These ancient stone structures in Saudi Arabia are older than the pyramids

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Desk Reporter
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AlUla
A cultural jewel in the Arabian desert, AlUla is a serene oasis of extraordinary natural and human heritage stretching through desert valleys

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to highlight its ancient heritage were bolstered by the publication of a detailed study on mysterious 7,000-year-old structures in the AlUla region.

The rectangular structures, made of basalt stone, are over 2,000 years older than Egypt’s pyramids. Some of them are almost 500 meters in length. News of the discovery was published in the Antiquity Journal, an academic journal dedicated to the subject of archaeology.

“We are talking about over 1,000 mustatils,” said Melissa Kennedy, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, in a statement.

“Mustatil” is the Arabic for “rectangle” and is the common term for the structures found in the area. These things are found over 200,000 square kilometers, and they’re all very similar in shape, so perhaps it’s the same ritual belief or understanding,” she commented.

Mustatils
The landscape is dotted with ancient mustatils, which are named after the Arabic word for a rectangle

While some of the long rectangular structures were made simply by building low stone walls, others are more complex and involved internal rooms and pillars. One site involved the use of 12,000 tonnes of rock, Ms. Kennedy said.

Furthermore, Ms. Kennedy’s team has stated that the smaller rooms within the larger structures might have been used to sacrifice animals after 5,000-year-old animal bones were found at one site in 2019.

The governorate of AlUla is located on the old “Incense Road” trade route, which flourished in the seventh century, but human settlements date back much further. AlUla contains the ruins of a 2,000-year-old walled city built by early Bedouin settlers, which was designated as the kingdom’s first Unesco World Heritage Site.

Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla has funded the research of the team from Perth University. Saudi Arabia is attempting to raise international awareness of the country’s ancient heritage as part of a larger effort to attract tourists as part of the Vision 2030 strategy.

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