Before the pyramids … huge stone structures in the Saudi desert baffle scientists (photos)


Scientists found in the north of the Arabian Peninsula, on the borders of the Great Nefud desert, huge stone monuments dating back 7 thousand years in the form of long rectangles.

The “rectangle” structures were a mystery to the scientists, but new evidence indicates that they may have been used for ritual or social purposes.

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Rectangles are among the oldest forms of massive stone structures, which predate the Giza pyramids by thousands of years. Hundreds of these structures have been identified, which archaeologists believe are somehow linked to an increase in regionalism as the fertile region has given way to arid desert.

The discovery of rectangular structures was first documented in 2017, through satellite imagery, which revealed the size and number of these mysterious structures, which archaeologists at the time called “gates”, which were found in the volcanic field in a region west of central Saudi Arabia, named after them. Harrah Khyber.

The stone structures were called “gates” because of their appearance from the air. They were described as “two short, thick lines of stacked stones, roughly parallel, linked by two or more walls that are much longer and thinner”.

Now, a team of archaeologists led by Hugh Grockt of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany has conducted a study that investigates satellite imagery of the southern edge of the Grand Nefid desert and identified 104 new stone installations. Then they went out into the field and studied it closely.

Like the rectangular structures of the Khyber Alley, the rectangles of the Nafud Desert consist of two short and thick platforms, connected by lower walls of much greater length, over 600 meters (2,000 feet) in height, but no more than half a meter (1.64 feet) high.

Similar construction methods can be seen in many rectangles, where straight stones were placed vertically in the ground to form the basic shape of the wall, and rocks piled up to fill the gap between them, as shown in the pictures. One of the structures yielded coal, which dates back 7,000 years.

These stone structures reflect an interesting time in the history of the region, which belongs to the African Wet era, which began about 14,600 to 14,500 years ago and ended between 6,000 to 5,000 years ago.

During this time, the Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula experienced more rainfall than they are today, and they were greener and fertile.

But the period did not last long in the Arabian Peninsula. The recent study indicates that the grassland reached its peak expansion some 8,000 years ago, after which the area dried up very quickly, giving way to landscapes more similar to what we see today.

It’s hard to really tell why rectangles are used, and why there are so many of them. But scientists believe that increased competition for resources and land after the drought may have played an important role in creating the structures.

The study revealed that the tall walls of the buildings had no openings, and there was an intriguing dearth of artifacts, such as stone tools, in and around the structures. Scientists believe this indicates that the rectangles are unlikely to be of a utility, or used to store water, or to trap livestock, for example.

What their searches found were collections of animal bones, including both wildlife and cattle or arch bones, although it is unclear whether the latter were wild or domesticated.

A rock decorated with a strange geometric pattern was found on the roof of a platform inside one of the rectangles, which anyone standing inside could see.

“Our interpretation of the rectangles is that they are ritual sites, where groups of people come together to perform some kind of social activities that are not currently known,” Grockett said. “They may have been sites for animal sacrifices, or feasts.”

Another possibility that the scientists suggest is that perhaps the purpose of rectangular structures is to do a social bonding activity to increase community cooperation skills.

“The lack of the apparent utilitarian functions of rectangles suggests a ritual interpretation. Indeed, rectangles seem to be one of the earliest known anywhere examples of large-scale ritual behaviors encoded in the practice of mass building and use,” the scholars wrote in their paper.

“Our findings indicate that rectangles, and especially their platforms, are important archives of prehistoric Arab times, and future research and exploration is likely to be very rewarding, leading to a better understanding of social and cultural developments,” she added.

Source: ScienceAlert


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