Sunday, March 9, 2008

Desert Kites in the Negev - Across the Road from Hai Bar

Negev Desert Kites….

Location: An example across the road from Hai Bar on left side of the entry road to Kibbutz Samar. You will see a small white sign indicating that the field is an antiquities site. Best you walk the site first before taking tourists…Guiding will require good imagination and story telling.

Coming back from our visit to Eilat last week we explore the ancient site of a desert kite in the Negev.

'Desert kites' are ancient large triangular-shaped structures built of two long diagonal stone walls with a circular apex. First discovered in the Middle East in the early 20th century, their date and function remain controversial. Many scholars claim that kites served mainly as large-scale game traps. This hypothesis is supported by early travel accounts and ethnographic parallels. Others suggest that kites were intended to corral herds of semi-domesticated or livestock animals. Kites were used, probably continuously, from the Neolithic period until the 19th century.

Several of the surviving large Syrian and Jordanian desert kites have been studied, but not much is known about the small Negev kites and what function they served. A recent reconnaissance survey pointed up at least a dozen small kites in the Negev, all poorly documented. The "Negev Desert Kites" project is a multi-disciplinary endeavor that seeks to shed new light on past human adaptations to arid conditions while focusing on large-scale hunting and trapping techniques. Our aim is to meticulously survey and document all the Negev kites in their topographical and geological landscape settings, using advanced 3-D models. Similarly, we will excavate three apices of the best-preserved kites, where evidence of their past function is expected to be found. Combining the results of fieldwork, microscopic analyses, radiometric dating and 3-D modeling, we expect to reconstruct past lifeways in a harsh environment where survival depended on resources that were scarce, unstable and unpredictable.


A bit of history:

The term "Kites" was first given by two British Royal Air Force pilots after the 1st World War, they discovered the installations while flying mail above the Syrian desert from Cairo to Baghdad.

On the ground they saw numerous installations that looked triangular in shape, the bases of the triangles are missing and at the apex there is small enclosure.Research in the field prove it to be hunting installations of game like gazelle, orax, wild ass and more.

The "kites" of the Syrian desert are built of 2 low built stone walls with lengths that can be hundreds of meters and with enclosure in the apex that look like a closed yard. They are some time dug into the ground so the game is captured.In Sinai and southern Negev desert in Israel the installations are much less then in the Syrian desert and smaller, but the functions are the same-hunting; A. ambushing the game, B. chasing it to direct it between the stone wall to the apex where thy get to the enclosure.The impression is that the 'Kites' in the Syrian desert were built for herds of Gazella Subguttyroza that are more numerous compared to the Gazella Dorcas and Gazella Arabica of the Negev and East Sinai where the herd consist up to 6-7 gazelles. This is the reason for the smaller 'Kites'. The oldest known Desert Kites are from the 6Th millennium BCE. The 'Kites' have been used for thousands of years. In excavated Kites we find evidence (digging the enclosure) for long usage duration.


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