Category Archives: SAUDI ARABIA

Human footprints dated to roughly 85,000 years ago revealed in Saudi Arabia

Human footprints dated to roughly 85,000 years ago revealed in Saudi Arabia

In some of the earliest important migrations that took place, it is likely that humans used the Sinai route to exit Africa and arrive in Asia, making the region now known as Saudi Arabia quite crucial to understanding these routes, according to new research.

Humans footprints dated to roughly 85,000 years ago have been found in the northwest part of Saudi Arabia, providing fresh evidence on how humans migrated outside the African plateau.

The newly collected archaeological clues strengthen the belief that the Arabian Peninsula may have played a key role in facilitating the first migrations from Africa.

According to archaeologists who are working in the field in the country, plus already available evidence obtained from the region, these early major migrations may have unfolded much earlier than previously believed.

Earlier research suggests that mass migrations to other continents from Africa happened some 60,000 years ago. With the evidence mounting, including the recent footprint finds, paleo-anthropologists might consider pushing back the timeline.

Likewise, there may need to be changes in the estimate of when the first humans appeared in Africa, which is traditionally said to be around 200,000 years ago. J

ust in 2022, a human fossil unearthed in Morocco was, to widespread surprise, found to be 100,000 years older than fossils found in Ethiopia, a find that by itself challenges the human evolution narrative regarding when and where the first humans appeared.

Tabuk, Saudi ArabiaMountain

Regarding the newly found footprints, they were identified close to the city of Tabuk, the capital of the Tabuk Region in the northwest of the Middle East country. Though it is a desert region today, back in the time of the early migrants who left their traces, the place would have thrived with vegetation and wildlife.

The news on the findings was shared in a press release on May 14, 2018, by the Saudi’s Ministry of Culture and Information. The foot traces were found in various directions, all associated with the site of an ancient freshwater lake. The prehistoric humans could have used the lake as a potential food resource, catching fish.

As the National Geographic writes, it was Prince Sultan bin Salman, who presides over the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, who announced the news while visiting the National Museum of Tokyo; the institution was hosting an exhibition of ancient artifacts belonging to Saudi Arabia.

Prince Salman commented, “This is a wonderful and very rare discovery that shows man’s arrival in the Arabian Peninsula from Africa alongside other human migrations,” according to Gulf News.

He suggested that the footprints might be as old as 85,000 years. According to archaeologists, further analysis is still needed, and plans are due for producing a scientific paper in the upcoming period, reports National Geographic.

Saudi Arabia might be indeed the next hotbed of archaeological excavations. The country has only recently opened its doors to scientists and researchers from abroad, inviting top-notch institutions to investigate ancient sites which can provide knowledge on key subjects such as the earliest human migrations.

The latest footprint find was due to an effort carried out by a group of researchers, both from institutions based in Saudi Arabia and from internationals such as Germany’s Max Planck Foundation for Human History, the U.K.’s Cambridge University and Oxford University, and Australia’s University of New South Wales as well as Australia National.

Saudi Arabia

While hundreds of sites have been inspected thus far, many of which former lakebeds, many more sites of interest are on the list yet. Some of the relics include ancient remnants of stone tools, and others are the recently found fossilized remain of a human finger estimated to be 90,000 years of age.

The finger and the footprint discoveries seem to be of the same period. The first was found not too far away from the latter, just roughly 90 miles away in Tabuk’s province of Tayma. The entire region is noted for already having revealed evidence of two ancient Arabian kingdoms, the Lihyan and Nabataean.

Aramaic inscription from Tayma

Another interesting discovery in the region is a recently identified fossil jawbone collected from Israel and dated to about 180,000 years ago. This is a remnant of the oldest known human outside the boundaries of Africa, according to National Geographic.

Archaeologists Discover 2,550-Year-Old Carving of the Last King of Babylon

Archaeologists Discover 2,550-Year-Old Carving of the Last King of Babylon

Found in northern Saudi Arabia, the inscription depicts sixth-century B.C.E. ruler Nabonidus holding a scepter

The four symbols seen in front of the king—a crescent moon, the sun, a snake and a flower—may hold religious significance.

As Arab News reports, archaeologists from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage spotted the 2,550-year-old inscription engraved on a basalt stone in the Al-Hadeed Governorate, in the country’s northern Hail region.

Per a statement, the carving contains 26 lines of cuneiform writing, making it the longest cuneiform inscription discovered in Saudi Arabia to date. The find could shed light on the history of the Arabian Peninsula and its ancient residents’ ties to neighboring Mesopotamia.

The etching shows the Babylonian king standing with a scepter in his hand. Four symbols—a crescent moon, the sun, a snake and a flower—hover in front of him.

Scholars suspect that these images hold religious significance but are still comparing the carving with similar ones to determine its meaning, notes Arab News. 

