A heap of stones about 20 yards long surrounded the domen. A heap of stones about 20 yards long surrounded the domen. A heap of stones about 20 yards long surrounded the dolmen. (Photo: Gonen Sharon/Tel Hai College)

Archaeological discovery means that maybe the Dark Ages weren't so dark

This 4,000-year-old artistic monument found in Israel required 'technological knowledge and planning.'

A new archaeological discovery suggests that the "Dark Ages" in Israel's Levant may not have been so dark. Israeli archaeologists uncovered a massive, 4,000-year-old dolmen (a Stonehenge-like tomb) in Israel's Golan Heights. It was thought that people who lived back then couldn't make something that advanced.

After the impressive Bronze Age civilizations of 4,000 years ago disintegrated, the region went through a "Dark Ages" from 2,350 to 2,000 B.C. By "dark," historians mean people abandoned cities and became nomadic tribal societies. (That actually doesn't seem all that dark to me. Nomadic tribal peoples may not have had a lot of impressive structures, but their quality of life might have actually been pretty sweet. But, you know, archaeologists are pretty into digging up old buildings.)

Art like this has been found on domens in Europe and Asia, but never in the Levant. Until now.Art like this has been found on dolmens in Europe and Asia, but never in the Levant. Until now. (Photo: Gonen Sharon/Tel Hai College)

At least, that's what archaeologists thought. But this discovery might change things. The newfound dolmen would have required ingenuity and organization. It's got lots of chambers and artwork, and the capstone covering it alone weighs 50 tons. According to archaeologists, a nomadic tribal society would not have been able to put together a coffin this complicated. (I've talked to nomadic tribal peoples that built entire houses in a month, but whatever.)

"The fact that we do not see cities and big settlements and monumental building doesn't mean nothing existed at that time," explained Dr. Gonen Sharon, a professor at Israel's Tel Hai College who worked on the dig. "The largest empire in history of the world is the Mongol Empire and it left no traces in archaeology. They were like Bedouin, nomadic. For the dolmens to have been built, they needed enough people to do it, needed to feed them, needed architectural mastery and technological knowledge and planning. The dolmen is monumental and attests to a more significant culture than we had thought."

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