Gilgal Refa'im

2 Nov 2011

Gilgal Refa'im, the wheel of giants, is a huge heap of stones in the form of a cairn on the Golan Heights, 65m in diameter and around 15m high. it sits at the centre of a concentric ring of stones - see . It is in a region known for its dolmens and in the Bible is associated with the 'bedstead of Og' - almost certainly some kind of megalithic tomb.

Gilgal Refa'im is surrounded by a large ring of stones which in turn encompasses four smaller rings of stacked stone walling that become progressively narrower in width. Each wall is connected in places by smaller walls - and in the centre is the cairn, made of small stones. The cairn covers a dolmen which is basically two five foot standing stones crowned by a large horizontal stone. The dolmen intself overlies a chamber - presumed to be for burial. No human remains have been found.

The dolmen dates back to the Chalcolithic era, between roughly 4000 and 3000BC. This is when similar megalithic monuments were being constructed in Europe, which is interesting as in the early to mid 20th century it was thought megaliths spread out of regions such as Palestine, into Europe. Now, they can be seen as contemporary. Now, as far as interpretation on what they might have been used for there are a lot of competing theories. Dr Rami Arav, in the Biblical Archaeology Review, is of the opinion the dolmens were used for laying out corpses to be picked clean to the bones by carrion birds such as vultures and ravens. After the bones were cleaned they were placed in ossuaries - bone boxes. Rami Arav also thinks the Chalcolithic people might have migrated into the Levant from southern Anatolia - but that might just be coincidental in that excarnation was practised in both localities.

At is a story from the Arabian Emirates and begins by saying the structures were first recorded by RAF pilots in the 1920s and then forgotten. They are found in Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia - south to the Yemen.