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Cambridge University Science Magazine
The gazelle remains were discovered in a 'killing pit' at Tell Kuran, near the town of Hasseke in the Khabur Basin of north-east Syria [1]. This killing pit is close to several structures known as ‘desert kites’ which consist of stone wall funnels that were used to guide the animals into a walled enclosure prior to slaughter. British pilots in the early 20th century named these desert kites to describe the characteristic shape of these structures when seen from the air.

It is believed that whole gazelle herds were slaughtered in this manner as bones examined in the killing pit show the presence of males and females of all ages and in numbers that would have greatly dented the local surviving population. It is unclear why people in this agricultural-based community would have wanted to kill so many gazelles at once, but a possible explanation based on nearby rock art suggests ritual slaughters. Desert kites are found in relatively high abundance in the Near East, particularly in Jordan, which indicates that the gazelle was a very common sight in the late Stone Age [2].

Written by Sarah Gardner


  1. Role of mass-kill hunting strategies in the extirpation of Persian gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) in the northern Levant (2011) Bar-Oz, G., Zeder, M. & Hole, F. PNAS Published online before print April 18, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017647108