Archaeologists have mapped a 150-kilometer-long (93 miles) ancient wall in Jordan, but the ruins of the wall leave the scientists with more questions than answers. What was the purpose of the wall and who built it (pssst ALIENS duh)
The archaeologists used aerial photography to map the ruined wall also known as the‘Khatt Shebib’. The wall was built of stone and lies in ruins today, but archaeologists believe that it was about a meter high and half a meter wide when it was originally built.
Known today as the “Khatt Shebib,” the wall’s existence was first reported in 1948, by Sir Alec Kirkbride, a British diplomat in Jordan. While traveling by airplane in Jordan, he saw a “stone wall running, for no obvious purpose, across country.”
Who built it, when and why still remains a mystery, but researchers think that the short height and width probably means that it didn’t have a defensive purpose. So one possibility is that it marked a boundary between ancient farmers and nomadic pastoralists. Furthermore, the archaeologists have found the remains of structures that they call ‘towers’ along the Khatt Shebib. They vary between 2 meters and 4 meters in diameter and some were built after the construction of the wall.
The map below shows the full length of the Khatt Shebib and as you can see several archaeological sites are located on or near the wall. And at the southern end of the wall you can see parts where two walls run parallel of each other instead of one. But unfortunately up until this moment the origin of this wall remains in shrouds, more on-the-ground fieldwork will have to be done to solve the mysteries of this marvelous structure.
Ultimately more on-the-ground fieldwork will have to be done to solve the wall’s mysteries.
The only dating information the scientists have comes from pottery found in the towers and other sites along the wall, Kennedy said. Based on the pottery found to date, the wall was likely built sometime between the Nabataean period (312 B.C.–A.D. 106) and the Umayyad period (A.D. 661–750), Kennedy said.
Though one of the kingdoms or empires that ruled Jordan in that long stretch of time could have built the wall, the structure might not have been constructed by a large state. “It is possible that local communities, seeing what neighbors have done and persuaded of its usefulness, simply copied the practice,” Kennedy and Banks wrote.
The purpose of the wall is also a mystery. Its low height and narrowness indicate that it wasn’t constructed for defensive reasons, said Kennedy and Banks. Traces of ancient agriculture are more visible to the west of the wall than to the east, suggesting the structure marked a boundary between ancient farmers and nomadic pastoralists, the researchers said. Or it may have marked a different type of boundary.
Ultimately, more on-the-ground fieldwork is needed to solve these mysteries. “Aerial archaeology will never resolve these key questions of purpose and date. For that, we require systematic fieldwork,” Kennedy and Banks wrote.