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Homechevron_rightSciencechevron_rightDesert kites a...

Desert kites a milestone in humans' intelligent behaviour, used to trap animals

desert kites

Desert kites, the mysterious and giant structures, found in Jordan and Saudi Arabia are signs of a milestone in intelligent behaviour. Experts have deduced that they were used to trap animals but creating vast structures must have needed a blueprint. This signifies the ability to draw scale plans.

These structures are dated to between 7,000 and 8,000 years old.

First discovered in the 1920s by aeroplanes, these sophisticated structures are spread across 5 kms. They have walls that converge in an enclosure to trap animals. They are also bordered by pits. One can only see the entire structure by looking down from the air. However, they were built thousands of years ago.

This suggests that desert kites are the results of efforts and ability to represent space in a way not seen before their time. Making desert kites required the ability to transpose large spaces onto a small and two-dimensional surface. A key skill to develop in civilised humans.

Archeologists have been trying to understand how desert kites were conceived and built. "Although human constructions have modified natural spaces for millennia, few plans or maps predate the period of the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt," said the author of the study.

In Jordan, the Jibal al-Khasabiyeh area has eight kites. "A stone with a representation carved with stone tools measuring 80 cm long and 32 cm wide was found nearby and dated to around 7,000 years ago," said the report by researchers at the University of Lyon.

Zebel az-Zilliyat in Saudi Arabia has two pairs of visible kites 3.5km apart. "A massive to-scale engraving measuring 382 cm long, 235 cm wide was excavated. The depiction was reportedly pecked rather than carved, possibly with hand picks. This was dated to around 8,000 years ago."

"These designs are extremely precise and constructors would have needed plans because the whole layout is impossible to grasp without seeing it from the air," wrote the researchers.

When the British Royal Air Force aviators first discovered them, archaeologists were confused by the prehistoric stone structures. They were dubbed "kites'' because they looked like flying toys. But they vary in shape. Some are V-shaped or circular. Others are star-shaped or arrow-shaped. They all have low driving walls and pits at intervals in common. Their purpose has been a mystery till now.

Some speculated that they are linked to rituals or hunting. But last year, Prof. Rémy Crassard of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research concluded that desert kites are mega traps used to kill whole herds of migrating animals at a time. The low walls channel fleeting animals into a final enclosure or pit.

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