In 2019, a team of archaeologists under the Western Sahara Project discovered hundreds of mysterious stone structures of various sizes and shapes scattered throughout the desert. These mysterious structures could be thousands of years old which made it a unique discovery. They were found in Western Sahara, a territory in Africa along the Atlantic Ocean little explored by archaeologists.
The story was first published by “Live Science” and authored by Owen Jarus. Experts studying the mysterious structures have not been able to discover the exact dating of their construction yet. Among other archaeologists, the main people in charge of this investigation were Joanne Clarke, s senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia, and the Independent researcher Nick Brooks.
From 2002 to 2009, the archaeologists worked and analyzed the landscape and excavated some parts of Western Sahara. They also studied the landscape using satellite images on Google Earth. “Due to its history of conflict, detailed archaeological and palaeoenvironmental research in Western Sahara has been extremely limited,” wrote Clarke.
The structures seem to come in all sizes and shapes, and archaeologists are not sure what many of then were used for or when they were created, as reported in the book “The Archaeology of Western Sahara: A Synthesis of Fieldwork, 2002 to 2009” (Oxbow Books, 2018).
The book includes a detailed discussion of past environmental change and a presentation of results from the environmental component of the extensive survey work are provided. A typology of built stone features, like monuments and funerary architecture, is presented together with the results of the archaeological component of the extensive survey work focusing on stone features, but also including a discussion of ceramics and rock art and the analysis of lithic assemblages. It also focused on intensive survey work in key study areas considering the landscape contexts of monuments and the results of the excavation of burial cairns and artifact scatters.
“The archaeological map of Western Sahara remains literally and figuratively almost blank as far as the wider international archaeological research community is concerned, particularly away from the Atlantic coast,” Clarke and Brooks wrote, noting that people living in the area know of the stone structures, and some work has been done by Spanish researchers on rock art in Western Sahara.
“The stone structures are designed in a wide variety of ways. Some are shaped like crescents, others form circles, some are in straight lines, some in rectangular shapes that look like a platform; some structures consist of rocks that have been piled up into a heap. And some of the structures use a combination of these designs. For instance, one structure has a mix of straight lines, stone circles, a platform, and rock piles that altogether form a complex about 2,066 feet (630 meters) long, the archaeologists noted in the book.”
Although archaeologists had no information on the purposes of these stone structures, they said some of them may mark the location of graves. Upon little excavations, they discovered the artifacts whose age can be identified using the radiocarbon method. Among the few excavated sites are two “tumuli” (heaps of rock) that contain human burials dating back around 1,500 years.
It is uncertain why would someone bury his/her loved ones in a perished land unless it was once flourished with life. According to scientists, 11,000 years ago, the now-desiccated northern strip of Africa was once green and alive, pocked with lakes, rivers, grasslands, and even forests. Archaeologists documented rock art showing images of cattle, giraffe, oryx, and Barbary sheep while environmental researchers found evidence for lakes and other water sources that dried up thousands of years ago.
There is no further update on the story as Clarke and Brooks confirmed that due to security reasons, the fieldwork was stopped. There was a similar discovery made in Saudi Arabia, where almost 400 mysterious stone structures date back thousands of years.
The archeologists mainly discovered ancient structures through satellite images. They reported finding wall-like formations draping across old lava domes in a region in west-central Saudi Arabia called Harrat Khaybar. Again, the purpose, or even the exact age of these gates have remained unknown.