When a plane flew over the deserts of Saudi Arabia in the 1920s, the pilots looked down to see a pattern in the rock and sand.
As long as 3 miles, the patterns were made of walls and pits and triangular openings that were only fully visible from the air.
For more than a century, the construction and purpose of these structures baffled researchers and experts.
Now, they can answer those questions.
Two engravings, depicting the structures known as “desert kites,” were found in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, according to a study published in PLOS ONE on May 17.
One carving, carved into stone using stone tools, measures slightly more than 2 feet long and 1 foot wide and was found in the Jibal al-Khasabiyeh region of Jordan. It is estimated to be 7,000 years old and was found in an area with eight known desert kite structures, according to the study.
A second engraving, found in Zebel az-Zilliyat, Saudi Arabia, is much larger and dated to around 8,000 years ago, according to the study. The engraving is nearly five times the size of the Jordan engraving. Researchers excavated the depiction and found that it was pecked, not carved, and was likely created using hand picks.
The engravings would allow people at the time to have a blueprint for the kites, which could then be shared and scaled up in a collective construction effort, the study said.
“Plans like these would have been needed by the constructors as the whole layout is impossible to grasp without seeing it from the air. Until now, evidence for plans of large structures has been seen in rough representations, but these designs are extremely precise,” the researchers said in a May 17 news release. “Although human constructions have modified natural spaces for millennia, few plans or maps predate the period of the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.”
The engravings are not only more intellectually sophisticated than researchers thought the people of the time could produce, but they may be the “oldest known plans to scale in human history.”
Study author Rémy Crassard told Haaretz that the structures weren’t for worshiping gods or conducting rituals. They had one purpose — they were killing pits.
“‘Desert kites’ or ‘kites’ is the term generally reserved for those found in Western Asia, as this was the term given by the RAF pilots who first saw them from the air,” Crassard told Haaretz. “‘Pit-traps’ are a functional component of kites. Other mega-hunting structures can be referred to by other terms, such as ‘game drives’ or ‘game traps,’ and can contain similar functional components.”
Crassard said that some of the “mega-traps” could cover distances of more than 30 miles, so if an animal was able to survive one, it would get caught in another, Haaretz said. The traps channel migrating species into pits, allowing people to kill a large number systematically.
“The community aspect of these large-scale hunts is another element supporting the hypothesis of a need to communicate, in particular to share spatial information, by means of a realistic representation intended for a human group participating in a common action,” the study said.
Tomb on edge of cliff sat untouched for 1,000 years — then construction workers dug in
Nearly 2,000-year-old Roman villa — with private pool — unearthed from French cemetery
Fire ravaged this Spanish building over a millennia ago. See the coins that survived
Mummies of ancient children found to have deformed skulls. Common illness is to blame
Leave a Reply