4,500 year-old avenues lined with ancient tombs discovered in Saudi Arabia

Archaeologists have discovered a 4,500-year-old highway network in Saudi Arabia with well-preserved ancient tombs.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia have carried out a wide-ranging investigation over the past year, including aerial surveys carried out by helicopter, ground survey and excavation and examination of satellite imagery.


In their findings published in the journal Holocene in December, they said the “funerary avenues” spanning large distances in the northwestern Arabian counties of Al-‘Ula and Khaybar had received little examination until quite recently.


“The people who live in these areas have known about them for thousands of years,” researcher Matthew Dalton told CNN. “But I think it wasn’t really known until we got satellite imagery just how widespread they are.”

Dalton said the boulevards of journeys he has seen from helicopters stretch for hundreds, “even thousands of kilometers” and similar routes are often followed by major routes today.


“Often you’ll find main roads tend to follow the same routes as the avenues because they tend to be the shortest route between the two places they’re going to,” Dalton said. “And actually, in some cases, the tombs themselves are so dense that you can’t help but walk on the ancient route itself, because you’re sort of hemmed in by the tombs.”

The graves themselves are mostly pendant or ring shaped. Ring tombs include a tomb surrounded by a wall up to two meters high, while pendant tombs feature “beautiful tails”.

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