Significantly older than previously thought

PARIS (AFP) – Life-sized carvings of camels and horses hewn into rock faces in Saudi Arabia could be around 7,000 years old, according to new research that suggested they are significantly older than previously thought.

The 21 reliefs, which were only recently discovered, are heavily eroded and were initially estimated in 2018 to be some 2,000 years old based on similarities with artworks found in Petra in Jordan.

But the new research by Saudi and European institutions used a variety of different methods, including analysing tool marks and erosion patterns as well as x-ray technology, and suggests the reliefs are around 7,000 to 8,000 years old.

This would mean that the area of carvings, known as the Camel Site, “is likely home to the oldest surviving large-scale (naturalistic) animal reliefs in the world”, the study said.

“We can now link the Camel Site to a period in prehistory when the pastoral populations of northern Arabia created rock art and built large stone structures called mustatil,” the authors said in a press release issued by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

“The Camel Site is therefore part of a wider pattern of activity where groups frequently came together to establish and mark symbolic places.”

The site of an archaeological discovery about eight kilometres north of the city of Sakaka in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern al-Jouf province, with a carved camel’s body. PHOTO: AFP