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Megaliths in the Syrian Desert

4 March 2010

The Independent March 1st (same website but the article is nearer the top of archive – click science and click archaeology) … in the Syrian desert a Canadian archaeologist went for a walk and stumbled upon an ancient megalithic landscape – dating from somewhere between 8500 and 4300BC. This is far older than anything seen in Europe so it is especially teasing. It is only an initial survey but included corbelled chamber tombs and stone alignments (rows of stones), small circles (2m in diameter) and one line of stones led him uphill to a large complex of tombs – but most interesting, the tools at the site were made from a kind of flint that is not natural to the region (it came from elsewhere). The whereabouts might prove to be the most interesting aspect – whenever the site is taken seriously. What is pointed out by Julian Sagges of the Royal Ontario Museum, a Neolithic specialist, is that it is known early farmers spread out from the Fertile Crescent into Asia Minor, the Balkans, and central Europe – and one branch expanded through the Mediterranean (by boat). Could they have brought the megalithic tradition with them? Cairns and stone circles exist in other parts of the Near East – in the desert of Israel and Jordan for example (the Biblical Og’s bedstead has long been regarded as a reference to a megalithic tomb). The idea of a megalithic migration from Arabia or somewhere in the Near East was a common hypothesis floated in the 20th century – but went out of fashion with anti-diffusionism.

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