The Middle East is home to a mysterious prehistoric monument that is as almost old as the famed Stonehenge in England. Located in the Golan Heights region, this oddity of a monument, known as Rujm el-Hiri (Arabic for “stone of the wildcat”), features five concentric circles made of heaped stone rubble, with a burial mound situated right at the center. Built nearly 5,000 years ago, the strange structure is also called Gilgal Refaim in Hebrew, which translates into ‘Wheel of Giants’ and refers to the race of Biblical giants.
In terms of its recent history of discovery, the Rujm el-Hiri was found back in 1967 after Israel captured the Syrian territory of Golan Heights during the Six-Day War. And despite boasting a significant diameter of around 520 ft (around 160 m) width, the monument’s low height (of 8 ft) makes it nearly indistinguishable from the ground level. Simply put, the total area covered by the outermost circle comprises a whopping 213,000 sq ft, which is almost equivalent to four American football fields. And this incredible scale was only discovered quite fortuitously when archaeologists were studying an aerial survey of the region. As Uri Berger, a megalithic tomb expert working for the Israel Antiquities Authority aptly put it forth (in 2015):
It’s an enigmatic site. We have bits of information, but not the whole picture. Scientists come and are amazed by the site and think up their own theories.
Now since we brought up the scale of Rujm el-Hiri, unlike Stonehenge, which is comprised of huge monoliths erected on the ground, the Wheel of Giants is made up of more than 42,000 pieces of basalt rocks, whose combined weight is believed to be more than 40,000 tonnes. Each of the five circles reaches a maximum height of 6.6 ft (or 2 m), with the outer walls rising to a height of around 8 ft (approx. 2.5 m). Unfortunately, the tomb present inside the 15-ft (about 5m) high burial mound was removed by robbers a long time ago. Berger added:
All the five big, huge monumental walls around us were all, we think, built for this chamber, the one who was buried inside it. This is one of the theories.
Finally, regarding the purpose of this enigmatic prehistoric structure, some believe that the Rujm el-Hiri was built by a nomadic tribe inhabiting the area, during circa 3500 BC. How such a primitive civilization managed to construct a monument of that scale, however, is something that continues to baffle researchers. According to a 2010 study published in the Biblical Archaeology Review journal, the Golan circles could have been a ‘calendrical device’ used to estimate the arrival of summer and winter solstices. Yet another group of experts is of the opinion that the tomb was added nearly 2,000 years after the circles were built.
Over the years, excavation works at the site have revealed pottery fragments and flint tools, which in turn have aided in determining the date of construction of the monument, corresponding to the Early Bronze Age II period (3000–2700 BC). The area currently is part of a complex used by the Israeli military for training purposes, and also falls on the Golan Trail, a marked 130-kilometer walking trail.
Via: The Jerusalem Post