Category Archives: JORDAN

Desert Kites: Mysterious geoglyphs built thousands of years ago

Desert Kites: Mysterious geoglyphs built thousands of years ago

During the 1920s, pilots of the Royal Air Force who flew over the deserts of Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, saw some strange line shapes scattered all over the area.

They named them “Desert Kites”. Seen from above the lines resembled flying kites. This was a new discovery for the western world, but the local Bedouin population already knew about them for thousands of years. The natives called them “Works of the Old Men”.

Desert Kites: Mysterious geoglyphs built thousands of years ago

Most of the kites are composed of two stone walls with variable thickness and height, that are wider at the beginning and get narrow at the end, forming a V shape.

The length of the walls is usually a few hundred meters, but can stretch up to a few kilometers The narrow opening at the end of the funnel leads to an enclosure or a pit.

The enclosures have many shapes and sizes: they can be circular, triangular or star-shaped and range from a few hundred square meters to more than ten hectares.

There are small stone cells with higher walls joined to the external part of the enclosure. They are circular or square in shape. Some kites have one cell, but their number can go up to several dozen.

Stone walls of a desert kite
Circle enclosures with cells on the outside
Desert kite in Wadi Eshel

It is commonly accepted that the stone kites were used for hunting, to gather the animals together, making them an easier prey. Few years ago, a team of archeologists found a big deposit of Persian gazelle bones dating from 4th millennium BC, from a site in northeastern Syria.

This provides a direct evidence that the kites were used for hunting gazelles in post-Neolithic times. The Kites, organized in chains that facing the same direction, lie along migration routes that ran from Syria to Saudi Arabia. This suggests that the people who created them had good knowledge of animal behavior.

The majority of kites were built between 4000 BC and 2000 BC, although some of the oldest structures are dated as far back as 8000 BC.

Desert kite in Wadi Eshel

However, recent access to high-resolution satellite images has revealed even more kites exist than previously believed. They are spread over a huge area that extends from the Arabian Peninsula to the Aral Sea.

This new discovery deepens the mystery of the “kites phenomenon”. Solving this puzzle (according to mainstream archeology) means finding the answer to some fundamental questions as animal economy, the disappearance of species, sustainable development and even the development of urbanism.

Satellite view of a desert kite in the Jordanian Harrat showing very long stone walls.

12,000-Year-Old Shaman Funeral Reflects Natufian-Period Changes

12,000-Year-Old Shaman Funeral Reflects Natufian-Period Changes

One of the earliest funeral banquets ever to be discovered reveals a preplanned, carefully constructed event that reflects social changes at the beginning of the transition to agriculture in the Natufian period.

Hebrew University archaeologists uncover 12,000 year old grave inside a cave in northern Israel

The woman was laid on a bed of specially selected materials, including gazelle horn cores, fragments of chalk, fresh clay, limestone blocks and sediment.

Tortoise shells were placed under and around her body, 86 in total. Sea shells, an eagle’s wing, a leopard’s pelvis, a forearm of a wild boar and even a human foot were placed on the body of the mysterious 1.5 meter-tall woman. Atop her body, a large stone was laid to seal the burial space.

It was not an ordinary funeral, said the Hebrew University archaeologist who discovered the grave in a cave site on the bank of the Hilazon river in the western Galilee region of northern Israel back in 2022.

Three other grave pits have been found at the site of Hilazon Tachtit since 1995, and most contained bones of several humans. Nevertheless, the unusual objects found inside the grave, measuring approximately 0.70 m x 1.00 m x 0.45 m, point to the uniqueness of the event and the woman at its center.

Eight years after the discovery, Prof. Leore Grosman from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Natalie Munro from the University of Connecticut, have identified the sequence of events of the mysterious funeral ritual that took place 12,000 years ago.

Bones of a mysterious 1.5 metre-tall woman lay in burial site, surrounded by tortoise shells and other objects

“We’ve assigned the event to stages based on field notes, digitized maps, stones, architecture and artifact frequency distributions and concentrations,” said Prof. Grosman, adding that, “The high quality of preservation and recovery of a well-preserved grave of an unusual woman, probably a shaman, enabled the identification of six stages of a funerary ritual.”

The research, published in the journal Current Anthropology, details the order of the six-step sequence and its ritual and ideological importance for the people who enacted it.

It began with the excavation of an oval grave pit in the cave floor. Next, a layer of objects was cached between large stones, including seashells, a broken basalt palette, red ochre, chalk, and several complete tortoise shells. These were covered by a layer of sediment containing ashes, and garbage composed of flint and animal bones.

One of 86 tortoise shells found in a unique burial site analyzed by Hebrew University archaeologists

About halfway through the ritual, the woman was laid inside the pit in a child-bearing position, and special items including many more tortoise shells were placed on top of and around her.

This was followed by another layer of filling and limestones of various sizes that were placed directly on the body. The ritual concluded with the sealing of the grave with a large, heavy stone.

A wide range of activities took place in preparation for the funerary event. This included the collection of materials required for grave construction, and the capture and preparation of animals for the feast, particularly the 86 tortoises, which must have been time-consuming.

“The significant pre-planning implies that there was a defined ‘to do’ list, and a working plan of ritual actions and their order,” said Prof. Grosman.

The study of funerary ritual in the archaeological record becomes possible only after humans began to routinely bury their dead in archaeologically visible locations. The Natufian period (15,000-11,500 years ago) in the southern Levant marks an increase in the frequency and concentration of human burials.

Vew of Hilazon Tachtit cave in northern Israel

“The remnants of a ritual event at this site provide a rare opportunity to reconstruct the dynamics of ritual performance at a time when funerary ritual was becoming an increasingly important social mediator at a crucial juncture deep in human history,” the researchers said.

This unusual Late Natufian funerary event in Hilazon Tachtit Cave in northern Israel provides strong evidence for community engagement in ritual practice, and its analysis contributes to the growing picture of social complexity in the Natufian period as a predecessor for increasingly public ritual and social transformations in the early Neolithic period that follows.

The unprecedented scale and extent of social change in the Natufian, especially in terms of ritual activities, make this period central to current debates regarding the origin and significance of social and ritual processes in the agricultural transition.