Category Archives: SAUDI ARABIA

Life-sized camel carvings in Northern Arabia date to the Neolithic period

Life-sized camel carvings in Northern Arabia date to the Neolithic period

This close-up image shows one of the camel carvings, revealing the body, legs and base of the neck of an adult camel with a possible young equid to the left.

A parade of life-size stone camel carvings in northern Arabia dates back to the Stone Age, new research finds. The 21 camels and horse-like figures were found in 2018 in the province of Al-Jouf in the northwestern Saudi desert. Researchers first believed that the carvings were about 2,000 years old, in part because they look similar to rock reliefs found in the famous stone city of Petra in Jordan. 

New dating efforts reveal that the carvings are much older: They date back 8,000 years. They were probably carved between 6000 B.C. and 5000 B.C. when the region was wetter and cooler.

At the time, the landscape was a grassland punctuated with lakes, where camels, horses and their relatives roamed wild, the researchers said. Humans herded flocks of cattle, sheep and goats — and apparently created great works of art. 

The carvings are chiselled into naturally occurring rocks at the site, and they often seem to meld with the natural grain of the rock. Their creation would have required tools made of a stone called chert, which would have come from at least 9 miles (15 kilometres) away.

Artists who took on the laborious job of carving each animal would have needed some sort of scaffolding and a couple of weeks’ time to complete, according to researchers from the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the Centre National de la recherche Scientifique in France and King Saud University.

Life-sized camel carvings in Northern Arabia date to the Neolithic period
At the Camel Site in northern Arabia, viewed from the northwest, researchers identified several large carvings or reliefs of camels and horses (red stars), small reliefs (white stars) and large fragments (stars with red outline).
Panel 1 showing the belly, thigh and upper tail of a camel. Tool marks can be seen on the lower abdomen and the upper thigh, as well as a series of deep grooves. Detail photographs are shown on the lower left and lower right.

“Neolithic communities repeatedly returned to the Camel Site, meaning its symbolism and function was maintained over many generations,” said Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Science of Human History, who led the new research.

The study was published Wednesday (Sept. 15) in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports.

The carvings are quite eroded, meaning that dating them was difficult. The researchers used multiple lines of evidence to do so, ranging from the tool marks in the rock to the radiocarbon dating of bones found in related rock layers. (Radiocarbon dating uses the radioactive decay of certain carbon molecules to mark time, but it requires organic material for the analysis.) 

The researchers also measured the density of the desert varnish on the rocks using a technique called portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry.

Desert varnish is a mineral coating that forms on desert rocks over time.

Portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry uses a handheld device to beam X-rays at a sample and non-destructively analyze the elements on its surface.

Finally, the team used luminescence dating of fragments that had fallen off the rock wall to determine when those fragments fell.

This method measures the amount of naturally occurring radiation in rocks and can reveal when rock was first exposed to sunlight or intense heat and how long it’s been acquiring radiation from the sun since that time. 

The new Neolithic, or Stone Age, date, puts the carvings in the context of other rock art made by pastoral people in northern Arabia, the researchers said in a statement.

These include large stone monuments called mustatil, which are made of sandstone walls surrounding a courtyard with a stone platform at one end. 

Periodic Prehistoric Rainfall Made Northern Arabia Navigable

Periodic Prehistoric Rainfall Made Northern Arabia Navigable

Excavations at the Jubbah oasis (shown) in northern Saudi Arabia produced stone tools that, along with nearby lake bed finds, indicate that hominids periodically trekked through the region starting around 400,000 years ago.

Arabia, known today for its desert landscape, served as a “green turnstile” for migrating Stone Age members of the human genus starting around 400,000 years ago, a new study finds.

Monsoon rains periodically turned northern Arabia into a well-watered oasis, creating windows of opportunity for long-ago humans or their relatives to trek through that crossroads region from starting points in northern Africa and southwest Asia.

That’s the implication of a series of five ancient lake beds of varying ages, each accompanied by distinctive stone tools, unearthed at a northern Saudi Arabian site called Khall Amayshan 4, or KAM 4. Sediments from the lake beds, which were linked to periods when the climate was wetter than today, also yielded fossils of hippos, wild cattle and other animals. Like hominids, those creatures must have migrated into the region along rain-fed lakes, wetlands and rivers, an international team reports online September 1 in Nature.

