Thousand-year-old archeological remains in Saudi Arabia could change our understanding of prehistory

Saudi Arabia is famous for its vast arid deserts, and it’s hard to imagine the ancient inhabitants thriving in the country.

But new archaeological evidence shows that several thousand years ago, the region was home to a vast and complex community that likely engaged in occult practices.

Between ten and six thousand years ago, the Arabian Peninsula is believed to have experienced a “green” period, when increased rainfall brought lush vegetation to the region.

Around the same time, between 6000 and 4500 BC, people in the area were going through the “Neolithic” period, the last part of the Stone Age.

Huge stone structures were being built in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, which archaeologists are only now beginning to study.

A few years ago, the country was closed to international researchers, and now it opens up an ancient world previously unknown to archaeologists.

Among the evidence of early settlements, such as houses and tombs, researchers are particularly interested in the vast structures known as “rectangles”, thousands of which have been discovered in northwestern Arabia. These rectangular courtyards consist of long, low walls made of small stones and pebbles.

Researchers Dr. Hugh Thomas and Jane McMahon are working with a team from the University of Western Australia to unlock the secrets of the “rectangles” as part of the Saudi Arabian Aerial Archeology at Al-Ula (AAKSAU) project.

And last April, the team published evidence in the archaeological journal Antiquity that religious ceremonies once took place in these massive stone rectangles.

Thomas and McMahon recently spoke to BBC Travel about their findings in the Al-Ula region, saying that while the stone structures were first documented in the 1970s, remote sensing research did not lead to new theories about their purpose until 2017.

According to Thomas and McMahon, the discovery of skulls and horns of animals, including cows, goats and wild deer, that were found on other parts of their bodies suggests that these structures may have been used in religious rites.

The separation and transfer of these bones from animal remains also indicates that this was a highly organized practice. Archaeologists believe this is evidence of a widespread belief system that predated Islam in the region by about 6,000 years.

But exploration of these massive stone structures is still at an early stage, with only a handful of the 1,600 known rectangles excavated.

“Saudi Arabia seemed like a barren and inhospitable land when viewed in isolation from the rest of the world, with the exception of some notable places, such as the city of Al-Hijr (Madain Saleh),” Thomas told the BBC.

However, the rectangles and other new archaeological finds show that the area has a “rich and complex history”.

“The existence of a structure that is so widespread over such a vast area points to a common belief system, language and culture on a scale that I personally could never have imagined,” he added.

Source: metro