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The mysterious stone circles of Jordan that question archaeologists

Numerous stone circles on the soil of Jordan were first sighted in 1920 thanks to the flight of the first airplanes, but little has been discovered about them since then. New aerial images of the structures, which typically measure more than 400 meters in diameter, were taken in 2015 with the hope to shed light on the purpose of such constructions.

The mysterious stone circles of Jordan that question archaeologists
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Giant stone circles were observed while flying over Jordan, revealing details of structures whose purpose has been shrouded in mystery for decades.

In a 2015 expedition led by researcher David Kennedy of the University of Western Australia, high-resolution images were taken of 11 circles, about 400 meters across. The large circles were built by erecting stone walls, on average 60 centimeters high. The circles have no openings, so to access them it would have been necessary to climb over the walls.

The purpose of these structures is unknown, and archaeologists have no clear answers about the time of their construction. Analysis of the photographs, as well as the finds found on the ground, suggest that the circles date back to at least 2 thousand years ago, but they could be much older, even dating back to prehistoric times, before the invention of writing.

The first sightings of the circles correspond to the first plane flights in 1920. Since then, little attention has been paid to these enigmatic structures, so much so that many scientists are not even aware of their existence. Kennedy hopes that the new images will attract the attention of the scientific community.

“The most important contribution is simply to collect and make known a large and quite remarkable group of sites,”

Kennedy wrote in an article published in the journal Zeitschrift für Orient Archäologie at that time.

Although there are many smaller stone circles in the Middle East, what makes these 11 circles particularly interesting is their size and antiquity, explains Kennedy, co-director of the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archeology in the Middle East (APAAME).

The construction of circles

Ninth circles are difficult to construct, Kennedy explains. They were made using mainly local rocks, and with a dozen people, they could have been completed with even a week of hard work.

However, the astonishing precision of the circles would still have required a little planning.

“The work would have required at least the presence of an architect”

continues Kennedy.

“He simply tied a long rope to a pole and carved a circle into the ground. This also explains the defect in the rims where the terrain is more irregular."

The purpose of the circles remains a mystery, as Kennedy admits. It seems unlikely that they were initially used as simple enclosures, given that the walls do not reach 60 centimeters in height. Therefore, these are not structures useful for maintaining an animal farm. Besides, what was the need to create such precise animal enclosures?

One of the circles contains three mounds, or rock piles, that may have been used for burial. However, Kennedy believes that the mounds were built later, when the enclosure had already lost its original meaning.

Although the purpose of the great circles remains unclear, Kennedy and his team's research demonstrates that the circular creations were part of a large landscape full of similar structures, suggesting a shared purpose among a group of cultures in the region.

In order to solve the mystery of the circles, archaeologists must conduct additional field research, Kennedy says, explaining that aerial images can be useful for research, but that they cannot replace an excavation.

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