A team of archeologists have discovered a roughly 9,000-year-old ritual complex in a Neolithic campsite in Jordan’s eastern desert. The shrine was found near ancient hunting traps called “desert kites,” each consisting of two long walls stone walls that converge like a giant arrow. Experts believe game animals like gazelles would enter the structure and be corralled toward slaughter. The structures are scattered across Southwest and Central Asia, with some of the oldest believed to be in Jordan’s Badia region.
The shrine contained two standings stones carved with human figures alongside representations of the “desert kite”; marine shells, an altar, a hearth, and a small model of the trap were also found.
“The site is unique, first because of its preservation state,” Jordanian archaeologist Wael Abu-Azziza, co-director of the project, told the Associated Press. “It’s 9,000 years old and everything was almost intact.”
The team included archaeologists from Jordan’s Al Hussein Bin Talal University and the French Institute of the Near East. In a statement, they said that the shrine “sheds an entire new light on the symbolism, artistic expression as well as spiritual culture of these hitherto unknown Neolithic populations.”
The finding suggests that the traps were “the center of their cultural, economic and even symbolic life in this marginal zone,” according to the archaeologists’ statement.
Jordan’s desert region has been inhabited by Bedouin tribes for thousands of years and is home to various archeological digs. There are five UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Levantine country, the most famous being Petra, a city carved into the red sandstone rock by the Nabateans in the fourth century. In 2016, archeologists unearthed a massive monument buried under the city’s sands believed to be more than 2,000 years old.