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7,000-Year-Old Structures in Saudi Desert Show ‘Earliest Evidence for Cattle Cult’, Scientists Say

Some of the ancient structures are over 460 meters (1,500 feet) long, but they are relatively narrow and sometimes packed together. They are mostly seen on bedrock, sometimes on rocky outcrops above the desert, but can also be found in mountains and low-lying areas.

According to scholars, thousands of colossal structures constructed from rock walls in Saudi Arabia are in fact older than Egypt’s pyramids and Britain’s ancient stone circles, with an average age of 7,000 years, making them the earliest ceremonial landscape ever discovered.

The enigmatic structures scattered across the desert in northwestern Saudi Arabia, named “mustatils” from the Arabic word for “rectangle”, are much older than initially thought, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Antiquity.

That’s a lot older than anyone imagined, and it’s about 2,000 years older than both Stonehenge and the oldest Egyptian pyramid.

Interestingly, according to the research, the mustatils were perharps part of an ancient “cattle cult” that celebrated the animals, as shown by ancient rock drawings depicting herds of cattle that must have been essential to the Neolithic people’s survival in the region.

“We think of them as a monumental landscape,” Melissa Kennedy, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth and study author, said. “We are talking about over 1,000 mustatils. These things are found over 200,000 square kilometres [77,000 square miles], and they’re all very similar in shape … so perhaps it’s the same ritual belief or understanding.”

“There must have been a great level of communication over a very big area, because how they were constructed was communicated to people,” archaeologist and lead author Hugh Thomas said.

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