New Discovery
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Saudi Arabian officials said archaeologists have begun excavating the site of a 9,000-year-old civilization, including horse fossils, suggesting people in the Arabian Peninsula domesticated horses in the ancient culture.

HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), submitted the discovery to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah. Salman said the discovery at the al-Maqar site challenges the popular notion that horses were only domesticated 5,500 years ago in Central Asia.

Ali al-Ghabban added that the discovery changed what was known about the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period.

"This discovery will change our knowledge concerning the domestication of horses and the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period," Ali al-Ghabban told reporters at a news conference in Jeddah, according to Reuters.

"The al-Maqar civilization is a very advanced civilization of the Neolithic period. This site shows us clearly, the roots of the domestication of horses 9,000 years ago," he added.

Archaeologists also discovered a number of artifacts at the site. These included arrowheads, scrapers, grain grinders, tools for spinning and weaving, and other handicraft tools. Ghabban said carbon-14 tests on the artifacts, as well as DNA tests on human remains at the site, dated them to about 7,000 BC.

"These antiquities proved that [the] Al-Maqar site, in the heart of Saudi Arabia, was the oldest place in the world so far with people domesticated in horses, in addition these artifacts also manifested the cultural activities of people in the region during the Stone Age," said Salman.

Salman said efforts are underway to excavate antiquities in various parts of the country, in addition to protecting them in a scientific manner. He also revealed plans to establish new museums in various parts of KSA.

"The results of the excavation show that taking care of horses has been an old tradition inherited by Muslims from their forefathers. There is no wonder that during the time of Prophet Mohammed and the Caliphs, special areas had been allocated for breeding and rearing horses," he said.

Although humans first came into contact with horses nearly 50,000 years ago, they were originally herded only for their meat, skins, and possibly for milk. The first undisputed evidence of horse domestication dates back to 2,000 BC, when horses were buried with chariots. Domestication had spread through Europe, Asia and North America by about 1,000 BC.

However, researchers have found evidence suggesting that horses were used by the Botai culture in northern Kazakhstan 5,500 years ago.

Saudi Arabia has been trying to diversify its economy away from oil and hopes to increase tourism there.

Ghabban said the SCTA began excavating the site after receiving information about the area from a Saudi last year. He said Saudi archaeologists were aided by international archaeology experts in the excavation process.

The SCTA last year launched exhibitions in Barcelona's CaixaForum museum and Paris's Louvre museum showcasing historic findings from the Arabian Peninsula.