|<img alt=“Wheels in Middle East desert.jpg” align=right src=“http://blogs.nature.com/houseofwisdom/images/Wheels%20in%20Middle%20East%20desert.jpg” width=“280” height=“186” />|
|© David D. Boyer|
Mysterious circular stone structures found scattered all over the deserts in the Middle East have researchers baffled as to what role they may have played in human culture thousands of years ago in the region.
The circular structures, which researchers refer to as ‘wheels’, stretch from Syria all the way to Saudi Arabia. Thousands of them dot the desert and, while it is hard to make out their shape on the ground, are clearly visible from aerial shots and satellite imagery, such as Google Earth.
David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia, compares the wheels to the nazca lines, ancient “geolyphs” that span across Peru and can show drawings of a monkey and a spider.
“In Jordan alone we’ve got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older,” Kennedy told <a href=” http://www.livescience.com/16046-nazca-lines-wheels-google-earth.html>Live Science.
They are often found on lava fields and can range from 25 metres to 70 metres across.
Sometimes the wheels are spread out in the desert, in other instances the researchers have found hundreds of them clustered close together, such as those found near the Azraq Oasis in eastern Jordan.
Kennedy and his team believe the structures go back at least 2,000 years. However, because they were never excavated in the past, it is impossible to accurately date them.
“There seems to be some overarching cultural continuum in this area in which people felt there was a need to build structures that were circular,” Kennedy told Live Science.
The shapes of the wheels in Syria and Jordan are different from those found in Saudi Arabia. In the latter, some of the wheels are not even circular, but are rectangular in shape. Those that are circular often contain only two spokes that form a bar that is often aligned to sunrise and sunset in the Middle East.
The wheels in Syria and Jordan have several spokes and Kennedy comments that they don’t seem to have any astronomical orientation as those in Saudi Arabia.
Kennedy’s research will be published in an upcoming issue of the <a href=” http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/622854/description”>Journal of Archaeological Science.