Benvenuti in queste pagine dedicate a scienza ed arte. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Desert kites - 1

The Syrian Desert is an arid land of south-western Asia, extending from the northern Arabian Peninsula to the eastern Jordan, southern Syria, and western Iraq, largely covered by lava fields. Considered in the past as a barrier between Levant and Mesopotamia, it is now crossed by several routes and pipelines. This desert possesses two volcanic regions. One is the Jabal al-Druze, in the As-Suwayda Governorate. The other field is that of the Harrat Ash Shaam.

When we observe this desert from space, we discover that this harsh environment was probably quite populated in ancient times. We can conclude this fact from some huge stone structures, the "desert kites", that can be easily seen in the images recorded by satellites. These structures were firstly observed by pilots of the Royal Air Force in the 1920s, flying over the desert. These pilots named them "kites", because these lines reminded of kites used by children to play, but in fact they are huge hunting traps.

We usually imagine our ancestors, before they settle down, as people simply hunting and gathering for food, but this is not true. The "desert kites" are the remains of an ancient hunting technique based on stone-walled traps, the construction of which surely involved several people for long times. The desert kites were used to push large herds of animals into some enclosures, or, in the worse case, to fall off from steep cliff edges. The simplest structure of a desert kite has a triangular shape, consisting of two long, low walls built of stones and arranged in a V-shape, like a  funnel, ending as a corral. Hunters pushed the game between the walls, trapping then the animals into the end of the structure. It is usually considered that animals were slaughtered “en masse”.

Typically, a desert kite possesses two, three or more small circular enclosures on the edge of its corral. Some ancient rock art images show these hunting traps, depicting the role of the 'walls' of the kites. Let us note that these walls are low and then not able to stop any game. In fact, the walls are not walls at all: they are the basements, in the rocky harraat, where stick some poles and build a fence with branches. These structures create a visual effect as a barrier for the animals.

"Kite" rock-drawing from Jordan,  G.L. Harding: The Cairn of Hani, Antiquity 28,1954:pp 165-7
(2007-02-22) In 1951, Harding discovered a burial cairn with Safaitic inscriptions. On one of the stones was scratched a hunting scane.The cairn is located in the heart of the 'Kite' area,there is no doubt that the drawing depicts a scane of the gazelles being hunted in such a' Kite'.

23 June 2011,  http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.4665 , http://arxiv.org/pdf/1106.4665v1.pdf
February 2009, Khaybar Desert Kites, Vanja Janežic