Archaeologists Find Strange Structures, Potential Cult Sacrifices At Mysterious 7,000-Year-Old Site In Saudi Arabia

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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An ancient site in Saudi Arabia was analyzed for the first time since its discovery in the 1970s, revealing strange structures that hint at the earliest evidence of cattle domestication, ritual sacrifice and pilgrimage, according to a paper published Wednesday.

Analysis of a mustatil site (monumental stone structure) in Saudi Arabia by the University of Western Australia researchers uncovered apparent ritual dedication of wild and domesticated animals, as well as cult sacrifices and pilgrimages, according to the study. The site is believed to be at least 7000 years old, and may have served local inhabitants for various activities.

The region where the site is located had a very different climate 7,00o years ago, Inverse noted. The landscape, now arid, was once significantly more humid and prone to rainfall.

The stone structures — mustatils and betyls (sacred stones) — range in size from 20 to 600 meters in length, and were predominantly made from basalt lava fields and sandstone desert pavement, the study noted. A slew of animal bones were found at the site, including those of cattle, goats and gazelles.

The site also hosts human remains. Analysis of what is believed to be a male adult suggested that there were traces of a minor degenerative disease, but no exact cause of death was provided.

“The monumentality of mustatil IDIHA-F-0011081 and the associated deposition of animal horns and upper cranial elements, along with the inclusion of fire, in close association with a standing stone, suggests that the structure had a supra-domestic or cultic function,” the study authors wrote. However, the nature and meaning of the cult rituals may be lost to history.

The animal bones were found to be buried around the betyls, and showed signs believed to be related to sacrifice. As these stone structures are believed to be part of multiple ancient religious practices, the researchers assumed the same for this site. (RELATED: Ancient Large-Scale Mining Discovery Near Lake Superior Starts To Rewrite Native American History)

Or could it just be an ancient abertoir? It’s likely we’ll never truly know, as so much of our history is lost to time.