Butler, Howard Crosby ; Princeton University [Editor]
Syria: publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904 - 5 and 1909 (Div. 2, Sect. A ; 7) — 1919

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The Country.
The Ledja, as is well known, is the great field of lava which was emitted from
the now extinct craters of the Djebel Hauran, and spreads out in a great trapezoid
over the plain to the north and northwest of those mountains. This trapezoidal, lava-
covered, tract lies with its short side toward the north, it is about 30 miles long and
20 miles wide at its greatest width. Its eastern and western boundaries are almost
straight; but its southern end is unevenly indented by the foothills of the Djebel Hauran.
From a geological point of view the Ledja is probably unique as a place of human
habitation. It is almost inaccessible from without and extremely difficult to traverse
within. When viewed from the mountains on the south it appears like a glacier in
basalt, a wild, confused, tossing, sea of black, metallic-looking ice, with mighty broken-
crested waves, swirls and eddies, and deep cavernous hollows, intersected by dark ragged-
edged crevasses, and with here and there a patch of bright green foam, floating on
the troubled sea. It seems a boiling, writhing mass, agitated from below, all frozen
and stiffened in an instant, as if by magic. One does not realize at first that this
raging sea is not in motion, for every line of the twisting currents denotes active force
of the most violent sort, and one almost expects to hear those groaning, crunching,
sounds that are given out by grinding masses of ice set in violent motion by angry
waters. A more forbidding and desolate place for planting the homes of civilized men
can not well be imagined; yet the Ledja has heen inhabited probably from the earliest
periods of Syrian history, as its most ancient monuments show, by peoples in no way
inferior in culture to their neighbours of the surrounding fertile plain, and it is even
now the seat of Druse villages which are quite as well built as the villages of the mountains
hard by, and quite equal to them as places of residence.
A nearer view of this waste of lava is hardly more inviting or less inhospitable.
The edge of the entire area is abruptly marked off from the smooth reddish surface of
the comparatively level plain which surrounds it on three sides by a rim (luhf as it is
called in Arabic) of jagged basalt which forms a wall about ten metres high, and almost
impenetrable. The traveller may ride for miles along this rugged natural defense without
discovering an entrance or a point where even the most sure-footed Arab horse could
Publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria, Div. II, Sec. A, Pt. 7· 53
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