Archaeologists have discovered a 9,000-year-old sanctuary at a remote Neolithic site in Jordan’s eastern desert.
The ritual complex was discovered by a team of Jordanian and French archaeologists at a Neolithic campsite near large structures called “desert kites”, or mass traps believed to have been used to enclose wild gazelles for the slaughter.
These traps consist of two or more long stone walls converging on an enclosure and are found scattered throughout the deserts of the Middle East.
“The site is unique, firstly because of its state of conservation,” said Jordanian archaeologist Wael Abu-Azziza, co-director of the project.
“It’s 9,000 years old and everything was almost intact.”
Inside the sanctuary were two carved menhirs bearing anthropomorphic figures, one accompanied by a representation of the “desert kite”, as well as an altar, a hearth, sea shells and a miniature model of the gazelle trap.
The researchers said in a statement that the sanctuary “sheds a whole new light on the symbolism, artistic expression as well as the spiritual culture of these hitherto unknown Neolithic populations.”
The site’s proximity to the traps suggests that the locals were specialized hunters and that the traps were “the center of their cultural, economic and even symbolic life in this marginal area,” the statement said.
The team included archaeologists from Jordan’s Al Hussein Bin Talal University and the French Institute of the Near East.
The site was excavated during the last excavation season in 2021.