Thousands upon thousands of years ago, the Black Desert of Jordan was dotted with hundreds of rock towers used to commemorate the dead in the region known as Jebel Qurma.
Now, not much is left in this harsh environment except burning hot summers and freezing winters. But that hasn’t stopped archeologists from heading to this land to uncover the mysteries of its ancient rock towers.
The Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project, led by Leiden University in the Netherlands, has been on the scene since 2012, using satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and old-fashioned field excavations. Parts of the site are thought to be at least 8,000 years old. These investigations have already revealed the presence of prehistoric housing, hunting huts, and art from the pre-Islamic Near East. The study is published in the journal Near Eastern Archeology.
The tombs consist of a massive mound of stone with a "cairn" on top, a human-made stack of flat rocks and stones used as a burial monument. Some of these stones weigh over 300 kilograms (660 pounds).
Many of these towers measure up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) tall and up to 10 meters (32.8 feet) in diameter. Although there’s no exact figure, the archeologists say there are “many hundreds” of these cairns in the area.
They are believed to have been situated a fair distance from the settlements, most likely because civilization quickly learned it was wise to keep a distance between life and death.
As Live Science reports, it was previously assumed these towers were built for the wealthy elites of this culture. However, the archeologists on the study argue the sheer number of these monuments suggests they were a common practice used for burials throughout the society.
The site was constructed around 8,000 years ago, but most of the stone towers date to around 4,000 years ago. Then, around 4,000 years ago, the cemetery was seemingly abandoned and left uninhabited for a period of roughly 1,500 to 2,000 years. More recent evidence suggests that people were living in the area again by the first century CE.
The reason behind this patchy history is not certain. However, the recurrent reuse of these tombs is evidence of their enduring role in the ancient cultures of northeastern Jordan.
[H/T: Live Science]