>  Places to visit in Northern Israel   >  Gilgal Rephaim / Rujm el-Hiri

‘Rujm el-Hiri’ (in Arabic: Mound of the wild cats), is a mysterious megalithic prehistoric site in the central Golan Heights, about 10 miles east of the Sea of Galilee. Covering an area of 6 square miles, it is the biggest megalithic site in the near east, whose function is still being debated.

Archaeology of Rujm el-Hiri

Rujm-el-hiri-aerial

Aerial photo of Rujm el-Hiri. (C) Mati Shoshani

Rujm el-Hiri was first studies in the late 1960’s, after the Six Day War. Reminiscent of the famous Stonehenge, Rujm el-Hiri is comprised of some 40,000 tons of volcanic basalt fieldstones, arranged in five to nine concentric circles which were originally 3 to 8 feet high. It was apparently erected around 3500 BCE but was used also in the Early bronze age (3rd millennium BCE), when a burial chamber was added in its center. A study from the 1990s showed that the entrance way to the burial chamber was oriented to the summer solstice. This suggests that the site may have functioned as celestial observatory. New studies in the 21st century demonstrated that the whole area was populated by about 2,000 people, in 50 settlements, using hundreds of Dolmen-shaped tombs for burials. These rich remains may have inspired the biblical account of ancient giants living in the region, ruled by Og, king of the Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:11). This folklore is also reflected in the site’s modern Hebrew name – Gilgal Rephaeim (the Round site of the Biblical Giants). The new research suggest that the site may have been built already at the end of the 5th millennium BCE, and that its focus was the Dormant Volcano facing its northwest gate.

* See a video presentation of the site and the bible, by ‘Danny the Digger’, here.

Touring Rujm el-Hiri

The site is in a military zone in the Golan Heights and so can only be reached on the weekends, and only by an off-road vehicle.

A tour of Rujm al-Hiri can be combined with multi-day tour in Israel that will include exploring the Golan Heights.

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