If you think of megalithic monuments, you probably think of Stonehenge directly. But today’s Britain is not the only place where prehistoric people worked up a sweat to create a huge structure. In the Middle East, for example, quite a few of these megalithic monuments have been recovered. For example in contemporary Lebanon and Israel. And similar structures have also been set up in Saudi Arabia. Most of them, however, are still awaiting discovery.
Nevertheless, Munoz a researcher at the CNRS and colleagues – with a little help from looters – have now stumbled upon such a megalithic monument in Saudi Arabia. It is a 35 meter long somewhat triangular platform, located in the north of Saudi Arabia. “We discovered the monument during studies in 2014,” Munoz says. “It was the stone walls and fragments of human bones that had been exposed at the hands of looters, which pointed us to the monument.”
According to Munoz, the megalithic monument is one of the most important platforms found in Saudi Arabia to date. Dating of the human bones found near the platform indicates that the construction of the platform began in the mid-sixth millennium BC. In the following years, however, work continued on the platform. For example, evidence has been found that it has been enlarged regularly.
It is believed that the platform – which offers a view of an oasis – was used for ritual purposes, Munoz explains. Some of those rituals probably revolved around burying or commemorating the deceased. “We found human bones that appear to have been intentionally placed on the platform.”
Judging by the finds on and around the platform, Munoz and colleagues also think they can say more about the people who built and used the monument. “We think they were nomadic ranchers who visited the area regularly, possibly because of the multi-annual water sources that were found here and were particularly valuable at the time.”
It is certain that the platform was cherished by the farmers who built and used it. “The platform was used as early as the fifth millennium BC for rituals around the deceased, and the presence of countless tombs near the monument reveals that the platform was used for this purpose for millennia in a row,” Munoz said. “This means that the nomadic pastoralists who were found in this area were particularly attached to this place.”
Munoz expects more prehistoric structures to be found in Saudi Arabia in the coming years. “The country is home to many more such monuments.” It is telling that prehistoric people in different parts of the world made the effort independently to erect such enormous structures. “It shows that they were able to set up large-scale, collective projects and that with the construction of such monuments they probably wanted to delineate their territory.” Furthermore, they were not just places where people could occasionally perform rituals but also places where people could meet. “And so they also contributed to the formation of group identity.”
” Discovering the prehistoric monuments of Arabia ” – CNRS (via Eurekalert)
Cambridge University Press– Antiquity