A series of camel sculptures carved into rock faces in Saudi Arabia are likely to be the oldest large-scale animal reliefs in the world, a study says.
Researchers estimated that the carvings were made around 2,000 years ago when they were discovered in 2018.
This was due to their resemblance to reliefs from Jordan’s famous ancient city of Petra.
However, according to a new study, the camels are between 7,000 and 8,000 years old.
Researchers face a challenge in precisely ageing rock sculptures. Unlike, say, cave paintings, there isn’t always organic matter to sample. This size of rock art is also uncommon in the area.
More ancient discoveries:
- Sprawling Maya network found under Guatemala jungle
- Israel unveils 9,000-year-old mask from the West Bank
- Earliest art in the British Isles discovered on Jersey
The researchers used erosion patterns, tool marks, and animal bones found at the site to determine a new date for the sculptures’ creation, which they published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Their age makes them older than Stonehenge (5,000 years old) or the Pyramids of Giza (4,500 years old). They even predate the domestication of camels, which served as a catalyst for regional economic development.
Saudi Arabia looked very different when they were created, with grassy plains dotted with lakes instead of today’s deserts.
It is unclear why the camel sculptures were made, but the researchers speculate that they may have served as a meeting place for nomadic tribes.
They also mentioned how difficult it would have been to create such works thousands of years ago. Because many of the reliefs are high above the ground, their carvers would have needed to construct scaffolding to create them.
All images subject to copyright