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Killing fields of ancient Syria revealed

Stone corrals trapped herds for mass slaughter

By
5:48pm, April 18, 2011

Texas barbecue has nothing on the ancient Near East.

A mass gazelle slaughter unearthed in northeastern Syria may give clues to the region’s “desert kites,” strange stone corrals that many researchers consider among humans’ first mass-scale snares. In a single massacre 5,500 years ago, hunters appear to have herded at least 93 gazelles into a kite and then killed the animals, an Israeli and U.S. team reports online April 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Roundups like these may have been the beginning of the end for many game animals in the northern Levant region. Like infamous and mysterious crop circles, Westerners first spotted desert kites from the air. These horseshoe-shaped rock corrals, with arms sometimes a kilometer long, were mysterious indeed.

Historical accounts and rock art suggest that the corrals weren’t for flock safety but for slaughter, says study coauthor Melinda Zeder. She thinks anc

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