First Published: 2017-10-25

Mystery ancient stone structures unearthed in Saudi desert
Australian researcher says edifices, known as "gates" and found using Google, are thought to have been constructed between 2,000 to 9,000 years ago.
Middle East Online

Their purpose and function are a mystery

SYDNEY - Nearly 400 mysterious ancient stone structures have been identified in the Saudi Arabian desert by an Australian researcher using Google Earth.

David Kennedy, whose team has spent decades recording thousands of archaeological sites in the Middle East, said the man-made edifices, known as "gates", are thought to have been constructed between 2,000 to 9,000 years ago.

But their purpose and function are a mystery.

"You can't see them in any intelligible way at the ground level but once you get up a few hundred feet, or with a satellite even higher, they stand out beautifully," the University of Western Australia academic Wednesday said in a statement.

Kennedy said he was baffled when he first saw the remote and inhospitable site, in the lava fields of an ancient volcano, on satellite images, despite some 40 years working in the region.

"I refer to them as Gates because when you view them from above they look like a simple field gate lying flat, two upright posts on the sides, connected by one or more long bars," he said.

"They don't look like structures where people would have lived nor do they look like animal traps or for disposing of dead bodies. It's a mystery as to what their purpose would have been."

His findings are described in a paper published next month in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.

He said not much was known about the people who built them, but they were believed to be ancestors of the modern-day Bedouin.

Their discovery came about by chance after a Saudi doctor who was interested in the area's history contacted him, having heard about his work in Jordan.

"He said 'I'm interested in the heritage of my country, I've spotted on Google Earth that there are some rather strange structures in the lava fields'," Kennedy told broadcaster ABC.

"He sent the coordinates of them to me and I had a look and I was bowled over by them."

Kennedy, a founding director of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project, specialises in aerial archaeology.

Since 1997, he and his team have photographed tens of thousands of stone-built structures, mostly in Jordan, ranging from giant circles to animal traps and funerary monuments.

 

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Cyprus denies bail for Israeli organ trafficker

Rising Yemen currency sparks hopes of relief

Turkish ministries to investigate underage pregnancy cover-up

Iraq PM launches online appeal for election allies

Iran central bank sees claim for billions from German stock market blocked

Iraq signs deal with BP to develop Kirkuk oil fields

Israeli occupation forces raid Jenin, kill Palestinian

HRW chief says 'Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya'

IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'

Seven years since ousting dictator, Tunisians still protest

Iran says Trump jeopardising Airbus deals

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Sudan arrests communist leader after protests

Syrian opposition joins condemnation of US 'border force'

Israeli judge detains teen until trial for viral ‘slap video’

Arab league slams US freeze of Palestinian funding

Dubai billionaire to sell 15 percent Damac stake

Britain to put women at heart of peace work in Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan

Saudi to give Yemen government $2bn bailout

US withholds $65 million from UN agency for Palestinians

Saudi Arabia intercepts new Yemen rebel missile attack