AL-ULA, Saudi Arabia: Shedding light on the lives of the ancient inhabitants of Arabia, archaeologists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have determined that people who lived in ancient northwest Arabia built long-distance 'funerary avenues', major pathways flanked by thousands of burial monuments that linked oases and pastures.
This, they said, suggested that complex societies existed 4,500 years ago across a huge swathe of the Arabian Peninsula and indicated a high degree of social and economic connection between the region's populations as early as 3000 BCE.
Publication of the findings in the journal "The Holocene" concludes a year of work by the UWA team, affiliated with the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU).
The UWA work is part of a wider effort that includes 13 archaeological and conservation project teams from around the world, collaborating with Saudi experts in Al-Ula and neighbouring Khaybar counties in Saudi Arabia.
"The more we learn about the ancient inhabitants of north-west Arabia, the more we are inspired by the way our mission reflects their mindset: they lived in harmony with nature, honoured their predecessors, and reached out to the wider world." said Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU.
Dr. Rebecca Foote, Director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research for RCU, noted, "Projects that have been conducting fieldwork in Al-Ula and Khaybar for over three years, such as the UWA team, have started publishing their results, and it is terrific to see how analyses of the data are elucidating so many aspects of life from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in north-west Arabia."
The UWA team's latest research used satellite imagery analysis, aerial photography, ground surveys and excavations to locate and analyze funerary avenues over an area of at least 160,000 square km in northwest Arabia.
"The research by the UWA team, and our colleagues working across Al-Ula and Khaybar, shows how important the archaeology of this region is for our understanding of the Neolithic and Bronze Age across the Middle East," noted Dr. Hugh Thomas, project director.
The RCU has embarked on a 15-year masterplan to develop Al-Ula and parts of Khaybar as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.