Huge 4,000-Year-Old Military Surveillance Network Found in Syria

Access ramp at Qal'at al-Rahiyya, view toward the north-west. © M-O Rousset mission Marges arides

Syria holds some of the world’s most incredible historical sites. Even with the civil war still raging in parts of the country, researchers have been busy discovering countless archeological gems.

Now, archeologists have stumbled upon a network of military structures used for surveillance and communication during the Middle Bronze Age (2nd millennium BCE). Researchers used aerial surveillance and satellite images to discover the vast string of structures hiding in plain site in the arid lands of northern Syria. The research – a collaboration between the French National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Lyon in France, and the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria – was published in the journal Paléorient this week.

The 4,000-year-old network consists of a chain of fortresses, forts, towers, walls, and enclosures that were once linked up by large uncut basalt blocks and walls of several meters in width and height.

The spatial organization of the network suggests it was there to fortify an area; however, the researchers also believe it shows that it was used to communicate by light signals or smoke in the event of an approaching threat. Being situated on the edge of the fertile crescent, these were highly fought-over lands.

View, toward the east, of the thickness of the Qal'at al-Rahiyya northern wall.© M-O Rousset mission Marges arides

This is the first time that a fortified system of this magnitude has been found in this area. It’s hoped it will help archeologists and historians piece together a better understanding of history in the Near East.

Throughout the Middle Bronze Ages, Syria was fought over by the rivaling empires of the Neo-Sumerian Empire, the Old Assyrian Empire, and the Babylonian Empire, with each powerhouse controlling different parts.

Syria has some of the most beautiful and important archeology in the Middle East. However, faced with a brutal civil war and deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, the memory of the country’s rich history is threatened. Most notoriously, the Palmyra Arch, often called the Arch of Triumph, was destroyed by ISIS militants in October 2015.

Thankfully, archeological projects such as this continue to battle on and unearth truly remarkable discoveries. 

The Rubba rampart.© B Geyer mission Marges arides



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