Oldest mystery stone structures found in Saudi Arabian desert

Oldest mystery stone structures found in Saudi Arabian desert

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to spotlight its ancient heritage received a boost on Thursday, after the publication of a detailed study on mysterious 7,000 year old structures which can be found in the Al Ula region.

The rectangular structures are built from basalt stone and are more than 2,000 years older than Egypt’s pyramids. Some of them are almost 500 metres in length.News of the discovery was published in the Antiquity Journal.

“We think of them as a monumental landscape,” said Melissa Kennedy, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth and an author of the study. “We are talking about over 1,000 mustatils. These things are found over 200,000 square kilometers [77,000 square miles], and they’re all very similar in shape … so perhaps it’s some ritual belief or understanding.” 

“We are talking about over 1,000 mustatils,” said Melissa. “Mustatil” is the Arabic for “rectangle” and is the common term for the structures found in the area.

“What excites me most about these structures is their size and widespread distribution, and the fact that they are almost identical in terms of form,” says Melissa A. Kennedy.. “This suggests a common religious belief may have been held over a huge part of northwest Arabia during the Late Neolithic, a feature that is so far unparalleled anywhere in the world.”

Among other discoveries, the team found narrow entrance ways leading into the mustatils’ courtyards and circular stone cells, some of which contained undecorated standing stones. Excavations at one mustatil unearthed horns and skull fragments from cattle, sheep, goats and gazelle, placed around a standing stone, seemingly as ritual offerings. These were radiocarbon-dated to 5300-5000BC, which makes them roughly 2,000 years older or more than the Egyptian pyramids or monuments like Stonehenge in southern England.

Kennedy says that numerous questions remain. “One of the main ones is, why were these structures built, and who or what were the deities worshipped or revered in these structures?” she adds. “We may never know for sure, but it is an exciting avenue of research.”

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