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Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose


For some, Murayghat, a site located 3km southwest of Madaba, represents a 'Jordanian Stonehenge', with over 100 dolmens scattered throughout the countryside.

Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose
View of the central hill of Murayghat [Credit: The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project,
University of Copenhagen]
'It [the site] is unique, because of the combination of its central knoll with its most likely cultic buildings, its settlement component and the dolmens situated around these two elements,' said Susanne Kerner, director of the Ritual Landscape of Murayghat project. She underlined that such a mixture of dolmens and domestic structures is 'unusual', as 'in most cases' there are only one or two of these elements at one archaeological site.


The project, which works to study the dolmens near Madaba, has three main objectives, according to the director. First and foremost is to learn as much as possible about the rather unique site; second is to protect dolmens that are under threat; and third is to address touristic concerns, she said.

Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose
The survey team documents archaeological remains on the centrall hill of Murayghat
[Credit: The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project,
University of Copenhagen]
According to Kerner, there are many dolmen fields in Jordan and they seem to have been used as burial sites.

'But the question is why do the people start burying their dead in very visible structures [such as dolmens] and in real cemeteries [like in Bab edh-Dhra], and what has changed in the social structure, and in the society that makes them do that,' she continued, adding: 'I think it has a lot to do with settling down and occupying land. The whole social make-up of the society changed at the end of the earlier Chalcolithic [3800 BC] and I think the dolmens are one expression of this.'

Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose
View of dolmen located on one of the hills surrounding Murayghat
[Credit: The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project,
University of Copenhagen]
'We have now 122 dolmens [complete and collapsed] recorded, but only 67 are documented in detail so far, most of these are in Area 4 [close to the central knoll],' Kerner elaborated.


Dolmens are usually closed off on one side with an entrance stone, have a floor or bottom slab, two large side stones and a capstone, according to Kerner who is an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose
One of the survey teams documents a dolmen [Credit: The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project,
University of Copenhagen]
Some dolmens can also be surrounded by more stones, and only one dolmen at the site has been excavated so far. The material found during the excavation proved to be from the Early Bronze Age, the scholar stressed.

Regarding their role, dolmens seem to have been used for burials: 'We have found only little direct evidence, but assume their use based on other excavations. This makes all the structures, made from standing stones on the central knoll, so interesting, because one assumes that they had a connection to the burial site.'

Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose
Students and staff work in one of the excavation trenches [Credit: The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project,
University of Copenhagen]
However, Kerner thinks that dolmens did not only play a burial role, but a role in rituals as well.


In regard to the tourist question, Kerner maintained that 'the tourism around Madaba is concentrated on Mount Nebo, while few people see other things'.

Murayghat dolmen site near Jordan's Madaba may have had ritualistic purpose
Copper axe from the excavation [Credit: The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project,
University of Copenhagen]
'I would very much like to develop in the long run a 'dolmen trail', which takes those tourists who have a deeper interest along some other routes than the most common ones,' the scholar concluded.

For more information see The Ritual Landscapes of Murayghat Project website

Source: The Jordan Times [February 25, 2019]

TANN

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1 comment :

  1. Murayghat-- The Bible mentions Abraham's first meeting with the Pharaoh of the Egyptian Nation before a severe drought caused them to leave Jordan in search for better lands. They eventually while heading west wound up settling in the Delta in what is post and modern Egypt. These people were named after one of Cush's sons named Mizraim . This Jordan place of the Egyptians may in fact be where they began.

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