Until now, the oldest stone tools in Arabia dated to at least 300,000 years ago. Previous finds only hinted that Stone Age Homo sapiens or other Homo species temporarily inhabited green, wetter parts of Arabia, a conclusion largely resting on discoveries at two other Saudi sites, each preserving stone tools from a single point in time.

Aside from providing the earliest known evidence of hominids in Arabia, the new finds demonstrate for the first time that ancient Homo groups travelled there when conditions turned wet, say archaeologist Huw Groucutt of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, and colleagues.

Evidence of hominid occupations at five ancient lake sites, each dated to a different Stone Age time, was found at northern Saudi Arabia’s Khall Amayshan 4 site (shown).

As a result, northern Arabia could have served as a key, if intermittent, passageway out of Africa for humans or close evolutionary relatives who reached South Asia by around 385,000 years ago, southern China between 120,000 and 80,000 years ago and the Indonesian island of Sumatra between 73,000 and 63,000 years ago.

The number, completeness and time frames of KAM 4’s ancient lake deposits make this site “one of a kind … that will continue to produce remarkable results,” says archaeologist Donald Henry of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, who did not participate in the new study.

Across five occupation phases covering hundreds of thousands of years, different Homo species or closely related populations at KAM 4 “were doing broadly the same things,” Groucutt says. Small groups camped by lakes where individuals made stone tools for food preparation, hunting and woodworking.

But each phase, dated mainly by a technique that estimated the amount of time since grains of lake sediment had last been exposed to sunlight, had its own evolutionary character.

For example, the identity of the KAM 4 crowd 400,000 years ago, who left behind large hand axes, is unclear, but the researchers know it couldn’t have been H. sapiens. Our species didn’t originate until roughly 300,000 years ago in Africa. One possibility is that those ancient Arabians represented a now-extinct Homo population from southwest Asia that later migrated into Africa, possibly contributing to H. sapiens evolution, Groucutt speculates.

Members of an unidentified Homo group left behind stone hand axes such as this one (shown from different angles) along the shore of a northern Arabian lake about 400,000 years ago.

Similar but slightly smaller, more finely worked hand axes turned up along the shore of a roughly 300,000-year-old KAM 4 lake bed, indicating the second phase of occupation. Groucutt and colleagues doubt that early H. sapiens from Africa scurried over to KAM 4 in time to make those tools. Whichever Homo group did could have come either from northern Africa or southwest Asia, the researchers say.

The third round of KAM 4 occupants, probably H. sapiens, fashioned artefacts excavated at an approximately 200,000-year-old lake bed, Groucutt says. These finds consist of rock chunks shaped so that sharp flakes, also unearthed there, could be pounded off. Humans based in northeastern Africa around that time made similar tools. Some of those people may have reached Arabia before eventually journeying to southwest Asia, Groucutt suggests.

Groucutt’s group excavated comparable tools at a site called Jubbah about 150 kilometres east of KAM 4 that date to around 210,000 years ago.

Those finds are another sign of human migrations into Arabia at a time when the corresponding KAM 4 lakebed shows that wet conditions reigned. Additional stone tools unearthed at Jubbah date to around 75,000 years ago.

Stone implements resembling the Jubbah finds were also excavated at the youngest two KAM 4 sites, one dating to between about 125,000 and 75,000 years ago and the other to roughly 55,000 years ago. The older site likely hosted H. sapiens, possibly a group that left Africa, Groucutt suggests.

The youngest KAM 4 artefacts could represent either H. sapiens or Neandertals, he says. Neandertals reached the Middle East about 70,000 years ago and could have reached a green Arabia by 55,000 years ago. If so, Neandertals may have interbred with H. sapiens in Arabia, a possibility not raised before.

Despite uncertainties about which hominids reached KAM 4 during its green phases, KAM 4 tools generally look more like similarly aged African tools than artefacts previously found in southern Arabia or at eastern Mediterranean sites, says Henry, the University of Tulsa archaeologist.

Migrations out of Africa, he says, now appear more likely to have wended through northern Arabia rather than across the narrow Red Sea crossing to southern Arabia, often regarded as a major dispersal route for ancient humans.

