A gigantic monument at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, as well as several mysterious structures, including a gigantic stone wheel and a moon-shaped monument, were recently found in northern Israel. The mysterious structures have left archaeologists around the world bewildered. Who built them and what were they used for?
They may be some of Israel’s most mysterious structures. They are easy to miss from the roadside but can clearly be seen from the skies or beneath the sea.
The prehistoric stone monuments of Gilgal Refaim, Jethro Cairn and the circular structure found in the sea of the Galilee went unnoticed for centuries in the disputed regions of the Golan and the Galilee but still archaeologists don’t know who built them, or why.
Theories have gone wild and include ancient calendars, ceremonial structures, or ‘sky burial’ sites in which dead bodies were placed on top of stone mounds to be picked apart by vultures. Even more eluding is that that are no archeological evidence of a city near them, and some have therefore posited that the structures is in fact a huge monument carrying symbolic significance.
The possible age of the structures is even more enigmatic and many put the estimate anywhere between 3,000 and 12,000 years old, making them older than the pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge in Great Britain.
The only thing we can say with certainty is that they are there and they are huge.
The Massive Moon Structure of Jethro Cairn
In 2014 Israeli archaeologist reported of a crescent shaped stone monument larger than a football field in northern Israel. At about 150 meters in length and 7 meters in height, the monument, dubbed ‘Jethro Cairn,’ can be seen on satellite images.
Bronze Age pottery excavated at the monument indicates it was built between 3050 and 2650 BCE, but it may be much older.
The monument’s shape, a crescent, may have been chosen to symbolize the ancient Mesopotamian moon god Sin.
The Moon-god Sin or Naama was the special guardian deity of the Chaldeans who lived in the ancient city of Ur. Once a center of worship of the moon-god, the site’s most prominent feature is still a temple tower, or ziggurat, some 61 m long, 46 m wide, and 21 m high.
Only a day’s walk from the monument sits late bronze age city called Bet Yerah, meaning “house of the moon god” in Hebrew. Another 13 kilometers southeast of the monument another enigmatic monument was discovered, this time below the sea level.
About 8 miles (13 kilometres) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, a recently identified crescent-shaped monument was built about 5,000 years ago
Cone Structure at Bottom of the Sea of Galilee
Not far from where the monumental crescent was found, another enigmatic structure has eluded archaeologists ever since its discovery was announced in 2013.
The mysterious structure with a diameter greater than the length of a Boeing 747, was discovered by divers about 9 meters underneath the Sea of Galilee in 2003.
The massive structure was built out of basalt rocks, arranged in the shape of a cone. It measures 70 meters at the base of the structure, is 10 meters tall, and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons. It is twice the size of the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge in England.
The archeologists think it was built on dry land and later submerged by the lake but the exact age of the structure has been difficult to pinpoint.
However, one thing the archeologists are certain of is that the monument was likely of great importance to the people who built it. The nearest basalt outcrop was a few hundred meters from the site, and the stones, which were one to two meters in width, would have weighed over 90 kilograms at times.
The cone-shaped structure beneath the Sea of Galilee. Credit: Diagram courtesy Shmuel Marco
The Wheel of Giants
The prehistoric monument known as Gilgal Refaim was another Herculean task to build. Its Hebrew name of Gilgal Refaim means ‘wheel of giants’ and refers to an ancient race of giants, the nephilim, a superhuman race mentioned in the Bible.
The gigantic monument deserves its name since it is made up of more than 42,000 basalt rocks arranged in five concentric circles that together weigh over 40,000 tons.
The complex has a 4.5 metre burial chamber at the centre of five circles, the largest of which measures more than 152 metres wide.
Standing on the ground inside the complex, it looks like a labyrinth of crumbling stone walls. Only from the air does the impressive shape of a massive bull’s-eye clearly emerge.
Some of the circles are complete and others are not, suggesting it may have been laid out in accordance with astronomical patterns. On the shortest and longest days of the year – the June and December solstices – the sunrise lines up with openings in the rocks.
Livestock grazing nearby reveals scale of enormous stone rings on the plains of the Golan Heights. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Colossal Monuments but for Whom?
The possible purpose for these structures remains an enigma but the monuments were evidently of great importance to the people who built them.
It’s unique to transport these stones and unique to arrange them. You need to plan and to mobilize people, because they’re too heavy to be carried by a single person. Not to mention that that people were obligated most of the year to agriculture. It is a significant task for a people who had to devote most of their time to cultivating crops to survive, to build such grand monuments.
Only an advanced prehistoric society capable of organizing the construction of such large structures could have accomplished these monumental works but who they were remains one of the greatest mysteries of our days. What is certain is that these people were building something that was a lot more durable than their brush huts.
Top image: The circular structure was first detected in a sonar survey of part of the sea in the summer of 2003. Credit: Shmuel Marco
By Sam Bostrom