Arab Times

Monument fuels mystery:

Discovery

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Driving past it, one of the most mysterious structures in the Middle East is easy to miss. The prehistori­c stone monument went unnoticed for centuries in a bare expanse of field on the Golan Heights.

After Israel captured the territory from Syria in a 1967 war, archaeolog­ists studying an aerial survey spotted a pattern of stone circles not visible from the ground. Subsequent excavation­s revealed it was one of the oldest and largest structures in the region.

Known as Rujm el-Hiri in Arabic, meaning the “stone heap of the wild cat”, the complex has five concentric circles, the largest more than 500 feet (152 m) wide, and a massive burial chamber in the middle. Its Hebrew name Gilgal Refaim, or “wheel of giants”, refers to an ancient race of giants mentioned in the Bible.

It is up to 5,000 years old, according to most estimates, making it a contempora­ry of England’s Stonehenge.

Unlike the more famous monument built with about 100 huge stones topped by lintels, the Golan structure is made of piles of thousands of smaller basalt rocks that together weigh over 40,000 tons. (RTRS)

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