August 26, 2020 - 12:24 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Sprawling stone structures found across Saudi Arabia appear to be some of the oldest monuments in the world, dating back some 7,000 years, archaeologists now report, according to Live Science.
A new study of the mysterious stone structures — once called "gates" but now referred to as "mustatils," the Arabic word for "rectangle" —suggests they were used for rituals; and radiocarbon dating of charcoal found within one of the structures indicates people built it around 5000 B.C., a team of researchers report in an article recently published in the journal The Holocene.
"The mustatil phenomenon represents a remarkable development of monumental architecture, as hundreds of these structures were built in northwest Arabia," the researchers wrote in their paper. "This 'monumental landscape' represents one of the earliest large-scale forms of monumental stone structure construction anywhere in the world."
The structures are made from low stone walls that form what often looks like a field gate from above (hence their former name). They range in size with some measuring less than 15 m long and the largest measuring about 616 m long.
When first constructed, many of the mustatils would have had a platform on either end of the "rectangle," the researchers found when analyzing some of the structures. On the platform of one mustatil, they discovered a painting with geometric designs on it. The design of the painting "is not currently known from other rock art contexts" in the region, the team wrote in the journal article.
Today, the structures are found in a number of very arid places including the southern Nefud Desert as well as barren, inhospitable lava fields. But if the structures were indeed crafted around 5000 B.C., they would have been in use when the climate in Saudi Arabia was wetter than it is today.