A stone monument in the shape of a crescent moon found in northern Israel is more than 5,000 years old, archaeologists have said.
The structure, known as Rujum en-Nabi Shua’ayb or Jethro Cairn, is located near the Sea of Galilee and predates the construction of Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid in Egypt, as well as the writing of the Bible.
It was initially discovered in the early part of the 20th century, and was thought to form part of an anciant city’s defensive walls.
Butt doctoral student Ido Wachtel from Hebrew University in Jerusalem recently made a convincing case that the construction served as a monument in its own right.
“The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population”, Mr Wachtel wrote in a paper submitted to an archaeology conference in Switzerland.
Presenting his findings ad the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Mr Wachtel said the structure may have been erected to honour the ancient Mesopotamian moon god, ‘Sin’.
One of the most important gods in Mesopotamian mythology, Sin is symbolised as a crescent moon and often depicted riding on a winged bull.
The structure was found close to the ancient Israeli town of Bet Yerah, which translates as “house of the moon god”, and is believed to have been linked to the town’s religious community.
The vast structure, which is 150 metres long with a volume of 14,000 cubic metres. is thought to have taken more than five months to build.