Thousands of human and animal bones hoarded by hyenas in lava tube system, Saudi Arabia

Thousands of human and animal bones hoarded by hyenas in lava tube system, Saudi Arabia

Although hyenas look and hunt like canines, they’re members of the mongoose family and therefore more closely related to a cat. However, just like dogs, hyenas have an affinity for hiding bones — it’s just that they can tend to go a bit overboard.

Thousands of human and animal bones hoarded by hyenas in lava tube system, Saudi Arabia
The Umm Jirsan lava tube in Saudi Arabia.

Case in point, archaeologists were left speechless after they stumbled across a lava tube cavern in northwestern Saudi Arabia that is packed with hundreds of thousands of bones gathered by striped hyenas over the course of 7,000 years.

The ultimate hoarders

The gruesome floor filled with ancient animal bones was found deep in a lava tube system — a network of caverns carved by lava flow. The site, known as Umm Jirsan, was discovered in 2007, but it was only recently that researchers ventured deep into the dark caverns.

Mathew Stewart, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, led a team of researchers who catalogued nearly 2,000 bones and teeth belonging to at least 14 different species, including cattle, horses, camels, rodents, and even humans.

Hundreds of thousands of other bones that are yet to be analyzed still lie on the cavernous floor.

Radiocarbon dating of the samples suggests the animal remains range from 439 to 6,839 years ago, which can only mean these lava tubes had been used as dens for at least 6,000 years.

Images of Saudi Arabia’s Umm Jirsan “hyena cave”: A: Entrance to the western passage and surrounding area. B: Entrance to the western passage. Note the team members on the right-hand wall for scale. C: The back chamber in which the excavation was carried out. D: Plotted sampling square before surface collection and excavation. Credit: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is a bit smaller than spotted and brown hyenas. They have a broad head with dark eyes, a thick muzzle, and large, pointed ears, with a mane of long hair growing along the back.

Their most striking feature is the legs: the front legs are much longer than the hind legs. This gives hyenas their distinctive walk, making them seem like they’re always limping uphill.

Hyenas are nocturnal or crepuscular predators that stay out of sight during the day, preferably in a natural cave or a burrow dug into the hillside. Sometimes they may take over the dens of other creatures where they transport bones to be eaten, fed to the young, or cached for later use.

It’s a well-established fact that hyena dens aren’t tidy at all, being normal to find leftover bones scattered across the floor. However, the lava tube horde stunned even the researchers who were most familiar with the hyenas.

Hyenas will eat an entire human body — except for the skull cap

Although they didn’t find hyenas at the site, the researchers are certain this was one of their dens judging from the cuts, bites, and digestion marks left on the bones.

The presence of human skull fragments was also telling of hyena presence since the animals are known to scavenge through burial grounds in search of food. They normally will consume everything except for the top of the skull.

“The size and composition of the bone accumulation, as well as the presence of hyena skeletal remains and coprolites, suggest that the assemblage was primarily accumulated by striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena),” the authors wrote in a study published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Molars and mandibles belonging to wild cows, rabbits, wild goats, camels, and wolves.

It’s highly unlikely that the six skullcaps with gnaw marks on them found at the site belong to humans who were killed by a hyena hunting party.

The mammals are mostly scavengers but when they do hunt they prefer to target hares, birds, and antelopes. However, the possibility that some hunter-gatherers were killed by hyena packs cannot be entirely ruled out.

Today, striped hyenas are a threatened species in Saudia Arabia but thousands of years ago they were common across the Arabian Peninsula.

The current investigation at Umm Jirsan was undertaken as part of the Paleo deserts Project, a large-scale research initiative aimed at tracking environmental and climate change in the Arabian Desert region over the past one million years.

Of particular interest is how human and animal migration in the region waxed and waned with the changing climate. This is a challenging goal since the unforgiving desert climate in the region tends to destroy any exposed organic matter.  Luckily, the Umm Jirsan lava tubes create a perfect time capsule that will give scientists material to work with for years to come. 

Saudi Arabia’s Hima cultural site added to UNESCO world heritage list

Saudi Arabia’s Hima cultural site added to UNESCO world heritage list

Hima, in the Gulf state’s southwest, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world.

Najran, Saudi Arabia: 

The sixth site in Saudi Arabia has been added to UNESCO’s world heritage list, the UN organisation announced on Saturday.

Hima, in the Gulf state’s southwest, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world.

