In January 2018, a dolmen was documented in the Nahal Meshushim Nature Reserve (map ref. 262300/760185; Fig. 1), following the discovery of rock carvings on the walls of a dolmen by Israel Nature and Parks Authority inspector Paula Foley. The dolmen was documented by U. Berger, M. Peleg (RTI photography and imaging) and G. Sharon (photography), with the assistance of H. Tahan-Rosen (drawing), A. Shapiro (surveying and GPS), T. Ken-Tsipor (archaeometallury) and the staff of the Nahal Meshushim Nature Reserve.
The dolmen (Figs. 2, 3) is constructed of five large basalt stones—two on each side and one as a back wall—over which a large basalt capstone was placed (1.2 × 2.6 m, 0.4–0.8 m thick). The burial cell (0.8–1.1 × 3.3 m, 1.6 m high) has an opening that faces southeast.
Following Epstein’s proposed typology for dolmens in the Golan (Epstein 1985
), the dolmen belongs to Type 2a. It stands in the center of a compound surrounded by a low stone wall, which was probably erected in the twentieth century, when the Syrian village was still inhabited.
Inside the burial cell, on its southwest wall, are schematic carvings depicting five or six horned animals (Figs. 4, 5), two of which are shown facing each other (Fig. 5:4, 5). The opposite, northeast wall of the burial cell bears three similar carved geometric motifs composed of a quadrangle divided by straight lines into four small quadrangles (Figs. 6, 7); they were carved beside each other, at different heights and angles.
A miniature dagger (Fig. 8) made of a copper alloy containing slightly more than 1% arsenic was discovered on the ground outside the dolmen, adjacent to its northern wall. A similar copper alloy composition has been found in metal artifacts retrieved from dolmens excavated in the Shamir, Qazrin and Deir Saras dolmen fields. All the dolmens excavated in these fields date from the Intermediate Bronze Age (Berger and Sharon 2017
; Berger and Sharon 2019
; Permit No. A-8039).
The rock carvings on the Nahal Meshushim dolmen are unique, both in their location within the dolmen and in what they depict—horned animals and geometric motifs. No parallel carvings or similar positioning have been discovered among the hundreds of dolmens excavated and surveyed to date throughout the Levant. Rock carvings are currently known from only one other dolmen, in the central burial cell of Dolmen 3 in the dolmen field at Kibbutz Shamir (Sharon et al. 2017), but the carvings at Shamir are incised on the roof of the dolmen and depict completely different designs. Horned animals such as those carved on the Nahal Meshushim dolmen are known from rock art in the Negev, but this is the first time that such examples have been discovered in association with dolmens (Braemer, Cleuziou and Steimer 2003; Fraser 2018).
Berger U. and Sharon G. 2017. Shamir, the Dolmen Field. HA-ESI 129
Berger U. and Sharon G. 2019. Deir Saras. HA-ESI 131
Braemer F., Cleuziou S. and Steimer T. 2003. Dolmen-like Structures: Some Unusual Funerary Monuments in Yemen. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 33:169–182.
Epstein C. 1985. Dolmens Excavated in the Golan. ‘Atiqot 17:20–57.
Fraser J.A. 2018. Dolmens in the Levant. London.
Hartal M. and Ben Ephraim Y. 2012b.Ma‘ale Gamla 36/1
(Archaeological Survey of Israel).
Sharon G., Barash A., Eisenberg-Degen D., Grosman L., Oron M. and Berger U. 2017. Monumental Megalithic Burial and Rock Art Tell a New Story about the Levant Intermediate Bronze “Dark Ages”. Plos One.