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A recent archaeological discovery in the Jordan desert is shedding new light about the hunter-gatherer populations that roamed the area during the Neolithic period, CNN reported.
Archaeologists of the Jordan-based South Eastern Badia Archaeological Project (SEBAP) uncovered a 9,000-year-old ritual complex at a Neolithic campsite located near large structures known as “desert kites.”
Researchers have described desert kites as mass traps that were used to entrap gazelles in the area: They consisted of long stone walls which led prey to an enclosure in which they could be corralled.
A number of these structures can be found throughout the deserts of the Middle East, according to the Associated Press.
The discovery of the ritual complex is comprised of two stone carvings of different heights and designs, as well as an altar, hearth and marine shells.
The taller stone carving showed a representation of a desert kite incorporated with a human figure, while the smaller one depicted a detailed human face.
The researchers noted that these unusual anthropomorphic engravings are among the earliest creative expressions in the Middle East, and the altar and adjoining hearth imply that they were most likely utilized for sacrificial offerings.
“It sheds an entirely new light on the symbolism, artistic expression as well as the spiritual culture of these hitherto unknown Neolithic populations [who] specialized in mass hunting of gazelles using the ‘desert kites,'” said the team.