Ancient stone monument in Saudi Arabia sheds light on rituals

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Rediscovery of stone monuments in Saudi Arabia has shed light on ritual practices, including late Neolithic animal slaughter.
An analysis of the stone monuments known as mustatils was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

Excavations have shown that mustatils were used for ritual purposes involving the placement of animal offerings.

The stone objects have a rectangular shape, low walls and a length of 20 to 600 meters. Researchers first discovered them in the 1970s, and since then more than 1,600 mustatils have been found, mainly in northern Saudi Arabia. They were originally built about 7,000 years back.

In a new study, scientists conducted a thorough excavation of a 140-meter mustatil located near the city of Alula.

Based on their findings, which included the identification of 260 fragments of animal skulls and horns, mostly livestock but also domestic goats and gazelles, the researchers suggest that ritual beliefs and economic factors were more closely linked for Neolithic people in northwestern Arabia. than previously thought.

Authors from the University of Western Australia in Perth say: “The ritual placement of animal horns and top-skull elements in the mustatil suggests a deep intersection of beliefs and economic lifestyles in late Neolithic Northern Arabia. These two facets suggest a deep-seated ideological confusion that was separated over vast geographic distances, indicating a much more interconnected landscape and culture than previously thought for the Neolithic period in northwest Arabia.

are some of the earliest evidence for the domestication of large cattle in the area. The team also opined that the site may have been a site of numerous pilgrimages due to the discovery of an adult male burial and evidence of multiple stages of mustatila offerings.

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