Articles/Mustatils: Gigantic traces of a mysterious civilization

Mustatils: Gigantic traces of a mysterious civilization

"المستطيلات" آثار عملاقة لثقافة غامضة

22 MAY 2021

Source: Nesreen Omran

A recent archaeological discovery in the Arabian Peninsula that is the source of much debate are “mustatils”, or “traps”. Some scholars believe they were used to carry out certain societal activities, hold religious rituals, or offer animals as sacrifices. However, to this day, archaeologists have not yet determined when they exactly date back to or their function.

Old rectangles

As excavation work in the Kingdom increased, the first of these rectangular mustatils were found in 2017. The structures dated back to 5,000 BC, according to a study conducted by an international scientific research team at the University of Jena, Germany.

All sizes

These stone structures vary in size; the longest discovered mustatil extended more than 600 meters and had a width of about 80 meters. The longer ones generally consist of two stone platforms resembling a balcony and connected by two walls less than half a meter high.


For the first time, a team of archaeologists was able to locate approximately 104 of these mustatils through careful laboratory analysis and satellite imagery. The researchers hypothesized that the sites' purpose was to conduct religious rites in early pastoral societies.


Archaeologists do not know the exact functions of these rectangles as some were built near rocky outcrops while others were built not far from the basins of water lakes. Therefore, researchers were unable to accurately map the evolution of the mustatils and form a clear understanding around their distribution.

The structures were built at a time when the climate of the Saudi desert was different to today. The region used to feature vast vegetation and lush green spaces with abundant rain in addition to a diverse spectrum of animals.

Neolithic structures

The researchers were able to roughly determine that the mustatils were constructed in the Neolithic periods. They also believed that the structures were not designed for sustained use but were used intermittently.

Al-Ula archaeology center

Saudi Arabia recently unveiled the Center for Archaeological Research and Conservation Studies in Al-Ula to discover more huge and complex mustatil stone structures and conduct further analysis on them.