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Ancient Tombs Reveal 4,500-year-old Highway Network in North-west Arabia

Ancient Tombs Reveal 4,500-year-old Highway Network in North-west Arabia

Monday, 10 January, 2022 - 12:45
A dense ‘funerary avenue’ flanked by Bronze Age tombs, leading out of al Wadi Oasis near Khaybar in north-west Saudi Arabia. Photo: RCU

Archaeologists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have determined that the people who lived in ancient north-west Arabia built long-distance “funerary avenues,” major pathways flanked by thousands of burial monuments that linked oases and pastures, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) said in a press release on Friday.

The finding suggests a high degree of social and economic connection between the region's populations in the 3rd millennium BCE.

Publication of the findings in the journal The Holocene caps a year of tremendous progress by the UWA team, working under the RCU, in shedding light on the lives of the ancient inhabitants of Arabia.

“The existence of the funerary avenues suggests that complex social horizons existed 4,500 years ago across a huge swathe of the Arabian Peninsula. The finding adds to the steady progress by archaeologists working under the auspices of RCU in understanding the hidden story of the ancient kingdoms and earlier societies of north Arabia,” said the press release.

The UWA team's work is part of a wider effort that includes 13 archaeological and conservation project teams from around the world collaborating with Saudi experts in AlUla and neighboring Khaybar counties in Saudi Arabia.

"The more we learn about the ancient inhabitants of north-west Arabia, the more we are inspired by the way our mission reflects their mindset: they lived in harmony with nature, honored their predecessors, and reached out to the wider world,” said CEO of RCU Amr AlMadani.

“The work done by our archaeological teams in 2021 demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is a home for top-flight science – and we look forward to hosting more research teams in 2022."

Director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research for RCU Dr. Rebecca Foote said: “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,” she added.

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