Researchers say thousands of stone wall structures in Saudi Arabia are older than the Egyptian pyramids and Britain’s oldest stone frames, making them perhaps the earliest ritual landscape ever discovered.
A study published in the journal Antiquity on Thursday shows that the mysterious structures around the desert in northwestern Saudi Arabia, called “mustatils” in Arabic, are about 7,000 years old. It is much older than expected, 2000 about 2000 years older than either Stonehenge, England or the oldest pyramid in Egypt.
“We think of them as a monumental landscape,” said Melissa Kennedy, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth. “We are talking about more than 1,000 bridges. These items are found in more than 200,000 km2 [77,000 square miles]”They are all very similar in their form … so maybe it’s the same ritual belief or understanding.”
“There was probably a great deal of communication in a very large area, because the way they were built was communicated to people,” said Hug Thomas, an archaeologist at the same university.
The study is funded by the AlUla Royal Commission set up by the Government of Saudi Arabia to preserve the heritage of the AlUla region in the north-west of the country, where many mustards have been found.
Some of the oldest structures are more than 1,500 feet long but are relatively narrow, often clustered together. They are usually built on the ground, often on rocky outcrops above the desert, but in the mountains, in relatively low places.
The simplest poems were made by stacking the rocks in the lower walls a few feet high to form long rectangles, and at the highest end with a “thicker” wall, and on the opposite side with a narrow entrance. Researchers believe that they may have been built to guide the march from one end to the other. But they found many masts that were much more complex than they thought, containing columns, standing stones, and smaller “cells” of rock walls. Kennedy և Thomas estimates that a single molasses they studied was built by transporting more than 12,000 tons of basalt. a difficult task that took dozens of months to complete.
It is not only known why the ancient peoples who built the mostalas made so much. Kennedy suggests that some may be used only once, or that different adjacent mustards have been made and used by different groups of people.
One of their purposes is for many mustard head walls to have small chambers or niches that appear to have been used for sacrificial animals. Excavations like one of the posters in 2019 revealed the bones of wild animals, including sheep and gazelles, but mainly animals. The bones allowed the researchers to date the offerings to BC. about 5,000 years ago, in the late Neolithic period, when the region was much wetter and greener than the current arid landscape.
Ancient petroglyphs show large cattle that must have been inseparable for the survival of the Neolithic people in the region. Kennedy said that archaeological evidence of animal worship had been found in southern Arabia, Kennedy said, adding that the mosses may have been an early expression of that belief. It may also be that some mustard was built to establish territorial claims to valuable pastures for herds.
“This is one of the most important archaeological documents of recent decades,” said Hu Grukut, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human History in Jena, Germany, who studied chewing gum on the southern edge of the Nefud Desert. not involved in AlUla research. “Most of the research is about adding a few details that are already known. The Mustatil phenomenon is really something new. ”
He notes that northwestern Saudi Arabia, where most mustard has been found, has traditionally been neglected in prehistoric studies.
“These thousands of mustards really show the creation of a monumental landscape,” he said in an email. “They show that this part of the world is far from the eternally empty desert that people often imagine, but somewhere that remarkable human cultural developments have taken place.”