Sculptures of desert camels dating from around 7,000 years ago
Life-size sculptures of camels and horses carved out of rock faces in Saudi Arabia may be around 7,000 years old, new research suggests they are much older than previously thought.
The 21 landforms, which were only recently discovered, are heavily eroded and were initially estimated in 2018 to be around 2,000 years old based on similarities to works of art found in Petra, Jordan.
But new research from Saudi and European institutions has used a variety of different methods, including analysis of tool marks and erosion patterns as well as x-ray technology, and suggests the landforms have around 7,000 to 8,000 years old.
This would mean that the area of engravings, known as the Camel Site, “is probably home to the oldest surviving large-scale animal (naturalist) landforms in the world,” according to the study.
At the time of its creation, the region would have been very different from the barren landscape of today, with a savanna-like prairie dotted with lakes and trees, where wild camels roamed and were hunted.
“We can now link the site of the camel to a period in prehistoric times when pastoral populations in northern Arabia created rock art and built large stone structures called mustatil,” the authors said in a statement. release published by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Man. Story.
“The camel site is therefore part of a larger pattern of activity where groups met frequently to establish and mark symbolic places.”
– ‘Annual gathering’ –
The research, published Wednesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science, was conducted by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the French research institutes of the CNRS and the King’s University. Saoud.
The team included a stonemason, who estimated that each relief would have taken up to 15 days of carving.
The authors, who said the reliefs were part of a larger culture of rock art in the region depicting life-size animals, suggest the works could have been a collective effort that could have been part of a annual gathering of a Neolithic group.
They said references to the mating season in the sculptures could mean they were symbolically linked to the annual cycles of wet and dry seasons.
Given the significant erosion of the sculptures, researchers said efforts to secure the site were urgent.
“Time is running out for the preservation of the camel site and for the potential identification of other relief sites, as the damage will increase and more and more landforms will be lost due to erosion from year to year”, said lead author Maria Guagnin, of the Max Planck Institute. .
© 2021 AFP