Ancient City Found In Syrian Desert, Conflict Delays Further Study
June 27, 2012

Ancient City Found In Syrian Desert, Conflict Delays Further Study

Archaeologists have discovered a mysterious city in the Syrian desert they say is older than the pyramids, but the conflict tearing the nation apart is preventing further study of the ancient stone formations.

The ruins were found 50 miles north of the capital city of Damascus, near the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa (Saint Moses the Abyssinian). Scientists described the ancient city as a “landscape for the dead”, and believe them to be about 10,000 years old.

The structures were first unearthed in 2009 by Robert Mason, an archaeologist at the Royal Ontario Museum, who was at work at an ancient monastery when he discovered a series of rock formations, stone circles, lines of stones and what appeared to be tombs, The Daily Mail reported.

Mason, who discussed his find on Wednesday at Harvard´s Semitic Museum, likened the formations to “Syria´s Stonehenge.”

Unfortunately, he had to cut short his research due to the ongoing conflict in the region, but said a much more thorough investigation is needed to understand the structures.

"These enigmatic arrangements are not especially imposing, they are not megaliths or anything like that, but they are very intriguing and clearly deliberately aligned," Mason told Discovery News.

'It´s something that needs more work and I don´t know if that´s ever going to happen,” said Mason, adding that he isn´t sure when he will be able to return to Syria, if ever.

Analysis of fragments of stone tools discovered near the monastery of Deir Mar Musa suggest the formations are much older than the monastery, perhaps dating to the Neolithic Period or early Bronze Age -- 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Mason also observed corral-like stone formations called “desert kites” in the area, which would have been used to trap gazelles and other animals.

However, Mason said it was clear that the purpose of the stone formations was entirely different from that of the desert kites, which were arranged to harness the landscape and direct the animals to a single place.

The linear stone formations, on the other hand, were made to stand out from the landscape.  Additionally, there was no sign of habitats, he said.

“What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living,” Mason told the University publication the Harvard Gazette.

Mason said he believes the Deir Mar Musa monastery was originally a Roman watchtower that was partially destroyed by an earthquake, and later rebuilt.

Mason was searching the watchtowers when he discovered the stone lines, circles, and possible tombs.

The Deir Mar Musa monastery is the home to many frescoes depicting Christian scenes, female saints and Judgment Day.

Mason also explored a number of small caves he believes were excavated and lived in by monks, who returned to the monastery for church services.

If he´s able to return to Syria, Mason said he´d like to excavate the area under the church´s main altar, where he believes there may be an entrance to underground tombs.

He has already received permission for the excavation by the monastery´s superior, who was recently expelled from Syria.