Image credit Tim (Moth) Clark, Heritage Action

“Just in this tiny area of hillside I counted three still with capstones on and at least six more wrecked ones and traces of several more. It also seemed obvious that a nearby quarry (limestone is second favourite building material only to concrete ’round here) may have destroyed numerous others.

“Scrambling up the red hot ridge we were soon passing dolmen after dolmen not knowing where to start looking; there were just TOO MANY dolmens to investigate!!! All wonderful, all unique… Up here, there may even be more dolmens than exist in the whole of the England, Wales and Scotland! …’More donads!?’ said the driver enthusiastically!”

Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action

Image credit Tim (Moth) Clark, Heritage Action

“- Over there is the baptism site.
– Over there is Jericho.
– Over there Mount Nebo, from where Moses saw the Promised Land and subsequently died.
– And right here I was standing in the midst of a necropolis built by civilised, farming people who lived probably 4,000 years before Jesus. Their beautiful tombs are ignored by coach parties of tourists, their magnificent pioneering achievements almost forgotten, overshadowed by the life of a rebellious son of carpenter. They even seem virtually unknown in Jordan itself, and this seems to be the case for dolmens in the other countries that the Jordan Valley runs through.”  Jane Tomlinson, weblog on The Modern Antiquarian

In the words of the World Monument Fund:  

Dolmen sites throughout Jordan are being lost at an alarming rate, and the unparalleled landscape of Damiya is now threatened by developmental pressures from quarrying operations. With only a negligible barrier left to protect them, many of the fragile dolmens are now suspended on quarried pillars and left vulnerable to collapse. Despite efforts by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to document the structures, they are unable to abate the destruction that these highly invasive quarrying processes will exact on these ancient vestiges.

However, it seems things are now moving (literally!). We picked up this update to the story from the Past Horizons website:

After two years on the World Monuments Fund Endangered Sites List, the dolmen fields of Damiya have hopefully been spared any further destruction, with the formation of a new archaeological preserve in the Jordan Valley.  The Department of Antiquities (DoA ) Director General Ziad Saad, confirmed yesterday that a deal had been reached with the mining company last month to set aside a 60 hectare area in the northern part of the field – which  contains most of the dolmens – as a national archaeological park.”

Heartening news. But this next bit struck us as “odd”…

Under the new agreement, 23 dolmens that remain within the mining concession area will be relocated to the protective zone, which was recently registered as an archaeological site and DoA property.”

Someone should make the point to the Jordanian authorities that when it comes to megalithic monuments, location is all, and then some. Moving them does not “save” them, it robs them of much of their essence and serves only to give the appearance that conservation is happening. It’s a model that we hope no mining companies will be allowed to get away with elsewhere! The Dolmens have been there for 6,500 years and limestone is astonishingly plentiful. Sounds familiar.