23 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Researchers reveal the 4,500-year-old network of funerary avenues in Arabian Peninsula

Archaeologists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have determined that people living in ancient northwest Arabia built long-distance “funerary avenues” (major pathways flanked by thousands of burial monuments).

This complex network of funerary rites found in northwestern Arabia points to the existence of social and economic links between the region’s populations in the 3rd millennium BC.

The UWA search is part of a larger effort involving 13 archaeological and conservation project teams from across the world, all working under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).

The researchers recorded more than 17,800 ‘pendant’ tombs in their primary study areas of AlUla and Khaybar counties, using a combination of satellite imagery, aerial photography, ground surveys, and excavations to survey an area of 160,000 square kilometers. Around 11,000 of the tombs formed part of funerary avenues from 4,500 years ago.

(a) A dense funerary avenue with ‘wedge-tailed’ pendants and infilled ringed cairns emanating from Khaybar Oasis. (b) A sparse funerary avenue consisting of various pendant types oriented towards a series of pathways formed over sandstone terrain. Photo: © AAKSAU/AAKSAK and Royal Commission for AlUla.

The highest densities are found on basalt plains or mountain passes, where the avenues are oriented between oases such as Khaybar, AlUla, and Tayma and are located near permanent water sources.

The development of funeral pathways implies that sophisticated social perspectives existed throughout a large stretch of the Arabian Peninsula 4,500 years ago. The discovery adds to the steady progress made by archaeologists working under the aegis of RCU in unraveling the buried tale of north Arabia’s ancient kingdoms and older civilization.

Schematic drawings of pendant morphologies common in AlUla and Khaybar counties
Schematic drawings of pendant morphologies common in AlUla and Khaybar counties. Photo: © AAKSAU/AAKSAK and Royal Commission for AlUla

Dr. Hugh Thomas, project director, said: “The research by the UWA team and our colleagues working across AlUla and Khaybar shows how important the archaeology of this region is for our understanding of the Neolithic and Bronze Age across the Middle East. Our findings demonstrate that these structures linked various populated oases, situated across a vast area and that the funerary avenues were established around 4,500 years ago. They are especially dense around Khaybar, which is one of the densest visible funerary landscapes anywhere in the world.”

The findings were published in the journal The Holocene. The new article is the UWA team’s fourth publication in less than a year in a peer-reviewed scientific journal on research at AlUla and Khaybar.

Dr. Rebecca Foote, Director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research for RCU, said: “Projects that have been conducting fieldwork in AlUla and Khaybar for over three years, such as the UWA team, have started publishing their results, and it is terrific to see how analyses of the data are elucidating so many aspects of life from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in north-west Arabia. These articles are just the beginning of the many publications that will advance our knowledge of prehistoric to modern times and have significant implications for the wider region.”

Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU)

Related Articles

Circular-shaped Iron Age Gallic Village discovered in Côtes d’Armor, France

2 April 2024

2 April 2024

A major archaeological discovery has just been made at Cap d’Erquy, in the Côtes d’Armor region, France. The ruins of...

Homo Sapiens are older than we previously thought

16 January 2022

16 January 2022

Researchers have discovered that Omo I skeletons, previously thought to be less than 200,000 years old, are 230,000 years old....

9,300-year-old Gre Filla Mound in southeastern Turkey to be relocated

20 September 2022

20 September 2022

While public criticism continues due to the fact that Gre Filla, known as Diyarbakır’s Göbeklitepe, is under the dam, Diyarbakır...

Remains of a 5-year-old girl found under Real Alcázar in Spain

9 May 2021

9 May 2021

The body of a five-year-old fair-haired girl who lived in the late Middle Ages and was most likely of noble...

Artvin Demirkapı/Arılı rock paintings give information about Anatolian Bronze Age Nomadic

14 December 2021

14 December 2021

Rock paintings are material cultural assets that provide us with unique information about the socio-cultural structure, religious beliefs, and rituals,...

In Jerusalem, a 2700-year-old private toilet from the First Temple era was unearthed

5 October 2021

5 October 2021

The Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a private toilet from the First Temple Period on the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem,...

A female executive’s seal from 3000 years ago was discovered in Turkey

29 October 2021

29 October 2021

During the excavations carried out in southeastern Turkey’s Gaziantep’s Karkamış (Carchemish) Ancient City, seals and prints determined to belong to...

Ancient City Cistern Found Near Croatia’s Iconic Fountain

15 February 2024

15 February 2024

An island-speckled coastline and ancient walled towns place Croatia among the world’s best-beauty cities. But there’s even more to this...

Archaeologists in northern Spanish have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Basque language text

15 November 2022

15 November 2022

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Basque language text, on  Irulegi archaeological site, near the Aranguren...

Poland’s largest megalithic cemetery discovered

3 March 2021

3 March 2021

Archaeologists excavated in Poland discovered a large megalithic complex, including dozens of tombs dating back 5,500 years. The site was...

1,800-year-old Roman remains discovered in valley of eastern Turkey

21 February 2022

21 February 2022

Roman remains dating back 1800 years have been found in a valley in eastern Turkey. Among the Roman ruins found...

4,000-year-old War Memorial of Banat-Bazi in Syria

28 May 2021

28 May 2021

Archaeologists have identified a memorial monument built before 2300 BC in the Banat-Bazi region in Syria. Known as the “White...

The largest marine turtle fossil of its kind ever discovered in Europe unearthed in Spain

21 November 2022

21 November 2022

In northern Spain, scientists discovered the remains of a new species of enormous marine turtle. The prehistoric creature is the...

The ancient city of Kastabala will soon have a colonnaded Street

4 September 2021

4 September 2021

The archaeological excavation of the ancient city of Kastabala in Osmaniye Province in southern Turkey continues. Kastabala-Hierapolis is one of...

‘World’s oldest dated rune stone’ found in Norway

18 January 2023

18 January 2023

The oldest known Rune stone in Norway has been discovered by Norwegian archaeologists working at the Museum of Cultural History...