“New site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: cultural area of Hima, Saudi Arabia. Mabrouk (congratulations)!” UNESCO announced.

Hima features more than 34 separate sites including rock inscriptions and wells along the route of the ancient Arabian caravans.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, the Saudi culture minister, welcomed the listing, the official SPA news agency reported.

The kingdom has a “rich heritage (of) human civilisations. Efforts have borne fruit in making it known to the world,” it quoted him as saying.

SPA said Hima was a conduit for caravans on the trade and hajj routes to and from the southern parts of Arabia.

“People who passed through the area between pre-and post-historic times have left behind a substantial collection of rock art depicting hunting, wildlife, plants, symbols, and tools used at the time, as well as thousands of inscriptions,” the news agency said.

The site covers 557 square kilometres (215 square miles).

SPA said the wells in the area are more than 3,000 years old and were considered a vital source of fresh water in the vast desert of Najran province.

“They still serve freshwater to this day,” it added.

Other UNESCO sites in Saudi Arabia include rock art in the Hail region and historic Jeddah.

In 2019, Riyadh announced that for the first time it would grant tourist visas for those wishing to visit Saudi Arabia.

Previously, the country was open only to businessmen and Muslim pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Inscription With Image of Babylonian King Found in Saudi Arabia

Inscription With Image of Babylonian King Found in Saudi Arabia

A 2,550-year-old inscription, written in the name of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, has been discovered carved on basalt stone in northern Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage recently announced. 

An engraving at the top of the inscription shows King Nabonidus holding a scepter alongside four other images that include a snake, a flower and a depiction of the moon, the commission said in a statement, noting that these symbols likely have a religious meaning. 

These engravings are followed beneath by about 26 lines of cuneiform text that experts with the commission are currently deciphering. This is the longest cuneiform inscription ever found in Saudi Arabia, the commission said in the statement. 

Inscription With Image of Babylonian King Found in Saudi Arabia
The top of the inscription from the last king of Babylon shows engravings showing Nabonidus and four symbols.

The inscription was found in Al Hait in the Hail Region of northern Saudi Arabia. Known as Fadak in ancient times, Al Hait holds numerous ancient sites, including the remains of fortresses, rock art and water installations, the commission said. “[It] has great historical significance from the first millennium [B.C.] until the early Islamic era.” 

King Nabonidus

It remains to be seen what new information this inscription will provide on King Nabonidus (reign 555–539 B.C.).

The Babylonian Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, and at the start of Nabonidus’ reign, he conquered part of what is now Saudi Arabia and ultimately chose to live at Tayma, a city in what is now Saudi Arabia, until around 543 B.C. 

Why Nabonidus chose to live in what is now Saudi Arabia for an extended period of time is a matter of debate among historians, with some experts saying that conflicts between Nabonidus and Babylon’s priests and officials are a likely reason.

At the end of Nabonidus’ reign, the Babylonian Empire came under attack by the Persian Empire, which was led by King Cyrus the Great;

Babylon itself was captured by the Persians in 539 B.C. and the Babylonian empire collapsed. The fate of Nabonidus after the collapse is unclear. 

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

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

Hundreds of stone monuments scattered across northwestern Saudi Arabia may represent the oldest known ritual site on Earth. Researchers studying mustatils, courtyards made from sandstone blocks, date them to about 7,000 years ago, making them millennia older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids at Giza. 

Surveying the region by helicopter, the team found over 1,000 mustatils, more than twice the previous estimates. 

The theory is that the structures were used during the ritual by members of a cattle cult, who sacrificed cows, goats and sheep to their unknown god.  

The “head” of a mustatil consists of a larger wall of stones and contains a small niche or chamber; researchers have found animal bones in at least one of the chambers, which suggests it was used to make sacrificial animal offerings.

The mustatils, named after the Arabic word for rectangle, received little attention when they were first discovered in the 1970s.

More recently, archaeologists at the University of Western Australia in Perth explored the mysterious structures, flying by helicopter over 77,000 square miles of AlUla and Khaybar.

They found more than 1,000 mustatils– over twice as many as previously thought existed. The structures range in length from 65 feet to nearly 2,000 feet, with some sandstone boulders used to make them weigh half a ton.

Typically, a mustatil had long walls around a central courtyard, with an entry at one end and rubble platform, or ‘head,’ at the other.

