Archaeologists excavating two ancient dolmens in the Golan Heights have made some intriguing discoveries that provide new insights into these monumental stone structures. Dolmens are megalithic tombs from the Middle to Late Bronze Age, between 3000 BC to 1200 BC, constructed from large stone slabs. They consisted of a central chamber made of cobblestones and covered by massive capstones, surrounded by a circular mound of standing stones.

Uri Berger, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, led excavations of dolmens at the sites of Natur and Ani’am. Inside one of the dolmens at Natur, Berger and his team uncovered several ornamental objects that had been placed in the burial chamber thousands of years ago.

These included colorful glass and stone beads, likely from trade with distant regions, as well as a bronze pin and 4,000-year-old pottery vessels. Berger explained that beads and other accessories were believed to accompany the dead into the afterlife.

Beads are commonly found in dolmens as funerary items, but usually only one bead is uncovered. At Natur, they were surprised to discover dozens of beads.

The variety of artifacts indicates there was great wealth associated with this burial site. Most items seem to have been looted over the years.

In addition to the unusually high number of beads found, the relatively large size of the dolmens at this location suggests an exceptional investment of resources, both time and materials, were put into their construction. This points to the high status of those buried inside.

At the Ani’am dolmen site, fragments of Roman era pottery dating to around 2000 years after the dolmens were built were also discovered.

Berger believes the dolmens may have been secondarily reused during this later period to store agricultural products, taking advantage of the cool, protected chamber within the large stone structure.

The artifacts found inside the Natur and Ani’am dolmens help date when these structures were constructed in the region and the period of time they were actively used as burial monuments and later storage areas.


Sources

Israel Antiquities Authority


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