This might go down in history as the year we discovered more ancient ruins than any other. Okay, so that’s probably not accurate, but there have been quite a few and here’s one more. Archaeologists have uncovered a prehistoric stone monument in the Middle East that is thought to have been created around the same time (give or take 500 years) as Stonehenge, putting its age at up to 5,000-years-old. From ruins submerged underwater to entire lost cities in the jungle, these discoveries illustrate just how little we know about the ancient people who came before us.
The newly discovered structure is called Rujm el-Hiri in Arabic, which translates to “stone heap of the wild cat.” It is composed of five concentric circles, the largest more than 150 meters (about 500 feet) wide, and a massive burial chamber in the middle. The ruins have also been given a Hebrew name, Gilgal Refaim or “wheel of giants,” which is a reference to an ancient race of giants mentioned in the Bible. Visitors to the site report the structure isn’t easily seen from ground-level, which explains why it took a review of aerial photographs to bring its existence to light.
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This latest revelation is located about 10 miles inland from the eastern coast of the Sea of Galilee in the region known as Golan Heights. The entirety of Golan Heights encompasses a swath of disputed land, a hotbed of conflict between Israel and Syria. At present, the western two-thirds are occupied by Israel, and the remaining eastern third is controlled by Syria. Early humans are known to have been living in the area as far back as 10,000 years ago.
Although Rujm el-Hiri may be similar in age to England’s Stonehenge, the two structures don’t share a resemblance. Stonehenge is made up of around 100 huge stones topped with smaller supporting stones, whereas the Golan Heights structure was built from much smaller rocks. Archaeologists estimate the combined weight of the rocks in the ringed structure total more than 44,000 tons.
As with so many ancient ruins, even the experts aren’t sure what the original purpose was, although it’s theorized it could have some type of astrological significance. These days, the Israeli military uses it as a training ground on weekdays, but it’s open to the public on weekends and holidays.
Lead image via IsraeliTourism/Flickr, others via Michael Homan/Flickr