Another Neolithic henge?
A report by Iris Einstein
The henge is one of the most common Neolithic features in the British landscape.
But is that what this is?
Not just any old circle qualifies as a henge, not even those from the relevant period (ca 3500-3000 BCE). Typically, a henge has an outer bank and inner ditch, divided to quadrants by breaks in an otherwise continuous wall. Those breaks are assumed to have served as entrance. They are generally aligned either cardinally or to the summer-winter solar stations.
Almost every feature of the illustrated circle disqualifies it as a henge.
- The wall is continuous. No breaks that may or may not serve as entrance.
- It lacks a ditch, inner or outer. In fact, it’s constructed purely of piled up stones—reminiscent of the geoglyphs at Nazca, Peru (see photo below).
- There is no obvious alignment: neither to cardinal points, to solar stations, nor to the stars.
- Although it has not yet been dated, other than being ‘pre-Roman’, it is not expected to be Neolithic.
- It isn’t in Britain. Nor yet in Europe. It’s in Jordan.
It is one of 11 ‘Big Circles’ found in the area. The freaky thing is, they’re all around the exact same size (all but one): ca 400 meter (1321’) diameter.
Coincidence? Archaeologist David Kennedy, of the University of Western Australia, thinks not. He’s currently studying these and other stone structures in Jordan (of which there are thousands now coming to light, initially through aerial photography but now supplemented by zooming in on Google Earth). In addition to the ‘Big Circles’ Kennedy has found circular structures with radiating spokes, known as ‘Wheels’, burial cairns all in linear alignment (see Dolmens, Sacred Cows and Orion), and long meandering walls that creep across the landscape for thousands of meters, with no apparent practical use.
The stone walls of the Jordanian Big Circles. Clearly NOT henges.
Typically, these stone structures have only meter-high walls, which is why it’s only now, with aerial photography, that archaeologists are finding them.
But the burning question is: What was their purpose? Why were they built? With no visible entrance, it’s unlikely they were used as corrals. One of the ‘Big Circles’ contains three stone cairns. But it’s believed these are of later date. Yet they could be places set aside for excarnalisation rites. I’m reminded of the finds at Rujim el-Hiri (Gilgal Rafaim, below) at nearby Golan Heights.
All that remains of a complex burial cairn; using 42,000 rocks it measures 4.5 mtr tall at the centre, 160 mtr outer diameter and is thought to date from Early Bronze Age (3000-2700 BCE). See Wikipedia Rujim el-Hiri
As archaeologist David Kennedy said, there’s only one way to unravel the mystery, and that’s to undertake excavation. Let’s hope the answers will be coming forthwith—before the fringe theories start to multiply as they have in Peru.
Photos taken from ‘livescience.com Ancient Stone Circles in Mideast Baffle Archaeologists, Owen Jarus: October 30, 2014