‘Spectacular’ 7,000-year-old monuments on volcano were used in mystery rituals

Hundreds of monuments that cover an area larger than a football pitch across Saudi Arabia, including on a volcano, played a role in social identity it has been claimed.

The “mustatils” structures, which date back 7,000 years were built in the northwest of the country by ancient civilisations for unknown ritual purposes.

In The Holocene journal, they found the structures measured between 49feet and 2,021ft.

The researchers continued in their paper: “The muscatel phenomenon represents a remarkable development of monumental architecture, as hundreds of these structures were built in northwest Arabia.

“This monumental landscape represents one of the earliest large-scale forms of monumental stone structure construction anywhere in the world.”

They also believe the rituals would have been used at certain times of year and that every monument had been extensively painted with patterns.

Max Planck, the study lead and leader of the Extreme Events Group at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany, told Live Science: “It is quite possible that these structures would have been visually spectacular, and perhaps quite extensively painted.”

While the structures were found in what are today little more than barren and arid areas of the southern Nefud Desert, in the past they were “green” grazing land where ancient people hunted beasts and relied on herds of animals.

Gary Rollefson, an emeritus professor at Whitman College in Washington, described the finds “absolutely enthralling”.

He added there are other structures, in addition to those found, which could also have been used as ritual landmarks.

The expert continued: “The paper by Groucutt et all is an admirably detailed account of one enigmatic construction type – the muscatel rectangle – although there are several other stunning architectural patterns that reflect large-scale human cooperative ventures that have little apparent utilitarian purpose beyond social identity, social reaffirmation and social memory.”

It comes after scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel used a new technique to examine parchment used make ancient Biblical documents.

The artefacts, which are some of the earliest known Biblical documents, give us an insight into what Jews thought and believed around 2,000 years ago.

But 60 years after they were discovered hidden in a cave in Israel, there’s still a lot about these mysterious scraps of parchment which we don’t know.

Now, cutting edge DNA research is unlocking the secret of their origin.

Oded Rechavi, a molecular biologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, is the senior author of a new paper that outlines how scientists used a new amplification technique to extract a full DNA sample from a few grains of precious “scroll dust”.

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