Huge geoglyphs in Jordan, often referred to as the Middle East Stone Circles, are a mystery to archaeologists, but new aerial photography of the stone circles may help explain their purpose. There are 11 sets of Middle East stone circles known so far, and they are estimated to be about 2,000 years old. They appear primarily in Jordan and Syria, but scientists suspect that there may be others scattered in the region.
Aerial photography from the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) is providing researchers with more information on the stone circles of the Middle East. All but one of the circles are around 400 meters in diameter (1,312 feet) and were built mostly as low stone walls without openings. Low enough that a person can easily hop over them to get inside the circle, LiveScience reports.
The Middle East Stone Circles were first discovered by Western science about a century ago with the first documented survey happening shortly after that in 1932. The Independent reports that the circles have had little scientific study, though surveys have been conducted twice since the original in 1932, the latest being in 2002 before these aerial photographs were taken. The purpose of the stone circles remains unknown, say Middle East researchers.
The new images, released yesterday, could help reveal some hints as to the reason behind the Middle East Stone Circles, their design, and the reason for their creation. Because of their low height, archaeologists have long ruled out their use as animal pens, protection from invaders, and other similar uses for stone walls in various cultures. They are of more straight-forward construction than other, more famous stone circles such as Stonehenge.
“The circles would not have been hard to build,” says David Kennedy, co-director of APAAME, to LiveScience. “They were constructed mainly with local rocks, and a dozen people working hard could potentially complete a big circle in a week.”
Kennedy says that they suspect that the stone circles were first mapped out by an “architect” who would have set a stake or post at the center, tied a rope of the appropriate length for the diameter (explaining the circles’ roughly uniform sizes), and walked a circle to mark off the edges. This method would also explain the “glitches” in the stone circles created by uneven terrain.
Researchers hope that the Middle East aerial photos will help shed light on the circles, but say that on-site excavation would be necessary to learn more. The Middle East Stone Circles remain a mystery, but scientists are now ready to try to unravel it.
[Images courtesy of APAAME]