Australian archaeologist David Kennedy used Google Earth to uncover nearly 400 strange stone structures on ancient lava domes in Saudi Arabia, according to a study set to appear in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy
Scientists believe the odd, wall-like structures — which sit in the Harrat Khaybar region — date back thousands of years. The remains appear like other short, thick connecting walls found in the Middle East that are known as “Gates.” However, the new ones are different than any other on record. That is because they vary greatly in size — some are just 42 feet in length, while others measure 1,700 feet long — and they are spaced out in odd ways.
In fact, while researchers can now get a good look at the remains, they are unsure of why they were first constructed.
“Identification, mapping and preliminary interpretation imply an early date in the sequence of the works—perhaps the very earliest—but no obvious explanation of their purpose can be discerned,” Kennedy states in the study, according to Newsweek.
Kennedy discovered the walls with a mapping system he created known as the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology. Though he was worked with the process for years, it was not until Google Earth and Bing Maps allowed him to expand the database that he could find the previously undiscovered structures.
The Bedouin people know the structures as “Works of the Old Men”, and they could be the earliest example of such remains. Researchers are not sure of the gates’ age, but they believe the stone structures are the oldest “Works of the Old Men” ever found.
To expand on that, the team plans to conduct fieldwork and excavate the area. The gates are built on volcanic lava flows known as lava domes. While the volcanoes are no longer active, some of the structures have traces of lava on them. As a result, the volcanoes must have still been active after the gates were built, giving researchers an idea of their age.
They hope further study will shed light on the construction and help explain why the gates were created in the first place.
“What were they for? Nothing…suggests any obvious explanation for these strange and often very large structures,” the team asked in the study. “With almost 400 now known and found in profusion in some areas, they were plainly of significance to the builders.”