Desert Monoliths Reveal Stone Age Architectural Blueprints

Very quickly, the team recognized that these engravings matched the shape and structure of kites seen nearby. In Southeastern Jordan, for example, the tail lines of kites curve as they converge into enclosures — a peculiarity also visible on the engraved stone.

“When we look at the satellite and aerial images that we take in the field, it’s like a drawing of the actual kites in this area,” said Mohammad Tarawneh, an archaeologist at Al-Hussein Bin Talal University in Jordan and an author of the study.

Mathematical models, too, indicated that the kites in the Jordan-Saudi region where the team worked were the closest match when researchers compared the geometry of the two engravings with a total of 69 kites from a variety of regions. Shape comparisons with such nearby kites also revealed that the depictions were to scale. The researchers inferred the ages of the engravings by using geological dating tools to determine how long ago the corresponding local kite structures were built.

What remains unknown is whether these depictions were prepared as blueprints to aid in the construction of the kites, or served as maps for hunters. The engravings could also be symbolic commemorations of the desert kites, which may have been an important part of the cultural identity of the ancient peoples who made and used them, said Wael Abu-Azizeh, an archaeologist with The French Institute of the Near East in Jordan and an author of the study.

Yorke Rowan, an archaeologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study, said the engravings cited in the paper are a great find. He called it remarkable that people on the ground were precisely depicting things that can only be seen fully from above today. Finding this mental mastery of space opens a new window into the minds of these ancient hunters.

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