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Archaeologists Discover

Arabian archaeologists find ancient highways

Keyhole-shaped tombs flanking a funerary avenue in the al Ha’it Oasis. Credit: University of Western Australia Archeologists from The University of Western Australia have discovered people who lived in north-west Arabia in the Early to Middle Bronze Age built ‘funerary avenues’—long-distance corridors linking oases and pastures, bordered by thousands of elaborate burial monuments. Dr. Matthew…

UWA archaeologists discover ancient highways in Arabia
Two keyhole-shaped tombs flank a funerary avenue at the al Ha’it Oasis. Credit: University of Western Australia

Archeologists from The University of Western Australia have discovered people who lived in north-west Arabia in the Early to Middle Bronze Age built ‘funerary avenues’–long-distance corridors linking oases and pastures, bordered by thousands of elaborate burial monuments.

Dr. Matthew Dalton, from UWA’s School of Humanities, is lead author of the findings published in the journal The Holocene.

“Funerary avenues were the major highway networks of their day, and show that the populations living in the Arabian Peninsula 4,500 years ago were far more socially and economically connected to one another than we previously thought,” Dr. Dalton said.

The UWA team worked under the Royal Commission for AlUla and used satellite imagery and helicopter-based aerial photography as well as ground survey and excavation in order to find and analyze funerary avenues.

The team located avenues over an area of 160,000 square km, with more than 17,800 tailed ‘pendant’ tombs recorded in their primary study areas of AlUla and Khaybar counties in Saudi Arabia, of which around 11,000 formed part of funerary avenues.

They found that the best concentrations of funerary memorials along these avenues were near permanent water sources. The direction of the avenues indicates that people used them to travel between major oasiss such as AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma.

Lesser avenues blend into the landscapes around oases, suggesting that the routes were used to move domestic animals into nearby pastures during rainy periods.

” These oases, particularly Khaybar, have some of the highest concentrations of funerary memorials known worldwide,” Dr. Dalton stated.

” The sheer number of Bronze Age burials around them indicates that people had already started to settle in these locations more permanently. “

Project director Dr. Hugh Thomas also from UWA’s School of Humanities said that the research caps an incredible year for the project.

“The papers published in 2021 have helped demonstrate that in ancient times AlUla and Khaybar were characterized by a rich and dynamic occupational landscape,” Dr. Thomas said.

“The archeological finds coming out of these regions have the potential to profoundly change our understanding of the early h

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