Israel Defense Forces

Ancient circles of stones mark graves in this aerial view. Reasoning that a large settlement like Shiqmim should have a cemetery nearby, archaeologists mounted a special search for one and after several weeks of survey found this site on a barren ridge beside the settlement. Covering an area of more than 800 yards by 200 yards, this Chalcolithic cemetery is one of the most extensive from that period ever found in the Levant. Studies of the buried population, grave offerings and circles provide some of the earliest evidence for social ranking in ancient Canaan. For example, the largest circle was the most elaborate burial; holding ten individuals and the highest number of grave offerings, it was probably the grave of a high-ranking family. Similar Chalcolithic grave circles have been found in Adeimeh, northeast of the Dead Sea.