The world’s oldest-known architectural plans, dating back more than 9,000 years, have been discovered by archaeologists in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, according to a new study published in the scientific journal PLOS One.
These “extremely precise depictions” of Stone Age hunting traps, called kites because of their shape, were engraved on stone slabs. These structures would have been used to lure wild animals into enclosed herds, where they would have then been slaughtered.
Massive converging walls measuring from a few hundred feet to more than three-miles-long were constructed to drive animals toward a large corral surrounded by a number of pits up to more than 13-feet deep each.
Across the Middle East and Asia, more than 6,000 of these kinds of structures have been found. They are most numerous in present-day Saudi Arabia, southern Syria, and eastern Jordan. Though they were first spotted among the desert landscape by aircraft pilots in the 1920s, there have been few studies published on the hunting traps.
Archaeologists discovered two engraved slabs in Saudi Arabia and Jordan in 2015. A former settlement near Jibal al-Khashabiyeh in Jordan is home to eight previously identified hunting kites. The markings appear on a two-and-a-half foot long stone believed to be approximately 7,000 years old. In Saudi Arabia, the larger engraved stone was found in the Jebel az-Zilliyat region at almost 13 feet long. The slab shows two different kites only 394 feet apart and is estimated to be 8,000 years old.
The study found that the shape, layout, and proportions of the engravings are consistent with the remains of the kites. While the kite in Jordan was 425 times larger than the plan, the kite in Saudi Arabia is 175 times larger on a 1:175 scale. Additionally, the drawings maintain cardinal directions.
“The engravings are surprisingly realistic and accurate, and are moreover to scale,” the study reported.
The representation of the deep pits, however, were not dug to scale in the drawings, appearing as mere circles on the stones.
Ultimately, these kites were among the largest structures in human history at the time of their construction. The drawings suggest that the people who built and used the kites had a keen sense of spatial awareness. The construction of these massive kites would likely have been a collective effort by local communities to hunt a large number of animals at once.