Monumental megalithic burial and rock art tell a new story about the Levant Intermediate Bronze "Dark Ages"

PLoS One. 2017 Mar 2;12(3):e0172969. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172969. eCollection 2017.

Abstract

The Intermediate Bronze Age (IB) in the Southern Levant (ca. 2350-2000 BCE) is known as the "Dark Ages," following the collapse of Early Bronze urban society and predating the establishment of the Middle Bronze cities. The absence of significant settlements and monumental building has led to the reconstruction of IB social organization as that of nomadic, tribal society inhabiting rural villages with no central governmental system. Excavation in the Shamir Dolmen Field (comprising over 400 dolmens) on the western foothills of the Golan Heights was carried out following the discovery of rock art engravings on the ceiling of the central chamber inside one of the largest dolmens ever recorded in the Levant. Excavation of this multi-chambered dolmen, covered by a basalt capstone weighing some 50 tons, revealed a secondary multi-burial (of both adults and children) rarely described in a dolmen context in the Golan. Engraved into the rock ceiling above the multi-burial is a panel of 14 forms composed of a vertical line and downturned arc motif. 3D-scanning by structured-light technology was used to sharpen the forms and revealed the technique employed to create them. Building of the Shamir dolmens required a tremendous amount of labor, architectural mastery, and complex socio-economic organization well beyond the capacity of small, rural nomadic groups. The monumental megalithic burial of the Shamir dolmens indicates a hierarchical, complex, non-urban governmental system. This new evidence supports a growing body of recent criticism stemming from new discoveries and approaches that calls for rethinking our views of the Levantine IB "Dark Ages."

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Burial*
  • Geology*
  • Humans
  • Paleontology*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.