A new megalithic site has been found in the near east and it seems to predate the pyramids of Egypt, and even Stonehenge. A pretty exciting statement in any sense, but let’s not get ahead of things.
The site in question, known in Arabic as Rujum en-Nabi Shua’ayb, is a massive crescent-shaped mound that sits just northwest of the Sea of Galilea in Israel. To say that it’s just been discovered is a bit misleading though. It’s actually been known since about the 1920’s, but was originally thought to be a simple, yet massive, wall or buttress fortification for a nearby town. How wrong they were…
Not as interesting to look at as other megalithic sites, Jethro Cairn’s secrets are below the surface.
Doctoral student Ido Wachtel, from the Institute of Archaeology, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, recently presented evidence through the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East that suggests quite strongly that the ancient city that was long believed to lie directly next to it, doesn’t actually exist. It was that city that was believed to have been protected by the wall, however, Wachtel, in what is to be part of his master’s thesis, has demonstrated that the mound is actually a freestanding monument and is larger than an American football field.
“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.”
The area of the monument, which is also called Jethro Cairn – in reference to the Biblical Prophet Jethro (also known as Neby Shoaib) who is or was venerated by the Druze and Sunni Muslims throughout Palestine – does include an Early Bronze Age city, called Bet Yeren, but Wachtel has found that its borders, which are within walking distance, are too far away from the monument for it to have provided any fortification to its inhabitants.
These revelations have given rise to renewed interest in the site by the greater archaeological community and, indeed, serve to elevate Jethro Cairn to the status of being (possibly) one of the oldest known megalithic sites in the world.
An estimated 14,000 cubic meters of stone were used in its construction.
Wachtel isn’t the only one digging on the shores of the Sea of Galilea though. Researchers and archaeologists from Tel Aviv University have been excavating the studying nearby Bet Yeren for decades. Also known as Khirbet el-Kerak (or Khirbet Kerak), Bet Yeren has been dated, through what is now known as Khirbet Kerak Pottery, to be as old as 5500 years, which places its construction within the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (3300 – 1200 BCE). And by association, Jethro Cairn is believed to be at least as old.
Wachtel describes the structure as being 150 meters long by 22 meters wide at its base, and standing at a preserved height of 7 meters. He estimates that it would have taken between 35,000 to 50,000 days to construct, which he claims hints at its original importance to the culture responsible for its construction.
You’ll recall from high school history class, that the Egyptian pyramids at Giza date from around 2360 BCE, which puts Jethro Cairn anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand years earlier. Bet Yeren and its included sites compete with Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England for the title of oldest known megalithic site, and that competition rages on now, what with the relative uncertainty of the Bet Yeren / Jethro Cairn dates and the recent discovery of what appears to be a much larger and much older monument structure (or structures, as the case may be) underneath Stonehenge. However those two sites aren’t the only ones in this competition.
As has been reported here, many believe that the site known as Göbekli Tepe – a Neolithic settlement in the Southeast Anatolia Region of Turkey –holds the all-time title for oldest known megalithic construction on the planet. Early dating results from a survey and preliminary excavation performed by Istanbul University in conjunction with the University of Chicago, suggest that Göbekli Tepe was built at the beginning of the Mesolithic period in the Holocene epoch, which makes it roughly 12,000 years old.
That is paradigm shifting information, but it doesn’t end there.
Reported here in January of this year, a site in the West Java province of Indonesia called Gunung Padang has much of the archaeology community (and the alternative history community) talking. Following a preliminary survey of the site, researchers believed they had revealed that what once was thought to be a simple hill, was actually a stepped pyramid.
In and of itself, such a discovery would be incredible, since there are so few pyramids in Asia, but when the site was dated the team came up with an astounding number…23,000 years old!
That number isn’t set in stone, so to speak, so further work is being done. This summer representatives from the Indonesian government and various schools of archaeology have begun an extensive excavation of the site, with the intention to determine exactly what lies beneath the thick undergrowth, and to confirm the initial construction date of 21,000 BCE. Definitive answers should become available within a year or two. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at what the Gunung Padang findings mean, I provided a lengthy analysis of the subject in the latest edition of Darklore (VIII).
Göbekli Tepe and Gunung Padang notwithstanding, the discovery of Jethro Cairn and the reassessment of its importance within the story of human development is something to be excited about. If the dating of Bet Yeren, and subsequently Jethro Cairn, hold up to scrutiny, a whole new chapter in human history can be written.
 Wachtel, Ido. ‘Jethro Cairn’ – An Early Bronze Age Site in the Upper Galilee, Israel: Function and Significance. International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Section 354. https://9icaane.unibas.ch/ICAANE2014AbstractsMay.pdf
 Jarus, Owen. Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel. Live Science – September 15, 2014 http://www.livescience.com/47835-massive-5-000-year-old-stone-monument-revealed-in-israel.html?cmpid=514627_20140915_31633386
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