Scattered throughout Israel’s Negev Desert, archaeologists have discovered a number of traps set to catch leopards… and one of these is 5,000 years old!
The 5,000-year-old trap was discovered alongside a 1,600-year-old trap, both of which are identical to traps that have been used over the past century in the area by local Bedouins.
The discovery of these traps suggests that this ancient-origins technology has been used since the first local domesticated sheep and goats, in order to lure carnivores and thereby protect the flocks.
At least 50 of these traps have been found in Southern Israel in the Negev, but the traps aren’t obvious when viewed in the landscape. The traps look just like a pile of stones, and it’s only when they’re dug into that it becomes obvious they were put there for a purpose.
The traps were set by attaching a piece of meat to the end of a rope, luring the leopard (or other carnivore, really) to the trap. The rope was attached to a rock slab door, so that when the leopard grabbed the bait, the rope pulled the door closed—trapping the leopard inside a box trap made of stone.
The location of the traps near 6,000-year-old goat and sheep enclosures helped archaeologists to determine their usage.
Today, the Bedouin and sheep-herders of the area don’t need to worry about leopards attacking their sheep. Habitat loss and hunting (and trapping, perhaps?) brought the population to extinction in the area.