Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Desert ‘Kites’ – Ancient strategic design genius

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I was awed by this example of strategic design from over 5000 years ago.

The ‘kites’ – so called because of their kite-like appearance to British pilots flying over the area in the early 1900s – resemble walls stretching over hundreds of meters of desert, meeting at angles with rounded trenches at the intersections.

Scientists have found that these structures were made by ancient desert people over 5,000 years ago as mass hunting apparatuses. Found across the deserts of Jordan, Syria, Israel and the Sinai, scientist teams concluded that the kites were constructed specifically to direct wild animals along the walls and convey them toward the trenches, where they could be hunted with ease. The extensive study also exposed the thinking processes that were invested in planning each trap. “The traps were places in locations where animals migration routes were concentrated into bottlenecks. There is no doubt that the prehistoric inhabitants of the desert had a lot of knowledge: they knew the cattle migration routes very well and knew where to each of the traps very efficiently.” the study by an interdisciplinary group funded by the National Geographic said.

The walls of a kite leading to enclosures for trapping animals. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk.

The walls of a kite leading to enclosures for trapping animals. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk.

The kites were designed so that the wild animals’ migration routes would converge into the hidden trenches. According to data gathered at the sites, the kite “branches” spanned over 200 meters in length, some even surpassing a few kilometers. The walls of these branches were quite broad in both height and depth, leading researchers to conclude that kites were used to hunt large hoofed animals. Some kites were constructed with elevated stages that probably served to conceal the large trenches below and heighten the leaping wall.

But the part that’s totally intriguing to me – sketches on stones nearby reveal detailed drawings of shapes and use of the kites. This raises a whole bunch of questions. Were these ancient designers sketching out their ideas, probably even iterating designs and refining solutions – an ancient prototyping effort – as part of the process of kite construction? What ‘process’ did they use and was sketching an important part of it? How successful was this method compared to traditional building processes?

Drawings on stones in the heart of the kites location. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Drawings on stones in the heart of the kites location. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Ancient kite drawings from the sites where kites are found. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Ancient kite drawings from the sites where kites are found. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Sources for this blog post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1235898328320&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=2146412866
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16284
http://www.yannarthusbertrand2.org/index.php?option=com_datsogallery&Itemid=27&func=detail&catid=52&id=2058&p=1&l=1280


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Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 13, 2009 at 11:12 am

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