated along the Khatt Shebib wall. (Credit: APAAME / Flickr)
However, the wall and towers sit in a wider landscape of ancient structures that have mystified archaeologists for decades. Also situated in the deserts of Jordan are giant geoglyphs and earthworks in the shape of rings, kites, and wheels.
The so-called “Works of Old Men” are a series of giant ‘wheels’ that have been dated to approximately 8,500 years – making them older then the famous Nazca Lines in Peru by about 6,000 years.
Archaeologists are still uncertain about who constructed the giant earthworks and structures across the landscape of Jordan and what their original purpose was. It is hoped that further investigations may help to unravel some of the mystery.
The two “wheels” of the Black Desert that were created 8,500 years ago. (Google)
Featured image: The Khatt Shebib wall. (Credit: APAAME / Flickr)