Almost 400 mysterious stone structures dating back thousands of years have been discovered in Saudi Arabia. The archaeologists involved aren’t sure of their purpose or exact age.
Discovered mainly through satellite images, the stone walls which archaeologists call “gates” because they resemble field gates from above, were found in clusters in a region in west-central Saudi Arabia called Harrat Khaybar. A few of the gates are actually located on the side of a volcanic dome that once spewed basaltic lava.

The gates “are stone-built, the walls roughly made and low,” David Kennedy, a professor at the University of Western Australia, wrote in a paper set to be published in the November issue of the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. The gates “appear to be the oldest man-made structures in the landscape,” Kennedy noted, adding that “no obvious explanation of their purpose can be discerned.

Thousands of years ago, he noted, the landscape was more hospitable to human life. Other types of stone structures — such as “kites,” which were used to hunt animals, and “wheels,” named for their shape — have also been discovered in these lava fields.

The kites, wheels and other types of stone structures were typically found to be built on top of these gate-like walls, suggesting that the gates predate these stone structures, Kennedy said. The remains of lava flows are also sometimes found on top of the gates, indicating that the gates are also older than some of the flows.

“Gates are found almost exclusively in bleak, inhospitable lava fields with scant water or vegetation, places seemingly amongst the most unwelcoming to our species,” Kennedy wrote.

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