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On the Arabian Peninsula – evidence of a previously unknown civilization

February 27, 2013
The Al Magar finds appear to show horse-like animals with the accessories of domestication.

The Al Magar finds appear to show horse-like animals with the accessories of domestication.

The BBC reports an archaeological dig in a remote section of Saudi Arabia has yielded evidence of a previously unknown civilization – and most significantly, “a large, stone carving of an “equid” – an animal belonging to the horse family.”   Precise dating has yet to be determined, thought the site is believed to be about 9,000-years-old.  According to Ali bin Ibrahim Al Ghabban, vice-president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities: “It could possibly be the birthplace of an advanced prehistoric civilisation that witnessed the domestication of animals, particularly the horse, for the first time during the Neolithic period.”

Regions that are now desert may have been covered with lush vegetation in the past.

Regions that are now desert may have been covered with lush vegetation in the past.

Some 300 stone objects, including “traces of stone tools, arrow heads, small scrapers and various animal statues including sheep, goats and ostriches” have been discovered.  But it’s the equid figure that’s generating considerable news:

While archaeologists and other experts have held that horses were first tamed and exploited by man some 6,000 years ago in west Kazakhstan, experts are now starting to consider whether both location and date should be revised in light of these remarkable finds.

Archaeological evidence indicates that Al Magar, which means gathering or meeting place, has seen human habitation over a considerable period:

Traces of other stone tools such as scrapers have been estimated as dating back more than 50,000 years. They were found at the site and suggest that Al Magar was a hospitable place for humans to settle in over thousands of years. In part this is due to its topography, or terrain.

Michael Petraglia [professor of human evolution and prehistory at the University of Oxford] says that in the past, the spot must have been a lush river valley: “There is a major valley across the area which once was a river running westward forming waterfalls and taking water to the low fertile lands west of Al-Magar,” he explains.

Other finds made beyond the large and well-preserved Al Magar dovetail with current Arabian passions. Of particular interest are canine remains that resemble one of the oldest known domesticated dog breeds, the desert saluki, as well as traces of a dagger.

“It is an amazing discovery that raises all sorts of questions about when man stopped tracking down wild horses and began taming and exploiting them for transport,” Mr Al Ghabban says.

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