For years, archaeologists have been puzzled by a 492-foot-long structure near the Sea of Galilee. While some believed it to be the remnants of a wall, new findings indicate that no city was nearby. Instead, an archaeologist says it was a monument built in the shape of a crescent moon between 3050 B.C. and 2650 B.C.
That means the structure predates the Old Testament, the Egyptian pyramids and possibly Stonehenge.
Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, estimated the age of the monument by dating pottery fragments that were excavated at the site. He believes it was constructed to “mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population.”
The shape may have had symbolic importance, since the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin. Furthermore, an ancient town called Bet Yerah (which translates to “house of the moon god”) is located only a day’s walk away. While that’s too far to have been an effective fortification, it may have helped mark the town’s borders.
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The structure is about 150 meters (492 feet) long and 20 m (66 feet) wide at its base, and is preserved to a height of 7 m (23 feet), Wachtel’s research found.
“The estimation of working days invested in the construction [of] the site is between 35,000 days in the lower estimate [and] 50,000 in the higher,” Wachtel said in an email.
If the lower estimate is correct, it means a team of 200 ancient workers would have needed more than five months to construct the monument, a task that would be difficult for people who depended on crops for their livelihood. “We need to remember that people were [obligated] most of the year to agriculture,” Wachtel said.
Other large rock structures have been found not far from the crescent-shaped monument. One structure, called Rujum el-Hiri, isin the Golan Heights (an area to the east of the Sea of Galilee) and has four circles with a cairn at its center. The date of this structure is a matter of debate; recent research by Mike Freikman, an archaeologist with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, suggests it may predate the crescent-shaped structure by several centuries.
Another stone monument, a giant cairn that weighs more than 60,000 tons, was discovered recently beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Its date is unknown, but like the crescent-shaped structure, it is located close to Bet Yerah.
Today, people living in the area call the monument by its Arabic name, Rujum en-Nabi Shua’ayb, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Jethro Cairn,” a reference to the Druze prophet Jethro, who plays an important role in local folklore.