A city that is older than the pyramids lies about 50 miles from Damascus and there is no way for anyone to get there because of war. Fragments of stone tools, stone circles and lines on the ground, and even evidence of tombs appear to lie in the desert near the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa. “What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living,” said archaeologist Robert Mason of the Royal Ontario Museum.
He made the find during a 2009 trip and is eager to return and further explore the site. But he says regional conflicts make such a return trip nearly impossible. “It’s something that needs more work and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.”
The monastery that is currently found on the site is believed to have been built in the late 4th or early 5th century, he said, and contains several frescoes from the 11th and 12th century depicting Christian saints and Judgment Day. Mason told an audience at Harvard that he “believes it was originally a Roman watchtower, partially destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt.”
Mason believes that he found tools that date back to the neolithic era or the early bronze age. The tools, he believes, are 6,000 to 10,000 years old. To put that in perspective, Egypt’s oldest pyramid is 4,500 years old. Mason hopes to return to the monastery to excavate under the church’s main altar — he believes he’ll find an entrance to underground tombs there. He also hopes to return to strange stone formations he found in the desert, which he dubbed “Syria’s Stonehenge.”