World's oldest known blueprints detail to-scale desert megastructures
It’s hard to imagine constructing a building without a detailed plan, but when exactly did humans first start doing that? Archeologists have discovered the oldest known blueprints, with a 9,000-year-old rock carving in Jordan depicting a to-scale plan for a nearby megastructure.
Early air travel in the 1920s revealed a series of large stone structures in the deserts of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, which weren’t clearly visible from the ground. These “desert kites” are made up of long stone walls that form kite shapes, converging on an enclosure surrounded by pits.
Thousands of years old, their purpose remains unknown, but it’s speculated that they were used for hunting, to funnel animals like gazelle into the enclosures for easier slaughter.
The complexity of these desert kites is remarkable, especially since their whole structure can’t be taken in from the ground. Now, a pair of new discoveries reveals how they were made so precisely – they were the earliest known examples of humans using scale models to plan out a large construction project.
In a region called Jibal al-Khasabiyeh in Jordan, scientists discovered a limestone monolith with a clear engraving on it that measures 80 by 32 cm (31.5 by 12.6 in). The image depicts a long narrow corridor that takes a sharp right turn into a big star-shaped space, with a series of eight circles on the points – and this perfectly matches a nearby desert kite. The researchers dated the stone to about 9,000 years old, making it the oldest known blueprint.
A similar discovery was made in Saudi Arabia, in a region known as Jebel az-Zilliyat. This engraving is much bigger, measuring 382 cm (150.4 in) long and 235 cm (92.5 in) wide and depicting two nearby kite structures. This stone has been dated to about 8,000 years old.
While rough representations of large structures are common, the team says the newly discovered engravings show a level of precision that’s remarkable for their age. Precise plans and maps have been recovered dating back to the civilizations of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, but these new finds predate them by several millennia.
“Conclusions can be drawn from the findings about the people of the time,” said Professor Frank Preusser, an author of the study. “The ability to transfer a large space to a small, two-dimensional plan represents a milestone in intelligent behavior.”
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Source: University of Freiburg