In a groundbreaking discovery reported in the open access journal PLOS ONE on May 17, 2023, ancient engravings dating back 7,000 to 8,000 years have unveiled the oldest scale plans of human-made megastructures. These engravings depict the impressive desert kites, expansive structures utilized for trapping animals. The revelation of these intricate plans signifies a remarkable milestone in intelligent behavior, offering valuable insights into the conception and construction of these kites.
Desert kites were initially identified from airplanes in the 1920s and are considered sophisticated archaeological structures. They consist of walls that stretch up to 5 kilometers long, converging to enclose an area with animal-trapping pits. These structures can only be comprehended in their entirety from an aerial perspective, highlighting the need for a unique representation of space during that era.
Rémy Crassard and his colleagues from CNRS, Université Lyon, have presented two engravings depicting desert kites in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Jibal al-Khasabiyeh region in Jordan showcases eight kites, with a nearby stone bearing a carved representation using stone tools. This carving, measuring 80 cm in length and 32 cm in width, has been dated to approximately 7,000 years ago.
In Saudi Arabia’s Zebel az-Zilliyat, two pairs of visible kites located 3.5 kilometers apart were discovered. An enormous and to-scale engraving, measuring 382 cm long and 235 cm wide, was excavated at this site. The depiction on this engraving appears to have been pecked, possibly using hand picks. It has been dated to around 8,000 years ago.
The existence of these scale plans indicates that the constructors of the desert kites required such detailed representations to comprehend the entire layout, which could only be observed from the air. Prior to this discovery, evidence of plans for large structures had mainly been seen in rough representations. Therefore, these precise designs represent an exceptional find.
Throughout history, human activities have shaped and transformed natural environments, but few plans or maps from pre-literate civilizations, such as Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, have been unearthed. Thus, these recently discovered engravings represent the oldest known scale plans in human history.
“The engravings, dating back 8,000 to 9,000 years, were uncovered in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They depict nearby desert kites, which were human-made megastructures used for trapping wild animals. While human constructions have altered natural spaces for thousands of years, the presence of plans or maps predating the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt is rare,” state the authors.
“The ability to represent vast spaces on a small, two-dimensional surface signifies a significant achievement in terms of human intelligence. These structures could only be fully comprehended from an aerial perspective, highlighting the need for a unique way of visualizing space during that period.”
Source: Public Library of Science