85,000-year-old human footprints found in Saudi Arabia

A multidisciplinary team of researchers is studying the effect of environmental change on early humans and animals. (SPA)
Updated 12 May 2018

85,000-year-old human footprints found in Saudi Arabia

  • Prince Sultan said that an international team of archaeologists, including Saudi experts, found traces of footprints of several adult prehistoric people scattered on the land and in an old lake.
  • Researchers say the discovery shows that hunter-gatherers had reached the area 85,000 years ago.

JEDDAH: Human footprints dating back 85,000 years have been found in the province of Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The traces of the footprints were discovered on the bank of an ancient lake in the desert of Al-Nafud.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), announced the landmark discovery while visiting the “Roads of Arabia — Saudi Archaeological Masterpieces through the Ages” exhibition at the National Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

Prince Sultan said that an international team of archaeologists, including Saudi experts, found traces of footprints of several adult prehistoric people scattered on the land and in an old lake. The people may have been fishing in the lake for food, he said, adding that the findings would be studied in great detail.

Prince Sultan said that the team of researchers led by Michael Petraglia, of the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, presented this small piece of bone as the oldest remains of Homo sapiens discovered outside Africa and the Levant. 

“This bone gives essential indications to understand the exodus of our ancestors from Africa,” he said.

Prince Sultan said that the project was part of the “Green Arabia: The Palaeodeserts Project,” a Saudi-British undertaking for survey and excavation to implement environmental and archaeological studies of historical sites in the Kingdom.

The objective is to study the likelihood of expansion or extinction of humans and animals and their adaptation to living conditions. 

The project has led to many other significant discoveries of animals and mammal fossils in Saudi deserts, including of a giant 300,000-year-old elephant tusk from the Nafud Desert, suggesting a greener, wetter Arabian desert in the past. An elephant’s carpal bone, located five meters from the tusk, was also discovered in the same sand layer at the excavation site.

The project, funded by the European Research Council, the SCTH and the Max Planck Society, examines environmental change in the Arabian Desert over the past million years. A multidisciplinary team of researchers is studying the effect of environmental change on early humans and animals that settled or passed through the desert and how their responses determined whether they survived or died out.

Last month, a fossil finger bone unearthed in Saudi Arabia’s Nafud Desert pointed to what scientists are calling a new understanding of how the human species came out of Africa en route to the rest of world.

A joint scientific team discovered the first sample of ancient human remains in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. The research team included the Saudi Geological Survey, the SCTH, King Saud University, the Max Planck Foundation for Human History, Oxford University, Cambridge University, the Australia National University and the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Researchers say the discovery shows that hunter-gatherers had reached the area 85,000 years ago. Previously discovered human fossils show an earlier human presence in Israel and possibly China.

The bone, from an adult and most likely a middle finger, was found in 2016 about 550 kilometers southeast of the Sinai Peninsula. Michael Petraglia, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said that the ancient people probably left Africa through the peninsula.


Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

  • “You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness,” Prince Khalid said
  • The ambassador encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it

LONDON: Riyadh does not seek conflict with Tehran but will not let “Iran’s meddling in the region” go unchecked, said the Saudi ambassador to Britain. 
“We do not seek conflict. We do not seek escalation. We have always been supporters of taking a firm stand against Iran. Our issue is not with the people of Iran, it is with the regime running the country,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told the Daily Telegraph. 
“But we do not believe in appeasement. At no point in history has appeasement proved to be a successful strategy. You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness.”
France, Germany and the UK, three of the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), triggered a “dispute resolution mechanism” recently in response to Iran ramping up its nuclear program in violation of the deal.
Prince Khalid criticized the JCPOA because it does not address “all the other things that Iran” is doing in the region.
“Iran’s meddling in the region is as challenging as the nuclear program. This is why we were concerned with the nuclear deal,” he said.
The ambassador also touched on recent allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“It is very easy for people to throw these unsubstantiated allegations against Saudi Arabia because they know that it is very difficult for Riyadh to defend itself when it does not have proper access to the details,” Prince Khalid said.
“We need to see the evidence before we make any response, because the evidence made public so far is circumstantial at best.”
Saudis do not always represent themselves well because they are “a reticent people and our culture does not push us to talking about ourselves,” he said. “We need to do a better job on showing the world who we really are.” 
The ambassador, who was appointed last year, encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it. 
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. We want people to come and see Saudi Arabia for themselves, and not rely on what they have read somewhere or heard somewhere to form their opinion of the country,” he said.
“There is plenty to see, and you will find a warm, generous and hospitable people there waiting to greet you.”