Massive Ancient Tombs Discovered in the Galilee Could Change Understandings of the Bronze-Age Near East

Archaeologists working near Kibbutz Shamir in northern Israel recently excavated a large field of tombs, thought to be roughly 4,000 years old. Among them is a specific type of tomb, constructed from large stones stacked in a table-like formation, called a dolmen. The discovery of these dolmens suggests far greater social complexity than most scholars thought existed in the region at the time. Ilan Ben Zion explains their significance:

To put [the discovery] into perspective, the standing stones at Stonehenge, which are slightly older than the Shamir dolmen field, are each around thirteen-feet high and almost seven-feet wide, and weigh 25 tons—half that of the capstone [of one dolmen]. All the stones of this dolmen together weigh somewhere in the vicinity of 400 tons, the researchers said. . . .

Altogether, the Shamir dolmens’ complex burial customs, hierarchy, and symbolic art defy scholars’ conception of society in the region during this period. . . .

“Even though we don’t have any regular archaeological evidence, like cities and towns and tels, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing here,” said [the study’s lead researcher, Gonen] Sharon. . . . “The dolmens suggest we’re looking at a much more complex governmental system. To build this kind of dolmen you have to gather enough people, you have to feed these people, you have to accommodate these people, you have to have the architectural and construction knowledge, and you must have a boss. Somebody needs to tell them what to do.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, Galilee, History & Ideas, Prehistory

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy