Footprints dating back approximately 120,000 years were discovered in Saudi Arabia and are the oldest ever evidence found of humans inhabiting the Arabian Peninsula. The team of international experts found the footprints belonging to humans as well as several animals near an ancient, now-dry lake that’s located just outside the city of Tabuk.
The discovery was made during the “Green Arabian Peninsula” scientific project that the Heritage Authority supervised with help from 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.
They were able to determine that the footprints belonged to seven humans, 43 elephants, 107 camels, and several other animals that included ibex, deer, and bovine species. In addition to the footprints, the experts found approximately 233 fossils belonging to elephants and oryxes. (Pictures can be seen here.)
According to their analysis of the site, the experts revealed that there were seven archaeological layers at the location. Numerous Acheulean stone tools were also found there (including stone axes) which points to an advanced industry of stone making.
The fact that they found the earliest known evidence of human habitation in the area is incredibly significant. Dr. Jasir Al-Herbish, who is the CEO of the Heritage Authority, explained, “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,” adding, “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.”
Back when the footprints were made, the landscape in the Arabian Peninsula was much different than it is today. There were lakes and rivers across the peninsula as well as lots of vegetation which led to more people coming to live in those areas in addition to numerous types of animals like the hyena and European tiger.
Another very important fact was that it provided more information regarding humans who left Africa to live in Eurasia in ancient times. “This confirms that Arabia has been a major crossroads between Africa and the rest of Eurasia throughout prehistoric times,” stated Al-Herbish.
There are several very important sites throughout Saudi Arabia that have been added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, such as Al-Ahsa Oasis, Mada’in Salih in AlUla, Al-Turaif district in Diriyah, historic Jeddah, and rock art near the city of Hail.