Tuesday, February 22, 2022
Bible & Archaeology (University of Iowa)

Amman, February 22, 2022 — Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Hamidi Al-Fayez announced the discovery of a unique facility used in the practice of religious hunting rituals in the southeastern Badia region of Jordan, in the Khashabiyeh Mountains located in the eastern Al-Jafr Basin.

The South Eastern Badia Archaeological Project (SEBAP), a joint French-Jordanian research program funded since 2012 by the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and Al-Hussein Bin Talal University (Wadi Musa/Petra), discovered what appears to be the oldest architectural model in the world, along with the oldest known set of stone hunting traps dating back to 7,000 BCE (Neolithic period).

Additionally, the team discovered two tall standing stones—one nicknamed "Abu Ghassan" standing 1.12 meters tall (3' 8"), and a second nicknamed "Ghassan" standing 70 cm tall (2' 3")—each bearing human faces.

limestone standing stone figurines with human faces
These massive stones, one standing over a meter tall, are inscribed with human faces. There were discovered in the southeastern Badia region of Jordan, in the Khashabiyeh Mountains located in the eastern Al-Jafr Basin. (Image credit: Department of Antiquities of Jordan)

The scientific team found many objects within the facility, including marine fossils, zoomorphic figurines, exceptionally-crafted flint tools, and an altar and hearth associated with the practice of religious rituals. The facility also contained a stone architectural model of a "desert kite."

Desert kites were used by Neolithic hunter-gatherers who practiced collective hunting of deer, gazelles, and other animals. They typically consisted of two long stone walls, often hundreds of meters long, spread wide apart that ultimately bottlenecked into a smaller, confined space. Hunting parties would attempt to drive herds of animals into the opening of the kites and down into the confined space, where other members of the party corralled the animals for slaughter. According to the research team, the "desert kites" in the Jibal (Mount) al-Khashabiyeh are the earliest large-scale human-built structures known to date worldwide. They received their name from pilots, who first saw them from the air in the 1920s and thought they resembled kites.

desert kite aerial
Aerial view of a desert "kite," used by hunting parties to drive and capture animals. (Image credit: Google Earth)

Ghassanid camps discovered near the stone traps led scholars to associate this discovery with a culture called the Ghassanids, an Arab tribal community of Neolithic hunter-gatherers. The fact that a model of the desert kite was discovered in the facility suggested to scholars that this installation was a religious shrine devoted to hunting, and that mass hunting using "desert kites" was embedded in the ritual practices of the Ghassanids.