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Rock art in south Levantine dolmens

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Abstract

Thousands of dolmens are scattered throughout the southern Levant, mainly in Syria, Israel, and Jordan. These megalithic burials, dated to the early stages of the Bronze Age, are an understudied and little understood phenomenon of Levantine archaeology. Unlike in Europe and other parts of the world, rock art has rarely been reported from Levantine dolmens, despite more than 150 years of research and hundreds of excavated dolmens of the thousands of megalithic structures recorded. A fortunate discovery, in 2012, of engraved features on the ceiling of the central burial chamber of a giant dolmen in the Shamir Dolmen Field has markedly altered our current body of knowledge. Since this finding, rock art has been discovered at three additional dolmen sites. These latest discoveries are presented in the context of their significance to the broader phenomenon of the mysterious megalithic burials of the Levant.

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Data availability

All data is presented in the paper. All dolmens mentioned can be visited and anyone who wishes to observe the rock art panels and other artistic features on the dolmens can do so at any time.

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Acknowledgments

The excavation at the Shamir Dolmen Field was funded by a Tel-Hai College grant. We wish to thank the excavation volunteers as well as the members of Kibbutz Shamir for their support, with particular gratitude to R. Bar Nur and Y. Ben Shalom. The 3D scanning of the rock art panels was done by the Computerized Archaeology Lab of the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, directed by Prof. L. Grosman. We also thank the Israel Antiquity Authority (IAA) for its support, with special thanks to C. Sari, O. Zingboym, and M. Peleg (photogrammetric models, RTI & drone photography), A. Kleiner (photography of the Umm el-Kalha dolmen), A. Peretz (photography of the Shamir dolmen ceiling), and A. Shapiro (drawing of the maps). H. Tahan of the IAA drew the rock art panels. Thank you to S. Shalev and T. Kan-Cipor–Meron, the Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa (identification & chemical analysis of the Meshushim knife). The Meshushim dolmen study was made possible with permission from the Israel National Parks Authority (NPA). We wish to thank D. Ben Yosef and A. Zucker for their assistance. Special thanks to P. Paley (NPA) who was the first to identify the engraved elements on the walls of the Meshushim dolmen.

Funding

Excavation at the Shamir Dolmen Field was supported by a Tel Hai College grant.

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Gonen Sharon – data collection and writing; Uri Berger – data collection and writing.

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Correspondence to Gonen Sharon.

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Sharon, G., Berger, U. Rock art in south Levantine dolmens. asian archaeol 4, 17–29 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41826-020-00033-3

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