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26 September 2014
Massive 5,000-year-old stone monument discovered in Israel

A lunar-crescent-shaped stone monument that dates back around 5,000 years has been identified in Israel. Located about 13 km (8 miles) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, the structure is massive - its volume is about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) and it has a length of about 150 meters (492 feet). Pottery excavated at the structure indicates the monument dates to between 3050 BCE and 2650 BCE.
     Archaeologists previously thought the structure was part of a city wall, but recent work carried out by Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, indicates there is no city beside it and that the structure is a standing monument. "The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population," Wachtel wrote in the summary of a presentation given recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.
     An ancient town called Bet Yerah (which translates to 'house of the moon god') is located only a day's walk from the crescent-shaped monument Wachtel noted. As such, the monument may have helped mark the town's borders. While the monument is located within walking range of the city it is too far away to be an effective fortification.
     The structure is about 150 m (492 ft) long and 20 m (ft) wide at its base, and is preserved to a height of 7 m (23 ft), Wachtel's research found. "The estimation of working days invested in the construction [of] the site is between 35,000 days in the lower estimate [and] 50,000 in the higher," Wachtel said. If the lower estimate is correct, it means a team of 200 ancient workers would have needed more than five months to construct the monument, a task that would be difficult for people who depended on crops for their livelihood.
     Other large rock structures have been found not far from the crescent-shaped monument. One structure, called Rujum el-Hiri, is in the Golan Heights and has four circles with a cairn at its center. The date of this structure is a matter of debate; recent research by Mike Freikman, an archaeologist with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, suggests it may predate the crescent-shaped structure by several centuries.
     Another stone monument, a giant cairn that weighs more than 60,000 tons, was discovered recently beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Its date is unknown, but like the crescent-shaped structure, it is located close to Bet Yerah.

Edited from LiveScience (15 September 2014)

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