RIYADH: An archaeology team in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced the discovery of 120,000-year-old footprints representing the earliest-known evidence of human habitation on the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi and international group of experts unearthed footprints of humans, elephants, and predators around an ancient, dry lake on the outskirts of Tabuk, in the north west of the Kingdom, revealed Dr. Jasser bin Sulaiman Al-Herbish, CEO of the Heritage Authority.
The survey team identified the prints of seven humans, 107 camels, 43 elephants, and other animals including ibex and bovine species. Around 233 fossils of elephant and oryx bones were also found, along with signs of the presence of predators.
Al-Herbish said the location of the discoveries confirmed the historical and geographical importance of the Arabian Peninsula to human civilization.
“Just as excavation and exploration reveal oil, gold, and treasures on the earth, it connects us with the legacy of ancient civilizations that inhabited our homeland and provided us with evidence that this part of the world was and still is a source of inexhaustible civilizations,” he added.
“This event is considered an important national reflection related to the history of this land and its fundamental place in the course of life throughout history. When we search and discover, we are simultaneously creating tomorrow’s legacy and presenting our message for the future.”
The chief executive said that the finds were the results of the “Green Arabian Peninsula” scientific project supervised by the Heritage Authority in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute in Germany, the University of Oxford, the University of Queensland in Australia, King Saud University, the Geological Survey Authority, and Aramco.
For more than 10 years, a research team has been working on multidisciplinary field studies covering desert areas, volcanic zones, and parts of the coast in Tabuk, Najran, Riyadh, Hail, and Madinah.
He pointed out that the project’s findings had shown that there had been significant environmental changes ranging from extremely arid to wet.
Current evidence strongly supports assertions of the existence of a green Arabian Peninsula in the past with environmental records and archaeological sites dating back at least 500,000 years.
Al-Herbish said that during wet periods of time there had been rivers and lakes throughout the Arabian Peninsula, which led to population expansions.
“This confirms that Arabia has been a major crossroads between Africa and the rest of Eurasia throughout prehistoric times,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is home to many archaeological treasures spread throughout its regions. Five sites in the Kingdom are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, namely Al-Ahsa Oasis, Mada’in Salih in AlUla, Al-Turaif district in Diriyah, historic Jeddah, and rock art in the Hail region.
Authorities in the Kingdom are making great efforts to preserve and highlight mankind’s shared history and in 2019 Saudi Arabia was elected to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.