A marine scientist has discovered a series of mysterious stone patterns on the lake bed of drought-stricken Lake Kinneret.
The man-made piles of stone, which are now above water, jut out from the freshwater lake, and sit 30 meters from each other along a 3.5-kilometer stretch of the eastern shore, from the Kinneret College campus to Haon resort.
Gal Itzhaki of Kibbutz Afikim first noticed the stones while strolling along the lake's receded shoreline. He says the patterns are a "fascinating phenomenon" and are part of an "impressive building enterprise."
Though they have not yet been scientifically examined, there are several hypotheses as to what functions they fulfilled. One theory postulates that they were part of a boundary between the ancient lakeside towns of Hippos, also known as Sussita, and Gadara. Both towns were part of the Decapolis, a group of 10 towns that flourished in the eastern part of the Roman province of Palestina, and are mentioned in the New Testament. Others have hypothesized that the patterns were part of a string of watchtowers or small buildings, or were used to set up fishermen's nets.
Another theory suggests that the patterns were part of a barrier to prevent the erosion of a nearby cliff. "Similar attempts were made here in 1979," Itzhaki said. "Every year the cliff retreated by at least 10 centimeters due to erosion."
Itzhaki has written several books on Lake Kinneret and says the dropping water levels that led to the discovery of the patterns is catastrophic. "We need water, we need water!" Itzhaki cried out yesterday as he examined the shore. "If there's one consolation in this difficult period that the Kinneret is going through, it is that we are discovering interesting things about it."
Itzhaki has made significant archaeological discoveries in the past. He was the first to identify the location of the ancient fort of Gamla, where Jewish fighters famously fought to the death against Roman legionnaires during the Jewish Revolt.
Regarding his latest discovery, Itzhaki has called on archaeologists to determine the stones' origin and function. "An archaeological dig must be conducted to expose the base of the rocks to date them," he explained. "That will help us answer important questions like whether these structures were above or beneath the water, and whether the cliff reached the start of the rocks. These are questions that relate to archaeology, geology and Lake Kinneret's water levels."
However, Itzhaki acknowledges that the answers to his questions may never be found. "We may never truly know what the stones were for," he said.
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