Mysterious Stonehenge-Like Site in the Golan Heights: PART ONE
Israel has its own version of Stonehenge. Deep in the Golan Heights, off the beaten track, lies a prehistoric mysterious megalithic structure that went unnoticed for thousands of years.
Known as Galgal (Gilgal) Refaim in Hebrew (Wheel of Giants), and Rujm el-Hiri in Arabic (Stone Heap of the Wild Cat), this prehistoric megalith is a mystery to scientists and archaeologists. Older than the pyramids, this ancient, intriguing site was discovered in the Golan Heights after the 1967 war during an aerial land survey. Estimated to be between 5000-6000 years old, this ancient structure is the largest of its kind in the Middle East and is sometimes referred to as the "Stonehenge of the Levant."
Drone view of Rujm el-Hiri or Galgal (Gilgal) Refaim. (Credit: Griffin-Aerial Imaging/Shutterstock)
Strategically laid out in concentric circles, with the largest outer circle believed to be 500 Ft. (152 Meters) wide, the site was built using more than 40,000 tons of basalt stones. According to a Jerusalem Post article, the basalt stone is native to the area, sourced directly from the (now dormant ) volcanic surface. A variety of sizes were used to build this mysterious site. The stones ranged from tiny pebbles to huge stones weighing up to 5.5 tons, the article described. At the center is a deep, burial chamber, measuring 15 Ft. high (4.5 meters).
What is Galgal (Gilgal) Refaim/Rujm el-Hiri?
This Haaretz video includes an interview with a megalithic tomb expert from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Uri Berger. It is assumed that the tomb was built for a prominent or high-ranking person, since it's the central part the structure. Who was it built for? Was it built by nomads? There are many theories but no answers.
Other theories circulating on the internet
The Wheel of Giants was designed to allow a clear opening for the sun to line up during the summer and winter solstices. Perhaps it was a multipurpose structure meant to also function as some type of primitive calendar? Will we ever know for sure?
There is also a biblical link to the area. The Hebrew name for the structure is Galgal (Gilgal) Refaim, and Rephaim (giants) were mentioned in the bible, referring to an ancient giant race that lived in the region. It's not a top archaeology theory for this site, but an interesting element to add to the mix, nonetheless.
The site is located about 16 km North-East of the Sea of Galilee. Where is it exactly and how do you get there? That's also a mystery (well, almost). Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate the area as you harness your inner Indiana Jones. Keep in mind that the site is a training ground for the Israeli military for most of the week. Visiting the site is only permitted on weekends and holidays.
In part two of this feature story, Israel: The Sites & Sights will be delving deeper into this ancient, mysterious site with a local archaeologist. This will shed more light on this unique tourist spot—a tourist site that you can integrate into your tour of the Golan Heights.