Archaeologists have deciphered what may be the oldest examples of building plans in human history. The geometric patterns were carved into stone around 7,000 to 8,000 years ago in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
“Extremely Accurate Representations” of Geometric Patterns Have Been Matched to Nearby Desert Megastructures built before the Giza pyramidsalmost twice as old, which led researchers to conclude that they could represent a model to guide their creation.
Seen from the air, the huge, ancient stone constructions made up of walls up to 5 kilometers long, create spire or V-shaped structures, called “comets”, representing massive game traps, intended to trap herds of gazelles, antelopes and other animals, in enclosures or a corral surrounded by pits up to 4 meters deep.
A comet would also have helped people hunt a larger group of animals in less time.
In the 1920s, British Air Force pilots first detected ‘desert comets’ as they flew past the area. These engravings have attracted much attention from archaeologists. Since then, more than 6,000 such structures have been identified, spread throughout the Middle East and parts of Central Asia.
Examples of desert kites found in Saudi Arabia. Credit: KLDAP.
“This reveals a vastly underestimated mental domain of space perception, so far. never observed with this level of precision in such an early context», they said Researchers.
The discovery was made under the auspices of the globalkites projectan ongoing study of desert kites that explored the ground around these megastructures in search of artifacts or ruins that might tell more about their designers and builders.
The oldest plans in the world?
Researchers have unearthed ancient carvings in Jordan and Saudi Arabia depicting comets.
The first was discovered in Zebel az-Zilliyat, Saudi Arabia, where two desert kites meet 3.5 km (2.1 mi) apart. Excavations revealed an engraving measuring 150.382 cm (4 in) long and 235 cm (92.5 in) wide, created with hand picks rather than carving. They were dated at 8,000 years old and depict a pair of desert kites 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) apart.
Rock engraved in Wadi az-Zilliyat, Saudi Arabia. Credit: PLOS ONE.
The second engraving is around 7,000 years old and was found in Jibal al-Khasabiyeh, Jordan, as well as eight desert kites. It consists of a stone measuring 80 cm (31.5 in) long and 32 cm (12.6 in) wide, carved with stone tools. These engravings represent a kite similar to the eight desert kites which are in the neighboring region.
Engraved stone at Jibal al-Khashabiyeh, Jordan. Credit: PLOS ONE.
The published study also revealed that the proportions, design and shape of the sculptures matched the actual remains of ancient kites. Moreover, it also coincides with the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west).
Extremely precise structures that can only be seen from the air
For the researchers, the engravings show an unrivaled level of precision, which distinguishes them from the first human protomaps previously discovered in Spain, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Earlier maps, while impressive, were described as “abstract representations” rather than scale representations of real landscapes.
Additionally, given their scale, it was previously unclear how prehistoric humans designed and created the structures without seeing them from the sky. The discovery opens further questions about their ability to conceptualize structures with such remarkable precision.
Although human constructions have modified natural spaces for millennia, few plans or maps date from the period of the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The ability to translate a large space into a small two-dimensional surface represents an important step in intelligent behavior.
The discovery reveals a vastly underestimated mental domain of intelligent behavior in prehistoric humans. Although little is known about the people who made comets thousands of years ago, it is thought that a project like this would likely have been carried out by a large group, according to the authors.
The study was published in PLOS ONE.
References: Science Alert/Live Science.
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