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Ancient Stone Circles in Mideast Baffle Archaeologists

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Author Topic: Ancient Stone Circles in Mideast Baffle Archaeologists  (Read 345 times)
Dana Monsour
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« on: November 01, 2014, 10:37:38 pm »

 Building the Big Circles

The circles would not have been hard to build, Kennedy said. They were constructed mainly with local rocks, and a dozen people working hard could potentially complete a Big Circle in a week, Kennedy told Live Science in an email. [Gallery: Aerial Photos Reveal Mysterious Stone Structures]

However, building the circles in a precise shape would have taken some planning. "In the case of those circles that [are] near-precise circles, it would have required at least one person as 'architect,'" Kennedy said, adding that this architect could simply have tied a long rope to a post and walked in a circle, marking the ground as he or she moved around. "That would also explain the glitches [in the circles] where the land was uneven," as the architect wouldn't have been able to keep walking in a perfect circle at those spots.

The purpose of the Big Circles is a mystery, Kennedy said. It seems unlikely that they were originally used as corrals, as the walls were no more than a few feet high, the circles contain no structures that would have helped maintain an animal herd and there's no need for animal corrals to have such a precise shape, he said.

One of the circles contains three cairns, or rock piles, on its edges that may have been used for burial. However, Kennedy said, "my inference is that the cairns [were built] later, when the enclosure was no longer significant."

Solving the circle mystery

In order to solve the mystery, archaeologists must conduct more actual fieldwork, Kennedy said, noting that aerial images are helpful but can't replace excavation.

Archaeologists Graham Philip and Jennie Bradbury, both with Durham University in England, have examined a Big Circle they found near Homs in Syria. While the circle was "badly damaged" when the researchers found it, they completed their fieldwork before land development completely destroyed the structure.

This Big Circle was positioned in such a way that it could give someone standing inside it a "panoramic" view of a basin that would have held crops and settlements, the researchers reported in a 2010 paper in the journal Levant. This "may have played an important part in the location of the enclosure," the two archaeologists wrote in the Levant article.

Recent satellite imagery shows that the circle near Homs is now virtually destroyed, Kennedy wrote.

Megalithic landscape

While the purpose of the Big Circles remains unknown, the research by Kennedy and his team shows that the creations were part of a landscape rich in stone structures.

His team has found thousands of stone structures in Jordan and the broader Middle East. They come in a variety of shapes, including "Wheels" (circular structures with spokes radiating out); Kites (stone structures that forced animals to run into a kill zone); Pendants (lines of stone cairns that run from burials); and walls (mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for more than a mile — or up to several thousand meters — and have no apparent practical use).

The aerial photography program his team is conducting, combined with satellite imagery from sites like Google Earth, has led to many discoveries, Kennedy said. "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 said in a YouTube video made by Google as part of their Search Stories series.

Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Owen Jarus writes about archaeology and all things about humans' past for Live Science. Owen has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University. He enjoys reading about new research and is always looking for a new historical tale.



http://www.livescience.com/48532-big-circles-archaeological-mystery.html
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