7,000 Years Old, Worship Site in Saudi Arabia Filled with Animal and Human Bone Remains


Archaeologists have discovered a site of ritual worship used in prehistoric times in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Photo/AAKSA/Royal Commission for AlUla/Antiquity/Live Science

RIYADH – Archaeologists have discovered a site of ritual worship used in prehistoric times in the desert of Saudi Arabia. In an ancient monumental structure called the Mustatil, hundreds of human and animal remains were found.

Archaeologists found early human remains buried near hundreds of animal bones scattered inside the mustatil, a structure taken from the Arabic for rectangle. In the mustatil, the remains of an adult male around his 30s were found.

The mustatil structures are located in AlUla and Khaybar in northwestern Saudi Arabia, about 600 miles (965.5 Km) from Riyadh. The ruins are one of more than 1,600 mustatils found in Saudi Arabia since the 1970s.

Mostly submerged beneath sand, the structures were built when the Arabian Desert was a lush prairie where elephants roamed and hippos bathed in the lakes. Animal and human bone remains are believed to have been used for ritual practices in Saudi Arabia.

Now, new mustatile digs, detailed in a study published March 15, 2023 in the journal PLOS One. More details have been revealed about the mystical structures and cults that have been lost to time.

“Almost nothing has been written about impossibles and the beliefs that surround them. Only 10 mustatils have been unearthed, and this research is among the first to be published,” Melissa Kennedy, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia, told Live Science, Saturday (18/3/2023).

Mustatils vary widely in shape, but are usually long rectangles formed from low rock walls about 4 feet (1.2 meters) high. Excavations have uncovered complex structures within some of the ruins, including interior walls and pillars leading to central chambers that may have been reserved for feasts and sacrificial rituals.

Worshipers enter the mustatil from one end and walk 20 to 600 meters or more to the other end, arriving at a platform called the head. A chamber inside the head houses a beytl, a sacred stone, sometimes of meteorite origin that cult members use to communicate with their god.

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