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.”