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by Amish Shah


In the 1920s, a mustachioed British commander named Lionel Rees set out across the deserts of what would become Jordan. Snapping some of the earliest archaeological aerial photographs, he observed numerous immense, nearly perfect stone circles.

This map plots the location of the 12 Big Circles in Jordan, and the single circle discovered in 2002 near Homs in Syria

Rees was baffled by the circles, some of which were 1,200 feet in diameter. But despite their enigmatic nature, his findings were all but ignored. “It was 60 years before anyone noticed [the circles] again, and only in the last 10 years have we started flying over every bit of the country looking for more,” archaeologist David Kennedy told The Washington Post.

As first reported by Live Science, what Kennedy found surprised him. There were more giant stone circles, many more, than they had known. They were made of rock and about a meter in height. In all, he found 12 circles in Jordan, another in Syria and two more in southeastern Turkey. Despite the distance separating the circles, they’re strikingly similar, said Kennedy, the archaeologist for the Aerial Photographic Archive For Archaeology in the Middle East.

Where did they come from? What purpose did they serve and for whom? “I can’t even pretend to know what the answers are,” he said.

Eight big circles have been recorded in west central Jordan, between Wadi el-Hasa and the edge of Shara escarpment

There is a second group, made of four Big Circles just north of Azraq Oasis in the Middle Eastern country

In addition, a more recent Big Circle was spotted on satellite imagery in 2002 near Homs in Syria

They range from between 720ft and 1,490ft (220 metres to 455 metres) in diameter and are made of stones or boulders

Some are crude circles, but others were intended to be geometrically precise, said researcher Professor David Kennedy

Their purpose is not known and archaeologists will need to excavate the sites to accurately date them

However, materials suggest they range from the Early Bronze Age to the Roman period, up to the 7th century

One of the more starting aspects of the “Big Circles”: They exist in nearly every environment. Some emerged in the desert. Others in craggy terrain. More were near hills. “These enigmatic sites seemed until very recently to be confined to Jordan,” the paper said. “The unexpected discovery of one Circle to Syria, 300+km from those in Jordan is a warning…. It is possible further examples will be found.”

Kennedy doesn’t think the circles were the creations of some ancient, not-yet-discovered civilization, but the manifestation of an as-yet unexplained cultural practice. “These are not natural things,” he said. “Occasionally we have found artifacts nearby…. They can’t just be a coincidence. There’s some purpose behind it. But we can’t figure out what it is.”

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Amish Shah

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