The megalithic monument is about 35 meters long and more than 7000 years old.

When you think of megalithic monuments, you probably immediately think of Stonehenge. But today’s Britain is not the only place where prehistoric people worked up a sweat to build a huge structure. For example, quite a few of these megalithic monuments have been found in the Middle East. For example in modern Lebanon and Israel. And such structures have also been erected in Saudi Arabia. Most of them are still waiting to be discovered.

New discovery
Nevertheless, Munoz 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, slightly triangular platform, located in the north of Saudi Arabia. “We discovered the monument during studies in 2014,” says Munoz. “It was the stone walls and fragments of human bones exposed by looters that pointed us to the monument.”

Thousands of years old
According to Munoz, the megalithic monument is one of the most important platforms that have been found in Saudi Arabia to date. A dating of the human bones found near the platform indicates that construction of the platform began in the mid-sixth millennium BC. In the years that followed, people continued to work on the platform. For example, indications have been found that it has been regularly enlarged.

Excavations at the platform. Image: © MADAJ.

It is assumed that the platform – which offers a view of an oasis – is used for ritual purposes, Munoz explains. Some of those rituals were probably about burying or commemorating the deceased. “We found human bones that appear to have been deliberately placed on the platform.”

Cattle farmers
Based on 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 it was nomadic ranchers who visited the area regularly, possibly because of the perennial water sources found here that 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 for rituals surrounding the dead as early as the fifth millennium BC, and the presence of numerous tombs in the vicinity of the monument reveals that the platform was used for this purpose for millennia in a row,” Munoz said. “That means that the nomadic ranchers found in this area were particularly attached to this place.”

Munoz expects that more prehistoric structures will be found in Saudi Arabia in the coming years. “The country is home to many more such monuments.” It is significant that prehistoric people in different parts of the world independently bothered to erect such enormous structures. “It shows that they were able to set up large-scale, collective projects and that they probably wanted to define their territory with the construction of such monuments.” Furthermore, they were not just places where people occasionally performed rituals, but also places where people could meet. “And so they also contributed to the formation of a group identity.”

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