They may also include an orthostat, or upright stone, in a central chamber. Some entranceways were blocked up with rubble, suggesting the structures were decommissioned at some point.

Mustatils were typically clustered in groups of between 2 and 20 and, given their monumental size, large groups of people would have had to work together to build them.

Researchers are documenting the mustatils and other ancient rock constructions by satellite photographs, helicopter reconnaissance and ground surveys.

Earlier studies speculated the structures were used as pens for livestock, but the walls of the mustatils were too low to enclose animals. In a report published this week in the journal Antiquity, researchers say they believe the strange courtyards were used for religious rites.

‘It’s not designed to keep anything in, but to demarcate the space that is clearly an area that needs to be isolated,’ lead author Hugh Thomas told New Scientist.

Fragments of cow, sheep, goats and gazelle horns and skulls found at one mustatil suggest the society that built them used animal sacrifices in their rituals.

The recent excavations reveal ‘the earliest evidence for a cattle cult in the Arabian Peninsula,’ the team’s report reads. ‘As such, mustatils are amongst the earliest stone monuments in Arabia and globally one of the oldest monumental building traditions yet identified.’

There may have been a procession involved with the ritual, as the mustatils’ narrow entranceways ‘indicate that the structures were accessed in single file,’ the team wrote.

Researchers think the mustatils scattered throughout the region were built about 7000 years ago for rituals and processions, and that they may have been part of a Neolithic cult of cattle.

By radiocarbon dating the skulls, Thomas and his colleagues dated the mustatil to between 5300 and 5000 BC, predating Stonehenge by more than 2,500 years and making them ‘the first large-scale, monumental ritual landscape anywhere in the world,’ according to co-author Melissa Kennedy, assistant director of the Aerial Archaeology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia project (AAKSA). 

Rock art in the era from the same time period showed ‘scenes of both cattle herding and hunting,’ the team wrote, lending credence to the cattle-cult theory.

Kennedy told Art Newspaper the structures’ widespread distribution, size and uniformity ‘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.’

Arabian cult may have built 1000 monuments older than Stonehenge

Arabian cult may have built 1000 monuments older than Stonehenge

The Arabian Peninsula is home to more than 1,000 ancient monuments that are more than 2,500 years older than the U.K.’s Stonehenge. Called “mustatils,” which is the Arabian term for “rectangles,” these rectangular stone structures were likely used by Arabian cattle herders to perform rituals.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia arrived at this conclusion after excavating the site in northwestern Saudi Arabia. They uncovered cattle horns and skulls in one mustatil, suggesting that ancient Arabians might have used cattle fragments as ritual offerings.

Based on the age of the skulls, the researchers posited that mustatils were built between 5300 and 5000 B.C. This would make the monuments the earliest large-scale, ritual site anywhere in the world, predating Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids by more than two millennia.

“This could completely rewrite our understanding of cults in this area at this time,” said team member Melissa Kennedy. She explained that religious groups located further south became focused on homes, with families displaying small shrines. But the opposite was happening in ancient Saudi Arabia with mustatils, she went on.

The researchers detailed their findings in the journal Antiquity.

Ancient Arabians likely used stone monuments to pray to weather gods

Made of blocks of sandstone piled on top of each other, mustatils were originally called “gates” because they resembled traditional European field gates when viewed from above. They were discovered in the 1970s but received little attention from archaeologists until recently.

Lead researcher Hugh Thomas and his team embarked on the largest investigation into mustatils to date to learn more about these structures.

After flying over northwestern Saudi Arabia and surveying the ground, the researchers found more than 1,000 mustatils spread across 20 million hectares, which were twice as many as previously thought to exist in the area.

There are 1000 ancient monuments across one region of Saudi Arabia

The open-air rectangular structures ranged from 65 feet to nearly 2,000 feet in length but their walls stood only around four feet high. According to Thomas, they were not designed to keep anything in but to demarcate an area that needed to be isolated.

In a typical mustatil, long walls surrounded a central courtyard that was bounded at one end by a distinctive rubble platform, or “head,” and an entryway at the opposite end. In some mustatils, the entrance was blocked by stones, suggesting that the mustatil might have been decommissioned after use.

Many structures also featured a chamber in the centre of the rubble platform. In one mustatil, the chamber contained cattle fragments that might have been used as ritual offerings to weather gods.

