Archaeologists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Hai College, and Israel's Antiquities Authority have announced the discovery of a strange engraved rock structure near the ancient city of Galilee. The structure is a type of Bronze Age construction known as a dolmen, a sort of broad, low dome of stacked rocks.
Dolmens of various kinds are found throughout the world but are in particularly high concentration in the Levant. This dolmen, however, is made unique and mysterious by a set of engraved symbols decorating the ceiling.
According to the published study of the dolmen, the structure has been dated to be around 4,000 years old and is made of volcanic rock native to the area. On the ceiling are inscribed fourteen symbols which appear to be a long vertical line with an arc at one end. The lines do not appear to be arranged in any organized way and are not uniform in length.
Uri Berger, an archaeologist with Israel's Antiquities Authority and one of the study’s authors, claims that the symbols are an unprecedented find in the study of similar ancient structures:
The engraved shapes depict a straight line going to the center of an arc. About 15 such engravings were documented on the ceiling of the dolmen, spread out in a kind of arc along the ceiling. No parallels exist for these shapes in the engraved rock drawings of the Middle East and their significance remains a mystery.
Gonen Sharon, a professor at Tel Hai College and lead author of the study believes that this dolmen implies a great deal of social organization that goes against prevailing knowledge about the presumably nomadic people living in this area of Galilee at the time the dolmen was built:
Dolmens suggest we’re looking at a much more complex governmental system. To build this kind of dolmen you have to gather enough people, you have to feed these people, you have to accommodate these people, you have to have the architectural and construction knowledge, and you must have a boss. Somebody needs to tell them what to do.
Skeletal remains and various artifacts such as beads and pottery were found at the site dating from different periods. The researchers believe this implies the dolmen has been used for different purposes since its initial construction. Despite these initial conclusions, the original purpose for the dolmen and the identity of its creators remain a mystery.