Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Squaring the Circles

Monday, February 09, 2015

Trenches-Jordan-CircleStone circle, Jordan


Researchers from the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East have brought renewed attention to an archaeological phenomenon known as “Big Circles.” Spread across parts of Jordan and Syria, these manmade features have received very little archaeological attention and are relatively unknown, even to regional experts. They are thought to be at least 2,000 years old—two of them are cut by later Roman roads—but may date as far back as the Neolithic. Constructed of stone walls rarely rising more than a few feet, they measure about 1,300 feet in diameter, and, puzzlingly, show no evidence of entrances. “The combination of aerial recording of each circle, sites with which it may intersect, its context, and examination on the ground, have helped clarify their character and possible date,” says project director David Kennedy. The origin, function, and purpose of the circles remain a mystery, although Kennedy hopes that his work will provide a new perspective from which to analyze them.