As the study showed, mustatils were built during the Holocene Humid Phase – a period between 8000 and 4000 B.C. during which Arabia and parts of Africa were wetter and what are now deserts were grasslands. But despite this humid environment, droughts were still common in these areas. As such, ancient Arabians might have herded and offered cattle to the gods to protect the land from changes in the weather, according to Kennedy.

Gary Rollefson, a professor of anthropology at Whitman College who was not part of the study, opined that the rituals in mustatils were also important for bringing communities together. Indeed, mustatils were typically clustered in groups of two to 10, suggesting that ancient Arabians held gatherings that were broken up into small social groups.

“The mustatils themselves are probably associated with an annual or generational coming-together of people who would normally be out with their herds and cattle,” he said. “But there’s no indication that these guys spent a lot of time around the mustatil.”

Monumental Neolithic Tomb Discovered in Saudi Arabia

Monumental Neolithic Tomb Discovered in Saudi Arabia

According to a statement released by Taylor & Francis, the remains of a dog and 11 people have been found in a monumental tomb near the archaeological site of Al-Ula, which is located in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

The discovery came from one of the projects in the large-scale archaeological surveys and excavations of the region commissioned by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).

The researchers found the dog’s bones in a burial site that is one of the earliest monumental tombs identified in the Arabian Peninsula, roughly contemporary with such tombs already dated further north in the Levant.

This burial site in a badlands area of AlUla in north-west Saudi Arabia is currently rare for Neolithic-Chalcolithic Arabia in being built above-ground and meant to be visually prominent.

Evidence shows the earliest use of the tomb was circa 4300 BCE and received burials for at least 600 years during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic era – an indication that the inhabitants may have had a shared memory of people, places, and the connection between them.

“What we are finding will revolutionize how we view periods like the Neolithic in the Middle East. To have that kind of memory, that people may have known for hundreds of years where their kin was buried – that’s unheard of in this period in this region,” said Melissa Kennedy, assistant director of the Aerial Archaeology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (AAKSAU) – AlUla project.

“AlUla is at a point where we’re going to begin to realize how important it was to the development of mankind across the Middle East,” said the AAKSAU director, Hugh Thomas.

This is the earliest evidence of a domesticated dog in the Arabian Peninsula by a margin of circa 1,000 years.

The findings are published in the Journal of Field Archaeology.

The project team, with Saudi and international members, focused its efforts on two above-ground burial sites dating to the 5th and 4th millennia BCE and located 130 kilometers apart, one in volcanic uplands and the other in arid badlands. The sites were above ground, which is unique for that period of Arabian history, and were positioned for maximum visibility.

The research team detected the sites by using satellite imagery and then by aerial photography from a helicopter. Ground fieldwork began in late 2018.

It was in the volcanic uplands site that 26 fragments of a single dog’s bones were found, alongside bones from 11 humans – six adults, an adolescent, and four children.

The dog’s bones showed signs of arthritis, which suggests the animal lived with the humans into its middle or old age. After assembling the bones, the team then had to determine that they were from a dog and not from a similar animal such as a desert wolf.

The team’s zooarchaeologist, Laura Strolin, was able to show it was indeed a dog by analyzing one bone in particular, from the animal’s left front leg. The breadth of this bone was 21.0 mm, which is in the range of other ancient Middle Eastern dogs. In comparison, the wolves of that time and place had a breadth of 24.7 to 26 mm for the same bone.

The dog’s bones were dated between circa 4200 and 4000 BCE.

Rock art found in the region indicates that the Neolithic inhabitants used dogs when hunting ibex, and other animals.

The fieldwork uncovered other noteworthy artifacts, including a leaf-shaped mother-of-pearl pendant at the volcanic uplands site and a carnelian bead found at the arid badlands site.

The researchers expect more findings in the future as a result of the massive survey from the air and on the ground, and multiple targeted excavations in the AlUla region undertaken by the AAKSAU and other teams, which are operating under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU). The AAKSAU team is led by researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia.

The researchers note that AlUla is a largely unexplored area located in a part of the world that has a fertile archaeological heritage of recognized global value.

“This article from RCU’s work at AlUla establishes benchmarks. There is much more to come as we reveal the depth and breadth of the area’s archaeological heritage,” said Rebecca Foote, Director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research for RCU.