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21 November 2003
5,000 year-old dolmen unearthed in Jordan

Archaeologists excavating a dolmen at Tall al-Umayri, Jordan, believe that it was used as a burial site for 20 individuals. Originally discovered in 1994 by the Madaba Plains Project, several seasons of work on the site have now been completed by archaeologists from universities in the USA, Canada and Poland.
     Situated 13km south of Seventh (Zahran) Circle on the Queen Alia International Airport Highway, and at the entrance of Amman National Park, it was initially thought to be a tomb in the bedrock. But excavation revealed it to be a dolmen with its capstone missing, probably removed in antiquity.
     As well as 20 skulls, hundreds of other bones were found, along with 20 complete pottery vessels, three mace heads, two flint tools, and many beads. All the pottery was dated to 3,200 BCE, much earlier than dolmens were previously thought to have been built.
     Digging around the dolmen revealed artificial surfaces made of smooth plaster, or of pebbles and earth, all using the bedrock in places. A large table- or altar-like flat boulder was found close by, and also a jar embedded in the ground. leading to speculation of funerary feasts.
     Although the dolmen was originally above ground, it's position on a slope below a settlement meant over time debris had slid down the hill and over the dolmen. This has protected the remains inside, making it invaluable for research. Dolmens are found from Wales to Tunisia - including thousands in Jordan and the wider Mediterranean area - but are usually empty due to exposure to the elements.

Source: The Daily Star online (18 November 2003)

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