Oldest scaled plans have been found in Jordan and Saudia Arabia

A pair of stone engravings in Jordan and Saudia Arabia appears to be scaled plans of nearby "Desert Kite" megastructures.
Christopher McFadden
desert-kites-plans (1).jpg
The could be the oldest scaled plans ever.

Oxford University 

A new study published in PLOS ONE showcases what might be the oldest architectural drawings ever found. Consisting of a series of engravings, the plans have been dated between 7- and 8-thousand years ago and depict the region's "desert kites." According to the researchers behind the study, this capability of condensing vast space onto a small, two-dimensional surface signifies a significant advancement in cognitive ability and enhances comprehension of the conception and construction of kites.

If you are unaware, "desert kites" are dry stone wall structures in Southwest Asia - including the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and Arabia. First discovered from the air in the 1920s, there are more than 6,000 known desert kites, varying in size from under one hundred meters to several kilometers. Typically, they have a kite shape created by converging "antennae" that lead to an enclosure, all made of dry stone walls less than one meter tall, although some variations exist.

Believed to have been built as enormous animal traps, these enigmatic structures tend to have walls up to 3.1 miles (5 km) long and converge in an enclosure to trap animals bordered by pits.

The researchers from CNRS, Université Lyon, led by Rémy Crassard, discovered two ancient engravings depicting kites in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. One was found in Jibal al-Khasabiyeh, Jordan, which has eight desert kites, which consist of a stone measuring 31.5 inches (80 cm) long and 12.6 inches (32 cm) wide, with a representation of the kites carved using stone tools. The researchers dated this stone to be roughly 7,000 years ago.

The second, found in Zebel az-Zilliyat, Saudi Arabia (which has two desert kites located 2.1 miles or 3.5 km apart), was also discovered. Researchers excavated a large to-scale engraving measuring 150.4 inches (382 cm) long and 92.5 inches (235 cm) wide, which was reportedly pecked using hand picks instead of carved. This ancient depiction dates back to around 8,000 years ago.

Since the structures cannot be seen from the ground, it is believed that whoever made them did so to provide a convenient record of the locations and shapes of the kites. This is interesting in and of itself, but the level of precision shocked the researchers.

"Although human constructions have modified natural spaces for millennia, few plans or maps predate the period of the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. The ability to transpose large space onto a small, two-dimensional surface represents a milestone in intelligent behavior. Such structures are visible as a whole only from the air, yet this calls for the representation of space in a way not seen at this time,” the researchers explained.

You can review the study for yourself in the journal PLOS ONE.

Study abstract:

"Data on how Stone Age communities conceived domestic and utilitarian structures are limited to a few examples of schematic and non-accurate representations of various-sized built spaces. Here, we report the exceptional discovery of the up-to-now oldest realistic plans that have been engraved on stones. These engravings from Jordan and Saudi Arabia depict desert kites’, humanmade archaeological mega-traps that are dated to at least 9,000 years ago for the oldest. The extreme precision of these engravings is remarkable, representing gigantic neighboring Neolithic stone structures, the whole design of which is impossible to grasp without seeing it from the air or without being their architect (or user, or builder). They reveal a widely underestimated mental mastery of space perception, hitherto never observed at this level of accuracy in such an early context. These representations shed new light on the evolution of human discernment of space, communication, and communal activities in ancient times."

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board