According to the History Blog, the markings may be linked to deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon, representing the star of Ishtar, the winged disc of the sun god Shamash and the crescent of the moon deity Sin.

Experts found the inscription in the town of Al Hait. Known as Fadak in ancient times, Al Hait is home to the ruins of fortresses, rock art and water installations, writes Owen Jarus .

The site holds “great … significance,” boasting an early history that spans the first millennium B.C.E. through the beginning of the Islamic era, notes the commission on Twitter.

Researchers in the area have previously discovered inscriptions and obelisks mentioning Nabonidus, who ruled Babylonia from 556 to 539 B.C.E., when the kingdom fell to Cyrus of Persia, reports Arab News.

At its height, the Babylonian Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. When Nabonidus began his reign, he conquered portions of what is now Saudi Arabia.

Four years after assuming power, the king named his son Belshazzar coregent and went into exile in Tayma, a city some 160 miles north of Al Hait. He remained there until around 543 B.C.E.

Historians are unsure why Nabonidus left Babylon, but as Arkeonews points out, his “self-imposed exile from political and religious authority” may have been the result of a coup.

Disputes between the clergy and Babylon’s elite could also have led to the king’s departure. According to the History Blog, Nabonidus attempted to change his people’s religious hierarchy by declaring the moon god superior to all other deities—a move that may have aggravated the nobility.

Much about the last Babylonian king—including his fate following the fall of Babylon—remains unknown. Enyclopedia Britannica suggests that he was captured by one of Cyrus’ generals and exiled.

4,500 year-old avenues lined with ancient tombs discovered in Saudi Arabia

4,500 year-old avenues lined with ancient tombs discovered in Saudi Arabia

Archaeologists have discovered a 4,500-year-old highway network in Saudi Arabia lined with well-preserved ancient tombs.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia have carried out a wide-ranging investigation over the past year, involving aerial surveys conducted by helicopter, ground survey and excavation and examination of satellite imagery.

In findings published in the Holocene journal in December, they said the “funerary avenues” spanning large distances in the northwestern Arabian counties of Al-‘Ula and Khaybar had received little examination until quite recently.

A dense “funerary avenue” flanked by Bronze Age tombs, leading out of Khaybar Oasis in northwest Saudi Arabia.

“The people who live in these areas have known about them for thousands of years,” researcher Matthew Dalton told CNN. “But I think it wasn’t really known until until we got satellite imagery that just how widespread they are.”

Dalton said the funerary avenues, which he had seen from a helicopter, stretched for hundreds, “maybe even thousands of kilometers” and that the same routes were often followed by those traveling along the main roads of 2022.

“Often you’ll find main roads tend to follow the same routes as the avenues because they tend to be the shortest route between between the two places they’re going to,” Dalton said. “And actually, in some cases, the the tombs themselves are so dense that you can’t help but walk on the ancient route itself, because you’re sort of hemmed in by the tombs.”

A 3rd millennium BC pendant burial on the southern edge of the Khaybar Oasis in northwest Saudi Arabia.

The tombs themselves are mostly either pendant-shaped or ring burials. Ring tombs involve a cairn surrounded by a wall of up to two meters in height, while pendant tombs have “beautiful tails.”

Using radiocarbon dating, the researchers determined that a concentrated group of samples dated back to between 2600 and 2000 BC, although the tombs continued to be reused until around 1,000 years ago.

“These tombs are 4,500 years old, and they’re still standing to their original height, which is really unheard of,” researcher Melissa Kennedy told CNN. “So I think that’s what particularly marks Saudi Arabia out from the rest of the region — just the level of preservation is unbelievable.”

Kennedy believes either single individuals or small groups were buried in the tombs, and the team have observed around 18,000 tombs along the funerary avenues while 80 of those have been sampled or excavated for research.

An infilled ringed cairn from the Khaybar Oasis in northwest Saudi Arabia.

The researchers think the use of the routes long preceded the tombs, and are still not sure exactly why the tombs were built along the route — although Kennedy pointed to similar customs linked to land ownership in Greece and Rome in later history.

“A way of showing ownership perhaps, could be one reason the tombs were built,” Dalton said. “And there may be an element of, you bury your nearest and dearest alongside the route, because you’ll be passing them frequently, and you have a place to remember them.”

A dense “funerary avenue” flanked by Bronze Age tombs, leading out of al Wadi Oasis near Khaybar in northwest Saudi Arabia.

The next step for the team will be to do more radiocarbon dating and go back out on the field, before analyzing their data. And more discoveries are likely to follow, with Dalton saying the avenues may even stretch across into Yemen, especially as similar tombs are found in both that country and northern Syria.

“The third millennium is such an important period of time,” Kennedy said. “It’s when the Pyramids are built. And it’s where lots of different cultures are interacting with each other for the first time on a wide scale. So to see the appearance of this monumental funerary landscape in this period is really exciting. And huge new avenues of research to basically follow.”