8,000-Year-Old Settlement Is Found in Saudi Arabia, Offering Rare View of Prehistoric Religion

An 8,000-year-old settlement has been discovered by a group of Saudi and French archaeologists working at a site southwest of the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

Led by the Saudi Heritage Commission, the team uncovered the Neolithic-era remains using laser scanning, aerial photography, drones, and various forms of surveying. The archaeologists located the settlement at Al-Faw, an archaeological site that has previously turned up evidence of a strong trade network that sustained an ancient city.

Along the edge of Mount Tuwaiq, they found a stone temple and pieces of an altar. The archaeologists said these provide a deeper understanding of religious practices in the ancient city at that time.

The ancient settlement was accompanied by 2,807 graves from different time periods. The ground in this area was adorned with devotional rock inscriptions, one of which addressed to the ancient god Khaal.

The team also identified the foundations of four monumental buildings, corner towers, and open-air courtyards—all of which contained underground reservoirs to store water for agricultural use. Additionally, the archaeologists found evidence of an intricate irrigation system that had canals and cisterns, which would have been used to water several agricultural fields. Access to water allowed the city to thrive amid one of the most arid deserts.

Rock drawings etched into Tuwaig Mountain found at the site show daily activities such as fighting, hunting, and traveling.

While excavations and fieldwork at Al-Faw have been ongoing for the last 40 years, this discovery of human settlement has offered a more comprehensive overview into religious life in the ancient city. Previously, archaeologists have uncovered residential areas, markets, temples, and tombs, which have been detailed among seven earlier published books on the site.

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