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16 December 2011
The enigmatic standing stones of Al-Rajajil

On a lonely hillside a few kilometers outside the capital of Al Jawf province, Sakakah (Saudi Arabia), stand clusters of three-meter tall standing stones. Many of these monuments have fallen over and others lean at bizarre random angles. Some of them are etched with ancient Thamudic graffiti. Al-Rajajil ("the men"), where sandstone stones may weigh up to five tons each, is popularly called Saudi Arabia's Stonehenge. They are possibly the oldest human monuments on the peninsula.
     Some time in the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age, people living in the area where Al Jawf is today laboriously erected 54 groups of rudely trimmed stone pillars. Each group contains two to 19 pillars. At ground level there is no immediately obvious placement of the groups. However, aerial images suggest a rough alignment to sunrise and sunset.
     An archaeological dig over 30 years ago at the base of one set of pillars failed to turn up any bones or votive offerings, suggesting that this was not a religious site. It could represent a landmark for a trade route. Al-Jawf was a significant stopover point on the trade route from Yemen to Mesopotamia. One ancient trade route ran from Yemen and parallel to the Red Sea coast through Madinah, Al-'Ula and Madaen Salih.  It turned northeast to Al-Jouf and then north toward Damascus and Turkey.

Edited from Arab Times (13 December 2011)

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